Welcome to the first edition of Dispatches, a new series which reports on the Big Sky Anglers crew as they travel the globe in search of angling adventures. Each edition of Dispatches will feature an interview with one of our angling pros while they are on assignment or travelling for fun. Our crew might be hosting anglers in a remote destination, guiding clients on our home waters, or exploring new fishing territory at home and abroad.
This edition features BSA co-owner and head guide Jonathan Heames who is reporting from a remote island in Chilean Patagonia. Jonathan has been fly fishing in Chile for nearly 20 years, and his perspective and knowledge are impressive. Give a listen to what Jonathan has been up to, and stay tuned for more reports from the BSA crew.
“Where are you right now? How did you get there? Where are you off to next?”
“What is your target species? Why did you pick this location and time for that species?”
“How are you targeting these fish?”
“What’s one thing that’s happened on your trip so far that you didn’t expect?”
“What are the conditions like?”
“What’s been your favorite piece of gear on this trip so far, and why?”
“What’s the best thing you’ve had to eat?”
“Have you learned any new words or phrases?”
“What’s your playlist been on this trip…what tunes are you listening to?”
The fish gods must be looking out for me, as I have managed to convince another group of anglers to travel down to the Argentina for a visit with the good folks at Pesca Patagonia. Some of you know my buddy Justin Spence from his famed fly shop here in West Yellowstone – The West Yellowstone Fly Shop and some of you know Justin from our trips together here in Montana. He also operates a top shelf outfitting company in and around Junin de los Andes. Justin, his wife Rachel and their lovely little girls spend the entire winter and spring in Junin. Half of the year in Montana and half of the year in Patagonia, what an amazing life!
In early April, five of us will make the big trip from North America to South America. We’ll all meet up in BA, take a ride across the city and jump a airplane to Bariloche. From there we’ll meet up with Justin and head towards San Martin. We’ll fish the Malleo, possibly the Chimehuin or Alumine, the Collen Cura for a couple and then who knows where we’ll end up for last couple of days.
Some folks give me a hard time about traveling that far for trout, especially when it’s a solid time frame for chasing salt water species, but Argentina gets in one’s blood and its hard to shake. Their rivers are like our rivers, only different. There are moments when when I wake up from day dreaming of fight with a big brown trout that had just tossed the hooked. Those are memories from my time down south in 2013 and some of those fish were true giants. But it’s not just the quality angling that makes me want to return; the fishing culture is more laid back, it’s the “let it happen” attitude when you’re submersed in fishing and everything is right in the world. Getting after it and putting in day after day on the water is like Spring Training in the MLB. Everyday spent on the river gets you prepped for the next day, if you’ve got the time, stay as long as possible. And then there’s the locality of where you are fishing. Argentine Patagonia is remote and not populous at all. Some folks like to compare it to stepping back in time, to the old days of fishing out West when hardly a soul actually could point out the Missouri and it’s tributaries on a map of the United States.
Right now, I’ve got a busy couple of months ahead. There will be late nights at the tying bench, picking over lines for the trip and the lovely little process of laying out all your gear as you prep for a world class fishing trip. I’m excited about heading back down to Argentina.
Late last night I woke to a chilly house and thought, for just a second, about getting up and tossing a log on the fire. That didn’t happen as I rolled over a little closer to my lovely wife and fell back to sleep. This morning, at around 8 am, the temp was 32 below zero. What will tonight bring? Well, it’s already 10 below, the north wind is cranking and the folks in Bozeman are calling for 20 below – they will be wrong.
The Arctic air has arrived from the North and it’s gonna stick around for several more days. The only place worth fishing today, on December 4th, is Argentina. It’s Springtime down south and our friends are chasing trout everyday. My “to do” list this time of the year is long and getting longer by the day. There are permits to fill out, log books to finish, clients to book for 2014, snow to plow, wood to split & stack, shotguns to oil, a new business that is trying to get off the ground, and of course there are flies to tie. In just eleven days, Yellowstone National Park’s winter season opens as well. Before we know it, the Missouri and Madison will beckon as the 2014 guide season begins.
I haven’t touched a fly rod since October 26th, besides the broken rods I sent back a few weeks ago. Some might say, “what a pitty”, but honestly, some fishing guides need a short break from the fishing season to get right. This season made 18 years in the business……I still love fishing and guiding……but not when it’s this cold.
Been back in Montana/Wyoming for almost a week now and I’m still trying to process every day of the Argentine angling experience. There are moments that stick out, but they are more than just moments of time. More like days upon days. Not one part ranks higher than the rest as the entire trip was a highlight of my angling career. It’s right up there the two week fishing trip to Montana and YNP, back in 1992, with my father. That experience started this very lifestyle I’m living. Extended trips allow one to sink into that part of world and see more than just the fishing. The folks you travel with enrich the experience, locking in memories for a lifetime.
Walking the banks or floating stretches of a new river, in an place that is far, far away yet closer than you might think, is every anglers delight. Trout streams, especially those in remote places that require a bit of work to get to, always provide a unique experience. Sixty-five hundred miles, one way, is far enough.
Mountainous environments are not just mountains, they all don’t look the same, yet there is something strikingly familiar about all trout streams and their surroundings. Snow falls in the peaks, that were created millions of years ago. Water flows into the rivers, thus carving the land, giving life to the valley. Insects hatch and trout thrive, which entices the angler to come and find them. Flowing water calms us all and this is what I find the most familiar.
I spent sixteen of the nineteen days on the water, never leaving the river until O’dark thirty. The biggest difference from North America to South America is lack of pressure. This will change in time, but time, in fact, is on your side. Things move slowly in Argentina and trips like this are worth every penny. We are going back, sooner rather than later. Join us if you like.
In one week, I will be sitting in Bariloche, ready to embark on a fishing trip of a life time – three weeks in Argentina with two of the closest friends a fishing guide can have. Ten days of this will be hosting a wonderful group of anglers that I have fished with since the inception of Big Sky Anglers back in 2005. We will be staying at San Huberto Lodge and then heading over to Collen Cura Lodge. Doug & Co. are wonderful folks, who come to Montana a few times each year to experience the Madison, Henry’s Fork and Missouri Rivers. After Doug & Co depart for the USA, eight more days of fishing will ensue. Where will we go? You’ll have to wait and see.
All the logistics are in place, but I’m nervous, not sure how much shit to pack and still don’t feel like I have enough flies. Realizing I will only fish a dozen different pattens, I bet there are 100 dozen flies sitting there, waiting to make the cut. What’s so hard, is that I’m used to filling up a boat and a fishing rig with everything I need for however long I’ll be gone. “What ifs” will continue to pop in my head until I leave our place on the Butte.
Patagonia (thanks Bart and Mark!) has graciously outfitted me for the trip in all new boots, waders and a jacket. As part of their Field Testing Staff, I will put this stuff through the ringer while angling in America Del Sur and keep a journal of how my gear holds up….it will…it always does. Patagonia has made great gear for many years, but recently, they have begun to concentrate efforts in the realm of fly fishing. Keep checking back for updates on the new fishing gear. If you have any specific questions, shoot me an email.
When I was a kid, my Dad would prep for a big trip months in advance. In the basement of our house, he would stretch out a blue tarp next to all the decoy boxes and begin his preparation by laying out gear. It drove my Mom bat shit crazy, but, in his defense, he was never ill- prepared. Most acorns never fall too far from their tree.
Luckily for me, Molly is on hiatus from West Yellowstone, other wise, this would not go over so well.