By Ben Etridge
Three years is a long time in fishing, the kind of time you might need to plan a trip, or for a destination to become the hottest new thing & then go cold again. It’s enough time to fall out, make up, buy new rods and once again promise yourself your going to do that big once-in-a-lifetime trip to Argentina, this year.
So it was for me that a three year gap was enough to sample an unknown destination, then hear about its emergence as the new and go-to destination for fly fishing in Patagonia. I had been there in its infancy and then, suddenly, a few short years later found myself there again, screaming into the Patagonian wind and lifting huge fish from cold streams.
Let me explain. It was with hushed voices that Nico and Alex Trochine started telling me about this new place they’d found. Understandably short on detail and generally wary at other bigger operations that were then circling their find, they laid it out to me one malbec-fuelled post-fishing afternoon in Rio Pico, Chubut. The place they’d found was Kooi Noom, meaning ‘the Fish Path’ in native Tehuelpe language. Think of it as an oasis of superb fishing in the backwaters of Santa Cruz’ cowboy country with rivers, creeks and lakes. Think of it as world-class trout fishing for 5-20lb fish on super-productive water, guaranteed.
That time, I committed to spending two days there as a stopover on my way to El Calafate. The fish were there, in the 6 km stretch of stunning, boulder strewn and challenging river. They migrate into the steep river system from lago Quiroga to spawn, some get caught below waterfalls and others return to the lake. Some of these fish are heavy and moody, and others, having stayed in the stream and become resident, are athletic and silvery. All the fish fight well, hardly any have seen a fly because the fishery is only just opened, and the sport is continuous as long as there’s light.
Nico and Alex showed me around the estancia, we shot photos and fished. They caught a couple of the big rainbows on streamer patterns and I recorded it all on film. Not only was there the main river and lake shore to fish, but a wild, smaller creek, some 4 miles long, every bend and undercut bank heaving with trout. The whole thing was a dream because in reality how often do these things emerge. I for one had never been lucky enough to fish completely virgin territory until then. The experience was all very cinematic and dusted with a sprinkling of Argentinian gold. I was lucky, and I wanted to come back one day.
Fast-forward three years and the destination is only in its second season. It’s more refined though still rugged and incredibly the fish are getting bigger. The Trochine twins explained to me that the capacity for reproduction has not yet been reached so year on year there are more and bigger fish coming back into the river system to spawn. This then isn’t just a place on the up but somewhere already operating at a world-class level, with room to improve.
This time I go wild for the fishing. The big lake-run has started but it’s early season so the wind’s up and the water cold. I start to catch 10lb+ fish in the outlet to the lake, or top of the river. Whilst some of the fish are coloured others are a fresh, silvery green, or ‘bien plateada’ as they would say there. The fighting of these heavy heavy rainbows has to be considered and clever, the combination of wind on your line and the solid fish can break leaders. We fight with the rod tips down and pointing with the wind. Spray flies around your head while waves break against your waders. Concentrating on this is tough, the elements and size of fish are tricky together, but it’s exhilarating all the same.
During the week that followed we fished the lower and middle sections of the Capitán river with great success. Sometimes the fish would drive out of nowhere and hit an attractor hard, other times careful mending and ambitious casts were required in order to present the nymph of streamer well enough to induce a take. I loved this “pocket water” fishing having not been aware of it when I came before. In fact, the programme was varied and captivating. If we weren’t fishing lake fish at the outlet we’d be shooting an upper section of the gorgeous Tavia creek or a lower part of the Capitán.
At Kooi Noom every day brought a new spot and fresh fish. It was, in short, better than I thought it would be having even seen it and experienced it before. It was also the culmination of a process I had started a while back, a dream I’d had three years ago, the itch I just had to scratch. The chance to fish something unique is a rare thing in fishing and here a certifiably brilliant and new destination has arrived and is in need of experiencing.
Kooi Noom is represented by: www.roxtons.com, www.aardvarkmcleod.com & www.flyodyssey.co.uk - alternitavley contact Ben Etridge at [email protected]