Friday, February 29, 2008

There's just Something about Chile - Part Three

There's just Something about Chile - Part Two

For as glamorous and wonderful as the EMB was for me, it was an environment that I really felt out of place in. Mark's lodge was more in my comfort zone. Based on a log cabin design, I quickly was reminded of the warm, cozy feeling of my family's cabin in northern Wisconsin. Over the last twenty so years, Mark has been guiding up in Alaska and when he built his Tierra del Fuego fishing gem, he brought along the comforts and rustic looks of a lodge straight out of the northern hemisphere. It's a place where you can still find all the creature comforts but the emphasis and bulk of the experience is based on the fish. Fishable waters here are plentiful. So much that Mark has only been able to explore just a handful of them.

There's just Something about Chile - Part One

My journey over to the Chilean side of TDF went over smoothly just at the last minute. With the lousy communication connections, I wasn't able to connect with my transfer guy to my next lodge. A week had gone by since last hearing from the lodge owner and I had never set up a exact time and date when I would meet him. After a worrisome day of wondering if I would be stranded at the border, things fell into place and I was able to make my way over to meet him. It was a hard lesson in preplanning.

I spent the next ten days staying at Mark Kniprath's new fishing operation just west of the Radman border crossing. The differences in the flora and fauna were imediately apparent. Where the Argentina side was wind swept and barrien, the Chilean side offered shelter from the wind. Trees. Huge beech trees packed in thick within the mountain scape surrounding the lodge. It is pretty incredible how an hour drive westward and a cross over through the Andes can change the landscape. It was a welcoming sight and a familiar return to the mountain fishing that I grew up on.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A couple more from the EMB

Good Times at the EMB - Part Two

Throughout all the traveling that I have been doing these last weeks visiting all of these gorgeous fishing lodges, I am amazed at the continuity that the guest create between eachother. I would compare it to something along the lines of summer camp. A summer camp for adults. I think it is in places like the Maria Behety where people come to blossom into to their true selves again. Oh sure many of them live happy lives with well to do jobs, but it is here where they get to be a kid again. Playing with their new found friends, laughing at eachothers stories and sharing in the enjoyment of fishing. It's as if the fishing part is a catalyst for freeing their minds of the stress of daily life.

As a kid, my parents were quick to socialize me with adults. Throughout my life I have been very comfortable doing it. More importantly, I thought I had seen it all. Only it was from a certain perspective. It was during time here that I observed baby boomers reconnect with their youth, flirting and acting as if they were sixteen again. I had to laugh at it all. Call me ignorant.

It got me thinking about the concept of aging. At the ripe age of twenty-five I realized that as time goes by the kid in you really never leaves you. Perhaps it just gets buried under the weigh of the work, kids, jobs, bills and the rest of daily life. That getting old is more a mindset and not a number. How nice that there are those that can unearth it with perfect strangers at the bottom of the world with a fly rod in hand.

The Good Times at the EMB - Part One

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Finer Things in Life

To say the the Maria Behety Estancia is sitting pretty successwise is a huge understatement. The Menendez family was one of the first families to stake a claim in the barrien land of fire back in the mid 1850's. At one point Alejandro's family owned almost all of the Tierra del Fuego. Over the years plots of land were sold off and now they sit comfortably with more than 100,000 acres of prestine grazing land and an entire side of the best sea run brown trout fishery The Rio Grande. The goods don't stop there. Upon this vast stretch of real estate, they boast the largest sheep sheering operation in the world with over 40,000 sheep and a couple thousand head of Argentina cattle.

We have our food covered.

Being in such a remote place as TDF the MB Estancia, which by the way is broken up into two fishing lodges, ranch offices, gaucho houses, barns, worker housing, a church, and numerous other buildings- must run off diesel generators. Convieniently, the estancia sits on a huge gas reserve underground where they drill for their own fuel.

No gas costs.

So what you're left with is an almost totally off the grid five star ranching/fishing operation that caters to the upper class of North America and European society.

All profit.

Luckly, the guest reap the benefits of an amazing fishing experience. -M

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Getting into the swing of things

For the few lucky individuals that can get a spot in {and afford} a week stay at the Maria Behety, the experience is nothing more than spectacular. Being at the end of the earth doesnt hinder the comforts of finding yourself in a 4 star lodge complete with gourmet meals, fancy rooms and "The best sea run brown trout fishing" worldwide. Our days began early beginning with a light breakfast and multiple cups of coffee. It was needed because would gather our things head to the wader room, boot up and be driving out to the fishing holes by about 8.30 am.

The guides would help clients gear up their rods, show them the runs and let them know the best routes to hook into some fish. Over the years, many fisherman especially those who have been before have opted for the casting power of spey rods over their typical single handed rods. Almost 99% of the clients coming here to the EMB have been fishing for years having this outing to Tierra del Fuego be the pinacle of their lifetime of fishing. They come for the huge trout. What they don't realize it that is will be some of the most windy conditions most of them have ever seen. Their is no such thing as a good caster here. Half of the time you are juggling having to brace your footing in the water so that you don't get blown down stream while at the same time you are trying to cast across the pool in hurricane-like conditions. The use of the spey rods, which can range from 10-15 ft in length, enable the caster to throw alot more line with less effort. It is tricky fishing but the results are worth while.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Utopia at the End of the Earth - Part Two

The more north you stray from the fishing port of Ushuaia, the geography of the land dramatically changes. The mountain peaks smooth out to rolling tundra, the lush evergreen canopy turns to grasslands and for someone that wasn´t looking more carefully they might get the impression of it being a wasteland of no importance. It is only when you get in close for another look that the Land of Fire truely grabs you opens your eyes to its wonder. Llama like creatures (actually related to the camel family) called Guanacos roam the plains and can often be spotted like a lookout sentinels at their post on a distant hillside. Curious gray foxes come in closer for a view while Ibus, Flamingos, and condors spy from above. It is a land unique all to itself.

Utopia at the End of the Earth - Part One

For the past week I have been staying and the Estancia Maria Behety Lodge on the legendary Rio Grande in the Argentina Tierra del Fuego. The Rio Grande is considered by many to be the best sea run brown trout fishery in the world. The river gains momentum at it´s head waters in the Chile Andes and then stretches roughly 65 miles across the Argentina side of Tierra del Fuego and into the Atlantic ocean. When people in the states measure trout by inches, here the locals yawn at any fish less than 10 lbs. Just the other day a client landed a 27 lbs brown trout. Using a streamer striping method, the twelve visiting clients were regularly landing 15 lbs plus fish. Needless to say the fishing has been just epic.

So I have been away for a while. Let me bring you up to speed. I flew into Ushuaia from Buenos Aires and met up with Mike Mitchalak, the owner of The Fly Shop in Redding, CA. We were picked up by a man by the name of Aljehandro Menendez who then drove us to his 5 star fishing lodge on the Rio Grande. Aljehandro being in his mid-sixties, is the fifth generation Menendez to run the estancia. It was pretty interesting to meet some one with such a well known family history. Currently his 100,000 square kilometer estacia has the world`s largest sheep shearing barn and one of the biggest if not the biggest sheep operations in Argentina. His family was one of the first to establish a ranch on the wind swept Tierra del Fuego. Try googling the Menendez family in Argentina. The guy is a stud.

The ride towards the Rio Grande is comparible to no other place I have ever been. Every where you looked it was like staring at a postcard. Huge blue glaciers, lush meadows, and huge jagged peaks of the last great push of the southern Andes. Aljehandro wasted no time, speeding his way through the mountain passes, veering left and right around tight turns and punched the peddle to accelarate past a police car. ``They never pull you over for speeding,`` he says, ``We have fish to catch.``

Tierra del Fuego and the Invention of Internet

I am alive and well and having an absolute blast at the end of the world. The unfortunate realities of being in such a remote and magical place is that it lacks reliable internet service. This is the reason that I have been unable to post anything for the last week or so. I will be in the sticks for one more week then I will be able to update and catch back up with my daily postings. I promise to bring the blog up to speed soon. Tight lines, -M

Friday, February 1, 2008

Adios Buenos Aires

After a great week of meeting some amazing people and exploring a truely amazing city. I said goodbye to BA and left for Ushuaia. Tomorrow I will travel to Rio Grande for some of the best sea run brown trout fishing in the world.