Tuesday, April 2, 2013

DIY Walk-Wade vs. Floating the Middle Chimehuin River (Rio Curruhue, Curva de Manzana, Rio Quilquihue)

Before I start, I would like to mention that you may experience a few format and grammatical errors. Due a broken right finger, I have limited use of my right hand and I am now using a pre-installed Mac voice dictation application. So, I am doing my best to put my best English forward, but I simply do not have the time to thoroughly edit/review everything I type...it would take too much time.  In advance, thanks for understanding.

FYI... I plan to write about the boca, upper, middle and lower Chimehuin river. The post's will detail both walk-wade and floating opportunities. 

A sign with no buck-shot!

Rio Chimehuin Facts:

Location: Junin de los Andes, Argentina  (3 hours north of Bariloche)
Province: Neuquen
Fishing Season: Generally, November 01 till May 31st.
Licensed Required: Yes, and you will need an additional license to fish the 'boca.'
Preferred Fly Rod: 9ft Fast Action 6wt.  9ft Fast Action 8wt for bad weather and big browns.
Preferred Fly Line: Both float and sink tips
Flies: Early season streamers (Nov, Dec), Dry-Dropper (Jan, Feb, 1/2 March), Streamer/Nymphs (1/2 March, April, May)
Special Rules:  The Boca is closed November and December for spawning rainbows.  Downstream, past the "La Garganta del Diablo," is open year round. 
Length: 70 Kilometers or 43.4 miles
Origin: Lago Huechulafquen

Tributaries: Rio Curruhue and RioQuilquihue

Termination: Rio Collon Cura

Species: Rainbow and Brown Trout
Sections:  La Boca, Upper, Middle, and Lower


Jose 'Bebe' Anchorena with 11Kilos of pure Chimehuin Brown Trout

Overview:

During the early 1900's, European settlers began stocking local waters with salmonidae eggs.  The rainbows eggs came from northern California (I believe the McCloud River).  The Brook Trout came from northeast USA (I believe Maine), and the Brown Trout eggs came from parts of Europe.  Advance the clock several generations (without industrial or human pollution/pressure), and Patagonia quickly became one of the best unknown fisheries in the world!  That would all change when two men from Argentina, Jorge Donovan and Bebe Anchorena became wildly popular for catching HUGE brown trout (+20lbs) at the boca.  Shortly after, and following several decades, a line of who's who anglers, including Joe Brooks, Charles Ritz, Ted Williams, Lefty Kreh, Mel Kriegger, Earnest Schweibert and Billy Pate, quickly made appearances and left their mark on what is now Argentina's most famous fly fishing river.  Fast forward to the future, the Chimehuin and Junin de los Andes is now recognized as the fly fishing capital of Argentina.


Junin de los Andes, Argentina.

Today:  Chimehuin, Climate Change and Junin de los Andes

The rio Chimehuin (middle section) travels straight through the entire town of Junin de los Andes, so you can't speak of the river without briefly explaining the relationship it has to the people and local area.  Set in the foothills of the Andes, Junin de los Andes was founded in 1883, but did not become incorporated until 1950.  It's located three hours north of San Carlos de Bariloche, two hours south of Alumine, and only forty minutes to San Martin de los Andes.  It is arguably the most convenient town/place to access some of the best fly fishing waters in all of Patagonia.  It's a small growing town that has, of the 2010 census, +16,000 people living there. It still maintains a small town feeling, but you'll find a modern hospital, stores, restaurants, hotels, bars, and more. Though the community is an agricultural cattle type town, today, the primary industry is tourism, and this brings me to my point.  This places gets busy in the summer and as a result, the rio Chimehuin and surrounding waters have been long ago discovered!  Don't believe me?  There over five fly fishing lodges within the Junin area!  So, it's fair to say that the impact of climate change and people have taken a toll on all the waters surrounding Junin, including the Chimehuin.  For example, I have been told that parts of the upper Chimehuin now have Didymo; not doubt from the countless amounts of fly fisherman traveling to fish this fabled river.  So, am I saying stay home or go somewhere else to fly fish?  No, I am just saying that 1950's was a long time ago and a lot has changed here, and for that matter, around the world.  I am also about to explain that despite these changes, the Junin de los Andes area, in my opinion, is still the best option for DIY Patagonia fly fisherman, whom wish to combine float trips, and walk-wade experiences!  

Personal Experience:  Middle Chimehuin River

During the 2010/2011 Patagonia fishing season, I managed an Orvis endorsed lodge, located just outside of Junin de los Andes. To be exact, the lodge was located on the upper Chimehuin, and only 8 kilometers downstream from the mouth. By no means am I claiming to be the local river expert, but it's fair to say that I now know parts of this river system more than any other DIY Patagonia fly fisherman.  In the brief time I managed the lodge, one day, upon the guides recommendation, we floated the middle Chimehuin.  It was the first and last time we ever floated the middle Chimehuin, and the last time I ever trusted that guide to pick a float trip for a client.  One, the clients were displeased with the scenery and later I found out the guide was drunk (how fun it was to be living the dream!).  Thereafter, I made it a point to float and walk-wade every piece of water that clients would fish!  All this being said, the middle Chimehuin is floatable, but not recommended. Why?



View Larger Map

(FYI...follow the river contours and you can see where ruta 234 bridge crosses the Chimehuin)

Brief Overview: Floating the Middle Chimehuin?

The upper Chimehuin ends, and the middle Chimehuin begins just outside of town, at the ruta 234 bridge, and extends past the town to a spot called the 'Curva de Manzana.'  As you can see from the map above, at least half of the middle section flows through the town of Junin de los Andes.   I won't spend much time writing about this section of the Chimehuin..."pictures are worth a thousand words."  Needless to say, if someone offers you a float trip on the middle section of the Chimehuin, I would be highly suspect, unless they pay you to take the float with them :)

River front property along the middle section of the Chimehuin

The municipality has made attempts to create a beautiful communal river front experience.

Scenic views of the middle Chimehuin as it passes through town.
 
Though the above photos leave little desire to fish the middle Chimehuin, don't leave this post thinking that the middle Chimehuin is a filthy dog.  There are sections of this river that deserve time and attention.  In the next several paragraphs, I will break down the middle Chimehuin by explaining each section.  But, keep in mind these sections are best fished via DIY walk-wade only, not floating!

How to Walk-Wade the Middle Chimehuin?

Driving towards San Martin de los Andes, you will first encounter rio Curruhue, followed by the 'Curva de Manzana, and last, the rio Quilquihue.  These are your only options (access points) for DIY walking-wading on the middle section of the Chimehuin river.

Option A: Rio Curruhue



As you leave Junin de los Andes, traveling toward San Martin de los Andes, you'll come to the first tributary of the Chimehuin river, Rio Curruhue.  This is a small seasonal stream the begins in the mountains and lakes, near the Chilean border (actually, if interested, the stream's origins is located in a very beautiful place, and would make nice scenic day trip).  At one time in history, this little stream had a great reputation as being a quality fishery. During the early part of the season, briefly upstream of the confluence of the Chimehuin river, you may encounter and few nice fish.  However, with climate change and pressure/pollution from man, the quality of fishing in this stream is marginal at best, and virtually unfishable when water levels are low. It would be a fun place to take a beginner and poke around with a 3wt/4wt with a dry fly (expect to catch 4"-6" trout).  But, what it lacks in sport, it serves a very important purpose for DIY walk-wade fisherman...ACCESS to the Chimehuin river!

To access the Chimehuin main river, simply park your car, follow the goat path, walk about 35-50 minutes to the main river, and then walk up or downstream...it's that simple and it's only a 10 minute drive from Junin de los Andes.  Depending on the time of year, we fish this section of the middle Chimehuin a lot. Specifically, here's what we do with our DIY clients:

  • We offer 1/2 or full day DIY walk-wade trips.  We pack food and water and we go fish...it's that simple.  At the end of the day, your back in town within minutes, ready for a hot shower, dinner and restful night of sleep. 
  • We either walk upstream for 30-45 minutes, or we walk downstream for up to an hour.
  • You could walk all the way to the next DIY spot called the 'Curva de Manzana.' 


Downstream shot of Rio Curruhue.

Option B: Curva de Manzana, on Rio Chimehuin.


Looking downstream at the 'Curva de Manzana.'  Have not found any apple tree's here.  Photo take from foot/car bridge.

If you accessed the Chimehuin via rio Curruhue, and foolishly decided to walk to the next DIY spot, you would end up at the Curva de Manzana (CDM).  I chose the word foolishly, because it would be one hell of a round trip adventure, and entirely unnecessary.  The best way to the fish the waters up/downstream of the CDM, is to drive 15 minutes from Junin de los Andes, heading in the direction of San Martin de los Andes, park your car, and follow either goat path on each side of the river.  Depending on the time of year, we fish this section of the Chimehuin a lot.  Specifically, here's what we do with our DIY clients:


  • We offer 1/2 or full day DIY walk-wade trips.  We pack food and water and we go fish...it's that simple.  At the end of the day, your back in town within minutes, ready for a hot shower, dinner and restful night of sleep. 
  • FYI...during tourist season, holidays and weekends; the CDM is a popular day spot for locals (i.e. family picnics).  The CDM gets fished hard by both fly and spinning rod fisherman.  
  • To avoid the crowds, we either walk upstream for 45-60 minutes, or we walk downstream for up to an hour.  Walking further downstream, more than one hour, is possible, but in our experience, it does necessarily mean better fishing...it does guarantee you'll be away from 99.9% of the people.
  • FYI, technically downstream of the 'Curva de Manzan,' is the lower Chimehuin.
  • If you are a mad man, you could walk all the way to the next DIY spot called rio Quilquihue. 

An exceptional DIY 'Curva de Manzana' bow.

Option C: Rio Quilquihue

Two bullets/pellets that failed to penetrate the sign.  If this was American it would be Swiss cheese and unreadable :) 
Downstream view of Rio Quilquihue.

Like it's neighbor to the north, the Quilquihue is a small seasonal stream.  In many respects it's exactly like the Curruhue, so no need to elaborate further.  As a DIY spot, it offers the quickest access to the  Chimehuin river; less than a 30 minute walk.  Depending on the time of year, we fish this section of the Chimehuin a lot. Specifically, here's what we do with our DIY clients:


  • We offer 1/2 or full day DIY walk-wade trips.  We pack food and water and we go fish...it's that simple.  At the end of the day, your back in town within minutes, ready for a hot shower, dinner and restful night of sleep. 
  • We walk upstream or downstream for up to an hour.  Walking further in both directions is possible (especially downstream), but in our experience, it does necessarily mean better fishing...though, it does guarantee that you'll be away from 99.9% of the people.
  • FYI, technically fishing downstream of the Quilquihue is the lower Chimehuin.
  • If you are a mad man, and it would take you at least 3 days, you could walk all the way to the rio Collon Cura.  

Another big rainbow from the Quilquihue area

Final Word:

By now you should have concluded that floating the middle section of rio Chimehuin is not the best use of your time in Patagonia.  However, if your on a DIY trip with FCFF (a mix of floats and walk-wade), you might find yourself fishing one of the areas mentioned above.  For example, let's say your are tired or you want to sleep in (rest & relax a bit), and not travel so far.  We could easily hit one of these spots for a late evening hatch, maybe 2-3 hours of fishing, and be back in town for an early evening dinner.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to do so.

Hope to see you next year and muchas gracias.

Gone Fishing,

Mark


PS.  As I discussed the DIY walk-wade spots along the middle section of the Chimehuin, I found myself briefly discussing the lower Chimehuin.  Much of the lower Chimehuin is a true floating river. To not float the lower Chimehuin because you DIY fished a small fraction of it, would be sinful!  For more information on the lower Chimehuin floats, please see our recent post at:

http://firstcastflyfishing.blogspot.com.ar/2013/03/chimehuin-river-lower-best-of-best.html

Also...WARNING

Argentina is a very safe place. However, if you elect to travel in Patagonia, especially around towns/cities, do not leave anything in your car and park your car in the safest place possible, even if it means walking an extra few minutes to get to the river.  This photo was take at the 'Curva de Manzana,'  just outside Junin de los Andes, and unfortunately, a known place for locals to break into vehicles.  Even though the road is just feet away from this truck, the cars/traffic on the road can not see anyone below.  When I fish here, I park my vehicle 100 yards up and away from this spot, and my truck is within eye site of every car passing by.  

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