May 20, 2019

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In Patagonia, a Duel With an Epic Trout

In Patagonia, a Duel With an Epic Trout
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Our destination was a spit of land where the wind was behind us as we cast. All you really had to do was steady yourself against the gusts and get your fly in the air. The wind did the rest of the work carrying the fly away from shore.

The favored rig that week was a large indicator — a huge dry fly or a small red bobber — and, about 18 inches below the surface, a San Juan Worm, thin as a piece of linguine and no longer than your thumb.

In the space of two hours I caught — and released — 10 fish, none smaller than 8 pounds and the biggest at 13, 15, and 17 pounds. With nothing but open water in front of them, the rainbows put on a show, jumping and tailwalking. At such times, you begin to think that your good fortune is a token of a moral life. Of course, when the afternoon came, I caught zilch, while another member of our group had the hot hand.

The next morning, the wind “slackened” (to 45 m.p.h. from 60). After an hour, and a couple of nice fish, I felt a jolt. Something really big tore line from the reel before going airborne 50 yards away.

“Don’t let me lose this one,” I prayed, even though I am not by nature a praying man.

After a long fight, Sebastian Bosch, my guide, netted the 20-pounder. We took turns trying to revive her. Mind you, I do not condemn people who kill their catch (as long as they eat it) but I prefer to release them. I value the fishery more than the odd filet.

Look at it this way: If all trout fishing were catch-and-kill, our streams would, at best, be full of anemic, hatchery-raised trout, if any at all. Likewise, among our dangerously low striper population — which some scientists say may never recover — half of the fishing mortality is from recreational fishing. While it’s true fish that are caught and released account for some of this, at least those released fish go back into the ocean’s highly stressed food chain.

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