On Friday afternoon I arrived in El Calafate and got a taxi ride to the Design Hotel where I would meet the group. After they arrived we had a nice dinner and talked about the following day. The stoke level was high and everyone was happy to be “almost there”. Especially Paul, it was a long trek for this group mostly from Alaska and getting Paul’s trackchair all the way here was a logistical feat in itself. The travel to the famed fishing lodge on Strobel Lake (Lago Strobel) would soon be worth it…
Day 1 - Journey to the Lodge
The next morning our driver Ricardo met us at the hotel and we loaded the chair and all of our gear into the back of his Mercedes van. The adventure begins!
After 2 hours and a pit stop at a little tourist shop we swapped from a loaded down van to 4 trucks where the pavement ended. Meeting our guides and the group who was there the previous week had us jonesing even more. Micah and I rode with Facu who used to race rally cars. We gave him the thumbs up and we had an exhilarating 2-hour ride to the lodge!
We saw herds of guanaco, rhea, armadillos and all sorts of other critters we don’t have in the US.
The entire Strobel lake area is private and they keep the roads around the lake pretty messed up in order to keep the locals and tourists out.
After a nice lunch of assorted pizzas from scratch and house wine we set out to Laguna Verde in front of the lodge for a few hours of fishing. By the time I got my rod rigged I saw John and Dennis had already hooked into a few fish across the lake from me. I tied on a black leech with an olive scud trailing. It didn’t take long to hook and land my first rainbow of the trip followed by two more nice fish.
I saw Erin land her first fish, which was a nice 3-pound brown trout, and by that time it looked like everyone had a fish to hand. We opened a beer and worshiped the fish gods by pouring a bit in the Laguna. I was already content with the evening and walked around to everyone to hangout and watch them hook into a few more fish.
An incredible appetizer was served followed by a tender steak and wine. After the dessert, John, Paul, and I went down for one last cast as the sunset. The retreating sun lit up the clouds and shoreline the view was incredible. We all hooked and landed a fish before it was time to cash in for the night in order to rest up for the following day.
Day 2 - Jurassic Lake
The group set out in different directions to fish Jurassic Lake. On the second cast of the day before I could even get my rod off the truck Paul was already hooked into a nice fish. I caught a couple and Erin did as well then we went over to the other side of the bay and cast back into the 30mph wind. We could sight fish them now and I landed a few 8-10 pound fish but couldn’t entice some of the real bruisers that were cruising around taunting us. Erin hooked one really nice fish that came screaming toward the rock I was standing on and before she could put the brakes on to turn him he wrapped her line around the rock and he went one way as the indicator and her now broken frayed line flew back at her.
We had a nice lunch with wine and beers if desired before heading off to Monster Bay. The wind was going in an odd direction and I believe the food was being pushed out of the bay by the current instead of being pushed into the bay. We fished a couple hours but only managed 2 fish between the 4 of us. However they were really nice fat fish and Paul’s looked as if it swallowed a coke can and then got lodged in its belly sideways. When we returned to the lodge the others in the group had mixed days with everyone landing a few fish.
Day 3 - The Barrancoso River
We fished the lake bays in the morning and then drove to the Barrancoso River after lunch. I carried Paul down the trail to a big pool. As we got close to it you could see some huge fish appear and disappear back into the dirty high water. “Holy crap! Did you see that one!” Paul yelled.
We all were in amazement watching the pool as we waited for Paul to make the first cast with his center pin. Bam! First drift he had a big chrome buck jumping and thrashing in the water. He went with the current and tried to go down river into the rock as Paul’s 15lb leader broke…well that was exciting.
He rigged this time with 20lb and the next fish hit the net, it was a long heavy buck making his way upriver to spawn. After we watched Paul hook into a few more Erin, Micah, myself, and guide Esteban headed up river to fish some other holes. Everyone landed some nice fish. The river in this section is quite gradient and fast. With the high water we surely lost more that we landed.
Everyone landed big fish today between 10 and 15 pounds fishing different parts of the lake and river. Our guides still kept saying with frustration “We need to have a good day. We need for you to see what a “Strobel Day” is like”.
Day 4 - Tasmania Bay
This morning we started in a place called Tasmania Bay. I sight fished 4-5 chrome and hot fish. Nothing over 7 pounds but nice fish. They ate olive scuds or a hot head black bugger.
Micah landed an awesome 13-pound fish no doubt the biggest rainbow he’s ever seen!
We decided to try Monster Bay again.
I really liked the looks of this bay. It is a large bay with the wind usually at your back and a nice drop off only fifteen feet from the bank. Paul landed 3 fish in the first hour and Erin caught a nice one as well. I caught 2 really hot chrome fish that pulled line. My drag was set pretty tight fishing 12 pound fluoro and one fish in particular took 20 feet of backing and breached a few times as she screamed line off my reel. I gained 50 feet back and she tore off again this time as the reel was singing the hook pulled. I reeled up to find my stout number 8 scud was straightened…Lots of choice words went through my head…That was my chance at a real Strobel Lake giant.
After lunch we went to the river. Paul quickly landed a big fish and then Erin followed with an even better one that stretched the tape to 28” and 14+ pounds. I decided to tie up a mouse onto my 6wt and managed to watch a few giant trout eat but failed to get the hook set on them. All the while guide Martin was yelling with excitement from the high rocks as a fish would chase my fly. I did catch one nice resident trout on the mouse.
When I got back to where Paul was fishing he was fighting a fish and I ran down in time to help get the line off of a rock the trout had wrapped him on. We eventually landed that one; it’s unreal how many trout in the 10-15 pound range live in these waters. Paul said he had at least 15 trout while we were up river. The “mousetrap pool” he is fishing is perfect because new fish come into that pool throughout the day as they rest to continue further up river to the spawning gravel.
Day 5 - Fighting the Wind in Dry Fly Bay
Today we switched things up in the morning and I fished with John one of my clients I had met and guided in Alaska. He also came to Chile with me last year and I was excited when he decided to make this trip. The guy is hilarious and fun to fish with. Anyways we went with guide Martin to fish Dry Fly Bay. It was a windy SOB and as each wave rolled in you could see a few fish in them. Some waves were 6 feet and had 10 fish visible, a sight I will never forget!
Despite wicked wind and big waves splashing in our faces you could see a few giant fish cruising. It was a slow morning and only a few fish were hooked or landed. The waves made it tough to get a decent presentation to the fish. One fish I caught was awesome because I saw him swim by my indicator then turn and come back to eat the fly. The anticipation was immense!
I think part of why it was tough in morning was because it was a much colder day. At Strobel Lake you want warm sunny days because it brings more fish into the bays and the feed heavily on sunny days.The afternoon was good sight fishing cruising trout and stripping a bugger. I hit many fresh fish that jumped and were experts at shaking the hook. It’s crazy to think the number of 10-pound fish you unhook and don’t even look at twice because you know the next one could be that 20 pounder! Today was one of those “Strobel Days” the guides had been talking about. This place spoils you.
Day 6 - Dry Fly Day
When I woke up and walked the deck to the dining area to pour my first of many cups of coffee for the morning something felt off…ah! It was quite and the wind was calm!
We started the morning back at Dry Fly Bay, as Facu one of the guides rigged up a dry fly for Paul he and I talked with anticipation. This was the most excited either of us had been all week. I think it was cast number two for Paul when I looked up from tying my own dry on to see his fish leaping from the crystal clear and glassy smooth water. Holy shit! That was quick! Paul played and landed a long healthy 12-pound fish just 5 minutes into our morning. I followed with a few of my own on a dry and witnessed Erin kicking rocks after she repeatedly missed a gamer that tried to eat the fly three times.
The wind picked up and we moved on to C Bay. At lunch everyone was having a good day and the food was enjoyed with chatter of the fishing. Although the wind had started again everyone had landed many fish on a dry and a dropper or by stripping flies.
That afternoon on Lago Strobel Jurassic Lake was the most ridiculous fishing I had ever been a part of.
It was better than the day before, as many as you wanted. If you could cast 30 feet into the wind you were in the game. If you could cast further it was stupid fishing! Schools of 5-50 and at times you could see a few hundred rainbow trout in the waves as they cruised the shores for food. These fish are professional feeders! I know I had at least FORTY fish averaging 10-pounds and a few over 14 pounds. These were all chrome fish that fought hard and tested our 8wts.
For dinner we had a traditional Argentine Asado. Lamb and all the appetizers done over the fire with fried cheese, fried bread, sausages, and beef ribs it was so good.
Day 7 - Mousing
This was our last day so we headed to the river. I fished a mouse exclusively and had fun on the smaller resident fish that are colored beautifully and 12-18”. Erin and Micah both caught some on a dry but the wind was brutal. It was our worst weather day with some rain and the windiest day yet. Paul still got into some good fish but the water had now cleared up and dropped. So you could see most of the big fish shadows in the river. This also made them more wary.
Overall it has been an amazing week in Argentina. For dinner we ate plates of empanadas with wine, beers, and whiskey drinks. We exchanged photos with the guides as well as contact info and talked about our incredible week at the estancia. These were some of the largest rainbows of their lives…and this crew was mostly from Alaska! The lodge and guides were happy to hear that. They know Alaska has some of the best rainbow fishing in the world. We talked about the next group trip or the next time we will find ourselves at Strobel Lake! I know it won’t take much arm-twisting to plan another trip here.
Day 8 - The Journey Home
We had a light breakfast and loaded up for the trek back to the airport in El Calafate. The ride was humming with chatter of huge fish and the memories made. As we said our goodbyes at the airport I couldn’t help but think of the number of friends I couldn’t wait to send a few photos to once I got back into cell service. My brother was first on the list; I really just wanted to make him jealous!