Foreign Correspondence: Great fishing at the tail end of America

Cameron Chambers, 33, a native of Helena, Mont., lives in Seattle. He is the author of “Chasing Rumor: A Season Fly Fishing in Patagonia,” published this spring (Patagonia, $13.75).

Q: How do fishing skills in the Pacific Northwest translate to a book about fly-fishing in southern South America?

A: I always tell old/new fishermen the same thing: The best fisherman is the person having the most fun doing it. I enjoy being on the river. My casting, fly-tieing, ability to read the water, assess where trout are possibly lying. ... It’s all pretty good but the most important thing is enjoying it. I do a pretty good job of that, for the most part.

Q: Why Patagonia?

A: It’s a place still really shrouded in mystery – a place where we’ve gotten a lot of pictures and video of very large trout and large, wide-open rivers with no people on them. But not a lot of facts. There are only two guidebooks on the area. It’s hard to find information on the Internet, so my book deals with the idea of creating your own adventure on such a grand landscape – and that’s getting rare as people become more global.

Q: What’s the lay of the land?

Patagonia is essentially the southern third of Argentina and Chile – both sides of the AndesMountains. A lot resembles Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. As you get over the Andes the Chilean side, it’s more wet, more like Washington, Oregon or northwest California. On the Chilean side, you have fast-moving rivers with a lot of whitewater, but also pockets of pools for fish. In Argentina, as you travel east from the Andes range, the land flattens into broad plains with clear, free-running rivers.

It’s a huge landscape, as large as the western United States.

Q: When were you down there?

My first trip was in 2006, when I was a guide in Chile; that set up the 2008 trip – which this book is really about.

On the first trip, I had gotten a taste of what I had missing by being stuck in one central location. I was stuck living in a tiny town in Chile for five months; I talked to area guides, and in bars to fishermen passing through. I started keeping a journal of places I could go. I heard rumors, and my second trip was chasing those rumors.

Q: Is fishing there different from North America?

A: By and large its similar to what you’re going to get across U.S. A large reason for that is that the industry down there is really nurtured by Americans and American guides. Argentine lodge owners initially brought U.S. guides down because of their of skill set and language skills: Their businesses were geared to an American and European clientele.

Also, there are North American trout planted down there.

The popular northern Patagonian rivers are close to little towns with a selection of restaurants, hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. Stay there when you’re fishing the rivers. In central Patagonia, the towns are more spreadout, and what they have is more limited. It’s expedition-style fishing, where you plan on being away from town for two to four days.

Patagonia has hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. The season opener is typically the first weekend in November; it continues through May. The best time is November, early December and early March, when the water starts cooling down again.

Q: Are the fishing flies similar to those used here?

A: Yes – things like caddis flys, types of grasshoppers and crickets for the most part.

Local tie-ers are definitely using same materials and tying patterns. Obviously, there are some variations.

Q: What’s the biggest fish you caught in Patagonia?

A: Probably around the 12-pound mark, a brown trout taken where the Limay River comes out of a lake. It’s one of the hallowed spots for Argentine fly fishing.

Q: Is a fishing trip there expensive?

A: No. Obviously, you’re looking at a pretty significant airfare to get down there, but once you’re down there the costs are maybe 60 to 70 percent for comparable services in the U.S.