Author: Benjamin Etridge.
May 17th, 2019
The IRIGOYEN, at last for as long as I’ve been fishing in Argentine Patagonia I’ve wanted fish the Irigoyen. This is the river that the truly obsessed seek-out. It’s a place surrounded by fishing lore and myth, a place of original surroundings, all bruised by the elements. It’s just not like anywhere else.
So, February 2019 sees me drop out off the clouds into Ushuaia airport and driven to World’s end Lodge at Irigoyen river. It’s silent here, impressively so. The only thing I hear is the placid wind in the lenga trees or a wave break or the rustle of a gore-tex jacket by my ear. I was really happy about all of this. The Irigoyen is a small scale fishery of very high quality. The owners permit 4 fishermen a week in a style of management that is distinctly low impact but basically perfect.
The unique countryside owes itself to an unfortunate weather pattern 30 years ago. A fierce wind followed days of heavy rain with the result being an enormous natural felling of the trees. It has the effect of making the Irigoyen seem more ancient and gives it a wild atmosphere, with silvery tree trunks lying at crooked angles in the river.
Fishing the Irigoyen River
The sea trout are super beautiful and as enigmatic as they can be. The river is fishable single handed with biblical levels of river structure and the sessions, even if not productive are all hardcore, rocking sessions. Yeah, I’ll say it, it’s perfect so well done to them.
The first few days I saw the river fishing well but the water level was low. It’s very technical summer fishing and awesome fun.
We used leeches and wonder bugs and our group catches great fish every session. Some, hard-assed sea trout that zip and run, muscular and small, often intensely chrome. Other fish are huge and play heavy. I saw the biggest fish of 82cm caught that week on a very small leech, at close quarters.
There are some big, big fish here. They’re strong enough to destroy you in a second or just beat you up and bend your hook or snap the line.
After losing my third big, fresh fish one day, my guide laughed commenting: you look totally, psychologically, destroyed my friend, he smiled as we walked off. I was blank and speechless. Give the fish a split second and you’re done and there’s no way back, fish to logs, it’s over. The speed of the incident had left me suspended.
Thankfully we had some rain come halfway through the week which brought the skies closer and darker and the water fresher.
Accordingly, the fishing improved and we didn’t have to fish so late into the evening like we had been. The combination of stunning fish and brutal scenery is intoxicating. I gradually found myself finding my range, touch and calm. There’s a lot of consideration going into each take on each pool and interestingly I fished nymphs for a greater percentage of the time than streamers.
The Irigoyen is definitely a thinking person river. It feels like a fluid experience of constant re-evaluation, this is not a place for easy casting and big catch records for the week, it’s a place for the best fishers to find out their level. The ratio of hook-ups to landings is well biased against you. You might have a brilliant day and get all your hook-ups in, it’s possible, just unlikely. I can imagine it never disappointing, there might be big-water lies to fish or highly technical low-water tactics that change daily. This is part of the challenge on the Irigoyen. It’s also part of the science: there is plenty of fish but none of them are easy to fish.
There are some instances when no one would get the fish in. The sheer power of a southern hemisphere sea trout moving towards cover, head-shaking and arching its body, with the rod getting lower to almost horizontal and any minute you know the strain will be too much and either the hook will pull, or straighten, is just mindblowing. There were moments when I found myself standing right there, on the edge of all of it, rod violently shaking, time elongating, senses heightened feeling every pin drop of rain and raised pebble underfoot.
All you can do is stay calm and do everything right because being beaten by fish is as much a part of this fishery as catching them. It is this momentary sensation, the exchange of man and fish in the most original and brutal but respectful way that we chase.
I asked Diego Castillo if they get any famous people down there. No man, he replied, we just want good fishermen. It’s the anti-ethos, the future model of a fishery that only has x4 rods per week managed in strict and adaptive rotation.
Lodging at Irigoyen
The lodge, as you might expect is very pretty. A characterful wood-built set of Patagonian buildings with super-soft and luxe bedrooms and living spaces. If you’re out late at night you might come home to an ice-bucket of cold beers or a knockout red wine in front of a wood burner. (Umm, heaven, right?).
The wine is from artisan wineries and the food is all excellent. The Irigoyen is a not so famous neighbor to the Rio Grande, but that suits the Irigoyen fine because it’s a great river altogether. It’s physical and exacting and quite honestly you will learn very fast here because the fishing demands it. It’s a river that will get you high with adrenalin. Don’t come with expectations of yourself being the best rod of the week and don’t stop going to wherever you usually go, but please, once in your life you must go here because you will never, ever, forget it. et it.
Please drop us an email if you would like to join us in one of our weeks at World’s end Lodge during 2019 season.