Archive for April, 2009

For some time now I’ve been planning an off-road trip with some friends to the Valle Hermoso region in the province of Mendoza, about 500 kilometers to the south of the province’ s capital city of the same name. Within the group of 4×4 enthusiasts, who call themselves “Inedito 4×4”, I am to be the only fly fisherman on the trip. [I’ll be posting my first of multiple entries on the trip soon, so keep an eye out for that.]

CMF Bamboo Fly Rod 7553

CMF Bamboo Fly Rod 7553

As part of the preparations, (and preparation is where the trip actually starts of course) I called up my good friend Claudio Fanchi and asked if he’d been able to repair a bamboo fly rod that I had given him. The tip of the rod was broken because I had over-weighted the #4 rod with a #7 line. (Yes, a rookie mistake perhaps, but I didn’t have a lighter line at the time and thought I could pull it off… lesson learned.)

When I called up Claudio he suggested we meet at our usual café in front of the Rosedal Park in Palermo, Café Martinez. We often meet there to talk about fly fishing, look at his new rod creations, and sometimes walk over to the park and try them out with a few casts.

Claudio had arrived early and already downed a cappuccino, but still ordered another along with mine. In no time at all we were both wide-eyed and jabbering about our shared addiction (fly fishing, not coffee — one addiction at a time). I explained my trip plans to him and he gave me a few local contacts in Mendoza to follow up with to check on fishing conditions and get other tips on the area in which I’d be traveling. [Claudio had heard of the Rio del Cobre and Rio Grande, but some of the other spots he wasn’t sure of. Later I got some great tips from Eduardo at Mendoza Fly Fishing aka Old Smuggler Fly Fishing.]

So finally, when I couldn’t wait any longer, and the caffeine had me bouncing in my chair, I asked about my fly rod. Claudio explained that he hadn’t had time to fix my rod but he offered me a trade. That’s when he produced a eye-catching #5 rod, 7.5 feet in length, and with a stripping that housed a beautiful rose colored agate. Also, unlike his previously crafted rods, this rod didn’t have a wood handle base [reel seat], but rather the toasted bamboo extended past the winding check  to become the reel seat, ending at the spacer/butt cap. The reel would be held in place with reel seat rings evoking silver bijouteri; and this time he remembered I like the water design!

All I could say was “wow… uh.. wow, Gracias!”

Fanchi bamboo rod 2009I have two CMF bamboo fly rods. The procurement of the first was how I came to know Claudio in the first place. I’d been doing some work, back then, with the US Embassy in Buenos Aires and since fishermen seem to find each other one way or another, a TSA agent friend named Joe showed me his recently acquired CMF rod. Like a Pavlovian dog I ogled over the sublime brilliance of the artistically crafted gem.

[Argentinians are very creative people, in many respects, and it shows in their capacity for artistic expression.]

I’m very much indebted to Claudio for his friendship and for his generosity. It’s not often that you meet people who are so naturally talented and at the same time are barely aware of it. Claudio is the kind of guy who lives life like it should be lived… or at least gives the impression that he’s just taking life as it comes. Maybe in his own mind he’s dealing with stress and suffers life just like all of us. But unlike many of us, he gives at least twice as much as he takes from life.

Jumping a week into the future, I found myself placing a Prince fly just above a visible drop-off 15 feet offshore with my new CMF7553 in the Laguna de Las Cargas. After catching three fish in 20 minutes, the adrenaline of the first-casts-of-the-tip and the unexpected luck with the Prince gave way to an EGO Time epiphany.  My surroundings;  the arid valley unknown to all but cattle, sheep and eco-trekkers, the clear blue skies juxtaposed with cathedral-like mountain peaks; all of this started to sink in and create a “moment”. A moment, that when I think back on, is more about a country, a passion for fly fishing and a friendship – all represented by a rod.

Thanks for the rod Claudio. It’s priceless.

It’s good for the soul

Ed Nicholson was on with Larry King this week as a recognized hero. I’m not a big Larry King fan myself, but I did like the message they got out about the therapeutic nature of fly fishing.

Here is a link to the video: Ed Nichols with Larry King

It’s true that some people fly fish because they think it gives them some special status, just like the way some people join fancy golf clubs to show how important they are.

But I think the comparison with golf is actually a good one. For those people who truly enjoy these activities as sports, versus improving one’s social profile, there are many aspects of each that are worth promoting. Neither one is a team sport, so the goal is to challenge yourself, but also to enjoy the process. Pediatricians will tell you that at a young age, children often benefit more from individual sports like golf, tennis, etc. because it can quickly establish the foundations for self confidence and self esteem.

That’s where I think this video fits in, although I think Nicholson only hints at what the real healing value is for these veterans, when he talks about an “emotional break” and being out in nature. As a former soldier with permanent injuries, trying to fit back into the real world,  there have to be serious issues to overcome regarding self confidence and self esteem. Learning something new, improving upon it; growing; taking that first step and finding out that you have the ability “achieve”, despite your perceived shortcomings, can do wonders for our self worth.

That’s what I think fly fishing, or any sport that challenges (and rewards) oneself, provides for its practitioners and why it transcends age, gender, social and economic inequalities, race, nationality, etc.  In other words, anyone can do it, anytime, throughout their lives. It makes us more aware of ourselves, more aware of our environment and our interaction with it.

If you’ve never done it, ask someone to intruce you to fly fishing. You’ll love it! Then “pay it forward” and invite someone else… you’ll never regret it.

Easter weekend is a great time to reflect on the importance of family. If you have young kids, grand kids, nieces or nephews, you will undoubtedly be spending a lot of time with them this weekend. One way or another, most people have at least one “kids event” of some kind this Easter weekend.

Nahuel Huapi

Nahuel Huapi

I’m not sure kids can appreciate the concept of EGO Time since they don’t need to seek it out and be reminded to “smell the roses”.

The picture here is from a trip my family took to Villa La Angostura in 2006. The kids wanted to fish and kept asking me if we could fish off the dock near the cabin we were staying in. They were still too small to use fly fishing gear, but my son had his open-faced reel and rod, and we happened to have one Rapala lure. I tried to explain (using adults’ logic) that we wouldn’t likely catch anything. The conditions weren’t right, the lure wasn’t right, etc. As I was making this argument, I could see in my kids faces that they were just waiting to find out if all this explanation really meant “yes” or “no”.

So we rigged up the line and we spent two hours just living the moment that you see in the picture. My son, who is three years older than her sister, was all the while explaining to her the fishing conditions, how to retrieve and cast. She observed, asked questions and sang little songs she either knew or would make up. They were just happy to be there with me and with each other. (The conditions were right after all, but they were the conditions for something I hadn’t expected.)

For me it was a great lesson about fishing and about life. Kids don’t really care about the practical end-result. They just care about the living moment. They’re naturally wired this way, and that, for me, is what each opportunity to spend time with my kids and each opportunity to spend time fishing, is all about. And as much as children (or good friends and family) can provide us with moments of NGO Time, we shouldn’t forget that we can do the same for them.

Have a great weekend, and may you find a little NGO Time!

“EGO” Time

Sunset in the marshes

Sunset in the marshes

What time is it?

“EGO Time”  is an expression that one of my Uncles told me about when I was a kid. EGO is an acronym for “Evening Glass-Off” and it is pronounced by sounding out each letter E, G, O. Not “eggo” like some Kellog’s waffle…

It’s that special time when being on the water (or near it) becomes magical. The first time he explained it to me it was just before dusk, when the lake became placid and mirror-like. It made such an impact on me, I never forgot it.

Honestly, sometimes I apply it liberally to mean “happy hour” after a rough day… But either way, for me it represents a time to slow down, put hectic things aside and focus on being alive, in love and what’s important in life.

There are also tough times in life when EGO Time is really needed, and so I wanted to dedicate a new page to my brother who I hope finds lots of good EGO Time with his son and everyone close to him.
“What time is it?”



Argentina can be otherworldly...

Argentina can be otherworldly...

An inspiration for writing about fishing only began after completing a part of what makes me, me, in addition to the fisherman inside me. It’s like the moment you added the baking soda to your volcano science project, it didn’t erupt until the necessary ingredient was added. In my case, it was an unexpected assignment to work temporarily in Argentina that ended up becoming my home.

Argentina has a great number of places to fish and varieties of fish to keep you coming back for more year after year. It’s one of my favorite places to fish in South America. The terrain varies from North to South, East to West and although they have species you’ll find in other parts of the world (not to mention what you won’t find elsewhere), the Argentine fishing experience like no other.

You will find an endless number of books, blogs, sites and other sources of information about every outdoor adventure or sport one could imagine. So instead of trying to tell you something you don’t  know, or can’t otherwise find about Argentine outdoor adventures, I thought I’d try to give some something else to bring along with you if you should travel to the Republic: a frame of mind.

Argentina is often a strange combination of untouched wilderness combined with modern day comforts. But that is what characterizes Argentina for so many people. A country of “extremes”, it could never be explained as dull or ordinary.

It is an anomaly which can’t last forever.

Don’t try to figure it out. You’ll be frustrated trying to understand this country and its people if you compare it to everything else you already know or believe about how the world works. You can only start to understand if  you immerse yourself and relearn everything about relationships, politics, economics… and even mechanics, from scratch. It’s like learning a new language. Can you really say you understand a language unless you immerse yourself and eventually “think” in that language? If you want to understand Argentina and Argentinians, you have to “think Argentine”.

Sure. You can come as a tourist and enjoy the beef, wine, hospitality, eco-tourism, etc. You’ll go away very pleased, but you have to think Argentine to begin to understand it and truly enjoy some things that you would otherwise rarely find in a lifetime.

But, let this be a warning, if you are prepared to think Argentine, it may change your life in ways you didn’t expect and won’t ever be able to undo. It’s like Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole… You’ll think you’re now seeing the real world for the first time.

Living here, and initially thinking that maybe I could play a part in changing some things about this country, I realize that so far I’m the one that has been changed. It is sometimes bitter sweet, but I have no regrets because I believe that it’s all been for the better.

The wonders of this country, natual and cultural, are unique in the world. Reading history and Borges will only get you started. It’s ‘untamed nature’ is the one thing that runs true through everything. It’s the key to thinking Argentine and beginning to understand the people and culture.

I haven’t figured it out yet, and honestly, I think I’ve stopped trying. I’ve just given myself to it and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so alive.

If you plan on taking a trip in your lifetime that you think will perhaps change your life; like seeing the Great Wall or the Eqyptian pyramids, consider spending time (not just a 10 day visit) in Argentina. Travel the provinces, take in the culture, see the popular sites, but also take your time to browse through the countryside. Incorporate things into your  routine like a daily siesta, marienda, the late afternoon café or tea house, all-day Sunday “fiaca” laying in bed reading and ordering out for facturas in the morning and empanadas in the afternoon. Buy yourself a pair of bombachas de campo and alpargatas shoes. Don’t rush to do anything and don’t plan too much. Just take life as it comes. Move from the extreme of the life you have lived, to the opposite extreme.

If eventually you find yourself drifting back and forth from one extreme to the other, you are finally beginning to think Argentine. It’s a country of extremes.

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