Tag Archive: Neuquen


Fontinalis del Lago Tromen - - Photo: Alfredo Romero

Fontinalis (Brook Trout) from Lake Tromen.

Caught by “Juanpi”

End of April 2009

Neuquen, Patagonia Argentina.

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Float

Float fishing

Float fishing

Float. If you’ve ever worked in banking or economic you might know that the term float refers to

“..duplicate money present in the banking system during the time between a deposit being made in the recipient’s account and the money being deducted from the sender’s account.”

This is sometimes used in a check kiting scheme where someone takes advantage of the time between writing a check and a banks ability to quickly cover the check and balance accounts. Ok, BORING! Which is at least one reason I’m glad to be writing about another kind of float which is significantly much more fun.

In December of this year, I’ve been invited to float down the Alumine River in Neuquen for six days in individual inflatable boats or “floats”. So, of course, I’m getting all excited and checking my gear.

Personal inflatable floats are extremely practical for those of us who, while traveling around for non-fishing reasons, may come across a body of water or a stretch of river and reschedule the trip around a few hours of indulging our addiction.

From a eco-tourism point of view, its also less damaging to the environment since these units don’t use combustion motors or fuel.

I don’t own an inflatable… yet. It’s an item I’ve been studying for some time now since my friend Claudio purchased an inflatable pontoon boat last year. Since I’m always looking to be sure I don’t waste money on a whim and a new gadget, I decided to do some research first. I’m getting closer since I now have information and a little extra money set aside. (I’ve also got a birthday coming up. wink wink)

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned. Please feel free to comment and share your insights, knowledge, experience and info about small, individual float watercraft.

Float Tubes

Belly Boat

Belly Boat

These are sometimes referred to as “belly-boats”. They are modeled after the inner tube of a tire, but with obvious improvements and comforts. The major difference is the shape.

This personal floating device was originally designed for anglers that want to get a lower profile access to fish in ponds and small lakes. Since your partially submerged you maneuver using your legs and feet. Using swim fins is a common practice for locomotion, but be sure they are strapped on tight. If you loose one in the middle of the lake, or even close to shore, recuperating the lost fin can be quite a problem.

Belly Boat w/oars

Float tube w/oars

Some units come with oars, however due to the already compact space this might become cumbersome when you also have to worry about your fishing rod. The fisherman is also low in the water when using the tube and thus decreasing the range of motion for effective rowing. The oars and any attempts to use them will also significantly diminish efforts toward increased stealth.

Belly boats are generally round like and inner tube. Float tubes tend to have a U or V shape.

These are great for fly fishing particularly if you really like to connect with nature in the process. These craft are quiet and convenient for the fisherman who practices catch and release and likes to travel light.

If you like the advantages of low profile, easy storage and transport, as well as, the simplicity of deployment, you may want to consider the use of hip or chest waders while operating the belly boat to keep yourself dry and somewhat warmer than if you were directly exposed to the water.

Stealthy Access

Stealthy Access

These units are generally not used in rivers where currents can cause problems with maneuverability and control.

Pricing generally runs anywhere from $100.00 to $300.00 dollars.

Weight can also vary. The simpler float tubes weigh as little as 8 lbs., and as much as 18 lbs., when fully assembled. Overall of the three options for personal floating units I’m reviewing here, this is the lightest and easiest to pack and transport.

The weight capacity of a belly boat is the lowest rated of the three types of floats discussed here, but they are still pretty capable with ratings up to 300 lbs.

Many units come with repair kits and you can also purchase extra repair kits separately. Some units have a pump included while others don’t. Be sure to check for that if you order. It can’t make a difference in the over all cost. I think these belly boats are small enough that a foot pump it quite sufficient. An electrical pump is overkill.

Kickboat

Kickboat

Kickboat

Another type of floating tube is the Kickboat. This is basically a raft with an open floor design let’s you sit on a seat to propel and steer the raft with fins on your feet while you keep both hands free for casting and landing fish.

In shallow water you can stand up and wade while the raft floats around you.

The kickboat is generally larger than a float tube. You still rely on your legs and feet, but can more easily incorporate oars. There is also added space, with a kickboat, for gear.

Profile of kickboat

Profile of kickboat

You may also be able to manage rivers with very light currents and even lift your legs out of the water when approaching a fishing spot. This reduces your profile from the perspective of the fish you are targeting.

There tends to be no rigid frame with a kickboat, so you won’t be able to utilize a small electric motor as with some Pontoon Floats. You may also have some difficulty attaching an anchor to this type of float.

Regardless of its limitations, I think this unit is pretty cool.

It may not be recommended by the manufacturer, but I could see myself using the kick boat as a makeshift air mattress when its time to make camp on a multi-day river-float.

Kickboat

Kickboat

Pricing on the kickboats tends to be a bit higher. I’ve found them to be the most expensive of these three options. The prices usually range from $1000.00 dollars and up. These are also much less common. Belly boats and Pontoon Floats seem to be dominating the market. For me that is an important aspect of whether or not to outlay the cash for a float. Competition generally means better price and service. There are also fewer sources that I can go to when or if I have an issue.

Weight for these units is around 30 lbs., so they are still light. They are almost 8 feet long, but lengths may vary.

Finally, these units may provide the maximum weight capacity of up to around 400 lbs. (excluding multi-seat pontoon floats) and some as high as 750 lbs.

These are also often rated higher in terms of the River Class or White Water Rating. Belly boats are rated Class I, whereas kickboats may be as high as Class III or IV.

Pontoon Floats

Pontoon float

Pontoon float

These personal watercraft are a step up (a big step) from the belly-boats and tube floats. They are based on the inflatable pontoon boats used by professional guides, but much more economical.

The guide boat version of these pontoon floats have greater capacity in just about every aspect, and are much more like a boat than a float, so I’ll only be looking at this option from the personal-inflatable float point of view.

These units appear to have the best of both worlds between the advantages of belly boats and kickboat/rafts. There is a lot of space, range of motion, weight capacity, ease of storage and transport, stealth, etc.

The main difference with the pontoon floats is the rigid metal frame. The frame is necessary because of the pontoons and thus it adds overall weight. It is the heaviest of these three personal float options. From my research into brochures and user reviews, the frame seems to be easily assembled and disassembled. The oars also come in two or three piece configurations.

As compared with the two other options, the pontoon float also has a higher seat which may provide for better visual perspective and range of motion for operating oars or casting a fishing line. There is also a lower underwater profile since feet and legs are above water.

Basic Pontoon Float

Basic Pontoon Float

Some models are large enough and stable enough to allow the user to stand on the foot rest platform, but most models have foot pegs which are adjustable according to the height and comfort of the user.

Among the various models available the major differences were in length, weight capacity and the ability to utilize an anchor and electric trolling motor. There are even models that come with PVC molding on the pontoons to provide greater rigidity, are rated higher in Class, but suffer in terms of weight, transportability and accessibility in terms of cost.

Pricing of pontoon floats ranges from $200.o0 to as much as $2000.00 dollars depending on the manufacturer, materials and warranty. However, I’ve found that there are very acceptable models from between $300.00 and $700.00 dollars for the kind of lake and river fishing I plan to do with such a unit. My personal thought is that for any river rated higher than Class II, I would probably want the comfort and security of a conventional raft or Pontoon raft.

Weight is surprisingly light considering the rigid metal tube structure of the pontoon float. The lightest are round 35 lbs. with the heavier models around 80 lbs.

Continue reading

Usually when you read about a river cleanup program, it is usually accompanied by an image of a streak of brown, flotsam and jetsam, and perhaps even some carcasses of local fish and fauna on the coastline. So I was rather surprised [and then again, not so surprised] to see a cleanup program for one of my favorite Patagonian rivers, the Rio Limay.

Crystal clear waters of the Rio Limay

Crystal clear waters of the Rio Limay

Bariloche “gets it”!

This is what  really marks a difference between the southern Andean provinces of Argentina versus others. It comes down to culture. Developing a culture of cleanliness and a culture of awareness about how even one individual can effect an environment, and a way of thinking, is key.

There’s no doubt that it’s easier to develop a cleanup campaign when your province, local and private institutions have, and are willing to spend, money for such programs, but the most significant factors are not economic ones.

Even education is effective only after there is a cultural tendency [an openness] to learn and apply certain modes of conduct. It’s really not that hard if you think about it. We are all creatures of habit and nobody wants to be looked down upon. I remember being a kid and simply being called a “litter bug” was a pretty good deterrent and motivator to keep garbage where it belonged. There were many campaigns on television and radio about picking up litter and I think it shows today in most parts of the U.S. that these constant messages and efforts towards awareness have paid off.

But there is more than “shame” working in Bariloche, and the Andean provinces of Rio Negro, Neuquen, Chubut, Mendoza, etc.

The key may be pure and simple self interest. These Andean provinces didn’t start out with a culture of conservation. In fact the motivation for conserving the natural resources in these provinces [particularly those that lend themselves for tourism] is to be able to continue to exploit them and maintain the notable economic growth these provinces have seen over the past 10 or so years.

So how could other provinces such as Corrientes, Entre Rios, Misiones and others approach the need for change?

One of the best sources of hope are actually in the businesses that exploit eco-tourism. It will definitely take collaboration with local game authorities and local governments in the provinces where the natural resources will otherwise continue to dwindle. But if the private sector can engage politicians and local governments in the right way, it may be easier than it might first appear.

Young people, for example, present another great opportunity. A generation is all it takes to effect change, as most of us know. But results could be seen even faster. Take for example the case of the Professional Fishing Guide Association of Bariloche. The Association‘s CleanLimaymembers have a very large number of young fishing guides. They often work as skiing instructors in the winter months, and fishing guides the rest of the year. It’s a health-wealth thing for them. They enjoy and depend on the health of their environment to generate the wealth that they and their community survives on. Young people are easily motivated, have the strength and energy, and the right amount of idealism to quickly make a difference in their communities.

Developing similar initiatives via guide associations in other provinces could quickly have positive environmental and economic effects. Local schools can offer guide training and certification, thus generating additional revenue through this course offering. Additional programs for working in the promotion of tourism could also be offered in a broad range of courses such as advertising, hotel management, and other service/tourism oriented professions.

In fact, some provinces have started to implement some of these programs and course offerings. They are beginning to generate some results, but the emphasis needs to stay on “what’s good for whole, is good for the individual”, versus “what’s good for me…” [and the part about the common good is quickly forgotten]. Thus it comes back to a “cultural thing”.

It doesn’t help when your leaders don’t appear to have any moral standards and grab as much as they can – while they can – because they can. And the perception that most of us get from the news, television, etc. is that everything has pretty much gone to hell already. Give this view of reality, most people don’t want to feel like a schmuck being the only goody-good Samaritan working towards something better, while everyone else seems to be working in the other direction.

Realistically speaking, sometimes you come across [and must deal with] mentalities where “it’s all about me”. I wouldn’t be the first to say that human nature has a large dose of that philosophy. But politicians are always generally motivated by the all mighty $. When conservation is articulated properly, people can begin to understand that local economies and businesses benefit, tax revenues increase, public services find there is more money in the coffers, and provinces realize greater influence on federal budget spending. Again, money isn’t the only or even best answer to the problem of keeping the environment clean. Privatization, for example, only keeps select areas clean while there is an economic interest in doing so, and economics by itself has no moral compass.

The heroes in a happy ending to the story about “how the human race protected the environment and lived to enjoy it”, will be those that learn how to use society’s weaknesses and the good and bad of human nature to make a change in the currently non-existent wanting culture of conservation.

Playing the litter-bug shame game, articulating community and personal economic gains, and even leveraging human vanity may be the tactics needed in a long term strategy to help everyone else to finally “get it”. I certainly plan to continue to do my part so that eventually the term “brownlining” will only be applicable for decribing your shorts after getting a monster hit and landing the biggest trout of your life, on a body of water as clear as your bottled water, and as free as nature [not Evian] intended it.

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