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Fly Fishing In Patagonia

March 7, 2015

Estancia Harberton. 3.2.15

There are three campsites on this estancia. All situated alongside rivers and all with no facilities. The first was before the estancia and as it was requested for people to ask permission, we registered then went along to the 2nd one on Rio Varela. The estancia faces the Beagle Channel on one side and rolling hills with flat river valleys leading up to snow capped peaks on the other. Fortunately the peaks are far enough away to present us with a more pleasant night last night and again tonight. With time to kill we will spend at least a further night here. It is, once again, a unique situation made memorable for me for being where I caught my first trout. Rainbow in this case, two of them. The first was an edible size, about the same size as the smoked trout you get back home, the second a fair bit smaller. Joan happened to be on hand to take a photo  for posterity. And these were caught on Australian flies, must be dumb fish.

There is a herd of horses near us, descendents of the horses bought by founder of the estancia in 1867. They seem to live a charmed life. After speaking to staff at the estancia it appears horses are useless for cattle mustering on this heavily wooded country. With thin top soil the trees have shallow roots and are easily brought down by the strong winds they experience here. Not suitable country for horses, all mustering is done on foot with dogs.

We had a visitor this morning, Luka from Paraguay. He and his Chilean friend were camping at the next site some nine kms further along the channel. Their car had a flat battery and asked if I could jump start it. Unfortunately a flat battery wasn’t the problem and after trying it with leads then a tow we could only offer Luka a lift to the estancia where he managed to get a lift back to Ushuaia to organize a trailer. Felt sorry for them, a young couple of students whose holiday had been disrupted. Ushuaia is over eighty kms away.

Whiile at the PN Tierra del Fuego the other day we drove down to the end of the road at Bahia Lautentita. It is actually the end of the RN3 that started in BA. There was what looked like a home made RV sitting there that we parked alongside of. We were having our morning coffee when the middle aged owners of the other vehicle came back from their walk. After a little hesitancy we got chatting as best we could with no language in common. They inspected our bakkie and we their larger, compact, but well thought out machine. Next thing we were being offered a spirit, I forget the name of it but it did have a picture of race horses on the label, we think he was involved with the racing industry, and this was at 10 in the morning. No glasses were offered, just the bottle, we hesitated then the man took it back and had a big swig, then passing it to Joan who obliged as did myself. The spontaneity of it was so refreshing. I think its the first time either of us has had a drink of spirits straight from the bottle. We also saw our first Andean condors here soaring high above the cliff face

Two more trout today but too small to keep. I won’t talk about fishing again until I catch one worth mentioning.

6th March.

Down here, so far south, during the day the sky seems to be always fulll of the most amazing array of cloud types all at the same time. It is a never ending changing display of the most impressive arrangements. It would be good to know  little more about the various types and what they forecast. A very windy night last night. I have adapted the canvas fly over the canvas lining that covers the bed so as to not catch the wind so much but the amount of flapping it still does is a concern as canvas does not appreciate continuous movement. Yet, the fly is necessary in case it rains. I was up twice during the night seeing to it. Tonight there is not a breath of air at the moment. Stay like this the whole night and there will be  frost. They had one a few days back that wiped out the potato crop at the estancia.

We visited the estancia Harburton today. Natalie Goodall who married in to the family in the 70s has started an excellent museum of the bird and mammal life seeen in or on the waters in the area. The skeletons of many of the animals and birds hang suspended iin fron of the paintings of the said animal o the wall behind. Visitors can see the different bone structures that have evolved for the different animals. There is a workshop as part of the museum where they clean and store the skeletons of mammals washed up on the shore. The Bone Store was very intriguing. It’s where the actual removal of the flesh from the bones take place. Smaller animals are placed in drums of fresh water where, over time (can be up to 12 months) the flesh falls off the bones. As can be imagined, it is a very smelly process. For larger mammals they need to boil the bones in large tubs.. Again, the smell would be unpleasant to say the least. After the museum we visited the homestead and out buildings and learnt more of the history of the Bridges’ who started the station and the native tribes Lucas Bridges helped.

The three nights we spent at the Varela campsite on the estancia was a pleasant break. The wildlife in the area, though not as varied as Australia was very interesting. One morning, as we were eating breakfast in the van I heard a commotion on the water. I opened the door to find a beaver swimming upstream right next to the bakkie. And the birdlife seem to be relaxed around people and not afraid to come quite close.

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