CLE Blog

Crickets, Spring, & New Beginnings

Crickets, Spring, & New Beginnings

"Flowers on the hill side blooming crazy

crickets talking back and forth in rhyme

blue river running slow and lazy

I could stay with you forever and never realize the time"

Bob Dylan

Another season's started, another fall gives way straight to spring as I migrate again back to Argentina. Something about spending a night on a flight is disorienting, a time machine skipping me right over winter. Time and space seems distorted, and except for the occasional bump of turbulence, there’s no sense of your speed at 33,000 feet. I always tend to reminisce.

It was 29 years ago in November, fresh out of college and off my 4th summer guiding for Mike Lawson that I had a job offer to head south and spend the winter guiding in Patagonia. I left behind a 2 month old Chocolate Lab pup with my parents, Mom thoroughly unimpressed, and diverged from a possible life attending the graduate writing program at the University of Montana where David Duncan was teaching. I had no idea where the hell I was headed.

I found myself in the vast watershed framed by the Allumine/Collon Cura and the Limay rivers- similar in scale to the upper Missouri and all the waters that feed into it. Patagonia was already well known to anglers, but it was still raw then when I arrived. A few years later when I smuggled the first cataraft into the area, I floated a full week without seeing another boat, rotating different clients on the public access section of the Collon Cura fishing Dave's hoppers and Letort crickets. It's been a great adventure, brought me to my wife Vanessa and our two children that followed. But it wasn't without a grind, those early years with late nights cleaning coolers, Vanessa repacking them in the morning with the kids pulling at her skirt, and me pulling oars against the winds. But I just loved being on the water and we managed to hold it together while we slowly grew our outfitting business. By 2020 we had assembled a crew of 6 great veteran Argentine guides, and a bunch of repeat clients. In 2021 we built the Limay River Ranch and incorporated this lodge into the portfolio of large properties from which we design our custom itineraries.

The plane screeches as the tires are ripped out of inertia. I still find the jolt surprising despite all the landings. Another land, another language, cherry blossoms peaking and mountain snows fading around the town of San Martín de los Andes. While I flew south and west, I drive northeast out to the ranch. The drive is quiet, mostly beyond the reach of radio, and finally down the long gravel driveway, where spring rains are in pools and puddles across the high desert. Preferably my first visit of the season to the lodge happens when no one's around. I can pause without fading off in conversation to take stock of how many margaritas made it through the winter. Planting lemon trees out here was a long shot, but they're budding. Despite this natural order with its elements of magic, the human endeavor, without a constant injection of energy & effort, seems bound within a system tending to chaos. Weeds are choking out the neatly defined gravel paths. The lawn is now thicker but it’s long and shaggy, the clover setting a canopy above the grass from a lack of cutting. Last fall's leaves are piled up on the windward side of everything and form a carpet under the decks. But the place has actually wintered better than can be expected. In short order we’ll have it tip top again, with new pansies replanted.

Later in the day the lengthening shadows of the poplars sends me down to the river. There’s not a breath of wind and in the cooling air the birds are all chatting. In 5 min I’m parked at the Playa Grande. I get out, take off my shoes, and wade out up to my ankles in the broad shallow flat that’s perfect for the trout to slip into to feed at sunset. The water’s cold, maybe around 56, or perhaps 58, as my toes don’t go numb. The tall ocher cliffs on the far side tower over the long deep trench that runs along that side of the river. It’s great holding water for the big browns, that by early summer, will be laid up in the submerged bedrock. From the big corner up where the run starts, I remember every sunken outcropping, down past the big eddy, into the gut of the run with its scattered massive boulders. Then, off the big drop, and into the long slowing tail out.

By about the end of my beer and the first hues of sunset, the mayflies start hatching. Size 16 camel colored duns drift through the flat, punctuated with an occasional March brown. The trout seem slow to react and when they do start rising, none of the mayflies I pick to follow get eaten. I wade out a little further to reach a faint seam coming off a point about 50 yards up and there discover a constant stream of size 14 spinners. The gentle rise forms now make sense.

With my feet cold, I turn back to the truck and catch the last brilliant moment of the sun set. Clouds of spinners are lit up over the massive willows and their clear wings sparkle in the faint light as they flutter up and then set their wings to glide down in their dance. Another season’s started.