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Skating big dries for big trout

Patagonian brown trout
Photo by Chris Hunt

Nicco stood next to me along the middle reaches of Patagonia’s Malleo River in the fading Argentine light. Willows shrouded the creek, and I could only see the silhouette of the big Fat Albert as it drifted in the heavy water just across river.

Nicco, my guide for the day, chose the hefty, foam monstrosity for a reason.

“Sometimes, when the light is low,” he explained, “skating a big fly brings big fish up from the bottom.”

As the fly got caught up in the drag and started to swing, Nicco kept a close eye on the rubber-legged beast.

“OK,” he said quietly. “Twitch it.”

I wiggled the end of the 5-weight rod and watched foam critter dance in the current, creating a splashy wake. I pulled in a bit of line, and let the fly float free, only to twitch it again as it swung out below me.

It splashed and gurgled in the current for a second, and then it happened.

A large brown trout erupted under the fly as it skated 40 feet below me, and my line went tight.

“There it is!” Nicco, a guide with Patagonia River Guides North, exclaimed. “Nicely done!”

It was a compliment he should have given to himself—knowing the river and the fish is a guide’s errand. Us clients … well, we’re just along for the ride in the journey to chase and catch huge Patagonian trout.

Nicco netted the big trout, sporting a massive smile.

“Wouldn’t it be great if they all did that?” he asked. I nodded. Great indeed.

But the notion makes sense. Low light. A silhouette on the water.

Evening is when big browns do the most damage, and goodness knows what the fish really saw when it attacked the skating dry fly. Perhaps a struggling terrestrial bug … maybe even a mouse caught in the current.

Either way, it’s a good lesson that translates to trout fishing just about everywhere. Vulnerable prey is easy prey, and during low light, when visibility is limited, even a fat foam Fat Albert that doesn’t necessarily represent any trout food in particular can look mighty tasty presented in a way that makes it appear as if it’s in trouble.