Set, set, set!

“Set, set, set!” I shot up in bed, slammed my hand above the bedpost, and in the process spilled a bottle of water onto my book on the night-stand.

Damn Pancho and Teo.

Awaking from my dream, and cleaning up the water, I thought about my friend, Pancho Panzer—a proud Trout Unlimited business member and the owner of the Carrileufu River Lodge—and his 12-year old fishing phenom of a son, Teo. We had spent the day fishing for browns and rainbows along a river in Patagonia that few know of, and even fewer fish. Although a blue-bird day with temperatures in the low 80s, we wadered-up. Not because of the depth of the water, but because the brambles and rose-of-sharon were so thick. Bow and arrow casts were frequent. So were snags in surrounding overbrush and trees.

Then, from under a bank or deadfall, a torpedo would erupt across the water. “Set, set, set” they would yell in unison. When I would miss, Teo would say, “that was a really, really big fish.” Teo has the skills of a far older angler when it comes to exaggeration. Pancho would say “Now cast again. Slow down, your cast, Chris, slow it down.” And we would start over.

There is too much to commend about the trip. Seeing Patagonia with Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini, two of Trout Unlimited’s most generous donors, was a gift. Celebrating another guest (and Trout Unlimited supporter), Judy Hazen’s birthday with her daughter and nephews was a special treat, too. The Argentine wines at the Carrileufu River Lodge are phenomenal. Pancho has not one, but two, chefs trained at culinary institutes in the lodge’s kitchen. His staff immediately make you feel like family. The jagged mountains and still-eroding rivers of the country-side make you think of The Creator taking massive lumps of clay and throwing them across the landscape to form as they will.

Oh yeah, the trout fishing. Off the charts.

Trout were first introduced into Patagonia around 1904. They came from Germany, Canada, and the United States. The lodge has a poignant set of sketches across one wall of the native fish in the waters of Patagonia—many of them now extirpated or displaced by the introduction of trout. Today, the trout naturally reproduce in the gin clear water, and amazing habitat of Patagonia’s rivers. Massive wind-fallen trees and log jams abound in the rivers. This is the kind of habitat that we use heavy equipment to re-create here in the U.S.

And the fish have shoulders. I connected with a beast whose body formed an explanation point to the word “Not!” and even though I had 2x on and tried to apply the brakes, he broke me off in the willows. You breathe hard after moments like that. I looked at Teo and asked, “Did you see that?”

“That was a really, really big fish,” he said.

Like being a parent, there is a universal language to fly-fishing. What I will remember most about Patagonia is not Pancho’s excellent counsel to slow my cast down, or Teo’s frantic cries of “set, set, set!” I will most remember the quiet and frequent passing of “Yo te amo” between father and son.

It is still pretty cold here in the nation’s capitol, but I think I will take the boys fishing this weekend.

By Chris Wood. Chris has worked at TU for 22 years, and is not the best angler, but he is among the most earnest.