YELLOW DOG IN THE FIELD – CHOCOLATE LAB EXPEDITIONS - BARILOCHE, ARGENTINA YDFA team - John Hudgens & Bryan Gregson
Ron and his wife Vanessa founded CLE’s outfitting and guide service in San Martin, Argentina 20 years ago and have seasonally migrated between Patagonia and Montana since then. Throughout that time they have put together a fine crew of fishing guides. The core team--Diego, Shaggy, Nico and Ron--are among the most knowledgeable and professional that you will find in this corner of Argentina. We started the trip with Ron hot out of the gate, as he met Bryan and me in Bariloche and drove us directly to the Rio Collon Cura to fish with the CLE crew.
The Collon Cura is one of the most prolific trout rivers in all of Patagonia, and home to rainbows and browns that average between 16 – 19 inches, with plenty of fish that stretch beyond that. Around mid –February, minnows migrate upstream from a large reservoir into the Collon Cura. Bunching up like sardines in a bait ball, the schools move through the riffles and seam lines along the bank.
Trout push the minnow balls to the surface and crash them like a school of bluefish, a hard-to-miss-maneuver, as trout blow up the surface, dispersing minnows through the air. Anglers staying with Estancia Quemquemtreu or Estancia Collon Cura, will have optimal private water access to fish minnow-frenzied trout on the lower stretches of the Collon Cura. After a day productive day on the water, we traveled to Ron and Vanessa’s house to prepare for our four-day camping trip on one of our favorite brown trout fisheries, the Limay Medio.
We sorted through a garage full of gear while sipping Fernets (an essential cocktail for every Argentine fishing guide). The next day, we arrived to a motel in Piedra de Aguila, a little truck stop town that once thrived when a hydro dam project was being built on the Limay, but now the dams are complete the town is long-abandoned.
The accommodations in Piedra are not five-star, but they are clean and remind me of staying in an Eastern Montana town during bird season. In spite of the lack of down comforters and slight tinge of grit, a nice restaurant sits in the town center, the walls covered in fishing photos, honoring the only reason you’d now travel to this pit stop.
A Yellow Dog sticker clung to a mirror and photos of the CLE guide team showed them posed with clients holding some of the biggest damn river browns that I’ve seen, all of which were caught on big dry flies! The Limay Medio, a river that is well-known for oversized browns and quality rainbows, and is often fished by the locals with rapalas or sink-line streamers, but CLE has a different approach.
Ron wouldn’t let Gregson (a complete streamer nut) tackle up his streamer rod. Instead he handed him a floating line with a big dry on it and said, “You’re fishing this today, because these big browns will eat, and they do it a lot.”
Needless to say, we had an awesome trip: the weather was nice, the food was unbelievable and the CLE camp team served Fernets and appetizers every day we arrived into camp. We all had quality and memorable shots on big browns that we didn’t land, caught plenty of rising rainbows measuring 18 – 22 inches, and in the end, we landed a 30 inch, 27 inch, 26 inch, and several two-foot browns, all on dries.
To say the least, Ron Sorenson and Chocolate Lab Expeditions have put in their time in on the Limay, and over the past 20 years they have truly pioneered an exceptional fishery with a unique dry fly approach. The Limay is roughly a 3 hour drive from the town of San Martin, and it is necessary to overnight by either camping on the river or staying in Piedra De Agulia.
This is not a river that works well for beginning anglers, as the water is very clear and anglers will need to be able to cast at least 25 feet at minimum in potentially windy conditions. However, you do not need to be an expert either, and there are many ways to approach the river for success.
As time goes on, the Limay Medio will be on the cover of major fly fishing magazines; there may even be a fishing lodge along the banks in the years to come. Right now, it’s still under-fished and consistently produces some incredible brown trout and good size rainbows in the riffles and along the foam lined banks. Fishing this river with Ron’s CLE team is essential.