A review by Chris Wilkes
Having been in the fly fishing business for over 33 years, we have certainly seen our share of destination fishing trips. We have stayed at all manner of lodges, camps, and even staterooms that revolved around fishing. We have caught lots of different types of fish on the fly; permit, tarpon, bonefish, peacock bass, Alaskan salmon, and of course trout. And it is the trout that we find right here in the local waters that have taken us to British Columbia, Idaho, and Montana in search of trophy rainbow and brown trout. It was our inquiry into trout fishing that led us to our newest and most favorite trout destination, the El Encuentro lodge in Chubut province, Argentina.
EL Encuentro translates to “Meeting Place” and was just that for the Beale Family in Central Argentine Patagonia for over 30 years. In the mid 80’s they began welcoming fishing guests and have since grown into the most extensive fly fishing program in Central Patagonia.
The trip with Highland Hiker is partnered with Rod & Gun Resources who have been in Argentina for years booking wing shooting trips. The lodge itself has a price tag of $5495 for the week and you can expect your air travel from the states to be anywhere from $1200 to $2000 on top of that. The travel will include an overnight flight from the States to Buenos Aires, then a 3-hour flight from Buenos Aires to Esquel. This can all be done in one 24 hour span, but we decided to break it up by spending a night in Buenos Aires. I recommend this option. Rod and Gun’s contacts on the ground there are Alex and Leticia and they are worth their weight in gold. They move you effortlessly around one of the largest cities in the Western Hemisphere, have excellent restaurant recommendations, and can even arrange a tour of the city for you. Most importantly they help you navigate the domestic terminal with all of your gear so that you can be sure both you and your bags are getting to Esquel.
Once arriving in Esquel, the lodge will take over for you. Our guides met us at the Airport and took us from there on a beautiful 3-hour drive to the Brook Trout Base Camp. Why not the lodge? Let me explain:
We choose to go during the first two weeks in February because that is when the trophy-sized brook trout are feeding in various high altitude lakes, and when I say “trophy-sized” brook trout, I mean it. 3 to 7-pound brook trout at this time are not uncommon. These lakes are close to what they call their Brook Trout Base Camp near the Chilean border. This is no ordinary fishing camp. The tents are all two man military style with covered wood porches sitting no more than 20 feet from promising trout water, heaters for the cold nights, and plenty of space to hang your gear. The main dining tent is cathedral-sized, as well as an outdoor bar with a pizza oven. Because let’s face it, no outdoor experience is truly 100% without fresh hand tossed brick oven pizza. The bathrooms each have a wood burning stove and plenty of hot water from a solar panel powered water heater. This. Is. Not. Roughing. It.