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and the THE PROVEN

PROMISED

Jurassic Lake & Kooi Noom:

Likely the Greatest Trophy Rainbow Fisheries of All Times A bright March monster from Jurassic Lake. Photo: Diego Peralta PAGE 80

by Ken Morrish


A

THE PROVEN and the PROMISED

s anglers many of us obsess over the past, imagining what fisheries Pask. During that trip Tim coined the famous term, “The Drive from Hell.” might have been like 50 years ago. But today, on the barren expanses “Kenny,” he said, “it’s not like the road is bad, because there is no freakin’ road. of the Patagonian Steppe not far from the Argentine mountain hub You’re just driving over big old lava rocks. We spent hour after hour bouncing of El Calafate, a miracle is unfolding before us in real time. around in the rig thinking of hideous, painful ways to kill Christer From the perspective of the traveling fly fisher it is an event when and if we made it back.” He carried on to say, “but as soon equal to the opening of the Kola or Kamchatka peninsulas in as we got there, the drive was forgotten and we hammered Russia, the discovery of the Bolivian dorado fisheries or the the biggest fattest rainbows you have ever seen.” His initial first saltwater expeditions to the Seychelles. It’s big and it’s pictures scarred me for life; images of rainbows so brutish wild, and from what we know, it is well on its way to becoming and obese they seemed computer generated. For the first time ever one of the greatest trophy trout regions our sport has ever seen. I was hell-bent to fish a lake, not any lake but this lake, the one this Why is it only coming to light now when the rivers and lakes under expedition had rightly nicknamed Jurassic Lake, and have my own Jimmy Legs study have been there for thousands of years? Because only recently images of holding these monster trout. have wild trout been introduced into these unique ecosystems; ecosystems that miraculously grow trout bigger, fatter, and faster than any region we have seen. What’s the Deal? Read on to learn about the evolution of Jurassic Lake, its proven track record The deal is this: Twice during the mid-nineties a few little rainbows were planted of innumerable trophy fish and the incredible promise of Kooi Noom, the in Lago Strobel. Strobel is a desert sink lake located at roughly 3000 feet elevaregion’s newest star with its untouched network of rivers, lakes and streams. tion in one of the most brutally desolate reaches of the greater Patagonian Steppe (a dry desert plateau on the east side of the Patagonian Andes). Ultimately one Jurassic Lake or both of those plantings took and those fish in turn migrated up the lake’s only tributary and began successfully reproducing. Another critical element was that the lake just happened to be jam-packed with two species of scuds; If I was put on the spot and asked specifically where the most prolific 100 yards so many in fact that some biologists feel that the trout will never out-eat the of trophy trout water in the world are, my response would be instant and my system’s carrying capacity. Today there are lots of fish and they are big…really tone would be confident. “The best trout fishing ‘hole’ in the world is where big, and more often than not, fairly easy to entice. Argentina’s Rio Barrancoso flows into Lago Strobel.” I have been there and Of particular note is that this enormous lake has only one inlet of significance fished it and must say that in my nearly 40 years of fly fishing I have never seen, and no outlet. This makes the mouth of the Rio Barrancoso of tremendous interheard of or experienced anything remotely like it. It is an angling experience est to virtually every fish in the system. If they even think about spawning, they that I have had to place in a box by itself. That box could be labeled surreal think about the Barrancoso. With so many fish now living in the lake, the inlet or incomprehensible, but for simplicity and accuracy let us call it the one and is used for spawning whenever conditions permit as opposed to strictly during only Jurassic Lake. the traditional spring window when most of the world’s rainbows take care of Like all great places, Jurassic Lake’s roots were initially no deeper than business. As a result hoards of fish, many of which are not staging, constantly rumors. That changed in 2005 when Christer Sjoberg (founder of Loop and cruise in and out the mouth of the little river. Solid Adventures) first saw images of monster trout from Lago Strobel. In How big are the fish? They are exceedingly large and average 7 to 12 pounds. 2006 he organized the first foreign mission to see if fly fishing’s mythological Fish in the mid-teens have come to be expected and fish over 20 pounds are equivalent to the Fountain of Youth or the City of Gold had any merit. Their landed with regularity. When discussing prime time catch rates, it is safe to say trip was tough…really tough, and at the last moment Christer was unable to that were an angler to only catch a dozen big fish in a day, either conditions attend. Among the explorers was Fly Water’s longtime friend and informant Tim

Beyond Believable

“His initial pictures scarred me for life; images of rainbows so brutish and obese they seemed computer generated.” PAGE 81


THE PROVEN and the PROMISED were off or they weren’t really fishing very hard. Countless anglers have had multiple days in a row with more than 40 fish to hand.

Location, Location, Location It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where to build the original Loop Camp. Within stumbling distance of the greatest trout fishing hotspot in the world was a logical choice and one which has served them well and continues to separate this operation from the others on the lake. From the camp you can easily walk to the lower reaches of the Barrancoso River, which is literally packed with big fish throughout much of the season. Many anglers will tuck up in the river when the wind howls and find relative refuge. Others will venture up it just to fish different water or employ different techniques. In the right conditions virtually all methods can be successfully employed in the river. Nymphing and streamer fishing typically dominate but there are fish to be caught on natural drift dries or on skated mice. For those that want to really rack up the numbers an egg pattern tied to 20 pound tippet under an indicator has proven unbeatable especially during the first half of the season. The mouth of the river is another very popular spot, as are both sides of the rocky moon-white peninsula that juts out from the left side of the river’s mouth. The peninsula and the slight elevation that it affords anglers enables some of the greatest sight fishing opportunities imaginable. Once, one of Christer’s early clients complained that the fishing was too easy at the mouth of the river and that he was catching too many fish. Christer turned to him and said, “If this is a problem then walk down the lakeshore and fish in the next bay. You can go either direction, it does not matter.” After three hours without a fish, he returned to the “spot” and never complained again! Since the fishing tends towards very high catch rates, the program is what we refer to as “lightly guided.” The number of guides on site varies with the number of anglers and typically the crew includes one guide for every two or three rods, a “camp man” who helps clean up, and a chef for parties of three or more. The guides show folks the lay of the land, they assist with fly selection and rigging and mostly they help anglers land and photograph fish. All of them are highly skilled anglers and casters (trained by the Loop Army), most of whom have cut their teeth guiding Las Buitreras on the Rio Gallegos, considered one of the most interesting and rewarding sea-trout rivers in the world.

The Lodge Before 2010, the original Loop Camp (now known as the Solid Adventures Camp), with its white geodesic domes set amongst the desolate surreal rocks of Lago Strobel, was more reminiscent of a space station than a fishing lodge. Today that is no longer the case. Is it opulent or fancy? Absolutely not, but all the tents are gone, all the walls are wood and they have simple plumbing. The basic layout is that up to nine guests sleep either two or three per cabin. The cabins have comfortable beds, full bedding, heat and electric lights. Guests share the use of two flush toilets and a shower. Each evening guests gather around the couches and wood stove in the main lodge and then move to the dining table for tastefully prepared meals paired with Argentine wines. Throughout the course of the fishing day the cabins are always near if a siesta beckons. Better still, beer, wine, cookies and coffee are always available at the main lodge if one needs a little down time. Again, it isn’t a fancy place but for those who want a crack at the best trophy trout fishing in the world it is a simple slice of heaven and a welcome refuge from the elements.

Seasons The Solid Adventures Camp fishes incredibly well from November through mid-January. By some accounts it is actually too good, due to catch rates that can only be described as ridiculous. As water temperatures rise in January the fishing slows considerably until things cool down in midMarch. This is not to say the fishing is slow as that is relative and even in the low season multiple fish over ten pounds are expected for each angler each day. In any other body of water the low season at Jurassic would be considered world-class trophy fishing. As the system cools, the mid-March to mid-April time period is considered the second prime time window. I personally prefer the late season as it offers some of the biggest, brightest and hottest fish of the season and anglers can expect 10 to 20 superbly conditioned fish per day. During the early prime season, 5.5 day full-week packages are the only option with half week (2.5 day or full week 5.5 day) fishing packages offered from January 4th through the end of the season in mid-April. Full week packages run Saturday to Saturday and half week packages run Saturday-Tuesday and Wednesday-Saturday.

“...it isn’t a fancy place but for those who want a crack at the best trophy trout fishing in the world it is a simple slice of heaven and a welcome refuge from the elements.” PAGE 82


The lower Barrancoso, the lodge and a bunch of really big rainbows. Photos: Diego Peralta, Stephen Gian Dumaj and Tim Pask

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Images PAGE 84from the 2013 scouting mission to Kooi Noom. Photos: Alex and Nico Trochine and Marcelo Perez.


THE PROVEN and the PROMISED

Kooi Noom

Patagonia’s Trophy Trout Paradise Found?

Alex and Nico Trochine had been whispering word of this place to us for some time. There were no lake, river or estancia names attached; there were no GPS coordinates, there was only hushed excitement, promise and potential. The deal was not sealed, the rights to the sprawling stream and lake-studded landscape were not secured and accordingly mum was the word. It was too important to blab about. It was an opportunity of magnitude for the Argentine twins, one that they wanted and one that we felt they deserved and could clearly handle. Both Brian Gies and I had fished with the twins independently starting when they were about 18 years old on the Rio Grande. Cumulatively he and I have fished with (and at times forgotten) a lot of guides, but these two have always been etched in our minds as exemplary…young, skilled, articulate, passionate, and adventuresome. Others saw the same in them and they were hired to guide in Iceland, and later to manage a remote and technical sea trout program known as Far End Rivers. They have guided throughout Argentina as well as outfitting their own exploratory wilderness float trips in some of Bolivia’s most remote regions. In a nutshell they are studs, but modest ones. But back to this place: Kooi Noom. It is special to say the least. At its core the operation is a sprawling estancia high in the western Patagonian Steppe. It is blessed with three scud-rich lakes, two rugged interconnected freestone rivers, and numerous intimate tributary streams all of which hold large fish. Moreover, these fat and fast growing rainbows are free to move about between the lakes and rivers and streams at will. Making this one of the most remarkable and interesting moving water trophy fisheries we have heard of. At Kooi Noom we anticipate 70 percent of an angler’s time to be spent fish-

ing moving water, some of which is big rough and tumble pocket water, the rest of which will be smaller meandering spring creek-like tributaries that feed into the two main lakes. Additionally, the majority of your fishing time will be spent sight fishing to very significant fish. How significant? Well let’s just say that there are lots of fish between five and ten pounds, a good number that will go 15 and a few that top 20. With the introduction of trout into this complex being in the near past, we have no idea how big these fish might get, but we do know that to date the average size has been on an exceedingly steep growth curve.

The Program 2014 will mark the first full season for Kooi Noom. We are excited by the potential and the fact that the Trochines have partnered with Untamed Angling (owners of Tsimane Lodge and La Zona). Alex and Nico will be the on-site managers and the experts at Untamed Angling will help them with marketing, logistics and fine tuning the fishing program. At the understated estancia anglers enjoy double occupancy rooms with private baths, thoughtfully prepared meals and a cozy common area for drinks. This not a fancy place but it is practical and comfortable. Each day guests travel by vehicle to their allotted beats and at times employ boats to reach some of the more remote tributaries feeding into the lakes. Typically a split day schedule with lunch at the lodge enables anglers to fish during the most productive times of day and enjoy a siesta mid-day after a big meal. Anglers will rotate through the various beats throughout the course of their stay and see a wonderful variety of water. Additionally, all of the waters fished are at the exclusive disposal of Kooi Noom guests.

Getting There

Rates

Travel to Jurassic Lake and Kooi Noom works well in conjunction with Las Buitreras on the Rio Gallegos, the Rio Grande, and other Argentine destinations. To get to Jurassic or Kooi Noom anglers will travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina and then on to Calafate. There you will be met by members of the respective staff and driven to the lodge.

Jurassic Lake November 1-December 21: $5,650 (Full Week Only) per person January 4-March 15: $3,950 (Full Week), $2750 (Half Week) per person March 15-April 19: $4,850 (Full Week), $3750 (Half Week) per person Kooi Noom 7 night/6 day: $4,250 per person, 6 night/5 day: $3,650 per person 5 night/4 day: $2,950 per person, 4 night/3 day: $2,250 per person

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The Proven and the Promised