There is a lake in a world far, far away. Think big trout like you always think when you’re changing planes in an airport where you don’t understand the language. Think exceedingly large rainbow trout. The story is that they were stocked and forgot about or something like that and then grew big on a limitless supply of tiny scuds. Ten years later some guy is flying over the lake and sees these porpoise size silver streaks with red on their sides.
It’s Patagonia’s Lake Strobel or if you prefer, Jurassic Lake, the somewhat more commercial name that fly fishing outfitters call it. The story behind the Jurassic name boils down to the idea that the trout are so big it somehow seems prehistoric. Anyway, fast forward. There’s two fishing camps on the lake now and if you’re willing to put up with an 8-plus hour drive from El Calafate that includes a final 40 clicks of slow, rough going you can fish it for a price. The typical goal is to land some 30-inch plus bows during a 3- to 5-day stay. You’ll catch 25-inch plus fish for sure and end up referring to them as “small ones”. The wind at Jurassic is legendary. It’s actually the reason for the 8-hour drive. You can’t depend on safely landing a helicopter and an untimely death would cut into your fishing time.
The other thing about the wind is that it makes the fishing better. You want gale force, white caps—–the full catastrophe. You want everything you don’t want anywhere else. Unfortunately, its dead calm when we arrive. And that’s cruel. The rainbows are feeding in a kind of selective way. Usually they just eat with reckless abandon. Pollo, the head guide at the LOOP camp where we’re staying shakes his head. “This is very strange. It’s always windy. Very strange.”
We walk out to an inlet where a stream enters the lake. You can see trout swirling around. There is talk about figuring out what they are eating. I tie on a size 6 dark brown and orange Jimmy Legs, cast it near one of the swirls and gingerly strip it back. The fly stops abruptly. I set. I’m into the backing at bonefish speed, warp 2. When the trout finally stops I pump and crank it back a bit and it runs again. This goes on for awhile. When I get the fish to hand it’s a 26-inch chrome bright rainbow trout. Pollo, whose name translates to “the chicken”, says, “Not bad for your first trout from Jurassic, but it’s small”. Small?
So for the next few days this is our life. It’s not one fish after another like it might be on a windy day, but we land 25-, 26- and 27-inch trout. All bright, all hot, all beautiful—all “small”. I try other flies, but for me it’s the Jimmy Legs that most consistently turns the trick. We are praying for wind. Can you believe it?
Then out of nowhere there is some chop on the lake. Nothing significant to begin with, but the breeze crescendos nicely into the kind of wind you can lean on. And near the inlet the trout are getting on top. I struggle to cast a size 8 Royal Parachute Madam X with the wind behind me. It lands and I awkwardly skate/wake it back toward me. Something slams it. It is not small. It eats backing like a hungry young, guide devouring spaghetti. I entertain the possibility of getting spooled. Pollo says, “That’s a good one, welcome to Patagonia…….”