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June-July 2024 Issue: The Lede...

The Spring Creek Murder

A Wild West shootout on the banks of the world's best spring creek.

Fly Fisherman June-July 2024 Issue
The arid Patagonian Steppe has spring creeks like the Tecka, Arroyo Pescado, and Gualjaina. There are also a number of spring-fed lakes nearby where the trout grow fat foraging on scuds, leeches, and small perch called perca. (Esteban Ozust - photo)

The sun was piercing. As it reached its apex, I pulled up my hoodie and my face gaiter to prevent yesterday’s sunburn from getting worse. This also helped to muffle the stench of a rotting armadillo carcass a few paces away. My eyes were distracted by a male rhea and his five little chicks as they kicked up dust in response to our appearance. But my super-focused guide Agustin Cea showed me the palm of his hand—the universal signal to halt—and then dribbled an invisible basketball to tell me to crouch low in the grass. We both dropped to one knee . . . fly-fishing commandos trying to avoid detection.

Agustin had spotted a 20-inch-plus rainbow hugging the streambank. We had almost walked past and spooked it, like we had several previous times that morning, but this trout was riding higher in the water, and had bobbed his nose above the surface at just the wrong time.

The water was clear—as it always is in this spring creek—but it’s incredible how the rainbow’s spots and stripes could become so muted by rippling reflections at the surface. They blend in like the colors of an octopus against the waving aquatic grasses and mottled cobble bottom.

I could see this fish, now that it had broken the aquatic camouflage, but the problem was making the cast. A short cast of perhaps two rod lengths is tough to make with any accuracy—especially in the wind—as you don’t have the mass and momentum of the fly line driving the fly to the target. You have to flick the fly with only the leader and 5 feet of line outside your rod tip. That’s not even the “casting” portion of your fly line, and it’s not enough to really bend the rod or carry the fly. You have to cast a fly that weighs nothing with a line and leader that also weigh next to nothing, and hope for the best.

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