The Puyehue Volcano erupted in May covering Bariloche, Villa la Angostura and areas in and along the border with Chile with as much as a foot of volcanic rock and ash. The volcano hasn’t completely gone dormant although has diminished to mostly vapor and smoke leaving the volcano at the time of this writing. The amount of ash that Puyehue is currently emitting is insignificant to anglers and area residents, and experts expect the eruption to cease at any moment allowing flights to get back to normal. The towns of Bariloche and Villa la Angostura are cleaning up and slowly getting back to normal and accepting tourists and fishermen as they always have. PRG North’s fishing area around San Martin de los Andes was spared with exception of a light “dusting” of volcanic ash about a week following the eruption due to winds that blew for a couple of days from the southwest. We were very concerned, as were many guests and anglers about the amazing rivers of Northern Patagonia, but today, we are happy to report that most of our fisheries are in perfect shape and anglers are already out there enjoying great fishing.
So exactly where is the ash?
The majority of the ash was deposited to the south of the towns of Junín de los Andes and San Martin de los Andes and north of El Bolson Argentina. Varying amounts of ash can be found all the way to the coast, and during the eruption flights as far away as Australia were temporarily canceled. Around the most important fishing areas in Northern Patagonia of San Martin and Junín de los Andes, little ash can be found in the air or on the ground. In fact, most of the fisheries in Northern Patagonia received less ash than Esquel and Trevelin as a result of the Chaiten volcano eruption near our main Esquel fishing region. Because of our experience in Esquel during and after the Chaiten Volcanic Eruption, we don’t expect any inconveniences with ash and expect the fishing to be better than ever with less anglers visiting the region–as was the case following the 2009 eruption around the Esquel Area.
So how are the rivers and the fish?
Most of the streams in PRG North’s region such as: Aluminé, Collón Cura, Chimehuín, and Malleo flow from the north, well out of the effected ash zone, and only a few places that we occasionally fish: Filo, Traful, Caleufu and upper Limay have received a larger share of ash. A couple of the lodges that are on and around these rivers are delaying opening this season until they know more about how the ash disappears from those estancias. PRG North occasionally fishes these rivers, but they are not the staple and most of our water has not been affected. Rivers are clear and there have not been and fish kills reported. In fact, trout are happy and healthy and can be seen sipping dry flies on area streams. The only area that we routinely fish and are watching closely is the lower Collón Cura. We don’t think there will be a problem with the ash–and know there won’t be a problem with the fishing–but we won’t hesitate to move our guests or avoid the area if ash presents a problem.
What about travel and flights to and from the Region?
The Bariloche airport has been closed since the eruption in May and has caused some anxiety and problems in planning reservations to and from Patagonia for anglers of PRG and other fishermen. For the past five months, flights to Bariloche were diverted to Esquel, where at least five flights per day arrived and continue to arrive as of this writing. A few flights have landed in Bariloche and the city and the airlines are as anxious to get the airport up and running as we are. Once the volcano ceases its eruption, normal flights to the region should resume, as Bariloche is one of the most important airports in all of Argentina. Flights to and from San Martin de los Andes’ Chapelco Airport have been arriving sporadically throughout the winter except when there is ash in the high atmosphere due to changing winds. We expect service to San Martin to return to normal by the start of the fishing season and after a routine airport remodel. At the moment, we’re advising PRG North bound anglers traveling to San Martin de los Andes to hang tight and wait a few more weeks before booking tickets. Those that must book tickets now, are encouraged to book to Esquel, San Martin de los Andes, Neuquén, or Temuco Chile. PRG has made all contingency plans to get guests to and from the San Martin area for the 2012 season including exciting news about access to a 6-seat Cessna 402 to charter and fly guests to and from Neuquén or Esquel Airports in case the closer airports of San Martin and Bariloche are closed or flights are canceled. Prices for the charter are reasonable and this will make getting to and from Northern Patagonia easier than ever and enjoyable.
If you want to experience great dry fly fishing in the Northern Patagonia Region with PRG North, we are confident that fishing will be good as usual, and in most places, guests won’t even realize there was a volcanic eruption. We’re excited for a great fishing season and expect the volcanic material that has entered the zone to act as a fertilizer to rivers, so in the end fishing will only get better and better. We also expect many fish to be moving throughout the Limay and Collón Cura system looking for the best habitat, so perhaps there will be more and bigger fish fleeing the harder hit areas to the south near Villa La Angostura and Bariloche since every river is interconnected. Stay tuned for more information and don’t hesitate to contact Alex Knüll ([email protected]) for detailed information about flights and travel, as well as answers to questions and concerns anglers might have.