“Welcome home!” were the first words house manager Carolina said to me upon arrival. Alejandro Hemmingson’s bear hug followed, a warm welcome that had me feeling like I’d never left. The blues skies overhead were also a nice change from the storms and rain that the North Atlantic had been dumping on Ireland for eight week straight prior to my departure. And with that, it was great to be back among good friends on the banks of the Rio Grande after a year sabbatical hunting big brown trout in New Zealand.
Caro and her team had pre-season preparations well underway by the time I arrived and the lodge was in tip-top shape. Meanwhile, on the river, no stone was left unfished as the guide team got themselves reacquainted with the river.
On Jan. 9, we welcomed the Ackman group, accompanied by fly-fishing aficionado Oliver White. The group included many familiar faces, as well as three complete fly-fishing virgins. The enthusiasm of the novices was evident from the get-go. Within an hour of arriving at the lodge we had them suited, booted, and knee-deep in the Rio Grande. Some of the more experienced guests also took the opportunity to take a refresher course with the double-hander rigs.
Max Mamaev was not long in planting the seed of knowledge in some of his students. And Nick Botta, under Max’s careful tutelage, was into a fish literally minutes after picking up a two-handed rod for the first time. The good news was that the fish were in, and the trend of hooking and catching them continued through the week with large numbers of sea-runs moving into our waters. By far the most successful fly was the yellow rubberlegs. Old favorites such as the Sun Ray Shadow, Green Machine, and bunny leeches also played their part.
With anglers getting well into the grove by Tuesday, fish were consistently coming to our nets. Mornings did prove to be slower, however, with cold overnight temperatures making the fish sluggish. This did not deter a beautiful 20-pound brown from eating Mr. Ackman’s rubberlegs on Wednesday morning in the Home Pool. This would prove to be the biggest fish of the week, closely followed by Vladimir Jacimovic’s 19 pounder landed in Russell’s Pool.
Our final two days of fishing were unusual, marked by low temperatures and lazy winds that would rather cut through you than go around you. Temperatures soared to 20 degrees celcius riding the upstream wind. Needless to say our catch statistics suffered due to the increased difficulty of making straight-line presentation. This scenario was made doubly frustrating by trout that choose this opportune moment to start showing themselves on the surface; dolphin-like porpoises could be seen the entire length of some pools. Nerves began to fray as we struggled to cope with the upstream breeze, while fish after fish seemed to taunt us by rolling again and again in the exact spot the fly needed to be. Some patient guiding and useful tips did manage to turn the scales in the anglers’ favor. But many were left tortured, vying for revenge next season.
Having our first week completed here at Kau Tapen is a great feeling. Pre-season nerves have dissolved and we’re ready to help make your stay here a trip of a lifetime.
—Matthew Solon, Head Guide