A few weeks earlier than expected, we have finished up this year’s season for obvious reasons. The COVID-19 pandemic has quickly become the center of everyone’s lives and has put a hold on international travel in a heartbeat. While this came on unexpectedly for all of us, we are glad that our guests are safe at home, and our staff and international guides were able to return to their families without major complications. As sad as we are to prematurely end this season, we’re happy and thankful for the special 10 weeks that could not have been more enjoyable.
This season’s conditions could not have been any more different from last year’s, especially where water levels are concerned. 2020’s summer was dictated by much higher water levels and variable weather for the most part. Almost every week, the river changed – it was much higher at its lowest point this year than it ever was in most weeks of last season. During these changing conditions, we discovered that it did affect the fishing quite a bit – The contrast between good and tough fishing was more apparent, and anglers had to use their windows of opportunity when conditions aligned and gave them a chance. Despite that, the catch results at the end of each week were very consistent. The shifting conditions and the fact that these fish could turn on and off like a switch made some weeks seem a bit more random, making it harder for us guides to find the right approach and forced us to experiment more with our tactics than in previous years. While I personally believe that these high-water seasons are exactly what this river needs once in a while, it did affect the fishing and the course of the season noticeably. As the river was very high as we headed into the season, and the first big moon cycle usually pushes in the first major run of fish was much later this season, and made it feel like the season was delayed by 2-3 weeks.
More water in the system can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it spreads out the fish that are holding in the pool and frankly in the entire river, making it a bit tougher to pin down holding areas and hot spots, as the fish are not as confined in each spot. And on the other hand, higher water allows for much broader fishing tactics, is more forgiving for wading, casting, and presentation, and is simply blissful to fish as it allows you to swing almost every pool from top to bottom. Anglers who enjoy fishing a swung fly appreciated these extra inches on top. On the flip side, the speed of the current forced us to fish heavier tips in many cases, especially whenever the fish were not active. Looking back at this season, it was equally refreshing and challenging at the same time. It was good to see the river in this shape, with more water and a very healthy and strong run of fish.
Our efforts to improve the infrastructure around the Río Menéndez massively paid off, allowing us to access more good pools even easier. Once again, this tributary was not only a great addition to the main river, it was a saving grace on some occasions and a safe bet when conditions aligned. Once again this treasured tributary delivered the biggest fish of the season, a magnificent 26 lb buck for Brian F. in our fourth week of the season. However, the Río Grande was also in good shape and delivered solid fish throughout the entire season, especially for Gerald S. and Richard G. who both landed stunning 24 lbs fish during their stays.
The high water forced us to adapt, but whenever the conditions stabilized and the fish settled in their pools, we experienced some of the best fishing imaginable. And on a personal note, I loved the fact that almost every day threw a new challenge at us. Teamwork was of the essence and frequent communication between our team made all the difference. Every team member had their own approaches but combined it felt like we could figure this river out quickly whenever conditions shifted.
The fishing is always the most unpredictable aspect of our operation, but that’s the whole beauty of it. The predictable, or much rather controllable part is the lodging, and we take great pride in it! With a whole new kitchen staff this year, it was especially heartwarming to get all this great feedback on food and drinks from our returning guests. While we try to improve our services constantly, we try to find a fine balance between traditional and modern approaches. Our goal in the lodge is, that – no matter if the fishing is great or tough – people will have the best possible experience and our staff will always try to go above and beyond to achieve that. And we truly hope we were able to do so for all of our guests!
Personally, I am very thankful to be part of such a great team, not only amongst the guiding team but the entire lodge staff. There is always a helping hand around and no favor is too much to ask. While I am very sad leaving this place, with all its unique charm, endless skies, awe-inspiring sunsets, howling wind that will make you feel tiny, and the unlimited feeling of freedom this place always evokes in me, I am already looking forward to being back here again at my home away from home.
I truly hope we will all be able to reunite next season again – guests and lodge team alike, but until then I wish that everyone stays safe and healthy during these days of uncertainty!
Paulo Hoffmann – Kau Tapen Fishing Guide