In 1518, Ferdinand Magellan was appointed admiral of the Spanish Armada and commanded an expedition to the East Indies. Magellan’s fleet crossed the Atlantic to South America, sailed down the eastern coast of the continent to Patagonia and navigated through the strait that would bear his name to reach the Pacific.
Venetian Antonio Pigafetta, one of the voyage’s few survivors who chronicled Magellan’s expedition, wrote about encountering giants while exploring the coastline. The account also documented Magellan naming the giants “patagones,” and the name Patagonia may mean “land of the bigfoot.” The account also recorded hidden “cities of gold” in the region.
This past May, I traveled with a friend to the southern end of South America to fish for giant trout, and you can read about the adventure in our cover story. After seven days of fishing on Lago Strobel during the first week of winter, I assure you giants and treasures exist in the great expanse that is Patagonia.
Our friend Justin Witt, owner of global fly-fishing company Hemispheres Unlimited, invited us to experience his Trout Bum Jurassic program program in Argentina’s Santa Cruz province. Witt’s outfit offers a backdoor entry through its “Bum” programs into the world’s best fisheries at reasonable price points—without the glitz.
Lago Strobel is a legendary fishery, and the Bum program there proved worthy of a documentary film. Located on a remote estancia, the lake’s turquoise water is filled with giant rainbow trout. We fished different beats along the shoreline, which has a number of wind-sheltered, productive bays and coves, close to the mouth of the lake’s only tributary, the Rio Barrancoso.
“Lago Strobel’s fish are giant because the Rio Barrancoso has a very limited stretch of spawning water,” Witt explained. “This is why the population of rainbows never grows or shrinks. All fisheries are governed by this homeostatic fertility dynamic—more available food means more fertility and more fish. But the average size of the fish shrinks with increased population. This doesn’t happen on Lago Strobel, which is why its rainbows are literally worth their weight in gold.”
Speaking of Patagonia, it’s fitting to include larger-than-life Argentine celebrity chef Francis Mallmann in this issue. Mallmann is known for his artistic approach to cooking meat with smoke and fire in a country full of carnivores. In his new book “Green Fire: Extraordinary Ways to Grill Fruits and Vegetables from the Master of Live-Fire Cooking” (Artisan Books, May 2022, 312 pages), the James Beard award-winning author literally turns his fire “green” and shares 75 recipes and 100 color photographs in a work any foodie would admire.
Happy Holidays from The Virginia Sportsman. Read, eat, drink and be merry.