I awoke with a familiar delirium. Knowing what was to come, 4 AM could not arrive soon enough. But it still took me a few moments to wipe the cobwebs from my brain. Yes, I realized, I was still at Jurassic Lake. No, this was not a dream. I pulled the curtains on my guest room window back, revealing a stunning sight. Mars, Neptune, Jupiter, and Venus were aligned on the horizon, with their vector pointing straight at the best fishing hole in the world: the mouth of the Rio Barrancoso on Lago Strobel. The early winter Patagonian chill could not deter my excitement. I hastily threw on several layers of clothing and began the walk down to “the boca.”
I hardly need to describe the special characteristics of Lago Strobel, colloquially known as Jurassic Lake. With rainbow trout regularly exceeding 20 pounds, a better rainbow trout fishery probably does not exist. The entire experience was exceptional, but there were certain experiences that transcended even my wildest expectations.
One of these experiences occurred every morning before dawn. Arriving at the boca in pitch black, the only sounds were the gentle breaking of small waves on the beach, interrupted occasionally by the distant yells from a family of pumas known to be prowling the estancia. I grasped the mouse I tied on to my leader the night before, and started to strip out line. In the faint glow of the setting moon, I could already see the wakes and the subtle rises of the world’s largest rainbow trout. They were hunting.
What followed defies description, at least with my abilities. For the next hour, with essentially no light, I repeatedly resisted the attempts of the fish to steal my fly rod, as they nearly pulled it from my hands with vicious strikes at my mouse. But the situation became especially silly with the start of twilight an hour or so later. At 50 degrees latitude south, the sun takes a while to rise. And while it struggled to do so, the fish seemed to lose their collective minds.
Miss the first hit on the mouse? No worries. A second fish would likely slam the fly before it got back to shore. The acrobatic jumping exhibition of the hooked salmon-sized trout did little to deter the other fish in the area. It was unusual for three casts to go by without another hook up. As the neon glow of dawn slowly started to illuminate the lake surface, the entire experience became much more visual. Multiple wakes would converge simultaneously on the mouse from several yards away, as the giants competed for the chance at a proteinaceous morsel.
When the rays of sun hit the water, the party ended. Well, it didn’t really end, as I would go on to catch dozens of fish on leeches and other subsurface patterns throughout the day. But while most guests snoozed in comfortable beds or ate an early gourmet breakfast at Jurassic Lake Lodge, the magic hour transpired a hundred yards away down on the lake shore. This alone was worth the days of travel to the other end of the world.