October 01, 2019
You don’t have to travel to the end of the world for a fishing trip to count as an extreme angling adventure.
But it doesn’t hurt, either, especially when the scenery is wild, the journey is long and arduous, weather conditions are challenging, and the fish are bigger and stronger than any you’ll likely encounter anywhere else on the planet.
As long as you’ve got your passport, the right fishing gear, appropriate clothing and footwear to match the rugged environment you’ll travel to, and a backpack filled with Jack Link’s Protein Snacks, you’re all set for whatever piscatorial adventure you might find out on the water!
For Capt. Steve Hollensed, a Flywater Angling Adventures guide and Fly Fishers International master fly casting instructor, such adventure includes two species found near the southern tip of South America, a couple of game fish that have given him a pretty good handle on the idea of extreme fishing trips.
Rainbow Trout at Jurassic Lake, Argentina
On two previous journeys to the Strobel Lake region of Argentina – affectionately known to most anglers as Jurassic Lake – the North Texas guide found rainbow trout fishing better than anything he has ever experienced anywhere else, including some of the hallowed trout streams of Colorado, New Mexico, Montana and Canada.
“The quality of the fisheries there in Argentina, the landscape you’ll encounter, the environmental conditions, the logistics of the trip, and the fishing, yeah, it’s all kind of all extreme,” said Hollensed, an Orvis-endorsed guide from north of Dallas.
Make no mistake, this is a fishery that requires some commitment to get there, starting with a long flight to Buenos Aires, followed by a shorter regional flight, and then a bumpy trip over difficult roads – the Estancia Laguna Verde Lodge that Hollensed uses has its own tire shop!
After the long and grinding journey to the tip of South America, anglers will find themselves in southern Patagonia where Strobel Lake’s white shoreline rocks, its clear turquoise water, the snow-capped Andes off to the west, and the winds swirling in from the nearby Pacific and Atlantic oceans makes the experience seem almost otherworldly.
Known for giant rainbow trout, the 12.4-by-9.3-mile Strobel Lake (a desert sink-water body at approximately 3,000 feet elevation), the Rio Barrancoso river, and smaller lakes, or lagunas, reportedly had McLeod River rainbows stocked two decades ago by Argentina game and fish officials.
Since then, those trout have made themselves quite at home, cruising the shoreline, gorging themselves on protein-rich scuds, and enabling virtually every angler who visits the windswept region to catch the biggest rainbow trout of their lives. And many end up catching their personal bests multiple times during a week-long trip to a fishery, where the average trout is 5 to 8 pounds, and monsters up to 27 pounds have been landed.
“The trip I led there in 2018, almost immediately, there was a lightbulb moment where we all realized what kind of a fishery this was,” said Hollensed, whose regular guiding work is for hard-fighting Lake Texoma striped bass. “After the long trip into the lodge, the wind was blowing pretty hard, so we rested a bit, ate some lunch, and then went to a nearby laguna. That afternoon, after only a few casts, everyone on my trip had already landed a trout weighing six to eight pounds, and we weren’t even at Strobel Lake yet.”
What happened when Hollensed’s group made it the big water body they had come to fish? They caught some dinosaur-size Jurassic Lake rainbows tipping the scales all the way up to 17 pounds. And they lost several even bigger on eight-weight fly rods, floating lines, and reels filled with up to 150 yards of fly-reel backing. Such fish are difficult to land, even with 20-pound-class monofilament tippet at the end of 9-foot leaders, and #6 to #8 flies constructed with 1X strong hooks, hooks that often get straightened out by the enormous trout.
“Yeah, Jurassic Lake is an appropriate name,” said the veteran guide. “In some of the streams that feed into the area, you’ll find some of the typical 20-inch-long redband rainbows that western fly anglers are familiar with. But for the most part, these are big sea-run rainbows, chromers, if you will, that often grow to 10 pounds or more. Jurassic Lake is absolutely one of the few places I know of where you can go and completely expect to catch a truly giant trout on the fly.”
When packing protein-rich snacks for such an adventure, consider the following from Jack Link’s.
One new choice to consider is Jack Link’s Zero Sugar Original Beef Jerky. A keto-friendly choice, this slow-roasted hardwood smoked jerky delivers 80 calories along with 15 grams of protein per serving. There’s also the Jack Link’s Beef Steak Strips, 96 percent fat-free beef jerky snack that brings 9 grams of protein and 80 calories to a fisherman’s fight.
Another flavor-packed option for anglers on the go is Jack Link’s Sweet & Hot Beef Steaks. Delivering a power-packed nutritional wallop of 140 calories and 21 grams of protein, this jerky is the perfect choice for long days out on the water when space is limited but the desire for flavor and lean-beef is strong. In similar fashion, don’t forget Jack Link’s Original Beef Stick Multipacks (140 calories, 7grams of protein) or the spicy goodness of Jack Link’s Pepperoni Beef Sticks (190-calories, 8-grams of protein).
Finally, don’t overlook the tried and true goodness of Jack Link’s Original Beef Jerky (80 calories, 11 grams of protein), the satisfying flavor that outdoor adventurers know best.
Golden Dorado in the Parana River, Argentina
If Strobel Lake is one extreme trip that Hollensed has found in Argentina, another is a trip more akin to a saltwater excursion that U.S. anglers might be familiar with in the marshes of Louisiana, the Everglades of Florida, or the estuaries along the Texas Gulf Coast.
This time, instead of stateside redfish though, it’s the big, hard-fighting golden dorado in Argentina that swims in the marshes of the Parana River, second only to the Amazon River in overall length. In this far-flung setting, anglers use big bulky streamer patterns, 30- to 40-pound bite tippets at the end of nine-foot leaders, nine-weight fly rods, floating and/or intermediate lines, and up to 200 yards of backing on a large arbor fly reel.
But instead of a windswept desert region filled with ocean going trout, anglers visiting the Parana River basin in Argentina will board a 60-foot mothership and go many miles deep into the marshes of this huge river system. Once there, they’ll go even deeper into the marshes on flats skiffs, seeking a fish up to 15 pounds or more that has sharp teeth, jumps multiple times, fights as hard as a smallmouth bass on steroids, and never wants to give up the fight.
“When you’re fishing off-color water, the takes are extremely hard on six-inch long Andino Deceivers, a big streamer fly tied on strong 2/0 hooks that imitates the sabalo, which is the primary prey for these golden dorado,” said Hollensed. “When the water you’re fishing is clear, the takes are even more violent on 2/0 or 3/0 VIP poppers fished on the surface.”
Like the rainbows at Strobel Lake, Hollensed rates this golden dorado adventure extreme and then some.
“Part of it is the fishing – these are big, strong, beautiful, hard-fighting fish that jump,” he said. “But such adventure trips aren’t always just about the fish either. There’s also the travel, the remote landscape, the culture and food of the people living there, and the overall experience of being in such a setting for a week or more at a time.”
Packing for such a trip can be a challenge, thanks to maximum weight allowances for luggage and gear, limited space in a wader or jacket pocket, and hours spent on a windswept water many miles from civilization. While such trips often provide great dinnertime meals in lodge type settings, when anglers are out on the water during the day, the lightweight, protein-filled packages of tasty Jack Link’s beef sticks are hard to beat for a globetrotting fly fisher on the go.
More extreme fishing
What are a few of the other wild journeys that fishermen might want to consider taking to various corners of the globe?
Tigerfish in Africa
One of those, in my mind, at least, is traveling to seek an encounter with the sharp-toothed tigerfish in Africa. While I’ve never met outdoor writer Oliver White, I’m fascinated by his globetrotting fishing trips and the various details he has chronicled about such adventures.
Take his description, for instance, of the tigerfish that he encountered while fishing in Tanzania.
“Their mouths have gnarly, protruding, interlocking teeth that appear to have been surgically sharpened,” White wrote in a Fly Fisherman story. “The teeth are set in a hard bony mouth, so getting a hook to penetrate is like nailing concrete. They get airborne the instant they feel steel, ferociously thrashing and twisting at the surface, so we're talking about a big, powerful fish that often spits the hook on the first jump.”
Add in the ground trembling as a pack of elephants roams nearby, the roar of lions and jaguars in the gathering gloom of dusk, the surly looks of Cape buffalo feeding and crocodiles sunning near the river shoreline, and the possibility of a black mamba slithering nearby, and I don’t know about you, but that sounds like an angling adventure that dreams are made of! Or is that nightmares?
The thought of a toothy tigerfish also brings the reminder that for some extreme angling adventures, it isn’t so much the location being fished or the difficulty in getting there as much as it is the simple adrenaline rush produced by the quarry being sought at the end of a fishing line.
For example, how about fishing for one of the various and abundant species of sharks found along the coastline of Florida?
Sharks in Florida
While fishing on an annual post-ICAST tradeshow fishing trip, I traded the usual summertime target of peacock bass in the canals near Miami to target a few blacktip sharks in the Intercoastal Waterway near Boynton Beach.
Aboard the boat of Capt. Patrick Smith of Swamp to Sea Guide Service, I hooked and landed a 45- to 50-pound blacktip on a 12-weight fly rod in a fight that lasted more than a half-hour and broke the fly rod in the process! Our Digital Content Director, Jeff Phillips, had better – and worse – luck than I did, hooking up with two even-bigger blacktip sharks.
Unfortunately, one shark simply came unbuttoned after a short fight. The other, clearly the largest specimen of the day, raced for the Florida Keys, summersaulted high into the air, and came crashing down on the line, breaking everything off. Meanwhile, Smith teased up a stout 60-pounder, whipping it in a 10-minute fight on spinning tackle as Phillips and I played around with sharks at the end of a fly rod.
Whatever your tackle preference, there is no shortage of shark fishing opportunity in the state of Florida on fly rods, spinning tackle and giant baitcasting surf rigs. From blacktips and spinner sharks along the eastern coast of the Sunshine State to big hammerheads, tiger sharks and lemon sharks in the Florida Keys to surly bull sharks lurking along the state’s Gulf Coast, these apex predators are found all throughout Florida’s saltwater venues.
Many Florida saltwater guides in the area know how to specifically target sharks if you’d like to catch your own version of Jaws from a boat, especially on days when other species like tarpon, permit, and snook aren’t cooperating. And while Florida is tightening up regulations for anglers wanting to target sharks from a beachfront, many big sharks have been landed from the state’s sandy coastline, too.
And sometimes, even if you’re not looking to catch a shark in Florida, you’ll find yourself tangling with a big predator at the end of your line. Just ask Texas elementary school principal Kyle Uber about his red snapper adventure on the Gulf of Mexico on a family summer vacation trip to the Destin area. As he reeled up the main ingredient for a tasty dinner, his snapper on the half shell became sudden shark bait as a big bull shark came calling!
While visits to waters filled with huge trout, hard fighting golden dorado, toothy tigerfish, or even sharks along the Florida coastline all qualify as some of the world’s most extreme angling adventures, sometimes, the adventure is simply found in a place of quiet, serene beauty.
Take, for instance, the journey I had years ago into the remote wilds of British Columbia, the first time I’d ever gone on a so-called adventure fishing trip.
Mountain Lakes of British Columbia
Flying out on a float plane, our journey over incredibly wild country filled with grizzly bears, moose, mule deer, and trout was suddenly interrupted by a crackling voice in the headset I was wearing as I sat in the front passenger seat and peered wide-eyed at the wilderness below.
"Watch this," said Ian, the bush pilot at the controls of the de Havilland Beaver float plane.
With those innocuous words, he nodded toward the earth far below. But there was suddenly very little of that earth below us, at least as far as solid ground was concerned. What was one moment a solid ridge-top filled with evergreens reaching skyward, suddenly plunged into a yawning chasm more than 2,000 feet deep.
And nearly a half-mile below, a tiny ribbon of blue flowed, giving at least some cursory evidence as to the reason for our flight into the Canadian high country.
When Ian dipped the controls and banked the float plane down and to the left on the ultimate roller coaster ride, we were soon taxiing on the mirrored surface of a deep, turquoise-blue mountain lake surrounded by jagged peaks and filled with coastal cutthroats and bull trout.
A half-hour later, at the end of my five-weight fly rod, I cradled a 29 ½-inch, 8-pound bull trout, one that had been hooked and landed after a lengthy fight as I waded to the edge of a rocky point that jutted out into the deep lake.
As my guide Matt Sharp and I had our picture snapped with this magnificent mountain lake specimen – the largest such bull trout that had been landed in that lodge to that point in time – I knew full well the reason for venturing far from home with a fly rod in hand.
And that’s fishing memories that will last for the rest of an angler’s lifetime. No matter what continent you happen to find yourself standing upon.