Dateline: January 16, 2012 – Porto Olivos, Argentina
Santiago didn’t speak any English. I have the Spanish vocabulary of a parrot. But fishing can be an international language, and we spent a great afternoon together on the Rio de la Plata. And as I sat on that obscure pier west of Buenos Aires, I reflected on the kindness and decency of mankind it had taken to get me here.
Porto Olivos pier, just outside Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In January of 2012, I found out I would be heading to Buenos Aires for a business trip. As always, I wanted to set up some fishing, but all of my connections were in the Corrientes region, far to the north and not suitable for a day trip. So I dug inadvisably deep in my Rolodex and called one Gerardo “Gerry” Martinez, a barely-sane buddy and former co-worker of mine. Wonderfully Argentinean, Gerry helped me rack up quite a few new species and a couple of countries about 10 years ago.
Gerardo Martinez, fishing in the driving rain. Rio de Janeiro, November 2002.
Back in 2002, we suffered through 14 hours of bus rides and endless police shakedowns to add Paraguay, and he also managed to talk a recalcitrant guide into a furtive boat ride across the Uruguayan border just so I could say I caught a fish there.
My Uruguay fish, November 2002. It was not a big fish, even by my standards.
Gerry checked with a few old friends, and he referred me to one Martin Gregorini, a high school classmate of his. A few emails later, Martin had volunteered to accompany me for a day and a half of fishing in the Buenos Aires area. That’s basically two days of his life to go fishing with me, even though, as I found out later, he had not been fishing since he was a kid.
That’s Martin Gregorini on the right, the guy who made all this happen.
The day I landed, Martin came to pick me up a couple of hours after I got to my hotel. I had just a bit of time to poke around the “Big Apple,” as they call it. It had certainly changed since my last trip here in 2003 – new developments, new buildings – but the old charms were there as well – the Florida shopping district, the Rio de la Plata waterfront, the Recoleta and its amazing open-air cafes. (And the cemetery of the rich and famous where Eva Peron was finally interred. And I say “finally” because her remains have travelled more than King Tut’s – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eva_Per%C3 B3n#Disappearance_and_return_of_corpse)
Martin and I drove up Rio de la Plata to the west – this is an enormous river, wide enough where the Uruguay side is past the horizon. Soon, we were out of downtown and into the suburbs. Exiting toward the river, we parked on a street full of well-groomed homes and walked out past a small yacht harbor and on to Porto Olivos Pier.
Porto Olivos is not a hot Argentina fishing destination – most traveling anglers have never heard of it. It so happens that Martin grew up around there and had fished this area when he was a kid, and he thought it would be a perfect way to kill a few hours.
There were quite a few local guys already out there, casting and retrieving, or letting baits sit in hope of getting a big Dorado. This is how everyday people here fish – not the folks who go on guided trips. Basic equipment, a lot of it probably passed down from father to son, old but immaculately maintained. I became keenly self-conscious about my Loomis travel rods.
The regulars at work on Porto Olivos pier. They were catching Dorados, Carp, and Bogas on the day I was there.
I set up in a quiet corner and began rigging my rods. The kids were polite, but kept glancing over to see what kind of gear I had. I had no idea what I was doing, and I am sure it showed. I struggled through catching a few baitfish and small Bogas.
This was my first fish. Laugh if you must, but in my defense, it was a new species for me – in the Bryconamericus genus, if you must know.
These were nice people. One of the kids finally walked over and handed me a paste bait, gesturing for me to put it on a small hook. This young man was Santiago, a rather burly 15 year-old who was a passionate and knowledgeable fisherman.
My first Boga under Santiago’s tutelage. One of the guys in the background has just hooked a sailboat.
As we kept at it, a few of Santiago’s friends came over and soon we were all fishing together. The kids jumped at every twitch in the rod tip, just like I still do. It brought back memories of waiting for the float to go down when I was fishing in the Rouge River for Chubs when I was a kid. (See https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/a-mourning-on-the-water/.) Before too long, I got one of the bigger Bogas I have ever caught.
The bigger Boga. Not world record size, but a great fight on my light outfit.
Cautiously and respectfully, the kids looked at my fishing equipment. Through elaborate pantomimes and a lot of grunting, I managed to convey what most everything was for. Martin translated as well as he could with 4 conversations going at once. The biggest hit was the lures – a bunch of shiny new stuff right of the shelves of Hi’s Tackle Box. They evaluated each one in some detail, and came to group agreement that most would be excellent for catching Dorado. (I quietly left each of them with a new Rapala.)
That’s what it’s all about – an afternoon with friends. The Buenos Aires skyline is in the background left. If you look carefully, you can see the Peso crashing.
As the sun started toward the horizon, I knew I had to get back to the Recoleta for a business dinner. Reluctantly, I indicated to Martin that we had to head back. We chatted on the drive back to downtown, about his family, his business, and some unfortunate high school stories about Gerry that leave some possibility that he alone caused the Falklands War.
We also talked about fishing. Martin was pleased but surprised that I had enjoyed myself so much, especially on the small fish. “But you are fishing for Marlin and Swordfish and big sharks all the time. You enjoy this? The fishing that the kids do?”
I smiled. I couldn’t help but be reminded of a conversation in a hockey locker room a few days ago. Discussing how I survived Pee-Wee hockey, I mentioned “I was big for a 10 year-old.” One of my teammates, Scott Pankonin, responded “Steve, you’re still a big 10 year-old.”
Special Bonus Section – Jaime Hamamoto Strikes Again
Just as I was writing this post, I received a text from Wade and Jaime Hamamoto. This is almost never good news. Sure enough, I was stunned to discover that not only had they caught a Hawaiian Ladyfish, which I have never caught, but that they had helped Mark Spellman – MARK SPELLMAN – catch one. Oh, the pain. Sure, she made some faint offer about helping me to get one, but this was clearly a subtle form of mockery.
Good grief. Now I have to go back to Oahu and face more abuse.
For those of you unfamiliar with my fishing-challenged friend Mark, please see https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/the-cottonwood-death-march/.
For those of you unfamiliar with Jaime, count your blessings. (Or see https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/the-countdown-to-1000-an-inconvenient-youth/)