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Published: August 21st 2013
Before leaving for Ecuador, we tried to see if and where we could fly fish for trout or other fish..but preferably Trucha. After much frustrating search with no finding, we wrote to a fellow who has lived in Cuenca for many years and asked him. After all, Cajas National Park has over 100 lakes and people eat trout everywhere in the country (farm raised of course). So with out any evidence of the existence of wild or even planted trout, we left our fly gear home.
As our anniversary got closer we thought we would like to spend part of it in Cajas NP even if we could not fish. We looked at Lonely Planet and other guide books but could only find day trips. As we walked by a tour company, we noticed their list of 1 & 2 day tours and, lo and behold, one was called trout fishing in Cajas NP. Huh????
So we went to check it out. Definitely, there was a day long trout fishing trip with gear provided and a bilingual guide. When we questioned the existence of trout in the lakes, they said there are trout but they are small. Well that
was a bit disappointing but fishing is fishing. Then they explained how the day would go. We would leave about 0900 and drive up to about 12,500 feet. This would take about 1 and 1/2 hours. Then we would hike UP!!! for an hour to around 13,500 - 14,000 feet to the closest lake. From there we would fish from the bank, not from a boat as boats are not allowed on the lake. Hmmm! This means we would begin to fish around noon. And we were told the guide would want to leave about 1500 hrs. So that meant only 3 hours of fishing minus lunch etc. And only $100 USD each for the day plus tip to the guide. This was not sounding good. We said we had to think about it.
The weather was unpredictable but you could count on cold and wet, just not how much of either. We would again be walking at over 13,000 feet without acclimatization. We would spend most of the time in transit and all for the chance of catching a small trout. Really????
Back at the apartment, we came across a note from our landlady. She said there
Dinner for 2
With a private chef yet!
was a great lodge just 20 kilometers from Cuenca that specialized in trout for dinner and had some lakes that allowed you to fish for trout. $1 USd per pound caught and you could have them for dinner. This sounded good. We looked it up on Google and it was reasonably priced and getting there was easy. So we booked a room for one night and went.
The place called Dos Chorreras (2 waterfalls) was in a beautiful setting in the Cajas Mountains along side the NP. It had started as a small quinta, developed trout farming because of the abundant supply of water and gradually became a beautiful resort. There must be at least 10 streams running through the property and the Lodge is built into the mountain side. Some of the streams run inside as well as outside the building. Huge fireplaces, waterfalls and flora are in every public space. So we settled i and then asked where we could go fishing. They directed us out to the main road and then down the hill...about 1 kilometer away to the fishing place.
So off we went. It is a spectacular setting with 16,000 ft + mountains
all around and water moving everywhere. We got to the fishing shack and were handed the damndest fly rod we have ever seen. Mike was sure that it was 1/4 of a 2 by 4 board cut about 5 feet long. It had one eye at the business end and one bent nail at the other to hold the 10 feet of line. There was a hook and the attendant handed us a ball of fish meal to put on it. We could not believe it. Mike asked if they maybe had a bamboo pole and the young attendants look was of pure confusion. A what ? she said. Never mind.
Out to the fish pond we went. To get the line out, you hold the stick (refused to call it a rod or pole) in one hand, a fistfull of line in the other and sidearm the line into the water. The first cast caught the biggest fish, about 4 pounds. With a barbed hook there was no way to get it to shake the line so we brought it in, unhooked it and gradually let it slip back in the water. It swam away and we breathed
a sigh of relief. Actually, we were laughing so hard at he "fishing stick" that we could hardly contain ourselves.
Then we noticed a guy on the other side of the pond with a real fly rod. Over we went. Turns out he is a gringo from California, has lived in Cuenca for the last 3.5 years and is a flyfishing guide(not for the tour company we had talked with). He told us there was a fly fishing club in Cuenca with about 20 members. When we asked about the fishing, he said that the lakes closest to the highway had only small fish because the locals fish them out. But if you are willing to walk in about 5-6 hours, you can catch some very nice fish. When we talked about the trip we could have gone on, he said we made a good decision. The weather would have been extreme and the 13,000 foot altitude very hard to walk in. But he agreed that this place was not fishing. He was there with his 8 YO daughter and teaching her to cast the fly rod.
So he helped us a lot and, with a pair of
pliers was able to remove the barb and the fishing got a little more fun when only using the line, not the stick. We caught and released a few fish and then decided to head back to the lodge, step into the jacuzzi in our room, relax and go have a nice anniversary dinner.
To make this short, dinner was fabulous. We were 2 of only 4 guests in the hotel and Friday is their slow day. They have hired a young Peruvian Cordon Bleu trained chef to prepare dinner for folks on the weekend. Since it was our anniversary and no one else was in the dining room, we had a great time and some really special food. Kate had trout stuffed with Prosciutto ham and bacon and Mike had a fillet Mignon in a creamed caper sauce. Both were cooked to perfection and we spent an hour talking with the chef about cooking and how the meal was prepared. We are gonna try it at home.
So, all in all we had a great time, not the one we expected but the one we had to roll with. We certainly laughed a lot and talked a
lot. At least we know that we can come back and fly fish and we have some new recipes to try.
Next we are off to a market in a place called Canar. The people there have lived in the area since before the INca and out lived them as well. The market is their weekly trading market and should be interesting from a cultural point of view.
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