Travel Wednesday: San Martin de los Andes

As frequently happens, a buddy’s Instagram feed sent me to daydreaming. The photo in question was a picture of a him grinning with a big Andean brown trout during a successful day’s fly fishing near San Martin de los Andes, in the northern section of Argentine Patagonia. Several years ago I went to San Martin. I fished San Martin. My experience ended with significantly less success.

November in Patagonia is tough. All signs point to summer — warming temperatures, calmer weather, clearer skies — but blasts of cold air and some of the most unpredictable weather on the planet remain all too common. Judging by my friend’s picture, with the short sleeves and sunshine, the summer gods blessed them. We were hit with cold fury. Temperatures in the 40s and 50s, gales of wind, and me shivering in a rushing stream with too-small wading boots and no clue how to catch a fish. This was very early in my fly-fishing career, and the art of presentation eluded me. Our guide was also of questionable skill. I sat there stupidly chunking a fly at the same pocket for hours with no result, no bites and no correction.

By the end of the day, my fishing partner caught one nice brown, and I did eventually hook … and lose … a fish. But the experience of standing in a Patagonian river, surrounded by the stark majesty of its countryside has never left me. Neither has the Malbec-fueled lunch by the riverside or the drive past the estancias (ranches) and gauchos (cowboys).

The town of San Martin is also a must visit for any outdoor enthusiast. It makes for a perfect jumping off spot for any manner of day trip, and its tiny downtown feels like an exotic version of something in the American West. There is also some great day hiking within walking distance from the town that makes for a challenging afternoon activity.

I’ve included a picture overlooking the town, taken from the aforementioned day hike. Pretty great, huh?

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