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Casting Call

Sublime Trout Fishing Draws Hollywood Heavyweights, Power Brokers and Ted Turner to Patagonia's Traful River
Jonathan Kandell
From the Print Edition:
John Travolta, Jan/Feb 99

(continued from page 3)

Whether by chance or design, Marcos leaves our most memorable foray for last. He picks a steep, thickly vegetated stretch of riverbank. Through the branches, we spy dozens of 12- to 18-inch brown trout feeding between boulders. The current and bed are too treacherous to attempt wading, so we cast from the shore. Almost immediately, Marcos catches a foot-long rainbow trout. Holding it by its fat midsection, we can feel the pancora crabs in its stomach. Marcos points it upstream, letting the water rush through its gills until the fish recovers enough to swim off.

A moment later, I hook the big one. The reel whines and the fish strips 50 yards of my line as it rockets downstream. For the better part of 20 minutes, I alternately pull it in and let it run until it slowly exhausts itself. As I reel the fish ashore, it turns out to be a brown trout close to 30 inches long and over six pounds. Before we can remove the hook, the trout revives, snaps the line and vanishes in a flash. Is it the biggest trout I've ever caught, or the biggest one that got away? "Your call," says Marcos, generously. I'm still mulling over that question.

The two other puzzles of my visit to Arroyo Verde--the fate of the poachers and Turner's quest for the fishing lodge--also near ambiguous resolution. Over dinner that night, Mauricio regales his guests with anecdotes of fishing and history, his twin passions. He asks what we think of the wine--a Weinert Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendoza--and we all agree it goes perfectly with the leek soup and veal. The hunters, he explains, handed over two cases of the wine to make amends for their poaching, and have promised not to trespass again.

The three American couples who are staying at the lodge turn out to be from Atlanta. So, inevitably, much of the rest of the dinner conversation is devoted to Ted Turner and his newfound enthusiasm for Patagonia. Mauricio says his conversations with the media baron remind him of a scene from Casablanca in which Sydney Greenstreet offers to buy Humphrey Bogart's nightclub, but is turned down. "You haven't heard my offer yet," remarks Greenstreet. "It's not for sale at any price," replies Bogie.

We all chuckle at the aptness of the anecdote. Later, though, I remember that Bogie did indeed sell his prized property. Now that I think of it, Turner's company even bought the film.

Jonathan Kandell, a freelance writer in New York, was formerly a correspondent in Latin America for The New York Times.


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