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  • David (Guy) Van Wie

On The Road Again

PATAGONIA: Image swiped from Las Pampas Lodge website.

We’re taking the show on the road.

Today, I leave for Patagonia with a group of the Boys, my co-authors from The Confluence. Ed Baldrige, Norm Richter, Bob Chamberlin and I will soon be throwing flies into rivers and lagos in the shadow of the Andes. I'm told the fish will be just a little bit bigger than the modest native brook trout of the Dartmouth Grant. Like 10 times bigger.

This trip has been a long time coming. In his chapter of our book, “Settling In,” Phil Odence hinted that this might happen one day:

It is perhaps surprising that [the Boys have] never taken this show on the road. There are, of course, countless places in the world that offer tremendous fishing, and now and then we talk about planning a trip to some famous or exotic fishing locale like Patagonia, Montana, or Labrador. But the farthest we’ve gotten is an occasional stop at the Androscoggin near Errol, and, one year when there were just no fish, we headed to a fishing camp over in Maine for a day.

Several of the Boys have fished together in Pennsylvania. And in October 2017, Ed and Bob ventured west to the Henry’s Fork in Idaho for some cold and snowy fishing. I had wanted to go, but I had cashed in all my fishing chips, and then some, on my six-week Storied Waters adventure earlier that summer. They froze their asses off, unfortunately, so I felt like I didn't miss that much. But they have some good stories to tell.

And now we’re headed as far south of the equator as I live north of the equator. It will be early fall there, like our September, and we were warned to pack layers of clothing for fickle weather; it can also be windy and quite chilly in the prairies and foothills, but also sunny and warm in the afternoon. The latitude and longitude will be the mirror image equivalent of the Adirondacks, but the climate in Patagonia is more like Wyoming.

Ed instigated this grand adventure with an effective marketing pitch: “Remember we’re getting older and who knows if we will be able to do this in ten years…” This was pretty convincing by itself, but then he added the clincher: “...and the funds needed will only be going to nursing homes and ungrateful kids at our demise.”

I’m pretty sure he was joking about the ungrateful kids, but the point was taken. Enough Boys signed on to have a quorum. We tried valiantly to convince the others, but apparently Billy’s recent retirement is completely consumed with beekeeping. And I presume he’s saving his money to send his daughter to med school, which is passable excuse, I guess. Phil and Klingon have their own lame excuses- work obligations among other competing priorities.

The four Boys of the Grant who signed on will be joined by another Dartmouth ’79 classmate, Charlie Vieth (we hope, if he can get out of the snowstorm in Denver) who reportedly has been fishing in Patagonia a couple time. Charlie and I have been forever linked by fate when someone swapped our pictures in the Freshman Book. Now and then somebody would confuse us, thus flagging that they had looked one of us up because they couldn’t remember our name. It’ll be fun to finally cast a line with Charlie and swap fish stories over dinner.

Also joining us is another Friend of the Boys (FOTB), Emil Miscovksy ’81, rounding out the Big Green crew. Emil is an experienced fly fisher whose home water is the Ausable River in the Adirondacks. He’s also a gastroenterologist, which could come in handy when we find ourselves constitutionally compromised from eating too much Argentinian beef and drinking Malbec and bourbon in excess.

We have two unGreen stragglers along – Charles Ruffell, a longtime friend of Charlie Vieth, who Charlie probably because he thought having two Charlies might afford some kind of advantage – and my brother-in-law Eddie Mrozik, who I invited simply to match the two Charlies with two Eds just to keep things confusing. Boy, are those guys going to get sick of hearing about Dartmouth and fishing at the Grant. Eddie and my sister also live in the Adirondacks where he regularly terrorizes trout in the rivers and lakes near their farm in Westport, NY.

Our motley crew of eight will be staying at Las Pampas Lodge near Rio Pico. Our destination comes highly recommended by Yvon Chouinard, the founder and CEO of Patagonia, the outdoor clothing and gear retailer. I’d say that’s a pretty strong endorsement. Unfortunately, I don’t own a stitch of Patagonia clothing, nor any of the gear. I hope that doesn’t offend anyone, especially the fish.

I always try to keep my expectations in check on trips to faraway lands, but that’s hard to do on a trip like this. I try not to obsess about researching everything in advance. I’ve never been to South America, so no matter what I expect, I’m sure it will be almost laughably inaccurate. Brother-in-law Eddie has been spending every waking hour, apparently, learning everything he can about everything. Good for him. My gosh, is he ever pumped about this trip! I hope the experience hits the mark for him.

Will we catch any fish? Will Charlie R and Eddie M vote all the Dartmouth guys off the island? Will Dr. Emil have to administer any medicinal concoctions to keep us regular?

Well, enquiring minds want to know these and other eventualities, for sure. I don’t know if we will have sufficient internet connectivity so I can’t promise timely posts to my blog with reports and pictures. But I will provide a full account of our fly fishing adventures with photos in due time, so stay tuned.

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