He has just published his second book, which will soon become worshipping bibliography among Argentinian fly-fishermen.
Apart from being an excellent mirror of the rivers, lakes and streams in our Patagonia, Patagonian Waters becomes a spiritual guide for the fly-fisherman, where the sensitivity and nostalgia of an author who spent more than one decade fishing and teaching about this significant activity can be appreciated.
Even today, while residing in Buenos Aires , with the same passion that once took him to the South, he asserts that he could not live without fishing.
Ipat: How did your interest in sport fishing awake?
Diego Flores: I started when I was 9, completely by chance. My family bought a country house with closed doors at Centinela del Mar, a small district located between Miramar and Necochea. There was no electricity or water supply, and three mojarreros (rods for catching mojarras) appeared inside a shed. As a little stream called Pescado would pass near the house, I fished my first dentudos and small catfish there. During the next 4 years, I would only fish during the vacations, as my parents were not interested in fishing. Not because they would not have let me fish, but because they had never understood it. Poor things. When I was 11, I would run away in the middle of the night –because it was then when the largest frog catfish would bite. It was very frightening for them. The fact that I would float a river or disappear somewhere in Patagonia for about a month was always a reason for worry for them. For me, it was adventure.
Ipat: How did the story continue?
DF: When I turned 13, my old man, who could not stand it any more, bought me a small solid glass fiber rod and an Esimar reel. I started to make frequent visits to the waterfront, the harbor and Palermo with him. That is more or less the circuit made by the anglers raised in the Federal District . I was not so lucky as to have a “sea wolf” available to teach me, and everything for me has always been starting from the very bottom. While my friends were taken to good sites, I would depend on the fishing I could manage by myself.
When I was 17, I became a member of the Argentine Fishing Association and my life changed completely. Once there, I embraced the light spinning cause with fervor, after doradillos, chafalotes, manduvas, plus some pira pitá or surubí. That trip coincided with the first trips to Encadenadas, the Salado and the Martín García Island, where I was lucky enough to make some unforgettable catches of tarariras and bogas.
Ipat: How did you first come across fly-fishing?
DF: It was in the nineties. My best friends had already experienced the fly. Every now and then, I would borrow a rod and fish for a while, but the modality did not convince me. What is more, in my fanaticism for lures, I became a stubborn detractor. Being twenty years old, I had already traveled to the South twice, but I had always practiced spinning. Until one day I had a mental click and everything changed. They say no fanatic is worse than the one who has converted, repented. I can assure how true that belief is. In ’92, I fly-fished twice in Patagonia , in March and in December, and it was on those trips when I understood that my life should experiment a radical change. I was 22, and left all I had to move to Bariloche and study to become a technician in Aquiculture at the University of Comahue . Then my life was free of worries and the only thing that mattered was to study and to fish everywhere I could. Those were wonderful years of enjoying and growing.
Ipat: And can you say that university knowledge made you a better angler?
DF: It did have influence, of course, especially in the fishing of salmonidae, in which the biological concepts are very important. Having certain fine knowledge optimizes your fishing, lets you enjoy it much more. The ignorant angler gets embittered, wastes many opportunities that pass in front of his face without even noticing. Those opportunities may turn a mediocre outing into one worth remembering. Here resides a great difference between a good and a bad angler.
Ipat: What about your first trout with fly-fishing equipment?
DF: It was really hard to get. It was in the Chimehuín River , near a site the locals call “the cliff of the parrots”. It came out after “raking” the river for almost 10 hours, from Junín de los Andes to the surroundings of the Curruhue River . It was all the opposite of a well caught fish. I thought that the very fact of being a good spinning angler and just choosing some fly-fishing equipment would turn me into a good fly-fisherman. I could not be more wrong, mainly due to the lies sold by certain graphic publications, which I used to consume voraciously. There was no doubt that one of the deepest aspects of the fly is that it is the modality which less allows you to lie to yourself or the others. It is the modality in which farce is unveiled most quickly.
Ipat: And what is your view upon the growth of fly-fishing?
DF: For better or for worse, it depends on point of view. Nowadays, fly-fishing is in fashion and many people reach the fly for that reason only: to satisfy a social group or the consumers’ culture of the “order now”. In the past, you could normally make it after a hard and complete process of personal evolution, linked to the intimate and the spiritual, not to the material or the social. Today, this is not happening, and the level of the average fly-fisherman is falling down noisily. Mind you, it is also a process in direct relationship with the deterioration of the Argentinian culture. It is hard to believe how many people feel enabled to talk nonsense when they have never touched a fish or held a rod in their whole lives. There is much hysteria and little humbleness. How can we explain to them that trout are not sensitive to the cost of their equipment or their arrogance, but to technique and instinct. A technique that is only managed by means of sacrifice and an instinct that begins to take shape only after many years.
Ipat: How do you become a good angler?
DF : If you are interested in becoming a good angler, the best thing you can do, not to say the only thing you can do, is fish as much as you can. Start by recording “water hours”, in the same way pilots record flying hours. If it is within our possibilities, the cocktail is strengthened by fishing in the company of someone better than us and by browsing good bibliographic material. The rest emerges with the interests and the needs presented by every step. In such sense, fishing is endless. The point is not to remain anchored in one spot but to make a quality leap, to rediscover it and rediscover oneself with the arrival of every new season.
Ipat: Is it possible to say that there exists an “angler’s gene”?
DF: Of course. There is a huge difference between someone who fishes because he feels so and someone who does it because it is in fashion. I am someone who could die if deprived of fishing. There is no life without fishing for me. And when I say fishing, I do not only mean fly-fishing, because I consider myself an angler for all kinds of fishing, provided they are subtle. Having been lucky enough so as to fish and guide in terrible sites, whenever I come across a small puddle with mojarras, the same feeling I had when I was a child comes back to me. It is something I hope I will never lose, because it is marvelous. That is the angler’s gene.
Ipat: Let’s talk about Patagonian Waters. How did the book project begin?
DF: My first book, produced along with 25-year-old Javier Haramina, was the Andean Patagonian Fishing Guide for the years 1996 and 1997. Unfortunately, even if it was an original contribution, the final result was not what we had expected. That bitter feeling made me move farther away from my work for years. Time went by and, after several brainwashing sessions by Esteban Etchepare, I resolved to face up a much more ambitious re-edition. I think that the dimension and the risk of a work that would include the entire Patagonian territory was what seduced me most. The possibility of redeeming myself from the first book, but cubed; the possibility to show that I could overcome all my previous mistakes.
The first three years were the most arduous. I would write practically every day and the draft surpassed the 900 pages. Afterwards, an almost two-year process of style correction followed. During such period, I worked in enhancing writing and harmonizing information into a coherent body, into one central idea. Just to let you know, some two hundred pages about biological and technical aspects were not included in the book. If everything continues head on heels, it is likely that in a short time they will come out as a book complementary to Patagonian Waters.
Ipat: Did you have the assistance of any editor?
DF:The truth is that I got tired of searching for editors. So, Germán Pacho and I finally got together and resolved to publish the book independently. And it was an excellent choice, indeed. I would like to explain that the role of Germán was not only economical. Germán is a good photographer and has a great knowledge of southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, where he has been a guide in the Grande River for three seasons. His support has been transcendental in most parts of the book, especially as regards image and the area he knows best.
Ipat: How would you define the book?
DF: I think it is a deep book, with more than one possible reading and with a balance between “water hours” and “library hours”, which makes it quite interesting both for beginners and experts. On the one hand, it is an encyclopedic guide for all water environments in Patagonia , with useful information about fisheries, techniques and entomology. It is also a book in which fishing becomes an excuse to deal with very enriching topics related to the people, the geography and the history of the place. Chapter I, for instance, could well be used as study material in high schools.
Ipat: Does your way of thinking fishing appear in some part of the book? DF: I believe that my way of thinking fishing is noticed all through the book. Mi favorite chapter is called The Role of the Angler in the New Millenium, in which I express, in a totally straight forward fashion, my mind about the most crucial matter related to anglers: the preservation of the environment.
At this point, I would like to tell you something quite personal. To me, Patagonian Waters is a rebellion against the values that surround me. We are living in an age in which most people do not care about creating rubbish for the sake of profit, making more and more money. My decision was made in the opposite direction: information quality above all. I am aware of the great intellectual potential locked inside each reader and that is my target. I choose the longest route, but in the same time the deepest. The route that implies personal growth based on the growth of the society around us.
"There are four mainstays in the management of sport fishing: education, research, legislation and control. At present, legislation is working much better than the others. I can assure that legislation is very good, but if no control exists, it is useless. Although controlling is not everything; essentially, the angler must be educated."
On October 7, 2008, 80-year-old Mel Krieger stopped fishing and became one of the greatest myths of fly-casting. We know farewells are sad, but we are certain that every new season, our beloved Patagonia and the entire world will be honored by the memory of his greatness. Years may pass and Mel will go on fishing with us …
"...We all must contribute to the health and the beauty of the rivers and lakes. We must keep them clean, both as regards the purity of the water and the purity of the banks and shores. There must exist a strict limitation as to the number of fish that may be killed. The application of the catch and release concept must be considered in many, if not in all, of our waters. It would be ideal that the fish population as well as water basin may keep this critical balance point that exists in all the great fishing areas and that a philosophy that elevates the fishing experience to a superior level than that of being an instinct of man for the search of his food be applied.."