Erik Argotti of The Fly Shop in Redding, California, is a world traveling angler who has visited some of the world’s most exciting fly fishing destinations. Back from recent travels, he sat down for an interview about his travels:
Where in the world have you fly fished?
Closer to home, I have fished Montana/Idaho/Wyoming/Washington, California. I have fished in Pennsylvania as well as West Virginia and North Carolina. Florida for tarpon. Louisiana and Texas for redfish. I have fished Canada in British Columbia and Ontario, and all over Alaska. Mexico, Kamchatka, Mongolia, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand for some more far off places.
What is your favorite destination and why?
That is a hard and general question. I really like everywhere I go for certain reasons. Kamchatka for remoteness and mousing. Mongolia was an amazing experience of fish, people/culture and landscape. New Zealand was probably one of my favorite trips because I traveled for three months and fished every day and it was all sight fishing in a beautiful landscape and settings. Lately though saltwater fishing had really taken over. I love sight fishing for anything and because most of saltwater is so visual it has taken front stage. I love it. I can’t think of anything better than poling around, being in sync with your guide and hunting fish. Both of you doing your part. I really enjoyed sight fishing for tarpon in clear waters of Florida. Very challenging and watching a 100+ pound fish inhale your fly, and then jump five times as it screams into your backing. This gets into your blood. It is addicting.
What is the most memorable travel experience you have and why?
Difficult again. I don’t know why, but from guiding it seems like so many of the people I guided always remembered the things that scared the hell out of them. Close bear encounters, being stuck, scary plane incidents, falling in etc. I guess it is no different for me.
I had a side trip in New Zealand where we got some intel about some big fish. We went over and planned a few days hiking in and staying in huts along the way and checking out the river. We parked at the trailhead, followed a trail that started along the river, but slowly went away and very much above the water. I got impatient, so I thought we could just cut off trail and head to the river. We were way above the river and it was pretty steep getting and as we made our way down through bushwhacking through NZ bush, and as we got closer to the river we ran into some cliffs. I felt we were too committed to go back up, so I maneuvered my way down, and got to a little chute and as I got closer to have a look, I slid down the chute and clawed my way for something to grab. As I slipped closer to the edge, I grabbed onto some small saplings and just as I was about to go over the edge, I came to a slow stop, with rocks and debris going over. I regained my composure and I was kind of stuck. I assessed my situation and since the pack was big for multi day trips, I took it off and decided to throw it down over the edge, so I was more maneuverable. As I watched it tumble end over end for 100 yards down the steep bank and it looked like a yard sale as stuff was flying out. It was a scary reminder, that probably would have been me. The chute was steep and I was afraid If is stared back up, I could slip and this could happen again. There was an edge, 6 feet down, that I thought I could scale down to, but after a quick assessment, decided against it. Thinking back this would have been very dump. I decided to take my chances and clawed back up. After some anxious climbing and relying on small shrubs and saplings to hold me I made it back up and went looking for another place to get down. I went to the downstream side and although I thought it was a good, open, not as steep spot, it had a bunch of loose rocks and as I started down I slipped and slid about 50 yards, ripping my pants, tearing the strap off my sandal and spraining my wrist. At the bottom, bloody and ripped up. I could look up and it looked much steeper than from above. I guided my partner down to the opposite side, where it was much gentler of a slope. We got our things, I sewed my sandals to make it work and we went up river. It was the best fishing in the whole three months in New Zealand. We had three days of lots 6-8 pound fish and one fish we hooked into that had to be 12-15 pounds. Although with my sprained wrist, I didn’t catch but one. I was the spotter, which was fine be me. I almost liked seeing the takes over catching them. I have had other memorable moments, but that one just came to mind.
What has been the best trip so far and why?
Mongolia was amazing as far as trips go. Not sure if it is the best or the most recent big trip so fresh in my mind. The whole package of fishing, landscape, and people. We floated 150 miles and never saw another angler. Lots of locals which was all part of the experience. It is good to see big, clean rivers that are still very wild and intact the way they have been for a long time.
Do you have any travel coming up?
Yes, A week on Crooked and Acklins and a week+ on Andros in the Bahamas coming up here real soon. Bolivia in the summer for golden dorado. I am looking at Tanzania in the fall for tiger fish. I am working on Iceland and a remote float in Alaska for 2024.
Is there a specie that you are dying to catch? What is it about that fish?
I am not much of a species check off guy. I am more about the experience. But I would say though I would like to catch a peacock bass and an Atlantic salmon. I have caught landlocked ones in Argentina, but I would like to tie into a wild/chrome Atlantic salmon on a wild river.
When you are not on the water, what do you want the most out of a trip and why?
A few after fishing drinks with good company, quiet, remote wild places, and beautiful scenery. Not sure what else you need..
What is your dream trip and why?
Anything where I am hunting for fish and casting at these fish. Catching just enough to keep you attention keyed in but not too many to get complacent.
If one song where to play in a video short of your most recent fly fishing trip, what would it be?
Wolf Totem by the HU. It is a Mongolian band and we played this song a lot in Mongolia. It was kind of the theme song for the trip. It reminds me of a haka, the New Zealand ceremonial Māori war dance or challenge. Very powerful and gets you pumped up! If you ever heard a Māori Haka, it makes your hair stand up on the back of your neck.
What is the one piece of gear you couldn’t bear to leave at home?
Never leave home without a headlamp. I think years of guiding in remote places, many without electricity at night, you get accustomed to always having it handy. Some of those places when it gets dark and the generator is turned off, or there is no generator, you want to have that light handy if you need it in the night. Or you are fishing late into the evening and need it to tie on flies. Any big trip, it is always the first thing I grab and put fresh batteries in it.
As you have traveled, what environmental issues have most concerned you?
Clean, wild rivers/oceans and wilderness environments. Untouched places that can remain that way so future generations can see them. You always hear guys say fishing is not like it used to be for certain fisheries. And although I am sure memories are shifted when we think back to good old days of fishing. There is lots of truths to fishing in places that are wild and untouched and are unchanged by our presence. There is no comparison to casting a mouse in Kamchatka all day and catching fish after fish on a river where you might be the only one to fish for the summer. Floating 150 miles and in Mongolia and not seeing another fisherman and fishing for wild, native fish. I think we have screwed up too many places and really need to preserve the remaining places that are truly wild and remote.
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