In Chile the warm Summer temperatures were a welcome change from the frigid cold in the North East U.S. The Sun’s rays were so strong that it could quickly burn any exposed skin within a few hours. We all quickly learned another reason to wear long sleeves, and it wasn’t to avoid sun burn. The real reason to cover up any exposed flesh was the hundreds and hundreds of blood sucking Tabanos, which would feast on us between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The beginning of our trip in the mountains was the first place we encountered these huge flies, but it wasn’t until we reached the Rio Puelo that we experienced their full wrath. In order to best describe the Tabanos, imagine the biggest horsefly possible, with a long proboscis, but in swarms like Africanized Honey Bees. Luckily they couldn’t cut through waders, but they could get through 2 thin shirts, so most of the time we were heavily layered despite highs in the upper 70s. I brought a few Buffs for the Sun, but they became essential to reducing areas the flies could land and bite. The black and orange pests would occasionally find a way to bite through the thin fabric, and some even punched through my waxed cotton shop hat. We converted socks into gloves, and Alex made good use of a tee shirt below.
The most unbelievable trait about these flies wasn’t the painful bite or their huge swarms, but that they were tough. We slapped ourselves red, crunched them in our hand, threw them into the water and most of them flew right back into the air. We bounced them off rocks and the aluminum boat, only to see them rebound and take flight. A few hours of the day were just plain madness, and if you got tangled or broke off, you just hoped an extra rod was strung up in the boat. The worst part of losing flies was knowing that you would be bitten incessantly as you tried to tie a blood, a few clinch knots and add some shot. All of those steps took three times longer than normal with the Tabanos. We just flailed our arms to keep moving while changing flies, but the Tabanos got Alex good one day while re-rigging. Fortunately the loop trick and small hook didn’t require cosmetic surgery after the hook was removed. We discovered that while we came at a time when conditions were not the best on the Puelo, we did arrive to ideal conditions for Tabanos. The nuisance flies were not present on the trip they made last year, due to heavy rains. The Tabanos were only around for three weeks of the year, and we were right in the prime week for 2011. I asked Alex and Max before we flew down. “Do I need any bug stuff?” No, no bugs down in Chile was what I was told. Pipo told me that sprays and repellants don’t work anyway, not even pure DEET. We did the only things we could do in these circumstances, fish and make light of situation. We laughed, we yelled out constantly, and often got revenge. My favorite was pet Tabanos on a 4X tippet leash. Late in the day, a moment would occur when something felt different. It took a few seconds to pinpoint, but after reflexively flinching and involuntarily smacking yourself for hours, you suddenly become aware the flies are gone. You nervously peek over your shoulder. Slide your hand over the brim of your hat. The high pitch buzzing in your ears is still there, like your brain suffered sensory overload, and is playing the last noise it heard on a loop. Soon there is no buzzing, nothing hovering in your view, and you can give your full attention to fishing again. A brief chance to fish in peace, at least until tomorrow. The latest video features footage of the dreaded Tabanos of Chile.