Report Submitted by Al K.
Chile was ‘as advertised’; Scenic, reasonably priced warm people and great fishing. Our standout guides, Juan Ramon and irrepressible “Piti” met us at the Balmaceda Airport after a three hour flight south from Santiago. Overcast, cool and windy weather met us too, causing concern as Patagonian Chile fishes best when it’s warm and sunny…and the grasshoppers are animated. ‘Not to worry’ we were assured.
A quick drive to the charming Hostal Belisario Jara in Coyhaique, an evening repast of Pisco Sours, empanadas, Asado Cordero (spit roasted lamb) and we rolled out the next morning, rods akimbo, heading for the Rio Emperor Guillermo, which we fished the first and last day of our six day trip.
Fishing in Chile necessitates a cultural interaction unknown in the States. Almost all of the rivers and lakes are fenced-in, part of tiny farms or expansive ‘estancias’. Knowing who owns what, how to get there and obtaining permission is part of the charming equation that makes the Chilean fishing milieu unique. Juan Ramon knew them all; the roads, the rivers, the people. A diminutive farmhouse, an effusive greeting, a hug, peck on the cheek, money changing hands, sometimes fresh eggs, and off we went four-wheeling over fresh cut pastures, adroitly avoiding the livestock, dogs nipping at the tires, parking at the river’s edge, not another soul in sight, just us and the Rio.
The Emperor Guillermo is partially spring fed and partially snow melt. And, unless it’s a cloudless day, waders are recommended. There was still some snow on the nearby peaks and, even though it was mid-summer, the river was gin clear, low (est. 300-400 cfs), gentle and chilly (est. low 50’s). Wading was comfortable.
We geared up about 9:30 am with 6 wt.s, floating line, 3 X tippets, and tied on large (#10) yellow hoppers with large (#10) leggy brown stoneflies droppers. My buddies also did well with large Chernobyl Ants, Fat Freddie’s with droppers of #12 beaded Pheasant Tails and Copper Johns. Ahh, ‘not to worry’! Both days, the action was non-stop, landing 30-40 each of 14”-21” Rainbows and Browns. Keep in mind, our days were overcast and chilly (est. 60 degrees). One can only wonder if it had been sunny and hot. As it was, best fishing days….ever!
At eight on day two, we loaded the SUV’s and headed north into the mountains and the Valle La Paloma. Dirt roads, always, clung to the mountainsides topped with majestic hanging seracs. At bottom twisted the glacier fed Rio La Paloma. After several miles of a kidney punching trac we passed through a gated fence into the ubiquitous farmhouse yard. More hugs, eggs, fees and the river was ours. The Linga tree forests crowding the banks were thick, the Spanish moss abundant. You kept expecting bear, elk, moose or the like to appear but here Chile disappoints. No large animals, excepting a small mule deer and a few puma. On the other hand, no snakes!
The weather continued overcast and cool and, despite several hours of diligent flogging, the Paloma held her own, limiting us to about a dozen Rainbows. Poor fishing didn’t ruin the day or our guides’ enthusiasm as, streamside, they built a fire, grilled pork chops accompanied with Juan’s wife’s incredible ‘chimichurra’ salsa, succotash from their garden, baked sopapillas and a local vino tinto. We were happy pups.
Juan recommended a day of lake fishing. Despite our misgivings about static fly-fishing from a boat, we relented and headed toward the Cerro Castillo and its cascading glaciers to a windswept lake in the foothills of the Andes. The weather was cloudy bright, about 65 degrees. Still using our #6 wts and tan and yellow hoppers we plied the shoreline for fat Browns. Not easy fishing, particularly on the windward shores, but exciting and rewarding. Casting into a 35 mph wind with two foot waves was a new experience. More than once we exited the boat to push off the rocky shoreline, finishing with about a dozen Browns each, averaging 18”.
Tired, we left at sundown, stopping at a country store (a friend of Juan’s, of course) featuring fresh baked empanadas and sopapillas.
Juan told us he had purchased a small “estancia” next to his father-in-law’s (Don Pedro) larger spread, through which ran the Rio Nireguao. We were all for the trip. This was true Patagonia; Rolling hills and broad plains. We motored for two hours across the Valle De La Luna, Argentina in the far distance, dirt roads and farm gates.
Using the same rods and fly patterns we worked the river with some success until about 3:00 pm.
Returning to the trucks, and assembled gauchos, the distinct aroma of barbeque (asado) was evident. Don Pedro, grinning with evident pride, had slaughtered a three month old lamb, skinned it and splayed and spread it on a “T” rack over a mound of glowing Linga coals. A true ‘Asado Cordero’. For two hours, accompanied by a great Chilean Petit Verdot, garden fresh cucumbers, tomatoes and onions, and chimichurra salsa. Not to be outdone, Juan Ramon’s wife supplied a dessert of dulce de leche spread on fresh, sweet biscuits. We gorged. Fishing be damned, we were in Patagonia! Needless to say, we weren’t in great condition to fish the evening mayfly hatch.
This is a beguiling river, named after a British seaman, Admiral Simpson. Approximately 50 miles in length and originating in the Andes, it is perhaps Chile’s most famous fishery, featuring large transplanted McCloud River Rainbows, as well as Browns and Chinook and Atlantic Salmon. Mayflies, Caddis, Stoneflies and grasshoppers abound.
As our weather continued overcast and the water was chilly, most of our success was nymphing with large (#10) stoneflies and Pheasant Tails. All of us hooked into some very large Browns, which none of us landed. We satisfied ourselves with a good many 18” Rainbows and a smattering of Browns. We stayed far away from what appeared to be several 50 lb. Chinooks left over from the spring run from the Pacific. Damn, seems like we never left. Let’s go back!
Read Full Post »