When I talk about bucket list fishing trips I have a problem. First off it’s a list that grows with locations faster than I can check them off. Secondly I have been lucky enough to find a few places that don’t ever get “checked off”, even after being there. Our recent trip with a Montana Angler hosted trip to Patagonia was one of those, the first week was slated for fly fishing Chile followed by a week in Argentina.
Our group dynamics for the first week were myself and Rick (longtime friend and fishing partner), Dave and Tom (Rick’s brothers), and Clark and Cole (long time fishing buddies). We had all worked and fished together throughout the years. I made arrangements with our great friend and owner/guide, Eduardo Barrueto Guarda at Magic Waters Lodge just outside Coyhaique, Chile.
After some unusually smooth airline travel of dodging blizzards and canceled flights we arrived in sunny Santiago and transferred to our hotel, Castillo Rojo in the Bellavista district. Once the hotel staff welcomed us and lugged our overweight bags to our rooms we found the nearby Funicular and took the ride to the top of Cerro San Cristobal to get our bearings and see what the Santiago landscape had to offer. All I can say is the view blew me away. I’m not used to urban landscapes but this was pretty amazing. After a short nap and some more wandering around the neighborhood it was time for dinner. We had made reservations at El Meson Nerudiano, an absolutely fantastic restaurant only a few blocks away. After an amazing meal we walked back into the streets to find a full blown neighborhood party, but in reality it was Friday night and the numerous bars and pubs had spilled out into the streets. It was quite a scene, street performers on every corner, and more live music than there is all summer in Montana. Needless to say we enjoyed ourselves but had any early morning flight to catch so we could get to the real reason we were making this trip.
Upon landing in what appeared to be my home town back in Wyoming, only everything was in Spanish, Eduardo was there waiting for us with a huge grin and very worthy sunglasses tan from many seasons on the water. On the drive to the lodge I felt as though I was driving through Montana or Wyoming half a century ago. It was spectacularly familiar yet exhilaratingly new all at the same time. I was so excited I couldn’t ask Eduardo questions fast enough, he happily answered all of them while adding in great local knowledge that only someone that had born and raised on that land could pass on. The short drive took us down dirt roads, over a few rivers and spring creeks, and passed a few lakes finally bringing us to a sweeping view into a small valley where the lodge nestled under a hill overlooking 2 small ponds. This was it. We made it. As the six of us pulled up to the lodge and piled out we were greeted by Eduardo’s wife Consuelo. She wasn’t only welcoming us to their lodge but welcoming us into their home to be part of their family for the week.
Shortly after arriving we took to setting up gear and comparing fly boxes, most of which were filled with huge foam dry flies or over-sized streamers. That’s when we first heard it, it sounded like the roof was going to get ripped off the lodge. We stared out the windows of our rooms at the pond below as another gust of wind brought the start of a torrential down-pour. We weren’t phased, we were going fishing. We pulled on our waders and jackets and made our way down to the ponds. Thankfully the wind had mostly come and gone but the rain stayed. Rick and I walked around to the lower pond where a small raft was stationed for us to use. We pushed out and Rick started casting his #6 Fat Albert imitation towards the bank along the edges of thick reeds. With each cast he would twitch the fly fairly aggressively in hopes of catching the attention of a cruising trout. Cast. Twitch, Twitch. Cast. Twitch. Twitch. BOOM! A seriously large brown trout ate his fly like a great white shark eating a seal. The rod was bent and the fight was on! After a few very short seconds the line went limp. Rick slumped back into the seat of the raft with a look of rejection. So being the good buddy I am, I laughed at him. He turned and looked at me with a huge smile, “Seriously?! Okay, where’s the next one?” This was going to be fun.
We got back in the game and made our way around to the other side of the pond where an old tree stump was creating a perfect lair for hopefully another over-sized and over-zealous trophy Chilean trout. As the fly plopped down Rick’s line blew around a piece of the raft frame causing him to not only miss seeing the toilet bowl of a take but also the hook set. I didn’t laugh at him this time, this time the size of the fish had me paused with mouth wide open staring at the swirl left behind from the take. Okay. Things just got serious. We worked the pond hard for another 30 minutes with no more action. This left Rick and I soaking wet with only glimpses of giant trout seared into our eyes as we walked back to the lodge in the rain.
We compared notes about our first hours of fishing with the rest of the crew around a roaring fire while enjoying some great appetizers and Chilean wines. That evening set the standard for incredible food and amazing hospitality for the week. We all feel asleep to the sound of rain and dreams of big aggressive trout.
DAY 1: Emerador Guillermo
Well-fed and gear ready to roll we met our motley guide crew for the week. Eduardo, Monte, Marcelo, and Alex. Between them they have logged more days, river miles, and landed trout than most fishermen can only dream of. Today we were headed out with Monte. As he carefully pulled our rods in two and laid them in the back of his jeep he gently closed the rear gate revealing a weathered yellow Wyoming bucking horse sticker. Monte I were going to get along just fine. We bounced up the road away from the lodge towards unknown waters ahead. The first river we crossed was mud. The second river we went by was dirty too. But Monte had a plan. He took us on a quick drive through the center of Coyhaique while filling Rick and I with local knowledge and tails of days gone by. After about an hour of zipping through the landscape he slowed to turn into a small drive-way with a small make-shift soccer field in the yard and 3 or 4 dogs that came out to greet us. He rolled to a stop as an aging gentlemen greeted us with a smile. After a short conversation he waived to us and we bounced down the 2 track that would ultimately lead to the river.
After instructing and helping us rig our rods he led us down a trail the cows had matted in the tall grass. With every step hundreds of medium sized grasshoppers scattered to avoid our boot soles. This wasn’t going to suck. The hopper show continued for the next 10 minutes as we walked downstream to a nice long run. He had Rick softly step out into the current and toss a few warm up casts behind a big boulder closest too us. A few drifts yielded a nice 14” Rainbow. Monte then pointed out a few rising fish on the far bank. Rick pulled a bit more line off the reel and made the cast. The fly plopped down just upstream from the lead fish. Gulp. Another nice Rainbow. Downstream I could see the Emerador Guillermo (a smaller river) disappear into a small canyon. All Monte said was “Have fun.” So I ventured off downstream periodically peaking around trees or large boulders to see if anything was lurking in the pools below. After a good ways I came to a long, deep pool with large boulders dropped randomly through the length of it. Truth be told I didn’t have a hopper tied on my line. Even with the temptation of all the hoppers we had seen, I had a fairly large streamer tied on. So this pool had me at hello. I made several casts across the tail out that didn’t yield any interest so I starting working up the pool stripping my fly by each boulder and through the seam lines they created. Still nothing. I neared the head of the pool and placed a cast at the head of the pool where the current spilled over a small ledge. I didn’t even get one strip on the line. Bang! A fish slammed it and was already running for cover before I could gather myself and put some pressure on him. Thankfully it hit the fly hard enough the hook was firmly set. After a good battle I brought a colorful and plump 16” rainbow to hand. My first Chilean trout. I backed the de-barbed hook out of the corner of its mouth as it kicked free of my grasp and disappeared back into the depths. I stood on a small boulder gazing up stream, listening to the water rushing by and breeze blowing through the trees. I thanked the world for its graciousness took a deep breath and focused on the next pool. I continued upstream for the rest of the morning. Cast. Strip. Strip. Strip. Repeat. Only to be interrupted by the occasional rainbow trout grabbing my fly and bending my rod. As Monte and Rick finally came into view further upstream I made one last cast into a small pocket along the edge. The foam in the pocket exploded with a streak of gold on my first strip. This fish bent my rod a bit more than the others had that morning. After a short give and take of line I landed my first Chilean Brown trout. A fat 18 incher. I reeled up and headed upstream to join Rick and Monte.
As I walked along I could see Monte and Rick bantering back and forth as Rick cast, set the hook, and land a fish multiple times in only the short time it took me to catch up with them. We decided to take a break and walk back to the truck for some lunch. We refueled on a delicious sandwich and bowl of soup. After lunch we all fished together to enjoy the comradery that goes along with fishing with great friends, new and old. As the sun dropped lower in the sky Monte left us to our own devices so he could go back and get the truck and drive it around upstream of us so we could keep fishing for a while longer. Rick and I worked our way up stream playing baseball (taking turns for every three missed strikes or one caught fish). Needless to say there was never more than a few minutes in between taking turns.
We come upon a seam line and run that was so juicy looking that I taunted Rick into tying on a dropper below his dry and bet him 5 bucks he would get one on the nymph, first cast. The first cast dropped down and began its drift back towards us. I watched and waited in sure anticipation of the hopper getting jerked underwater by a fish. It reached the tip of Rick’s rod. Nothing. I couldn’t believe it! As Rick stood laughing at me with the flies dangling in the air Monte appeared with a puzzled look on his face. “What the hell is that?” he asked pointing at the nymph while shaking his head. I quickly tried to explain myself and the bet. He seemed less than amused. “Well, double or nothing” I asked Rick. He shrugged as he cast it back to the top of the run. As the hopper dropper rig started another drift down the seam a 16” Rainbow cartwheeled out of the water for the dry. After Rick landed the fish, Monte gently released it and chuckled as he snipped off the dropper. He handed it to me with a sly grin on his face. We finished the day on one last run near where Monte had parked his rig for us. On the drive home we laughed about the bet and shared stories of the day, days gone, and days ahead. Our first day in Chile had been one for the books, so much so I don’t even think we had noticed the wind.
DAY 2 Canyon “X”
With some of the rivers still blown out from the rain Monte had laid special plans for the day and I honestly can’t divulge much about the day because I was sworn to secrecy. We bounced down another dirt road while Monte prepped us for the day. Today wasn’t Sunday but we were headed to Monte’s church. We stopped on a bridge so we could peer over and look down on the river a hundred feet or more below. We could see what appeared to be a very large fish working a seam line. After a few minutes of debating its size and watching it lazily slide back and forth in the current we continued on. The river disappeared into sheer canyon walls and thick forest for an unknown distance until it finally come back into view in a small valley as we crested over a large hill. We pulled into a small farm and Monte disappeared around the house to come back with a key to the gate so we could gain access to the river.
Monte readied the boat while Rick and I fished the pool upstream from our put in. Rick hooked and landed a very nice and strong 18” brown as Monte gestured for us that it was time to get in the boat. For the first portion of the float we broke down our rods and enjoyed the scenery as Monte skillfully maneuvered the boat through several technical whitewater runs. Immediately following a small whitewater drop the river constricted to the width of the boat. Monte had it lined up damn near perfectly as he quickly pulled the oars parallel with the raft and we lightly bounced off one side of the canyon wall. We had about 2 inches on either side of the boat. The canyon walls rose above the river for 50 or more feet and trees stretched over the opening from side to side creating an enclosed gateway. I quickly determined we were entering middle earth where the trout were huge and no other humans existed.
As the small canyon opened slightly he rowed the raft into a side eddy where we got our rods out and began to work the edges of the canyon walls by casting way out in front of the boat. Rick quickly caught a few very respectable rainbows in the 14”-18” class. All on a dry. I patiently waited in the back of the boat for Monte to give me the okay. He had prepped us that he had seen a very large fish a few times in a certain spot up ahead. I was ready with my streamer that Monte had affectionately coined the “dish rag”. The water was still a little high and just barely off color from the rains so we couldn’t see the submerged boulder that the fish seemed to call home. But Monte gave the go ahead and I lobbed my 8” epoxy headed white yak hair Pike fly through the air. It landed with the force of a small rock being thrown in the water. With the weight of the fly and the full sinking fly line it quickly sank. I gave it a 5 second count and started to strip. All eyes were glued to the water where I had cast. I kept stripping. Fast. The fly came into sight is it traveled up through the water column. Next appeared a large dark shadow behind it. Monte gave a strong back stroke of the oars to keep us in place. I kept stripping as fast as I could.
As the fly came closer we could all see it. It was no longer a shadow but an enormous Brown trout. I couldn’t strip fast enough trying to entice him to eat it. He appeared to barely kick his tail back and forth in a lazy effort to follow it only merely interested in the offering. I had run out of fly line to strip, only the leader was left so I spastically twitched it alongside the boat in a last ditch effort to get him to strike. He was so close we could see his eyes and count his spots. As the streamer danged in the current with nowhere left to go he gave it one last look and slowly slid back to the depths. We were collectively silent for a few moments. “That thing was HUGE!” Rick finally exclaimed. I don’t recall if I said anything at all and if I did it probably didn’t make sense. That was the single LARGEST river trout I had ever laid eyes on. I don’t want to speculate about size other than it was big. Monte quickly pulled the raft over and anchored us in a small notch in the canyon wall. “Switch flies. Do you have anything that big in Olive?” He said. Normally that’s a silly question for me because I always have something bigger. But I was tapped out. I had swung for the fences. So we settled for a 4” olive streamer I had. He pushed off the canyon wall as I launched another cast towards where the fish had come from. Nothing. Cast again. Nothing. Again. Still nothing. My hope of getting the largest trout I had ever seen was gone. Cast again. WHAM. The line was pulled out of my hand and scorched across my stripping finger. As I regained control we could see a fish flashing and darting in the depths below. My rod doubled over as I put some serious pressure on him. My heart was beating hard. Was this it? Had my dreams come true and the largest trout I had ever seen given me a second chance? Don’t screw it up Hank. You got this. Monte had pulled us back into the notch of the canyon wall and grabbed the net. I had gained ground on the fish and had him coming up through the water column. We had yet to catch much of a glimpse of the fish until it was in the net. We all peered over the side of the boat at the most disappointing 22” brown trout ever caught. We all stared. No picture was taken as Monte let it slide out of his net and back to its home. I felt completely underwhelmed yet like the biggest jerk of a fishermen for the lack of appreciation for one of the stronger 22” brown trout I have caught. At any other moment in time that would have been a day maker of a fish, but at that moment my expectations were so highly skewed that I was left deflated.
The small canyon opened up into a large pool split by a house sized rock. Monte secured the raft to some drift wood lodged into to the rocks and we climbed to the top of the boulder with our lunch. We sat enjoying the sunshine and spectacular view of the hidden valley downstream. We spent the next hour or so sharing stories while taking turns launching casts from the top of the boulder to the opposite banks of the river in hopes getting a bird’s eye view of a fishing eating our fly. The day continued with magical sunshine and stunning views. The river carved its way from tight canyon walls to short open valleys back into tight canyons until finally opening back up into the main valley we had driven through that morning. As we fished and floated into the valley the wind began to make itself known. Rick and I finally put down our rods and Monte powered us downstream into the wind. We eventually were at the takeout and Monte’s truck. We spent the ride home discussing what could have been done differently to entice that monster to eat the fly. With much speculation we all agreed that is the way it goes. Maybe next time. It only takes one more. One more cast. One more strip of the fly. One more and it could be the one you were looking for.
Day 3 Top Secret River “Y”
With some of the area rivers still off color from the rain Monte wanted to go “check” on a small river that could offer up the chance at some very large brown trout. We arrived at a perfect sized wading river that looked to have some very serious promise. But then again every river we had passed by in the last 3 days looked to have serious promise. Needless to say we were very excited for the day. Rick and Monte headed upstream a few hundred yards as I climbed down to the water’s edge just below the truck. With a steep bank behind me and the pool so deep I couldn’t see the bottom, I happily quartered downstream with a cast and let my streamer swing. After half a dozen casts I had 2 or 3 grabs and landed one very nice 18” brown. As I worked my way up the pool casting across and down and letting the fly swing I landed 2 more browns in the 18”-20” range. Three very nice brown trout in less than an hour and I could see Rick upstream with his rod bent over as well. I reeled up and hustled upstream to take a few pictures of Rick and Monte from above while landing their fish. As I sat watching and taking pictures for the next 30 or 45 minutes Rick caught and landed a number of very nice browns. Monte motioned for me to come down and cross over to the other bank. As I made my way over he readied lunch for us. We had yet again managed a beautiful lunch spot in the sun. I even opted for a short nap while Rick fished the run upstream. For most of the afternoon Rick and I leap frogged each other from run to run while goading each other each time we noticed one of us miss or loss a fish and give a thumbs up and fist pump when we would land one.
Rick was drifting his big foam dry along a bubble line as I passed by him when a large nose stuck out of the water and inhaled the fly. Rick forcefully lifted the rod to set the hook causing an 18” rainbow to catapult out of the water. It put on a show jumping multiple times only splash down tear across the pool and jump again. Rick carefully landed and released the beautiful and healthy rainbow back into the water. This was our only rainbow of the day.
As we continued upstream Monte needed to walk back to the truck and bring it around upstream so Rick and I wouldn’t have to walk back at the end of the day. As he headed off he shouted over his shoulder “I want a photo of a big guy!” I assured him I would do my best. Rick was upstream working his dry in long smooth run with some submerged rocks throughout the length of it. I was casting my streamer along the opposite undercut bank of a turn in the river with overhanging bushes and ancient dead logs wedged into the river bed. I didn’t get any action in some very juicy looking water until I reached the inside seam of where the current came into the bend. As my fly swam across the shelf and through the nervous water I saw a flash followed by a firm tug. Damn I missed it. It got my blood pumping. It could have been a 12” trout or a 30” trout but it got me excited. I threw another cast into the current letting it sink and stripping it back again. This time the line stopped hard, as I strip set the fly the water exploded in colors of yellow and gold only to quickly disappear into the faster current pulling line from my hand until it was on the reel and still taking line. I hollered upstream for Rick. He quickly reeled up and was at my side just in time to help me land a gorgeous and thick 25” brown. We snapped a quick hero shot and returned the beast back to the water watching it swim back to its hide with a few powerful swipes of its tail. We high-fived and remarked at its size and beauty as we walked upstream to the next run were Rick had left off. As he finished fishing his run I headed around a bend in the river and started to work a small side channel merely out of habit as my mind was still lingering on the recent memory of my trophy brown trout.
That was the fish I had come here for. That was the fish I search for every time I go fishing but rarely catch. It felt good, I was on cloud nine. As my eyes followed my streamer swinging along the far bank of the channel I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a very large shadow following behind it. As I tried to focus on the shadow in the depths my fly stopped and line tightened. As I stepped backwards to put more pressure on the line the shadow slowly moved, and so did my line. I was quickly jerked back into reality now realizing that I had another fish. But the shadow was too large and it was only a strong steady pull. Was it a dislodged log tumbling down the river? I fought with my eyes to focus on the shadow in the bottom of the pool. I was worried that if I put anymore bend in my 6 weight it may break so I stepped back again and pointed the rod at where my fly was surely stuck in the shadow. In doing so I could put enough pressure on my line with a steady pull to try and either get the shadow to move again or break my fly off in the assumption that it was stuck in a log.
As I pulled with harder pressure on my stout leader the shadow exploded upwards and out of the water with the force of a small person belly flopping off a high dive. My mind was racing trying grasp what exactly I had hooked and was now tail walking across the surface of the small pool. Luckily it couldn’t go far before it ran out of room and had to come back downstream towards me. The surface of the water settled back down as the fish slowly but powerfully circled the bottom of the pool with nowhere to go. As I was focused on trying to figure out what it was and how I was going to land this thing I was startled by a voice in the bushes. “You just had to do it didn’t you” It was Monte. He had seen the circus I was putting on as he was walking back down to meet us from moving the truck. “Well let’s get that thing landed” he said. It had been several minutes at this point so the fish was getting tired out enough that I was able to slide it downstream and towards us enough that Monte reached into the water and grabbed the tail. A huge green King Salmon. It took 2 hands to hold on to the base of its tail. As we both lifted it out of the water for a quick photo I realized the full weight of this thing. Monte guessed 40-45 pounds!! We couldn’t help but giggle over the sheer size of this thing in a small side channel on a 6 weight rod. What a day! I had definitely not come to Chile to salmon fish but this was an incredible mistaken catch that I would not soon forget.
Day 4 Lower Paloma and Lago Elizalde Outlet
We were paired with Marcelo for the day. As I walked past his 16’ catamaran and tossed our gear in his truck I noticed the small outboard motor laying in the bed of his truck. I had heard murmurs of fishing lake inlets and outlets in Chile where the water was gin clear and the fish were big so I could only assume that was the program for the day. As we traveled along the winding dirt roads passing more rivers and lakes, Marcello filled us in on what the day was to hold. We finally bounced down a twisted 2 track driveway and pulled into a small homestead with a father and teenage son working on an old shed while nearby horses were saddled ready for a day’s work. Marcello quickly chatted with the gentlemen who waived us past the horses and through a gate into a large grassy field behind their house. As we slowly crossed the large grassy pasture I say no other tire tracks or paths. I always get excited when accessing a piece of water that doesn’t bare the marks of access. 99% of the time it leads to something special and so far Eduardo or Monte had not disappointed and from the sounds of Marcelo’s voice this was not going to disappoint either.
We were all anxious to get on the water so we made quick work of getting the boat in the water. As Marcello’s oars made the first strokes against the current Rick and I were already casting our streamers against the bank in search of aggressive fish. As the morning’s hours past with each bend in the river we caught and released a number of healthy browns and rainbows. Marcello was particularly excited about a very chrome 20” brown trout. He explained that here soon the lake fish would begin their fall migration into the rivers to start their spawn. For him that meant the chance at some very large migratory fish in the near future. He oared the boat into an eddy at the confluence of another sizable river and secured the boat to a large tree. We enjoyed our lunch basking in the warm sun looking out over the confluence of 2 rivers running gin clear and teeming with trout. After lunch he instructed us to walk about ½ mile up a dry channel of the river as he motored the boat up the new river. When the channel joined back up with the main river Marcello was waiting for us with the boat and we got back in the boat with him for another mile or so motoring up the river. This new river had such clarity that you could see straight to the bottom of a 20’ deep run.
The banks and bottom was littered with countless trees creating a maze of structure for the fish to hide it. Every so often you would see fat trout sliding in behind one of the sunken trees to hide from the passing boat. Sometimes they would hardly even move, almost puffing out their chests in a sign of arrogance. This was their river. The river current and tree lined banks opened up into slower water and vast reed beds. We entered a huge lake surrounded by snowcapped peaks. We couldn’t even see to the other end of the lake it just wrapped around the mountains and up the valley. Marcello motored to the leeward edge of the lake closest to the outlet we had just entered from.
Rick and I were both throwing sinking lines with streamers tied on. We cast into the edge of the reeds letting the flies sink down several feet before stripping them back towards the boat. For streamer fishing this was the best kind. Visual. The water was so clear we could see every pulse of the fly and every fish that was both interested and not interested in our offerings. As we saw more fish we started selectively sight casting to them so we could watch the chase and hope for a hook up. At one point I couldn’t stop laughing because I had seen and missed so many fish while Rick had repeatedly caught and landed a number of very nice brown trout. Marcello oared us into the reeds so we could switch rods. He had seen a group of fish rising in a small cove further down the lake edge.
We maneuvered into casting position, Rick laid out a beautiful cast that landed softly not far from one of the cruising trout. The fish saw it and raced over to it, only to slam on the brakes at the last possible moment and eye ball the fly. Rick patiently waited at the ready while the fish nosed the fly, turned and swam away. Rick picked up to cast again but was stopped by Marcello. Switch flies. Marcello made the change and got us back into casting range. I made a cast to a cruising fish that just kept on cruising by. Hmmm guess we need to get serious. After Rick and I were denied at least a half a dozen more times on various flies, Marcello dug deep into his fishing pack searching for a special fly box. He found what he was looking for. Rick was now armed with the “if all else fails fly”. His first cast settled down almost directly on top of a cruising fish. I thought for sure it would spook. The gentle rings from the fly landing caused the fish to turn with a quick short kick of its tail and slowly coast up to the fly. Without hesitation it broke the surface and closed its mouth around the fly. Bang! The line was tight and Rick quickly forced him away from the other fish cruising the area. Marcello scooped up the fish in his net, a 20” brown. With big smiles and a new found confidence with Marcello’s secret fly we proceeded to pluck off a few more cruising fish before the remainder of the fish in our general area caught on to what was happening and disappeared back to their hiding places. It was time to get back to the river because we still had a sizable amount of water to cover before the end of the day. As we drifted back down the outlet of the lake Rick and I couldn’t help but continually remark about how amazing this river looked. Gin clear and log structure everywhere underwater. I had never seen anything like it, this section of river felt truly magical. I honestly don’t recall how many or the size of fish we caught that afternoon because I was so enamored with the beauty of the water and watching my streamer swim through it.
Only at the end of the day did I realize that I had failed at one aspect for the day. I had been so sucked into the moments of the day that I didn’t take but 3 photographs all day. I was supposed to be documenting our trip and one of the most visually amazing days of fishing I had ever had was now only in my memory. I was conflicted. On one hand I was disappointed with myself for not documenting the day but on the other hand I felt pleased that I had lived in that day with each of its moments being so special that it kept me locked in that moment. And in today’s world, that’s hard to come by.
Day 5 River “X” (again)
Today we planned to switch the group around so Rick could fish with his brothers. So that meant Clark, Cole and I would fish together. Clark, Cole and myself jumped in with Monte and headed back to a small wade fishing river I had fished a few days before but Clark and Cole had yet to fish. Upon arriving at the access for the river we could see the clouds building and wind picking up. We agreed to fish together playing baseball (taking turns for every three missed strikes or one caught fish) for the day.
In between our turns of working runs and catching fish we told jokes and caught up about the last season of guiding and off season shenanigans. With each passing bend in the river the wind picked up and the rain fell harder. Cole and I were trying to spot fish from a high bank opposite Clark when Cole produced a kite from his fishing pack. I looked at him puzzled. “Really?!” I asked. He proceeded to unravel the kite and tell me that it was Clark’s. Leave it to Clark to travel to Chile on a fishing trip with a kite. Yup a kite. But once Cole had it unraveled my inner child had taken control and I wanted to get it in the air. The wind quickly had it 40 feet in the air. This was a first for me on a fishing trip but I do not believe it will be the last. This was hilarious. It was almost too windy to fish so here was the perfect solution, flying a kite. Just as I was thinking I could actually fly a kite I crashed it into the pool just behind where Clark was fishing. Well guess we’ll go fish the next pool. That fun was quickly over now that the kite was soaking wet and didn’t want to fly. Cole and I found a nice grassy spot under a big tree to hide from the wind and rain as Clark worked his way through the pool and onto the next, catching a few nice brown trout along the way. His only reward was Cole and I poking fun at him while making obscene gestures. The day came to a close as it had started with a beautiful brown trout coming to hand while the wind swirled rain around us. Day 5 had been filled with plenty of trout but most of all with good friends in a beautiful location doing what we love to do the most. Fishing with good people.
Day 6 Simpson Canyon
For most of the week the guides had maneuvered us around dirty water from the much needed rain on our arrival day and first night. Now things were starting to clear up to the point we could fish some of the rivers that had been dirty earlier in the week. Monte took Rick and I on a short drive to a nearby river that was just getting back into shape. Monte slid the raft into the water at another of his private put in’s. Rick and I eagerly stepped into the raft as Monte pushed us out into the current. This was our last day in Chile. We were in full stride so wanted to really get after it. With the slightly off color green water we opted for another day of streamer fishing which was fine by me. Monte effortlessly worked his way down the river dodging rocks while keeping us in good casting distance to work the prime looking water. All morning we floated through a deep valley surrounded by nothingness. We all felt right at home. To our satisfaction Rick and I each found a number of healthy and strong brown and rainbow trout that morning. Just before lunch the valley started to close in until we were surrounded by big canyon walls with overhanging trees and bushes. Several big pools had been formed by house or bus size boulders falling off the cliffs above. I love canyons. They provide me with a feeling of remoteness and protection from the outside world while always seeming to produce incredible fishing.
This canyon was no different. Monte slid the raft into a large eddy with a big foam line swirling down the near seam. As we sat and ate lunch we watched several large trout periodically rising in the seam line. Sipping down any delicious morsel that passed over head. With a mouth full of sandwich Rick grabbed his rod that he had preemptively tied a dry on that morning. After a few false casts to work the line out he laid down the fly at the head of the seam. As it swirled about in the tiny whirl pools made by the conflicting currents we watched in anticipation. A fish rose eating a natural only inches from Rick’s fly. We groaned. Another cast. Again the fly drifted this way and that way in the inconsistent currents of the seam. The fly past over the fish as it rose to another natural half a foot upstream. Damn. Cast again. This time the current took the fly far off course into the eddy while taking another portion of the line into the faster current causing the fly to drag through the water and disappear underwater. That’s not going to get it done. A few false casts to dry the fly off and lay it back down again. This time the timing was right, the fly had not drifted but a foot when a large head poked out of the water and engulfed the fly. The line came tight with the hook set and the fish quickly resisted by burying its head into the fast current on the outside edge of the seam. It quickly used the current to its advantage and headed for the depths. After a few strong head shakes, the line went slack. Damn. Rick reeled the line in to find the leader frayed. The fish knew his escape route and was able to break the leader on a submerged rock or log.
Monte quickly retied some tippet and a new fly. There was still another fish rising in the seam line. Rick cast upstream of where the fish last rose. A small hydraulic sucked the fly just beneath the water’s surface just as the fish rose again. Did he eat the fly? In the split second that Rick and I stared at where we thought his fly was and where the fish had rose the fish all of a sudden exploded out of the water on our left causing the line to jerk through the water in that direction. He ate it! We missed it! Rick lifted the rod tip in an effort to set the hook but it was too late. The fly became dislodged from the fish’s mouth and sailed back toward us through the air. AGHH. 0 for 2. We studied the seam line for more rising fish but none appeared. Monte in the meantime had tied on 2 small nymphs. He instructed Rick to cast the nymphs down below the ledge we were standing on and “tight line” them around the eddy. First time through, bang 16” rainbow. The taste of rejection and defeat lessened. After 2 or 3 more nice fish we were back in the game. We jumped back in the raft and continued to work our way downstream slinging streamers at the bank and rocks scattered throughout the river’s course. It was another highly successful and enjoyed day.
That night at the lodge Eduardo had arranged for a special evening, as it was sadly our last. After another incredible meal and round of storytelling, Consuelo presented us all with a beret and scarf that the local gaucho’s wear, after which some local musicians entertained us into the evening. As I drifted off to sleep I couldn’t help but feel a bit of sadness knowing that we were departing the next morning for our next adventure, but I knew we would be back again.
I would like to thank Eduardo, Consuelo, Monte, Marcelo, Alex and the rest of the Magic Waters crew for an absolutely wonderful time. The fishing was epic and the hospitality was top notch!
I also want to thank Rick, Dave, Tom, Clark, and Cole for joining me on such a memorable trip. I look forward to our next round of banana empanadas!
We have another hosted trip for February of 2016 scheduled to Magic Waters – contact us to learn more about joining us!