Fly Fishing Chile Trip Report: A Wilderness Backcountry Adventure

Chile fly fishing trips overnight river camps

We recently enjoyed a unique adventure into one of the most remote regions of Patagonia to sample a new back country camp with our friends at Magic Waters Lodge. After years of staring at maps of a large but untouched river system our friend Eduardo let us know that they had pioneered a route into the 40 mile long valley using a local gaucho's horses and jet catarafts. Eduardo and his guides hired helicopters to fly in equipment to build an Alaska style out camp 20 in the center of the valley along with several new catarafts outfitted with jet motors. The "river of dreams" sounded too good to be true so we traveled south in March when the glacial melt recedes to visit the magic valley.

As we twist our way up a rough dirt road in central Chilean Patagonia I can feel freedom growing with each turn. I know around one of the next bends is the end of the road and an adventure that has only been experienced by a lucky few so far. In today’s world stepping back into a world of no technology, no cell service, no social media, no talking heads on the news, and no vehicles is not only rare but almost unheard of for most. For me it’s freedom, and a welcomed step back to my young days of life living in a wall tent high in the wilderness of Wyoming. The only thing that matters is what’s in front of you and how you handle yourself. Take a deep breath and listen. You hear that? Yeah me too, nothing, yet everything. The sounds that actually matter, the natural world.

We round a bend and climb a steep hill, at the crest I can see the old hand built gate with horses tied to various posts and trees. The moment is here. We step out of the trucks and are immediately met by the local Gaucho, Jorge and his son. Jorge eagerly shakes our hands with a large smile, he’s excited, by my standards that means I should be really excited. Jorge lives at the end of the trail and where we are headed, deep into the backcountry and off the grid in this remote valley. This valley is the land before times. Only a few gauchos live in this immense valley, cutting their way through the overgrown forest to forge a hard life living off the land farming and ranching. Jorge will pack us and our gear in the two to two-and-a-half-hour horseback ride to where we are able to meet the river and continue further up valley to the camp via boat.

Packing our gear

He quickly and expertly divides our bags and gear among the pack horses and cinches it down tight. He and one of the guides, Jose, go over the ride and what to expect. This is no simple ride down a trail while you enjoy the views and the novelty of being on a horse. This is a serious ride through some harsh country and terrain. If you or the horses don’t handle themselves appropriately the consequences can be serious. We are informed there are a few spots where it can be wise to get off and walk while leading your horse due to very steep terrain and very rocky conditions. Thankfully we are all comfortable on horseback and have ridden plenty but the serious undertone of how it is presented leaves us wondering what exactly lies ahead. 

Horseback Ride

We mount up and start the ride climbing up out of the river valley passing through some small clearings that provide a beautiful view of the large remote river meandering its way towards the Fjords not much further downstream. With Jorge in the lead setting the pace the horses work hard to carry us up and over the rise. The trail is cut into the earth sometimes so deep my knees are scraping against the edges of the soil banks. I wonder how many decades Jorge and his family has been riding in and out of this valley for supplies and trailing cows to market cutting through the earth’s crust. It hasn’t rained much in the past few weeks so the trail is what they are say as “dry” but the mud is still half way up the horse’s legs at times, sounding like a suction cup getting pulled away from a surface each time they step and step again. We are now high above the river the river but can hear it crushing through the canyon below, sounding quite viscous at times noting that there must be some serious whitewater down there somewhere. As we crest the top of the small pass we can see far to the south with thick rainforest endlessly reaching out to the tall ridges of rock and glaciers in the distance. So far, the ride has been fairly normal other than the mud but with the opening I can see the valley narrow ahead and know somewhere in the thick forest we need to continue in that direction. At times, small creeks flow across the trail and quickly tumble down the steepness towards the river below. A chasm appears through the undergrowth just to the downhill side of the trail. I can’t see the bottom. One slip or misstep off the edge of the trail would be your end. The trail goes from dirt and mud to large unstable rocks and more mud. Things are getting interesting. 

View of the lower valley on the ride in

My horse comes to a stop to assess the trail and his path in front of him, which there really isn’t. Just a large, wet steeply sloping boulder. The next step is a drop of about three feet. My horse takes a deep breath in preparation. Heels down, toes up, legs out, lean back. He steps off the drop with both front feet turning it into a leap of faith. I know my horse has done this before so I place my trust in him. I can hear his hooves land on more rock followed by his hind hooves. Another precarious lunge downhill over more slippery rock. Each horse picking its own slightly varied path through the narrow cut between the giant boulder and the thick forest. We make it without incident only to encounter another narrow, steep, muddy, rocky drop within a few moments. I pull my horse to a stop at the top to along the horses in front of us a moment to allow some space before we drop off the edge. This one is longer and muddier but the horses navigate it expertly. 

The first of three interesting trail sections

I spent several years working pack trips into the wilderness of the northern Rocky Mountains and this was unlike anything we rode, I would venture a guess that most outfitters would not utilize this trail on a regular basis because of the danger and hardship placed upon the horses, but Jorge and his horses hardly batted any eye or stopped for a breather. Jose announced 2 down, 1 to go. We wander our way through the dense forest still within ear shot of the rushing water somewhere below us. At times the forest growth creates a tunnel of intertwined branches and vines that are just over our heads, blocking out the sunlight making it almost dark for short periods. 

Second section, Steep!

Up ahead I see Jorge bobbing back and forth in rhythm with his horse but then suddenly disappear over the edge of another steep decline in the trail. Here we go again. Trust the horse, heels down toes up, legs out, lean back. Again, all the horses step with confidence and deliver us to the bottom of the steep trench safe and sound. We are now through the thick of it and the earth flattens out under and ahead of us. The forest starts to slowly open up into meadows and the river appears to our left and the sound of rushing water is gone. You can feel the horses picking up their pace due to the now easy walking and they know they are close to home. 

Final gnarly section

Jorge’s small cabin appears up ahead on a sloping hillside overlooking the river. A few other horses and cows graze lazily in the meadow while the river silently flows nearby. Unbroken wilderness in every direction. And to think this valley was slated to be drowned by a massive hydroelectric dam placed somewhere in the canyon that we had just ridden around and through. Thankfully it was dismissed (for now) and here we are starting 5 days of trout fishing adventure in this magnificent slice of earth.

Into the river valley!

Jorge leads us down to the river’s edge where 2 cata-rafts with jet motors are chained to the bank. Okay we have a bit of modern technology on our side still. Jorge unloads our gear from the pack horses and we transfer it to the boats for the roughly 45 minute boat ride up river to where camp is located. Andi our other guide has not arrived yet as we made good time on the ride not needing to dismount and walk through any of the sketch terrain, so Jorge will shuttle us up river until we meet Andi, Jose captains the other boat.

Trading horses for boats.

As we motor upstream against the mighty current we can see the valley expanding with each turn in the river. The excitement builds in regard to the fishing as we can now see what the river size, flow, clarity, and structure is. All very promising indeed! Up ahead camp appears with the green roofs of the tents just up and off the rivers edge.

River camp

Over the past several months Andi, Eduardo and the rest of the Magic Waters team has designed, prepped and then helicoptered in the materials and boats for the camp. Andi then constructed 3 sleeping tents and 1 cook/dinning tent based on a wooden truss design he came up with when building a greenhouse back at his home. The roofs are insulated and tarped with custom made tarps sewn locally. Wooden floors, actual doors and zippered/screened windows, along with cots, pads, and sleeping bags make for a comfortable if not luxurious accommodation. I never said we were roughing it under a tarp and sleeping on the ground.

Luxury back country river camp

Located behind the tents a stick framed bath and shower house is constructed with on-demand propane heated hot water! For having just constructed the camp all things were considered and provided for. They have nailed it and it will only get better as they have more time to put the finishing touches on it. Luxury camping indeed.

Warm-up fish

We quickly unload our gear and scramble into our waders and rig rods as we still have the better part of the afternoon and evening to go fish. We excitedly jump back in the boats and navigate our way further upstream giving ourselves enough water to cover in the few hours before the sun sets. To our knowledge no other anglers have had the opportunity to fish this remote river valley especially with the addition of a boat. Andi, Eduardo, and Jose have fished parts of the river here only a couple times in the past few months and only one other small group has been into camp before it was fully constructed. Opportunities to fish truly new and unfished waters in today’s world is far and few, so we were thanking our lucky stars that this opportunity was upon us. Something that will be cherished and remember.

 Floating above camp

Jose shuts the motor off at the corner of a big bend in the river where a large eddy meets the current and a long slow run starts. Cole pulls plenty of line from his reel and false casts his large black streamer towards the eddy line. It didn’t take many more casts until Cole was hooked up on a wild and healthy 20” brown trout which he quickly lands and admires before sliding it back into the glacier tinted water. If this was going to be the game we were in for a real treat. We continued down the long slow run working the bank while Andi and Clark floated slightly ahead of us working the opposite bank. The structure of sunken drift wood and downed trees along the bank proved for amazingly fun fishing. So many fishy lies you couldn’t hit them all and in the majority of the locations your fly landed or swam through it produced a take or at least a swipe and flash. Not knowing fish numbers for this river, it sure seemed high. It helped that these fish had never seen a fly before too. The grins and laughter never slowed and neither did the action as we floated back downstream to camp which we reached just as the last light started to fade into black.

A nice wild brown trout

We were greeted by Fernando the camp chef how had appetizers ready and a large fire roaring on near the edge of camp. We enjoyed freshly baked bread, local steaks, Chilean salad, and roasted potatoes while seated at a hand built picnic table next to the fire. Fernando would keep us well feed and our wine glasses full during our stay. His rolling laugh and endlessly happy go lucky attitude made for an always jubilant camp atmosphere. His cooking skills for a camp chef are unparalleled, he is a master of the kitchen to say the least. Whether it was a basic packed sandwich lunch or a full-blown Patagonia grilled shore lunch the food was superb. We ended  our evening sipping wine by the fire under the stars of central Patagonia trading tails of past fishing adventure and day dreams of future adventures, the closest of which would arrive first thing in the morning.

Enjoying the remote stars of Chile

Upper River

We rose to no wakeup call or alarm. Only the light of the sunrise and the sounds of the nearby birds chatting. Hot coffee, more freshly baked bread, and a hearty egg scramble fueled us for the day. We geared up and loaded an extra can of gas in the boats. The plan was to motor to the absolute upper most point we could get a boat before the river disappeared into a canyon which had some very serious whitewater that we couldn’t get the boats up and a supposed waterfall that only a handful of people have every been able to find. As we motored up river high mountain peaks, with glaciers clung to their slopes, were slipping in and out of the clouds high above the valley. The dense forest never broke continuing the entire length of the valley which turned out to be roughly a two-hour boat ride. We passed one lone gaucho watching over a small herd of cattle. He waved enthusiastically as we passed, seemingly excited to see another human being even if only in passing.

Motoring up river to explore never before fished water

As we got further up the valley it started to close in and large cliff walls stared to rise directly from the currents of the river. We finally rounded a bend where we could see a swift drop in the river and small rapid crushing against the opposite bank. This was our spot, there was not getting a boat through that current pushing against the cliff wall with all its might. So, we pulled the boat to the inside soft water and stepped out on a small beach and group of large boulders.

End of the road

Cole and Clark worked the inside seam and soft water with their streamers. Each pulling multiple browns in the 18”-20” range. Most on consecutive casts one after another. One quality rainbow was landed while the rest were all brown trout. After they each landed multiple fish in only a few minutes and the bite slowed we determined we must have hooked all the fish the run given their eagerness to consume our flies so readily. We enjoyed the view and took in the remoteness of the location. Andi had been here once before during their exploration of the valley only months before. There was no way to hike here, only by boat and from Andi’s exploration of the canyon from the upriver side no way to float in, so our route via the motor was the only. We were the first to have ever cast a fly in this location and those fish had never been lifted from the water before. Completely untouched and remote. Words can’t describe how cool that is and feeling it impresses upon you. Sure, we had the pleasure of modern mechanics to get there but it’s still damn amazing. 

Unexplored water and wild trout

From this point the only direction was down river. The fishing program was easily determined, one boat fishes one bank the other fishes the other bank. Fly choice we found was equally as easily determined. We continually rotated through various patterns and sizes streamers, all of which worked, large foam dry flies, poppers, and mouse patterns, again all of which worked, even flirted with nymphing a few times just out of curiosity and of course caught fish as well. Just when we thought we could catch fish on any fly we tied on Cole pulled a 4” bass pattern from his fly box, a green, yellow and white foam frog pattern. He gave it his all for the better part of half an hour before he succumbed to defeat that the fish just weren’t going to commit to it given that the rest of us continued to catch fish. Might be a first in my fishing career that there was only one fly in my box that didn’t work on a given day.

Only one direction to head - down river

Fernando setup lunch under a large tree with a few fallen logs under as if it were meant to be a dinning location. The overhanging tree sheltered us from the drizzling rain that had been falling most of the day so far, and the fire warmed our bodies while the steaks, sausages and biscuits sizzled over the coals. We all compared notes and settled on the fact that the best producer so far and most fun was the mouse patterns. It was a rare that we would skitter a mouse through a pocket or over a riffle and not produce an aggressive strike from an eager fish. It was pretty much nonstop action through the whole day, if we hadn’t gotten a strike over a few minute period then it was deemed “slow”. We paired our wood grilled steaks with some delicious Chilean red wine while we sat on the ancient downed trees and watched the rain fall out over the river.

Classic Chilean river lunch

The afternoon continued much the same as the morning had only less fly changing. The mouse fishing was just too much fun. We were piling 12”-18” fish into the net one after another it seemed like. Always hoping for the “big” one to emerge from its hide and inhale our fly. This was the day and this was the place. When you get to experience a day like this you don’t count fish, you don’t measure fish, you just respect each one for the amazing creature they are and gently turn them loose and go after the next one. I’m not going to throw numbers around on number of fish hooked or landed other than it was a good day of catching and an even better day of fishing.

Spring Creek and Tributary River

The day’s plan was to explore the nearby spring creek in the morning and then a medium sized tributary. Fernando packed us some sandwiches and snacks and Andi threw in a few beers and off we went hiking out the back of the camp towards the nearby spring creek. In typical spring creek fashion, it was going to be technical casts to tight spots among the weeds, stumps and overhanging grasses. I can’t say the fishing style was technical as we were throwing streamers and mouse patterns again. As we approached a small pool Andi noted that it seemed off color from the last time he fished it but we wouldn’t be deterred or mind in the least. Cole spotted a rise on the surface, then again. He approached and cast his mouse pattern a few feet above it and twitched it, a small brown trout did it’s best to fit it in its mouth as Cole set the hook sending the small fish flying back towards us. We laughed as both of us had expected a larger fish. As we stood survey the water upstream from us something caught my eye only just next to us in a small current. I looked down to see a large orange brown trout tailing in and out of the weeds. We froze in hopes it wouldn’t see us. Cole smoothly flicked the fly into the small current hoping to entice the brown to take. But as the weeds waved back and forth the brown disappeared, we never had a chance.

The small camp spring creek

Downstream of us Clark gave a hoot, he was hooked up with a nice brown of about 16” that was jumping all over the place. We continued up stream twitching and stripping our flies through the likely water. Every now and then a strike would be produced but the fish seemed less than interested. The water continued to seem more and more off color, almost a reddish-brown tint now. We decided to walk a bit and see if clarity would get better or worse, and it got decidedly worse, but still fishable. We reached two small lagoons were both Clark and Cole were able connect with half and dozen fish or so. All of quality size, especially for the small stature of the spring creek. Some movement caught my eye upstream but as I looked it disappeared. I studied the area for a few moments before a good-sized otter and her young pup surfaced for air. She studied me back warily, continuing downstream with her pup clinging to her back. We watched them work their way through the small lagoons and around the moss beds for a few minutes before they dove one last time and disappeared. We speculated that perhaps the off-color tint of the water was from the otters digging for food or possible digging a den further upstream.

Lagoons at the top of the spring creek

We headed away from the spring creek in search of the trail to the other nearby tributary river. The forest and bushes are extremely dense so finding the right path can be a bit of a maze. We tried a few routes but had to turn back. I decided to crawl through a few small openings in hopes of finding the route and succeeded after walking through a few small openings and then reaching the med sized river. I whistled, hollered and listened. Nothing. I was alone and unsure of what direction the others had gone. I waited a few minutes and whistled more. Still nothing. I knew I was at least close to the right place because I was on the river as planned so figured I’d find them sooner or later. I waited a bit longer before deciding that they probably thought I was lost so I better retrace my steps and track them down. I worked my way back through the thick brush and forest stopping to whistle from time to time but it was only me and nature. I exited roughly where I went in and looked for foot prints but couldn’t track them. So, I headed back towards camp just to be safe. Nobody around. Well back up the trail to find some foot prints. Thankfully it’s a rainforest with wet mud on any wildlife trail so I eventually struck their tracks and followed it until I came upon them enjoying their lunch not but 50 yards from where I had been. Glad to see they were so concerned about my where abouts. They laughed and tossed me a sandwich and beer and headed up stream to make their first casts in more unexplored water. 

Med sized trib and more unexplored water

The river was cold clear water you could tell was coming from the high country not far off. It reminded me of some of the rivers I had fished in New Zealand but not quite as clear. We played leap frog as we worked our way up the river jumping from pool to pool and run to run searching for fish. In each location, we found a grab or two and landed a few fish but it didn’t seem to produce like the main river, which seemed weird because it looked amazingly fishy with great flows. We continued upstream hoping to break the code or find the honey hole. The edges started to close in forming a canyon and the walls got tighter and tighter until we couldn’t continue any further. It was about the end of the day anyway so we said our goodbyes to another uncharted stretch of river and a few lovely wild trout and hiked back to camp. After the hiking it seemed like a good time to test out the shower house and enjoy some hot water before a relaxing meal and more Chilean wine.

Working a likely seam for wild trout

Above Camp

We enjoyed our coffee and breakfast as the clouds broke and the sunlight poked through. A welcomed feel after a few days of continuous rain and mist. We headed up river again to fish the section of river between camp and where we had finished fishing 2 days before. The sun was warm and bright which we appreciated but the fish for the most part did not. We worked hard for takes in the sunlight but as soon as a cloud would roll by or we’d drift into the shade of the forest the fish would erupt on our flies. Talk about a major generality of fishing being true! Overcast is better than sun. The river is a large freestone, so the old adage was true as ever, at least today. We continued to catch plenty of fish skating our mice patterns through the structure but was definitely better with the clouds or in the shady.

Floating through the camp section

By the time lunch rolled around it was downright getting hot so, we took our time and enjoyed the BBQ and beers before settling down for a nice siesta in the shade. We let midday settle and the sun fade slightly before heading back onto the river where we settled into our routine from the morning. Working hard in the sun for our takes and getting more takes than we could handle in the shade or when clouds rolled by. The sun sunk towards the horizon providing some great evening light until it dipped behind the mountains to the west at which time the light switch flipped on for the fish. The river seemed to again be brimming with eager trout ready to feed. We were now within the magic hour and every fish we crossed wanted a mouse. We drifted into camp as the stars were starting to dot the sky. We enjoyed our last dinner in the valley of freedom savoring each bite and sip of wine, knowing tomorrow we would head back to the outside world and the bombardment of texts and emails from being out of service for the past 4 days. 

The magic hour

The Ride Out

We rose early to dense fog and thick air. We packed our gear and had a hearty breakfast before loading the boats and motoring downstream. Sadly we would not get to fish our way downstream to Jorge’s place because we were slated to fish on the way back to Magic Water Lodge arriving in time for a late dinner. Jorge was waiting for us with horses saddled and ready. Again he quickly and expertly packed our gear onto the horses in custom homemade rope panniers. I grew up on a ranch and horseback but I have never enjoyed a saddle as much as I did the old defunct metal frames with a couple sheep skins draped over them, I might have to rethink my tack when I get home.

Prepping for the ride back to civilazation

The ride out through the thick fog was surreal. We were already in a seemingly forgot place and this just added to the shroud of mystery of it all. The trail back up and over was more easily ridden going up than it had been coming in and on the downside. The horses had to work harder hauling us up the steep inclines riddled with large uneven stones, but it was definitely less sketchy. We rounded out to the top of the small pass that was above the steep river canyon just as the sun started to burn through and break up the fog. It was another beautiful day to be in central Patagonia. 

The fog lifts

Back at the trail-head we bid our farewell to Jorge and Jose, thanking them for any amazing experience that will be forever cherished as an unrivaled adventure to a unexplored river valley while living in the lap of luxury of wooden floored tents, cots, and fresh baked bread.

Fishing back to Magic Waters Lodge

Our old friend Monte was there at the trail head to pick us up and take us fishing on our way back to Magic Waters Lodge. The lodge was a good two plus hours so we had some options for fishing on the way back. Monte had decided on a small wade fish river we had fished in a previous trip to Magic Waters. With a healthy population of fish and some large brown trout we were more than happy to hit this particular stretch of river again. We arrived at the access just about lunch time so enjoyed our sandwiches and a beer while we rigged rods and pulled on our boots. We left the waders in the car as the temps were plenty warm to do some wet wading. With three of us fishing the plan was one nymph rod, one streamer rod, and one dry fly rod. When wade fishing with good friends its always a pleasure to group fish and stick together taking turns on a per fish or per run basis. The comradery that goes along with fishing together is as good or better than the fishing itself in my opinion. 

Revisting great water with great friends

The last time I had been here I had the pleasure of landing a gorgeous 26” male brown that eat my streamer. So my hopes were high that one of us would get a good one. If not it was a beautiful day under the southern sun. Monte headed out with us and walked us through the first few runs and laid out the next couple of bends before heading back to the truck to run the shuttle up to where we would hike/fish our way to. The water was low and clear but very fishy looking. I started out by nymphing a deep blue run with a nice submerged undercut bank. It only took a few drifts before I came tight on a 16-17” strong and feisty brown trout. That set our tone for the afternoon as we worked our way up stream trading off fishing turns as we went, making for a very enjoyable day before eventually reeling up and hiking past the remaining water to the meet point and our ride back to the lodge in time for dinner.

Healthy little brown trout

Upper Paloma System

This is one of my favorite river systems I have ever come across. The way it flows from headwaters to ocean and the character changes it goes through is amazing. There are multiple natural lakes it flows in and out of, all natural, all connected wild and free. I have now fished all but a few sections. One stretch is an unfloatable whitewater canyon, another is the very upper reaches of the headwater tributaries, and the last is the lowest reach where it meets 2 other larger rivers and finishes its journey to the fjords and Pacific Ocean.

Lago Azul and an upper tributary

Today we would be headed up high in the system where a secession of 3 lakes and short river stretches in between form a variety of fishing opportunities. Lago Azul being the main attraction mainly because of the incredible color (and good fishing). The only way to access this area is via jet cataraft the road ends at the private put in that they have gained access to with the local owner. We wound our way up river and across one lake, through another short river stretch and into Lago Azul. We continued to motor about half way up the lake before find a nice cove out of the breeze that was blowing from west. Smaller streamers on a light sink tip line was the technique of choice for us and the fish tended to agree. It didn’t take long for each of us to hook up and land several nice brown trout along with the odd rainbow.

Lago Azul

We paralleled the shoreline, fishing the bank structure, as it snaked in and out of the tree lined bank and steep cliff faces that lined the water’s edge. With our lunch spot only a bit further down the lake we continued to fish until we reached the small point with a little stream flowing into the lake. This little stream flows for about 50 yards before its abruptly interrupted by a large 100’ cascading waterfall. The little creek can have some very nice fish in it but today it was vacant. It wasn’t a bad trade off though, relaxing on the driftwood and gravel beach in the sunshine enjoying a beautiful view while we eat our lunch and took a short siesta.

Cascading water fall with wild trout underneath

After lunch we continued fishing our way up the eastern shoreline with steady action on the streamers and a few opportunities throwing dries and cruising fish. We eventually reached the top end of the lake where another very short section of stream connected to the next lake up. Carlos parked the boat and Cole grabbed the dry fly rod with a small beetle pattern tied on. He immediately spotted a nice brown rising along the rock wall of the opposite bank. All it took was a few false casts and a short drift and the brown charged ahead to eat the beetle. A healthy brown of about 20”. The water was gin clear with only a hint of glacier blue, so we spotted 2 more browns in the short stretch. Both of which fell for the beetle pattern.

Big brown trout in clear water

Sight fishing in clear water

At this point in the day the sun was getting low to the horizon and we were many miles up two lakes and a few sections of river so had a long push back to the trucks before driving home to the lodge for another delicious Chilean dinner followed by a soak in the new woodfired hot tub under the bright stars of the southern hemisphere.

Lower Paloma System

Our last day in the wonderland of Chile trout fishing was upon us. We were headed to a section of river about 10 miles below where we had been the previous day. Today we would fish more in the river than the lake before motoring up a short stretch of river and into another lake that drains into the system. Here the river can produce some large fish while the lake has a very healthy population of solid fish which patrol the reed lined shore edges and sand bottom flats, making for a salt water like experience. The two river sections have amazing structure and as I mentioned some shots and some hefty browns.

Throwing big dries to wild trout

Monte and I were rolled out ahead on the river and he had me casting a larger beetle pattern. Most of the dry fly fishing this time of year is all terrestrial based and they can have an abundance of beetles so it’s always a good choice. During my first false casts I asked Monte if a dead drift, twitch, or strip was better? He quickly answered, “Fish it like a streamer!” Well, okay then. I can and will a happily do that. I wish I always had the chance to fish a large dry to quality fish that liked it stripped across the surface aggressively. That’s the best of all trout fishing worlds! I laid out a long cast to the river’s edge and immediately stripped it across the surface aggressively. This was going to be fun! A large brown flashes out from nowhere and tries to chase down my fly, so I stop striping in hopes it strike it once it catches it. As my fly dead drifts the brown losses interest and turns away. Monte instructs me to just keep striping next time. Only a few more casts later and another brown charges off the bank and after my fly, this time I keep stripping. His nose breaks the surface and mouth closes around the fly, I strip and the fly comes out of its gapping mouth, he surges ahead and eats it again, I strip again. The fly comes loss once more but I keep stripping, the fish won’t quit either, it chases it down and eats it again. This time I let it settle before stripping again to set the hook. Got him! He tailwalks down river and jumps, throwing the hook loose. I couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous that all was. The technique, the fishing eating the fly 3 times as it tried to escape and then getting loose on a backflip jump. I could have finished the day and trip right there. So great!

Casting big dries to big fish under big mountains

Monte pulls us to the other bank where some shade is casting out over the river and a set of downed logs have created some very fishy structure. I launch the fly into the shade and start stripping it back across the surface causing a major amount of disturbance in the slower water. Just as the fly reaches the end of the shadow where the sunlight is again a large flash darts out creating a massive swirl under my fly. Neither Monte or I got a great look at the fish but we both could tell that was a much more substantial trout. He steered into the bank just below the area where the fish had come from. I waded up into position to take another shot at the fish while Monte climbed along the bank peering through the openings in the vegetation to try to get a location on the fish. He couldn’t see it but instructed me on where to place the firsts casts. We worked the area over well but never produced another swirl or swipe. Just then Clark, Cole, and Carlos drifted by working a beetle and mouse pattern. I can tell by the smiles on their faces the morning is ticking by in wonderful fashion and I’m not the only way having too much fun. We continue drifting down to the merger with the other river section from the outlet of another lake and kick on the motor to get up the river and into the lake. Monte and Carlos steer us across the lake towards a nice pebble beach and some shade for lunch and a siesta. A few beers and some sunshine made for a very relaxing last lunch on the water in beautiful Patagonian Chile.

Lunch and Siesta under the sun

Once we let the sun fade a bit we headed out to sight cast to cruising lake fish. We saw plenty and caught our fair share but you could tell the bright sun had them on edge and wary. Even the most delicate and well placed casts would send a fish streaking away. But plenty of nice fish ended up in the net over the course of the afternoon, and some hefty ones to boot. I have said this in the past but if our lake fishing was like this back-home I would do a hell of a lot more of it, not that we have bad stillwater fishing. But just the style of flats and reeds and structure paired with clear water is an absolute blast.

Salt water like trout fishing

Gin clear water and trophy trout

As the sun faded to the horizon and the last few rays of light graced our final casts I was left in awe of just how amazing a world we live in and how special the time is here spending it with the people we enjoy. As times change these types of adventures and experiences only become more precious and I will cherish this one forever. 

Last casts in the last light


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