Marty and I just returned from a great trip to the Southern part of Chilean Patagonia. The fishing was great, but the scenery was spectacular. We combined it with a visit to our niece and her family who live in Santiago; we bracketed the fly fishing with time in the city and it turned out to be a very nice mix.
Here are some pics from the trip; primarily the fly fishing portion.
We flew out of Santiago to the Southern-most airport; Balmaceda (just before you arrive at Puerto Arenas; which is at the very tip of Chile; nothing below that except Tierra del Fuego and then Antarctica).
A car met us at the airport and we headed South on the only road out of town. About an hour later we arrived in Cerro Castillo (Castle Mountain) and two things happened:
1. The view of Cerro Castillo was breathtaking:
2. The paved road ended:
The next 6 hours was over a mass of potholes that made us wonder why no one had thought to open a kidney transplant center in the area(?) There certainly must be a market! 300 miles South of Balmaceda is a long ways. But, as I said above, the scenery was spectacular:
And there was always a river and snow-capped mountains nearby:
Here’s a small stream along the way that houses some sea-run browns; we saw them, but our rods were packed away:
We came all this way to fish the Baker and Cochrane rivers; both well-know, locally, for their native populations of Rainbows and Browns. Here’s a shot from the deck of the lodge that we stayed at; Patagonia Baker Lodge. The Baker River flows out of a lake called Largo Bertrand, which is relatively high in mineral content; particularly copper. As a result, the Baker is a turquoise green color and is also known locally as the Green River.
Here’s what you look at from the lodge in the early morning, up the Baker and into the mountains:
This is a shot of what they call the confluence; the point where the Neff River empties into the Baker. The Neff (to the left in the pic) is a glacial river, so it carries quite a bit of volcanic silt along with it; giving it an almost milky white color. From the confluence down the next 2-3 miles, the water is a milky turquoise color, but it clears up rapidly after that.
They fish the Baker, primarily, using catarafts. It’s very swift, full of rapids and gives up some nice fish. Here’s Marty with one of them:
More of the Baker below the confluence:
That bridge is “new”; a couple of years ago if you wanted to cross the Baker in that area, you sat in one of these cable cars (2 people to a car) and used your hands to traverse the river from one side to the other. Want to give it a try? Only about 150 ft. to the water and a current of about 8 knots!
On the other side of the bridge was the Maiten River; a small freestone tributary of the Baker; easy wading and no one; absolutely no one around:
We decided that this bridge was a step too far for the SUV, so we crossed it on foot:
And it also gave me some nice fish, too:
Lunch, South Chilean style:
This is the Cochrane River; another tributary of the Baker; one famed for its large fish. This river is very slow moving, deep, crystal clear and with a lot of vegetation on the bottom. It reminds me of the Spring Creeks in Montana’s Paradise Valley; like Anderson’s and DuPuy’s. It holds a few very large fish and it’s a sight fishing river. You go up on the bank, sight the fish and cast to them; usually with very small nymphs hung off a dry indicator. The wading is a little challenging, since most of the accessible bank is deep mud (about knee deep). It’s slow going.
And after about 6 hours on the water and sighting only 3 fish, we called it a day – skunked on the Cochrane!
We also fished another small freestone tributary of the Baker, called the Chacabucco River. Easy wading, but a long ways from nowhere. We must have walked 4-5 miles to get into it. Not many people fish it, but it’s a treat when you finally get there.
At the end of the accessible portion of this river, there’s a canyon that has a very deep pool. It was very, very good to us in terms of number of fish landed!
Oh, and besides the fishing, the food was great! Rack of lamb, Chilean style:
Chances are that we won’t get back to this place again, but we’re sure glad that we gave it a try! Beautiful country, great fishing and very friendly people.
PS the hotel that we stayed at in Santiago housed the Lollapaloosa Rock concert performers (first time this US show has gone international and Santiago was the first stop). Right below us were a bunch of partying rockers; Bjork, the Foo Fighters, Joan Jett, etc. 56 groups in all over a 2 day performance. I felt 164 years old, not 64!