Well we're back from Chile and a very interesting fly fishing trip into the Lakes Region of Northern Patagonia. It was as great trip! Hope the pics give you a good sense of what the fishing is like down there.
We fished one of the 3 well known rivers in that area and several of its tributaries. The river is call the Petrohue (pronounced "Petro WAY"). Like the other two (the Puelo (Pway LO) and the Yelcho (Yell CHO)), its fed from a large lake that catches the run-off from the mountains (volcanos; the Andes are all vocanic). And, also like the others, it ends up in one of the large gulfs that connects to the Pacific ocean. To be more precise, the Petrohue starts from the Lake of All Saints and empties into the Gulf of Ancud; about 75 miles in length.
We stayed at a lodge on a lake about 30 minutes from the river. When I saw the size of the flies that they use, I was sure that I was in the right place!
Yes, Marty was checking to see if the barb had been pinched down.
The lodge was called Yan Kee Way; which is the correct pronounciation for the lake that the lodge sits on; Lake Llanquihue.
Wherever you look in this area, the scenery is dominated by the volcano that they call Orsono. It's like Mt. Fuji; but in Chilean Patagonia. Over 12,000 feet high and snow-covered all year round. We were there during the equivalent of their September; so Summer was just leaving this place and, as you can see, there's still a lot of snow on top of the volcano! Quite a site and a great backdrop for a day's fishing.
This is one of the tributaries of the Petrohue; the San Antonio. During the Spring it's a very good sized river, after their Summer, which had been very dry, it was reasonably sized for us; we're used to small freestone stream fishing here in the Poconos.
More of the same. This one of Marty with our guide "Ronnie". Easy walking/wading on the San Antonio as you can see.
Sometimes it was fun just to look around.
The area is gorgeous and that day we didn't see another sole; we essentially had the river to ourselves. We hiked in about 2 1/2 miles, fishing upstream as we went along; everything from small pools to good sized runs and, as we moved up towards the volcano's base, lots of steep gradient riffles. And, yes, there were a lot of fish in it! Virtually no fishing pressure at all. One cast / one fish, two casts / two fish, three casts - well, it wasn't quite that good - but it was close. We used 5 wt. rods, floating lines and a dry/dropper setup most of the day with a beadhead pheasant tail, prince or copper john hanging off an elk hair caddis or chernobyl ant. The bigger fish hit the top fly occasionally, but most of them (all Rainbows in the 6-15' range) hit the dropper. They said that there were some good sized Browns in that river, but neither of us hooked a single one. Next time!
This is the main river; the Petrohue. The time of year that we were there, the King Salmon were running up to their spawning grounds, which are either just below the Lake of All Saints (there's a huge waterfall that prevents them from going up into the lake itself) or up the larger tributaries southwest of the falls. I'd never seen one before, but those of you who have know that they're really big fish! Each time one of them jumped, the sound on the way down was like someone had heaved a small car into the water. We didn't have the gear to fish for them, so we shoved off down river in a cataraft; ideal for these types of water.
And one of the Rainbows that couldn't seem to stay off our hooks that day. This one about 14". Our guide, Renaldo, was tops. An absolute fish magnet!
And, more of the river.
We fished 6 wt. rods; mostly sink-tip lines; 200 grains with a streamer. Wooly buggers, picket pins (yes, the picket pin pattern works just fine on Chilean Rainbows!), muddlers, etc. And I caught an occasional fish or two that day.
Lunchtime with the cataraft beached on a small spur off the main river.
And, a little bit more of the river itself.
And Marty with another little Rainbow.
On the third day, which was the best fishing day, I left my camera on in my pocket and the battery completely drained before I could get even a first shot off. So, you'll have to trust me from this point on!
We floated the start of the river; right out of the base of the Lake of All Saints and it was rapids, riffles and runs; but mostly rapids, all the way! We started out with 6 wt. rods and the same streamer set up that we'd use on the lower section of the river the day before; mostly wooly buggers. And it worked! Again, one cast / one fish, another cast / another fish. My projection; the fishing pressure in this whole region is near zero.
We stopped just below one of the sets of rapids, beached the cataraft, switched to 5 wt. rods and a dry/dropper rig and went hunting for those isolated small mid-depth pools that you sometimes find at the base of rapids; the ones that hold the big fish. We'll we found one and fishing across 3 seams into a 15 ft pool, I hit a good dead drift and landed the rainbow of my fishing lifetime so far; about 27"; a big fish and all that I could handle on a 5 wt. rod! I didnt' want to leave - ever!
But, we did leave and we "anchored" for lunch on the side of a huge gorge, where a steep set of rapids exited into some deep pools. There, we fished a rig that I hadn't used before. 5 wt. rods with 9' of type 4 sinking line followed by a double nymph setup. Cast up into the tongue that exited the rapids, keeping the line taught and letting it sink about 12 ft. into the pool yielded big fish after big fish; Browns and Rainbows. I felt like a bear at a fish ladder! What a great spot.
From there is was a nice drift back to the recovery area about a mile further down the stream. With a couple of more nice fish on the way.
Personally, I haven't fished nicer water than we found on the Petrohue in Patagonia. We'll definitelly be going back. Hope you got a taste of it from the above pics. It's a shoe-in for the old adage: "try it, you'll like it!"