DE
CHILE, PATAGONIA, DECEMBER 2011/ JANUARY 2012

When the winter is coming and the snow falls, it's usually over with fishing in the Tyrol. The rod rings freeze and there is minimum fish activity. The time of waiting or preparing begins. You can bind flies and perfect the fly box. For a true “aficionado” as I am, this period is too long – and so I decided to travel to summer in the southern hemisphere. My destination: Patagonia in Chile.

A JOURNEY WITH OBSTACLES

The journey from Innsbruck via Frankfurt and Madrid to Santiago de Chile takes 20 hours and is really hard.

Glad finally to arrive in Santiago, I must suffer a deep blow at the airport: items of luggage are missing! And of all things, my rod tube and the bag with my clothes and equipment. I complain at the IBERIA counter, and I am assured that the next day I will get the missing luggage. But with all the fuss I miss my connecting flight to Balmaceda, Patagonia, and I must wait for the flight the next day. My frustration reaches its climax as the next day there is still no sign of my baggage. My idea to call the Lodge pays off: the owner reassures me that he has everything necessary and can equip me. A bumpy start – but now it should go off right.

THE SALMO PATAGONIA LODGE AND LUIS ANTUNEZ

Luiz Antunez, the owner of the Lodge, picks me up from the airport in Balmaceda. After 40 minutes we arrive at the Salmo Patagonia Lodge in Coyhaique – and I can hardly believe my eyes: Luiz has more rods and reels as many small fly shops! His contributions to the development of Sage rods have given him all the latest models in all line classes.

My outfit is rather poor: the waders are two sizes too big and the raincoat has also seen better days. But the most important thing is that I can fish!

The Lodge is situated on a hill outside of Coyhaique and is beautiful and with a lot of charm. A real fly fisherman’s lodge, full of trophies and photos of prize fish. After studying in Spain, Luiz built several Fly shops there. Later he went to Chile, where he has lived and operated his lodge for 20 years. He knows the area like the back of his hand; in a radius of a few hundred kilometres really every good body of water is known to him. Of course, he is an excellent fisherman and a gifted caster and is very practical. His wife Lourd and the cook Gloria shall ensure that the culinary aspect is well taken care of.

DAY 1: SIMPSON RIVER, COYHAIQUE

On the day of arrival we fish on the Simpson River in Coyhaique. The wonderful thing about the rivers of Chile is that there are no regulations. They create their own natural river bed. The result of this is flood plains and perfect spawning grounds for fish.

Currently, the activity of the fish is limited to the early morning and late evening hours. With sunset an extreme Caddis slip starts, the water surface is alive and the fish rise.

I catch some rainbow this evening and notice how strong the fish are. Even a rainbow with 45 cm is an effort on 5 series tackle.

DAY 2: LAGO ALTO

Today we drive to the National Park Cerro Castillo. Beautiful scenery, stunning views of glaciers and extreme distances impress me. I'm amazed how beautiful it is in Chile and can understand all those who undertake the long trip to hike and explore nature.

We fish on a small lake, nestled between the mountains in the middle of the forest. Luiz calls it Lago Alto. There we stalk and search 10 to 15 metres ahead for brook trout. A day together with Luiz sight fishing for brook trout – this is a superlative experience.

It is not easy: the wind is strong, and the line gets caught in the high grass. I am gambling away a few good opportunities. But finally I catch four beautiful, powerful brook trout from 40 and 50 cm long with Damsel flies. Then in the evening we fish with dry flies in the dark on the Simpson River. I still catch six trout, three of them in pitch dark with deer hair Caddis – I am fascinated.

DAY 3: BUTTERFLY LAKE

We go to the Butterfly Lake. There are countless nameless lakes in Patagonia, Luis is creative and gives them a name. The lake is situated on the land that Luis purchased several years ago. It is in the midst of the forest, an idyllic location on the lake, where he erected a romantic log cabin. I fish at this place and catch many trout with up to 50 cm. The fish population is so strong, that there was in fact no big challenge.

DAY 4 - 5: RIO DE ORO, NEVER, NEVER LAKE

Señor Luis, the father of the lodge owner, fishes with me today on Rio de Oro. He is fit with his 84 years of age and I can hardly keep up with his pace as we walk for half an hour over steep terrain to the river. He doesn’t mind to be up to the thighs in the water; of course he is an excellent dry fly fisherman. Admirable!

I catch over 20 brook trout, many small, on this day. An unfortunate experience is the sight of the Didymo algae (also called rock snot), which has covered every stone at the lower reaches of the river. Luis tells me that within one year the algae has covered every stone and multiplied extremely. It is destroying the ecosystem. // The day after we fish on the Never, Never Lake. I hook many rainbow trout, many of them, however, quite small.

DAY 6: RIO EMPERADOR, ELF CREEK

Today, fishing on the Rio Emperador is on the agenda. With the grasshopper imitations I catch some good trout with up to a kilo. A beautiful morning with Señor Luis.

In the evening, I go with Luis junior to the much vaunted Elf Creek. You can find nice Video on the Sage-Homepage. The journey takes about two hours and crosses “Pampa Roads” of the Rio de los Elfos and leads into the Z-lake. First we fish with dry flies and I hook really nice trout up to 60 cm long.

Fishing at Elf Creek is a unique experience. At dusk, we march from Z-Lake to Elf Creek. The old forest and the landscape are intriguing. Luis knows every stone at Elf Creek. Hand in hand we work up the creek and fish the main pools. // We fish on the creek in the dark with small Wooly Buggers and catch some great trout with up to 65 cm length. During daytime the trout are so shy in this crystal clear water, that you can land one fish at the most, and then they're all gone. An exceptional experience.

DAY 7 - 8: Z-LAKE, ELF CREEK

Z-lake and Elf Creek have drawn me into their spell, and I would like two more days fishing there. Fishing from the belly boat on the Lake, is a great experience. The fish are very powerful, I catch many nice trout.

DAY 9: TOKJI AND MANIHUELIES RIVER

Patagonia has more and more strong runs of King salmon and therefore Chile has become a fishing destination for these fish. The run takes place in the period from late December to early February. Right at my time and I didn’t want to miss out, of course.

We fish at a pool on Tokji River and straight away I catch a salmon with approximately eight kilos. After half an hour of unsuccessful casting, Luis has the idea of a half hour drive to Manihuelies River.

He knows a great pool – and he wasn’t exaggerating: The pool is impressive. The excitement increases, as we see really big Kings rolling in the pool. Two of them go on my hook and one of them with over 20 kilos. A crowning could not be better!

SUMMARY

Whoever plans a trip in this part of the world, I cannot recommend it highly enough the Salmo Patagonia Lodge and especially Luis Antunez as guide. This trip will be fondly remembered.

PS: The final joke of this journey is that my luggage is brought to the lodge on the day prior to departure – just in time to haul it back home.

ALL IMAGES FROM THIS TRIP