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Patagonia, Chile! (really long report)

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Patagonia, Chile! (really long report)

Postby Siessmack » Fri Jan 13, 2012 1:41 am

Returned back stateside Monday night after a 17 day trip to Chile. My sister has lived in Santiago for the past year and I took advantage of the opportunity to see and fish a part of Patagonia while visiting her and her husband. I arrived Christmas Day in Valivia to meet up with my sister Jenn, her husband Henry, his parents and our German friend Axel.

In the first 6 days of the trip, I traveled through the Lake District of Chile (northern Patagonia) from Valdivia to Pucon with stops in the town of Panguipulli and city of Temuco. We ate Christmas dinner at the famous Kuntsmann Brewery, hiked Volcon Villarica, hung out on a volcanic sand beach and hiked the 1500 year old El Cani forest reserve among other activities.

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Christmas dinner…. The Chileans sure do like big meals! I was able to take down half of this sandwich

Now on to the fishing…

Jenn had expressed some interest in doing some fly fishing with me on the trip, so on day four we booked Jack Trout for a full day float near the town of Panguipulli. (Jenn learned how to fly fish along with me with a little help from TLT back in the day.) Jack guides in Mt. Shasta, California in the summer and resides and guides in the Lakes District in Chile with his wife in the Chilean summer. We fished a small private lake with a 4 mile river float below it for the day. This water is owned by Yugoslavian who is on the Forbes top 50 wealthiest men list. He owns the lake, an awesome trout river, several thousand acres, 3 houses, a castle and even a volcano. Not too shabby. Jack had said that the trout fishing was hot on streamers at the moment. We tossed 6 weights with sinking tips and a variety of streamers. I chose a purple woolly bugger to start out with and caught this teeny fish on my third cast!

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She was 25" and 8 or 9 pounds, the biggest fish of the entire trip! Needless to say this ruined me for a bit, I was expecting lots of fish this size the rest of the day.

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The weather heated up and pushed 85 I'd guess, extremely hot for Chile. This brought out the Tabanos, large black flies that are very slow but buzzing your head constantly all day long. I must have smashed 75 of them, but they are extremely strong and often fly off. Chilean kids will catch them, impale them on tooth pics or grass and light it on fire then watch them fly off like natural bottle rockets. Cruel, but you want to do it to them after being bitten a few times.

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Jenn hooked a few fish chucking streamers but lost them before switching to one of my polar fiber minnows and hooking into something big. Turned out to be this 20" bow!

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We broke for a streamside lunch and I got to examine some of the local crustaceans. We saw a trout in shallow water suck down one of these. They are everywhere, wish I had brought my crayfish flies!

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We fished all the way through afternoon but had no luck in the extreme heat. I couldn't even get them on nymphs. Luckily the sun stays up till 10:30 p.m. so we were able to fish till 8:30. As soon as the heat cooled off the fish turned back on and I landed 6 more fish in the last hour with Jenn getting another.

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We had an absolute blast with Jack and I look forward to hopefully fishing with him again. For some reason the fish wouldn't touch his streamers, they all ate mine! I think he was a bit frustrated by that, but he said he'll definitely be tying up purple buggers! Jenn had the catch of the day trying to false cast the shooting tip from the front of the boat. After buzzing numerous flies (not the tabanos) past my ear in the morning, in the afternoon she hooked me in the elbow, forearm, cheek and bounced one off of my head before I asked her kindly to spare me and switch positions in the boat. I couldn't complain about having to duck, I took it as redemption for me hitting her in the head with a baseball when we were kids. In reality its great having a sister who asks to go fly fishing! Jack said he had never seen someone laugh after pulling a barbed streamer from their arm and cheek.

New Years Eve, I flew to Balmaceda where I was met by Poala and Fena of the Paloma River Lodge. We drove the hour and a half ride to the lodge where I met the lodge owner Chris Price, cook Ivonne and a couple from Alabama, Rebecca and Alex Anderson, staying at the lodge as well. Located an hour due east from Coyhaique, a city of 10,000 with several fishing lodges, Paloma is in the middle of nowhere. No internet or cell service, just the mountains, rivers, lakes and farms of the few nearby gauchos. The Paloma River runs a few hundred yards from the front of the lodge.

We opened the week and closed out 2011 by fishing the small river near the lodge called Rio Bocaleon, or Mouth of the Lion. It's loaded with bows 10-14". I caught 3 on my first 3 casts tossing dries with a big nymph dropper. We fished for two hours and caught a dozen fish, the biggest being a 17 inch bow, my last fish of 2011. After the first of many fantastic dinners, New Years Eve consisted of a low key celebration with Pisco sours, the official drink of Chile, and an early ( 1 a.m.) bedtime for this fisherman.

Sunday Fena and I took the jetboat up to Lago Elizalde. The water in this lake was incredibly clear, you could easily see fish on the bottom 8-10 feet deep. We sight nymphed along reed beds for two hours. I opened 2012 with a skinny 20 inch bow! A few more smaller fish later and one big brown lost in the reeds and we started dry fly fishing till lunch. Only one small fish came to hand on this extremely windy morning. I streamer fished the afternoon and caught 7-8 browns up to 21". We ended the day drifting the short 1 mile river flowing out of the lake. It's deep, full of logs and holds extremely big fish. The banks are covered in Chilean bamboo. This is where things get really interesting. Last winter the area had its 15 year mouse hatch. The bamboo blooms, field mice begin to feed, and then they start to reproduce. FAST. There is so much food they literally are everywhere. I was told the mice running around all over the mountain side looks like water. Eventually they run out of food and begin eating each other and livestock and anything in local homes. Apparently it was not pretty to see. Needless to say the fish love eating the mice and at this point would still key in on mice flies. Out came my mouse patterns and I landed a nice bow and really dark 19" brown on the mice flies. The fish took those over a size 12 Elk Hair Caddis dropper, even though there was a caddis hatch.

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Tuesday we floated the Paloma River. I caught 20 fish before lunch, mostly small 10-17 inchers. They couldn't ignore a yellow and black size 8 Chernobyl with 3 sets of legs. However, I only landed two after lunch, catching a bad case of the crappy hookset. Evidently when I trout fish now I only strip set and when I salt water fish I only trout set. TLT can attest to witnessing this problem. Either way it was a great day. Except for the lost Brown that was easily 20" that ate a mouse fly. I made up for it later though.

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Wednesday we fished Lago Paloma and Lago Desierto upstream of the lodge and the headwaters that flow in Rio Paloma. The water was an incredible blue color. Fishing was slow until post lunch. We tied on big Lincoln Logs (a Green River, Utah fly similar to a Chernobyl Ant) and the dry fly fishing turned on. All of the fish were 18" plus browns. There were lots of bugs floating in the surface film blown into the water by the high winds and the trout were eagerly sipping them up. I even saw one eat a Cantaria beetle, then swim over and eat my Lincoln Log! Cantaria Beetles are huge beetles that hatch in Patagonia and are a favorite food of trout. I brought some patterns on size 2 Mustad bass hooks and Fena said they were small for the naturals. I caught at least 15 fish that day, the biggest being a 21" buck that I sight cast to. Fena missed a 23" brown that one of his other clients had previously caught. It was fun to switch positions for a while with the guide and row to put him in position to cast. Even the missed fish were fun!

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Thursday we fished Lago Elizalde again. We were set to drift another river but due to a vehicle break down couldn't so we were forced to fish an amazing lake again. Darn. This day was unreal. It was much less windy and the fish were much more spooky. We finally hooked up to a 22" brown sight fished on a nymph, then an 18 inch brown on a small streamer I coined Fena's Verde Diablo. It's a small 2 inch long bead head streamer that imitates a leach. The 18 incher turned out to be the 2nd smallest fish of the day. We caught 9 more browns on the Green Devil, including the prettiest fish of the trip, a 24 inch brown. We finished off the day wade fishing the short river again, this time the big boys were all crushing dries. In particular they enjoyed my purple Chernobyl ant. Fena and I had a double hookup of a rainbow and bow both over 20 inches. Unfortunately my brown came unbuttoned but Fena landed his bow. We caught several more fish, all over 20" and ended the day with Fena hooking a fish that pulled out most of my backing on my Ross Evolution. HUGE fish, but it headed straight downstream to the logs and disappeared.

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Big bow

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24 incher...

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Loves big, purple Chernobyls

Friday was extremely windy, I'm talking 30-40 mph. We drifted the 3rd section of the Paloma anyways. Fishing was "slow" with a ton of smallish (8-13") fish hooked on the Cantaria beetle patterns. The big boys would not cooperate however and I should have been throwing a 7 weight with the mouse fly. My 6 weight and Bass taper line weren’t enough. My 5 weight felt like a 3 weight noodle in the wind. We caught lots of little fish on beetle patterns and frankly I was a bit relieved to see the final bend round the corner. My arm hurt like hell from all of the fish the last few days and trying to cast in the wind. I was also mad from missing 3 straight hook sets on big fish with the beetle. You have to let them eat the big flies for several seconds before hook setting and I simply couldn't shake the buck fever. Fena suggested I try the mouse one last time. He was right, a big brown crushed Mickey as I swam it out from under a log. My hook set was solid finally and 10 minutes later we were at the boat pull out landing a 23"brown buck, the best fish of the trip!

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Friday Fena and I fished the Rio Blanco for smaller trout 5 minutes from the Balmaceda Airport. This was much like fishing spring creeks in Montana, long delicate casts. Numerous fish came to hand, the biggest hitting 16" before my flight back to Santiago at 5.

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My 7 days at Paloma was the best trout fishing I've ever done, and may potentially ever do, but I hope not. Its an incredible place. Catching trout that will break a 5 weight (it happened), fishing only BIG dries if you wanted to, and only sight nymphing or using dropper nymphs occasionally. For streamers they actually preferred small, easy to cast flies. Most of the trout have never been hooked, many have never seen flies Fena said. There are simply too many of them and the waters are fished by only a few people per week. I would estimate I caught over 75 for the week, hooked easily 100 and definitely could have landed more. Each day there are several shots at fish pushing 22", 20" are not hard to come by and an 18" fish was pretty common. You could easily spend an entire season fishing all of the lakes and rivers within an hour or two drive of this area and not cover them all. It's too big and the fishing is too good. I will be back... :D

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Re: Patagonia, Chile! (really long report)

Postby Todd » Fri Jan 13, 2012 10:08 am

Great report and photos! Looks like an awesome trip.

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Re: Patagonia, Chile! (really long report)

Postby Biff » Fri Jan 13, 2012 11:55 am

Amazing - thanks for sharing your trip!
You can never take a picture of a thing, you can only take a picture of the light on a thing - "the way that light attaches to a girl"

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Re: Patagonia, Chile! (really long report)

Postby Emerson » Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:37 pm

Great pics and report. Those fish look awesome!
Thanks :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
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Re: Patagonia, Chile! (really long report)

Postby TLT » Sat Jan 14, 2012 4:24 pm

Outstanding Chris!!!! I am jealous.

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Re: Patagonia, Chile! (really long report)

Postby Cutter » Sun Jan 15, 2012 12:39 am

Thank you for sharing your incredible pics and a great story. I just added one to the bucket list. Nicely done.
The world is your oyster-
So show up with a knife and know how to shuck.

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Re: Patagonia, Chile! (really long report)

Postby vagabond » Sun Feb 19, 2012 10:06 am

Ahhhhh...the memories. Chris, You made my day.

Miss it more now than ever. Not the Tabanos but everything else. Brought back a lot of good times. The sights, sounds, people, food, and fishing.

Best image of a Pancora Crab I've seen since last seeing one in 1999. Great report.

You should have submitted that to F/F or FFSW as the rivers run to the sea except some of the spring creeks which probably do also.

Make sure you go back. You've barely scratched the surface.
"Vagabond"

They say the best men are moulded out of faults,
And, for the most, become much more the better
for being a little bad
Wm Shakespeare

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Re: Patagonia, Chile! (really long report)

Postby Siessmack » Sun Feb 19, 2012 10:03 pm

Thank you very much Vagabond. When were you down there?

I'm in the process of writing an article to send out to a few magazines about the fishery there. Unfortunately it looks like the Chilean government is going to build several dams in Patagonia and run power lines all the way up to Santiago. I believe it is going to go close to the Paloma River. There was lots of rioting in Coyhaique this week. I hope they thoroughly think it through or they are going to ruin a very special place.

I've already been tying up flies for my next trip back! Hopefully it will be in the next year or two

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Re: Patagonia, Chile! (really long report)

Postby vagabond » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:19 pm

Chris,

Went on a whim in March 1986 the first time. Had a friend working in the mining business up near Iquique that had married a Chillean woman from Santiago. They had a house in the Santiago suburb of Franklin. It was then that I realized why Miss Chile won the Miss World contest every other year.

Then January 1988 for 3 weeks. 10 Days Argentina 10 days Chile.

Then November 1993 for 11 weeks. Quit my job and bolted. Thank God I did it then because DEMOCRACY was on it's way.

The last time in 1999 for a memorial service for the patriarch of a family that I had met in 1988 when they let myself and my buddy fish 3 miles of private river.....as long as we brought them fish trout to eat at night.

You mentioned Temuco. Stopped there in 1993 right after they built the Galleria on the north end of the city. We were on our way from Santiago south to the Casino town of Puerto Varas. I knew then the country was finished. Inside the Galleria was a Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, and one other Anglo chain. I was crushed. Progress sucks sometimes. :cry:

And Coihaique......everyone who ever wants a thrill should fly down the valley at 400 knots and drop down into the altoplano to land at the Coihaique aerodrome. Have they paved the runway yet? Probably, as the last time I was in Coihaiqui they had a Patagonia Outfitters on one side of the city square and across the 100 feet of cobblestones there was an Orvis shop.

I'll PM you my info.

Bringing back a lot of memories. If I hadn't run into some guy named Horsley back in 95 I'd probably still be goin.......or stayin' :D
"Vagabond"

They say the best men are moulded out of faults,
And, for the most, become much more the better
for being a little bad
Wm Shakespeare

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