Despite the 8.8 magnitude earthquake in central Chile on February 27th, our trip in early March was business as usual for Chile West.
Photos: Chile West Guests, Chile West Team
We had three guests scheduled to fish just one week after the quake, two of which were already to be fishing in Chile.
Carlos arrived in Balmaceda on schedule, a day before the trip was to start. Chris met him at the airport and drove back to Coyhaique, checked him into the hotel and then went out for dinner. We were to meet up Estefan and Miguel the following day on the way to Palena.
Day 1: Palena
Leaving Coyhaique early the next morning, the weather was beautiful for the drive north on the Carretera Austral. We picked up Estefan and Miguel as scheduled and continued on to Palena. As usual we picked up some cheese at Quesos La Junta. This would accompany appetizers and wine during the trip.
We arrived in the early evening, unloaded the trucks and settled in, followed by appetizers, which our hostess Marujita had prepared, wine and cocktails and a great steak dinner. After dinner we discussed the program for the next day. It was agreed to sleep in a little and have a late breakfast. We were to be on the water by 11:00 and fish til’ 8:00.
Day 2: Rio Palena
The crew was up early to make coffee and lunches. Trevor, Ronny and Javier headed for the river early to assemble the rafts. Chris stayed behind to tend to breakfast and more coffee. Around 9, Carlos showed for coffee followed by Miguel soon there after. Estafan was taking advantage of his beauty rest so Miguel delivered a cup of coffee.
At 10:30 we were on the road to the river as scheduled. The put in where the rafts would be awaiting their anglers was only a 15 minute drive and as Chris arrived with the guys, Trevor, Ronny and Javier indeed had the rafts ready.
A light rain hit the windshield of the truck as they pulled up. By the time everyone was out of the truck and gear unloaded, the wind had began to gust upstream and the temperature had plummeted at least 10 degrees. As another gust hit, Chris and Trevor looked at each other and smiled as if to say “All righty then… Here we go!”
This was not unusual but not how you want the first day of fishing to start. What can you do?
Chris rowed across river with Miguel and Estefan and fished down the far side as Trevor and Carlos worked on casting techniques back at the beach. Estefan was throwing a “Fat Albert” and Miguel a black beetle. Chris rowed a good 100 yards of juicy water with nary a look. Back up river Trevor gave a whoop as Carlos had broke the ice with a brown. Fishing was rather slow and surely the weather front that hit us was not helping. Miguel finally had a grab on the beetle but it was not to Chris’ satisfaction.
This was just not a dry fly feel so Chris switched the guys to streamers. Within a few casts, Miguel hooked up on a nice brown. Nice! Okay, fishing should pick up now. Continuing on down river, “banging the bank” fishing did not pick up. Estefan had a few follows right up to the boat but the fish just would not commit.
Chris changed up Miguel, who was in the front of the boat, to the old stand by rig, Stonefly dry with a dropper nymph, a “20 incher”. Miguel had immediate results on the nymph, Estefan still with a “skunk” in the back.
The weather was starting to break now and the sun began to warm things up. Chris pulled over to a riffle and got the guys out to do some nymphing. Miguel had never done much nymphing and the idea of what goes on under the water was foreign to him. Chris explained a few things and the light bulb turned on. He caught 3 or 4 fish on the nymph and a couple on the dry. Chris switched up Estefan to the same rig but with a “Prince” nymph for immediate results.
On down river at the lunch spot, Trevor and Carlos pulled in to find Miguel and Estefan having a nap on the beach. We all finished lunch and continued the project at hand, catching fish.
Fishing was consistent throughout the day with nymphs. Estefan switched up to a red Prince nymph and put up some numbers. Carlos and Trevor pulled 4 or five from the rock wall on various small nymphs and emergers.
Mostly rainbows for the day but Miguel finished with a nice brown on a dry fly to end the day.
Arriving at the take out at 8:00, Ronny and Javier were waiting with the trucks. Chris loaded the guys up and headed back to the cabins while Trevor, Ronny and Javi broke down the rafts.
Back at the cabins it was appetizers and cocktails as usual followed by fried Congrio or Chilean Sea Bass, prepared by Javier. Excellent!
Day 3: Rio Palena
Today was the same game plan as the day before thee only difference was that Chris and Carlos teamed up and Trevor fished with Estefan and Miguel.
The weather was nice but the wind was blowing hard. Trevor and his guys went down river first and were out of sight.
Chris and Carlos were struggling in the wind. Chris trying to keep the boat in position and Carlos trying to place his fly on target was not an easy task. Chris suggested that he teach Carlos how to “double haul” because with thee wind as it was, it would surely be a long day of frustration for both. Chris pulled over and he and Carlos worked for a good hour maybe two. Carlos had grasped the basic idea and had a feel of how to load the rod. He was now casting 100% better and with accuracy even in the wind.
Carlos was now ready to fish in this Patagonian wind. They pushed on down river, Chris still struggling at the oars but Carlos now casting like a champ, hitting every little pocket and it paid off with a nice rainbow sipping the dry fly in slow motion.
Today Chris and Carlos arrived to the lunch spot to find the others taking their traditional nap. After lunch the fishing continued, Chris’ boat leaving the beach as Estefan and Miguel still comfortably horizontal on the beach.
Fishing again was steady, the rock wall again producing numerous fish for Carlos, on both dries and nymphs. This is a great spot as you can see the fish suspended in the eddy sipping small midges and nymphs. It’s always great to see the fish zero in on your fly and then eat it.
It was getting late in the afternoon with a bit of a row to get to the take out. Trevor, Estefan and Miguel caught up and said they were headed for the barn as Estefan had taken a bit of a swim during a photo shoot with a nice brown Miguel had caught. Chris and Carlos cherry-picked the remaining spots and met them at the take out.
Once again Javi and Ronny were at the take out waiting attentively. We loaded up and headed back to the cabin. The evening’s menu was roasted lamb prepared by Chris.
Day 4: La Junta and the Rio Rosselot
Today was an early breakfast. All loaded up and on the road by 9:30, we traveled to La Junta. Arriving round noon, the gear was unloaded and everyone check into the rooms at Espacio y Tiempo. Carlos, Estefan and Miguel ate lunch and relaxed at the hotel while Chris, Trevor, Ronny and Javier drove to the Rio Rossalot to set up the Catarafts.
We were fishing the Rio Rosselot today, just 20 minutes up the road. Once the guys had a good jump on the set up, Ronny drove back to pick up the boys at the hotel. Ronny returned as the rafts were finished up and it was on down the river.
The sun was hot today but once again the afternoon winds were blowing and as usual, upstream. Trying to row down river with two guys standing in the wind acting as sails made for some tough rowing. At times even in the heavy current the raft would get blown upstream or make no progress at all. Just the same the guys made their way down river bangin the bank with dry flies. Estefan was the first to hook up with a nice brown pouncing on his Chubby Chernobyl. Miguel answered soon thereafter with a rainbow on the beetle. Back up river Carlos surely was having luck of his own.
Both rafts met up just before the big rapid. Chris and Trevor pulled the boats over and walked down to scout the line they would row while the guys chilled out at the rafts and donned the life vests.
Chris and Trevor soon returned and the question was asked “How did it look?” Chris said “Big.” And that was all. They finished securing the gear tightened up the wading belts and life vests and pushed off. Trevor and Carlos went down first and Trevor took the line in fine form, rowing it like he had done it a hundred times. Chris soon followed, taking the same line and also rowing in fine form. It was all over in what seemed like 3 minutes. At the bottom, life jackets were stowed, Escudos were cracked and fishing rods back on line.
Fishing was steady on dries through out the float as we made the take out by around 8:30. Chris ran the guys back to the hotel, which was a two minute drive, and returned to the river to help break down the rafts. All was loaded just after dark and we whisked back to the hotel to meet for dinner.
All meeting up in the lounge, we had a few Pisco sours while Alan, the owner, took our dinner orders. Steak was ordered by all as the steaks at the hotel are well recommended, and they were fantastic.
Day 5: Vic Creek and Arroyo X
During cocktails the night before, Chris laid out the fishing options and suggested that the group split up and fish two different areas. Being as the water conditions were just right, there were a couple of walk and wade options available. They would be small streams not quite big enough for 3 anglers but perfect for one or two. Each group would have the river to themselves. It would be a bit of a drive but Chris was sure the fish would be there and be well worth the drive.
Everyone agreed with the idea and so after breakfast everyone loaded up and went their separate ways. Chris, Ronny, Estefan and Miguel drove to Vic Creek while Trevor, Javier and Carlos drove to a somewhat new destination, Arroyo X. Chris and Trevor had fished here before but not under these ideal conditions, however, Javier had always said good things about it.
Arriving at Vic Creek, The sun was shining and hoppers jumping. Chris and Ronny divvied up lunch in their packs while Estefan and Miguel rigged up their rods. All set, we began a short hike up the creek to the upper buckets pools were we would start the day.
The first pool had a nice riffle spilling down and a long flat. Estefan had brought his Echo 4wt two hander and posted up in the top of the flat. Fishing a green Stonefly and a nymph dropper, he proceeded to put on a clinic. Miguel, above in the riffle, was watching the show but was not swayed to change from his set up. He had intentions of his own. He was steadfast on fishing his 4wt. bamboo rod with the tiniest of dries. He was as happy as a pig in slop.
Chris was going a bit stir crazy watching Estefan hooking fish after fish and Miguel with nothing. Chris rigged up another rod for Miguel with a beetle and a dropper which would surely get the job done but Miguel would not have it. He persisted and finally caught one. The giggle and the smile on his face were priceless. Miguel had two or three more and Estefan must have caught at least a dozen before moving up to the next run.
The fishing was fantastic as they made their way up river finally arriving at Vic Creek “proper”. This was a small braid, room enough for one angler. It was great to see two good friends sharing the river and enjoying just being there. Estefan sat in the shade and smoked his cigar while Miguel fished.
After Miguel had vacuumed the hole, Estefan tossed his now beetle, under the willow tree that Chris said usually held a fish. Bam! Beetlejuice baby! Estefan hooked as nice of a brown as been seen on Vic Creek. It must have gone 22 inches, a great fish to finish the day.
It was getting to be that time but still time for a few more casts on the way back to the truck. The guys hooked a few more to put the icing on the cake.
A great day of fishing for great friends, in their own special place.
Back at the hotel, Trevor, Carlos and Javier had already arrived, showered and were looking at photos from their day. Chris asked “How did it go?” The look from Trevor and Carlos said it all and then came the photos and videos. They too had epic fishing. There was pool after pool of browns and rainbows sipping dries and eating nymphs. The water was so “gin clear” it was like the fish were suspended in mid air and Carlos had it all to himself, his own very own “Trout Shangri-La”.
Dinner that night was Paella prepared just for the group, again, another excellent meal at Espacio y Tiempo.
Day 6: Coyhaique
The custom itinerary that we built for this group had us shortening our standard program by a couple of days, so today we drove through the Cisnes area that we typically fish and went straight on to Coyhaique.
After breakfast at the hotel, Trevor, Ronny and Javier loaded the gear into the truck while Chris paid up and it was back on the road, south to Coyhaique. It was another beautiful day for a drive on the Carretera, the sight seeing would be fantastic. It was a 6 hour drive so there wasn’t much time for fishing so the lunch stop was conveniently coordinated at the bridge on upper Manihuales. Sandwiches were eaten, waders donned and the guys were able to get a few casts in before having to move on.
The fishing wasn’t on fire. As a matter of fact it was dead. The river was a bit too low maybe but it was full of spawning Kings and it was cool to watch them thrashing about in the low riffles. It was a nice break in the drive just the same.
We arrived at the Hotel El Reloj early in the evening and it was decided we would rendezvous for dinner at the hotel around 9:00.
Day 7: Emperador Guillermo/Spring Creek Y
Today’s options were many but Trevor and Carlos had been discussing fishing on the Emperador Guillermo. Miguel and Estefan had seen a video earlier in the week that Chris showed of fishing a spring creek in the Coyhaique area and they were privy to that. So once again the group would split and each party would have their own river so to speak. Everyone met at the hotel at 8:30 sharp to depart to their respective destinations.
Trevor and Carlos headed for the Emperador Guillermo. Arriving there, Trevor rigged up Carlos with a dry dropper and away they went. They were fishing the lower section today. The water was in great shape but it seemed that the temperature had dropped a bit as it was cold wading.
Carlos had his second crash course in nymph fishing today. He was becoming a better angler everyday as he had gone from fishing big water out of a raft to fishing small pocket water streams. Fishing was good on both dries and nymphs and since Carlos had the place to himself he had more than enough water to keep himself occupied. He landed and lost numerous fish before the end of the day.
Spring Creek Y
Arriving at the spring creek, the wind was blowing at a pretty good pace. Everyone piled out of the truck and put on their gear while holding on to their hats. Once the rods were all rigged, Chris and Javier loaded up the lunch stuff and they were all off to the creek.
After a short walk, they arrived at the creek. This creek is very small with cut banks and tall reeds on both sides. The area is really flat and not much cover from the wind so casting the fly to the target was really tough. It seemed this challenge was exactly what Miguel and Estefan were looking for. At times there was no room to cast the fly through the reeds and so “dabbling” the fly down through the reeds was the technique. The problem they faced after hooking the fish was how to get it out of the reeds.
Miguel and Estefan persisted through the wind and the multitude of snagging the reeds, catching numerous brown trout.
All meeting back at the hotel, Chris made 9:30 dinner reservations at Café Ricer. Over Pisco Sours, red wine and an excellent dinner, it was decided that tomorrow we would do a re-run, the same groups on the same rivers.
Day 8: Weather!
Today was the last fishing day for the guys. We all met again at 8:30 to depart for our destinations. Chris, Javier, Miguel and Estefan arrived at the spring creek to find the wind blowing even harder than yesterday. Chris suggested that they drive up the road a little farther where there was another creek that was more protected from the wind that had good fishing as well. They could fish that for a few hours and see how it went, maybe the wind would lie down a little and they could go back the spring creek after lunch.
As they put on waders and rigged rods, the wind howled through the nearby barbed wire fence. It sounded a bit like the tornado scene out of the Wizard of Oz. Today was much colder as well.
The creek was low and clear and white caps were forming now and again as Miguel and Estefan fished their way up stream. At one point Miguel just lifted his rod after his drift, his line straightened out and all he had to do was lower the rod and the fly landed perfectly against the bank. Chris applauded Miguel’s technique and he looked up to give a thumbs up. Estefan was working the run just upstream but so far they had only a few takes.
Chris started trying different dropper nymphs under Estefan’s dry but to no avail. After taking a water temperature of 44 degrees, it was decided that the creek had dropped at least 10 degrees over night. This was a big shock for the fish.
The next good runs were a little hike up river and after fishing them with no luck whatsoever it was time to find a nice sunny spot out of the wind and have some lunch. Lunch was followed by a nap, of course. Around 2:30 the bears started stirring and Miguel and Estefan decided that they were really content witth heading back to the hotel. Chris was a bit taken a back and said “Okay but why don’t we check out the bottom of the spring creek on the way out?” Miguel said “It sounds like a trap to me. I am perfectly content with the day. We can go back and relax and start packing.”
The drive home passed through a small town. Miguel said “Hey, there a rodeo going on.” Sure enough, they were having a little rodeo. Chris pulled in and they all got out and headed in the arena to check it out. As they entered it was all eyes on the “Gringos”.
The guys took some video and a bunch of pictures and Miguel said “Okay, we can go.” They had seen enough. It was a perfect way to end the day.
Meeting back at the hotel, Trevor and Carlos had stories of there own. They too had deviated from the original plan. Trevor decided to try a section of a creek that he had been eyeballing but hadn’t had the chance to fish. We’ll call this Arroyo Z. Today Carlos was his Guinea pig.
Being as the water conditions were low, they were able to hike and wade up through a canyon. They had to clamber around rock walls and over huge boulders to get to the fish, but all well worth it. Down inside the canyon wall was like being in your own little world and Carlos and Trevor had it all to themselves. The fishing was fantastic for them.
The evening ended with another great dinner at Café Ricer.
Day 9: Flying home
Today we said good-bye – the guys were flying home on schedule. It had been two weeks since the earthquake that rocked central Chile.
We traveled and fished 9 days and not once were we affected by the earthquake. We also never saw another angler on the water!