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“Cast there,” Fabian says as he works the oars to hold the raft in place.  It’s a shadowy inlet under a tree with logs scattered below the surface. The black sex-dungeon lands in a pocket of dark, crystal clear water and I strip once, twice and then boom, the take. “Muy bien”. A hungry brown trout leaps out of the water and then goes deep. I work to get him away from the logs and we eventually net him. His shoulders are a deep brown, almost black, camouflaged to match the water where he hunts. We admire him, release him and then row to the take out. 


That was the last fish of the day and the last fish of our 10 day exploration trip with Fish Patagonia.  Together with guides Fabian Naimann and Pablo Torres, we had traveled through the valleys and fjords of Southern Chile, fishing beautiful rivers and lakes below towering granite cliffs and mountains.  The waters varied from sparkling aqua blue to deep and inky as they flowed over freestone riverbeds with plenty of log and rock structures along the banks where trout lay in wait for their next ambush.  The fish were abundant. Rainbows and browns were more than willing to chase the streamers we presented. Every day on the gin clear water was paired with the excitement and serenity of fishing in the spectacular beauty of the Chilean Andes.

We started our journey with a short flight from Puerto Montt to Chaiten where our guides met us and we made our way to Chimalfe Lodge on Yelcho Lake.  

Jaime Castillo, the manager of Chimalfe Lodge, has guided with Fabian for over ten years in Mongolia.  Fabian Naimann, head guide of Fish Patagonia and a native of Argentina, has guided his entire career in Patagonia and Mongolia, including a stint as Head Guide on the exclusive Nomads of the Sea.  Jaime has done the same in his home country of Chile, spending time between the Chimalfe Lodge and Estancia further south.  Together, these two have launched Fish Patagonia, a guide service offering custom fly-fishing adventure in Chile and Argentina.  We’ve fished with Fabian and Jaime in Mongolia so it was a welcome reunion to join them for a trip in the southern hemisphere.

After a five-star lunch and a few glasses of Chilean wine, we geared up and headed to the Yelcho River which flows from Yelcho Lake for about 45 kilometers to the ocean. The flow was enormous as Fabian skillfully navigated the boat between log structures that had been washed down river. Almost every cast resulted in a chase or a take, making our first day out a good forecast for the trip ahead.  

We spent two more days at Chimalfe which in itself is spectacular. The lodge sits above the lake with breathtaking views of the Andes and glaciers across the valley. The chef delighted us with amazing meals featuring Chilean specialties like Caldillo de Congrio (Conger Eel soup), ceviche, sopapillas and pebre to name a few. Traditional Chilean Asados (barbeques) over an open fire pit were both delicious and memorable. Evenings were spent around the fire, telling stories, working on my Spanish (un poco) with the charming family that owned the lodge, and drinking wine and piscolas (pisco and coke). 

We spent one afternoon on Yelcho Lake quietly rowing along the Agua Negra (black water) behind a crop of reeds, hunting for trout among the root systems of trees that bordered the lake. Like fishing for baby tarpon or snook in the mangroves, we used bow and arrow casts in to the tight space below the trees roots to draw out brown trout. Watching a trout burst out from below the roots and take the wooly bugger fly was thrilling. “Sipo!”

In March, the weather is cooler and reminiscent of the fall in British Columbia.  There were days where we experienced torrential downpours countered with beautiful fall days where the sun peaked through the clouds and lit up the forests and steep granite mountains.

We left Chimalfe on the morning of the 4th day, driving through the small town of Villa Santa Lucia which suffered a massive landslide on December 16, 2017, burying half the town in mud and debris.  Chilean flags stand boldly where lives and homes were lost as a memorial of the dreadful event. 

After two hours, we launched the rafts in the Palena River where we would spend the next two days, staying in cozy rustic cabins along the river bank. No more than a few minutes after pushing off from the launch, my husband Richard threw a long cast to a dark shadow moving upstream in a trench on the opposite side of the river. The shadow flashed in the sunlight and turned out to be a king salmon. He took a pensive look at Richard’s white articulating streamer and moved on. A hook up would have been a rodeo on his 5 weight rod. 

As we passed through the mountains, we caught glimpses of water falls and glaciers and spotted condors flying high above the granite peaks“.

The upper part of the Palena was gorgeous with granite cliffs rising straight up from the river banks interspersed with wooded areas and plenty of hungry trout.  As we moved down the river the next day, both the river and the fish got bigger, netting several browns over 24 inches in the faster water. The water was cold, crystal clear and a brilliant mesmerizing blue as we drifted through the steep granite canyons.

Helping with the logistics of the trip and serving as both driver, chef and operations manager, Alvaro Garcia delivered amazing appetizers, meals and hospitality along the way. Alvaro grew up in the small Chilean town of Panaguipulli and is an avid fisherman. His skills in organization kept our moving expedition well supplied and completely comfortable. Assisting Alvaro in all aspects of the trip was Jaime Lancaster, a world-class whitewater kayaker and an excellent fly fisherman. Jaime would sneak away to throw a few casts in between his responsibilities and always come back with a picture of a trophy fish. Together the two delivered a 5 star experience for us as we moved along our journey. Pablo and Fabian served as our fishing guides. Pablo grew up fishing in Concepcion and met Jaime Castillo and Fabian when he first started guiding. Educated as an automotive engineer, Pablo found his passion in flyfishing and guiding and works at both Chimalfe and Fish Patagonia.

Our 6th day started with another two hour drive to the Rosselot River, a wide river draining from Rosselot Lake, near the town of La Junta. Tossing an olive sex-dungeon or a brown woolly bugger with rubber legs drew numerous trout out from the banks. Brown trout were the dominant catch on this stretch of river. On the Rosselot, we encountered a set of Class 4 rapids that added a bit of excitement to the trip. Having experienced a whitewater rafting scare 25 years ago, I opted to walk around. Richard joined me and we found ourselves crossing cow pastures and crawling through tunnels in thick stands of bamboo to make our way back to the river while Pablo navigated the raft through the rapids. Fabian and his guests ran the rapids and rowed to shore whooping with excitement, invigorated by their adventure. We happily settled in for another delicious riverside lunch and toasted the moment with yet again, a delicious Chilean vintage.

The next day, we woke to a heavy downpour that kept us all at the breakfast table for more than our customary 45 minutes.  No one was ready to hit the river until the rain let up. I took the opportunity to retreat to my cabin, sit by the cozy woodstove and finish my book. At noon we saw a break in the weather and headed to the Quinto River, a tributary to the Rosselot, and launched. We were able to fish the first couple kilometers of the river before it became a fast-moving set of turbulent rollers. Water levels had risen almost 2 feet from the torrential rain. It was a wet, cold day. But for me, it also helped me to overcome some of my whitewater anxiety. With skilled guides like Fabian and Pablo at the oars, we felt safe and trusted their judgement. After a soggy day, we were more than happy when Alvaro welcomed us at our cabin with a bottle of wine and a warm, dry fire blazing in the woodstove.  

The next day we hit the road again, driving south to Puyuhuapi, a small town located at the end of Ventisquero Inlet. We drove along the shoreline of the ocean inlet which included weaving through a recent rock slide that littered the road with enormous boulders. We started our ascent in to the mountains via well-cut switchbacks and summited at Puerto Cisnes. The drive was stunning as we wound through dense rain forest; prolific with bamboo, ferns, wild fuscias and broad-leafed nalca.  With every stream, creek or ditch we passed, Pablo would say “there’s trout in there”. We laughed, thinking it was a typical guide’s exaggeration. To prove his point, Pablo pulled over and sure enough, we saw a large brown trout lurking on the edge of a roadside drainage.

As we passed through the mountains, we caught glimpses of water falls and glaciers and spotted condors flying high above the granite peaks before arriving at Lagos Las Torres. After a quick lunch with the boats rafted together on the water, we rowed along the edges of the lake, casting minnow patterns, wooly buggers and sex-dungeons at the reeds along the lake. Brown trout darted out to take the fly and after a good fight, made for a fantastic photo with Las Torres in the background.

Our final day was spent on the Maniguales River. This river was one of our favorites and we were rewarded with the warmest and sunniest day of the trip. There was plenty of underwater logs, big rocks and inky, deep pools with large brown trout ready to hunt. A well-placed cast into the dark shadowy water usually resulted in an aggressive take. This was the only river where we encountered any other fisherman during the entire trip. That said, there were only 3 other boats on the river that day.  

Flying back to Santiago out of Balmaceda the next day, we looked back at the tops of the spectacular Andes Mountains and the steep valleys where we had fished with awe and deep appreciation. Richard and I both agreed that this was one of the best trips in our flyfishing travels. We had experienced quality flyfishing in multiple different lakes and river systems while also exploring a rugged part of Southern Chile that would have been difficult to do on our own. Our hosts where both excellent fishing guides and experts in hospitality.  

An angling holiday with Fish Patagonia is the quintessential Patagonia experience; an intimate adventure designed around your interests with first class guides and service along the way.  Fish Patagonia offers custom trips from October through April throughout Patagonia.


About the author: Chris Eller and her husband, Richard reside in Picabo, Idaho where they spend their summers fishing in their home waters in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. They head south in the winter to chase redfish in Southern Texas.  As a couple they combine their passion for flyfishing and travel and have fished in Mongolia, Argentina, Chile, Belize, New Zealand, Christmas Island, Iceland, Canada and Mexico.  

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