Fisherman around the world say that there are only 4 destinations they would love to fish in their lifetime, well I can now say that I have marked two off my list...my last destination of course is Patagonia. Everything you've heard about this wonderland is absolutely true and to have experienced it first hand was one of those trips of a lifetime for sure.
We started this journey in Buenos Aires, Argentina where we soon learned that maybe we should have planned on staying here for an additional week seeing how there is so much life and sites to see in this amazing city. Besides the many sites to see the one thing that BA is well known for is it's Tango dancing, did we partake, well we watched from a far due to my 2 left feet! Areas to checkout next time you are in BA are La Boca, Palermo, Puerto Madero, Recoletta and yes the downtown area.
After about 4 days in BA it was time for the Hills and to checkout those Andes I've heard so much about. We left on a small plane for Bariloche, Argentina for our next stop and for some sight seeing and Fishing. Bariloche is a cute city on the Lago Nahuel Huapi. It reminds me a little of being in the Vail Village with so many nice shops, architecture and scenery. One thing that didn't change much from Buenos Aires to Bariloche is the traffic. No matter where you go in this country people still drive like maniacs so I learned my lesson when renting a car. While Laurel took in some sites and a tour around the Lake district here I tried my luck at some fishing. If you are going to visit this area I would check out the 5 star Llao Llao Hotel, the Villa cerro Catedral, Isla Victoria and Cerro Catedral. To get a better idea of truely how big this Region is click on this link for a detailed map.
I had a plan to it a few rivers in the area: the Rio Traful, the Rio Limay “Lee My” and the Rio Caleufu but once I took a look at the Limay I was hooked. One thing that I've heard so much about the rivers here were that they were BIG, fast and deep, yep it's all true. Fishing from shore can be challenging but not impossible. I did manage to find a few areas to fish and wade a bit. Being the first few weeks of Summer the weather was actually nice and the water temp wasn't really that cold.
I fished near the confluencia area, about 50 kilometers give or take from San Martin. There is so much public access around here that you can definitely find signs for turn off areas and where to stop. I did manage to catch about 10 fish that day and though some were more fight than compared to their size. Average size was probably 14-17' and they fought like 20'+ and were native. Mostly rainbows but I did catch a few browns also. Flies of choice ranged from #18 hares ear being dropped from a #10 Stimulator. Also #20 pheasant tails and #16 prince's worked fairly well. The go to flies for this area definitely were streamers, streamers are the way to go and is what everyone mentioned before and during my trip to use. Preferably sizes #8-#10 black or olive woolly buggers and the ones to use, throw in some flash or funky variety's and these work great. I had a 24' big bow chase mine a few times but couldn't close the deal, I guess i had an international learning curve to deal with. I also witnessed some 30' browns swimming in a nearby hole walking down a trail one section I fished. It was very wide, deep and impossible to get to but well worth watching for awhile as I enjoyed a nice afternoon drinking a cerveza!
After a few relaxing day's enjoying this area it was time for Chile and our Journey across the Andes. We took a boat ride ferry with Cruce D el Lagos from Lago Nahuel Huapi to Lago Frias, than Peulla, and a final destination to Puerto Varas, Chile. All I can say is that this excursion was one of the best things we did, minus the shuttles between Lakes this was well worth it. The animal life, waterfalls, spectacular scenery and people we met along the way made this a day to remember!
Once we arrived in Puerto Varas we were set for another cute town to stay in for a few days. Puerto Varas is a very small town in the Chilean Lake District with a unique German influence. Much smaller than the hustling Puerto Montt city up the road this town has a lot to offer except the traffic we've become accustomed to the last week or so. After a night around town we were off to take in a few tours in the area near Frutillar, Puerto Octay and Llanquihue. The entire area is made of a large body of water called Lago Llanquihue, which is also is one of the largest Lakes in all of Chile.
We made it to a new location, Puerto Pilar, an area 30 minutes due east of Puerto Varas and was going to be our home for the next four days as we prepared to go fishing. We stayed at the Puerto Pilar Hotel right on the Lake. Can you say an awesome view from the room. We had it all close access to the Lake, pool, hot tub, restaurant where each night we arrived back from a long day to have our own table set up by an inspiring view, bottle of Malbec red wine, Pisco sour and a few few dishes of some of the best meat you can find anywhere....all for about $15 a night for dinner!
It was that time, not for more Steaks, good wine of driving, it was time to fish with our guide Francisco. Francisco from Trespiedras Fishing Exploration was our guide for the next few days. I have to say that out of all the many guides I've used over the years he is up there. Not only was he very hospitable, good at english and eager to hear about my many travels, but great at finding fish and making our fishing trips exciting. We set out on our first day on the Rio Petrahue “petra way” and boy was I in for a treat. Not only was this river big and clear, but we had the river to ourselves the entire day. We caught fish from the start and Francisco was great at teaching Laurel how to get the right depth and presentation to catch more fish. She actually out fished me for a bit before my lucky Argentina leather hat helped me to get my groove on.
Francisco set us up for a lovely lunch on a secluded beach and after a bottle of wine, many sandwiches and tasty treats we were off for more fish. A 6 weight rod is the ticket to use here, level 3 sincking line and heavy flies to get it down deep is it. I fished the day with a level 3 line, and big streamers cranking through deep holes to catch fish while Laurel used an intermediate sinking line casting muddler minnows most of the day. Both of us did well and Laurel actually caught many 16'-18” trout the entire day while I was still trying to play catch up. I get very anxious about the same flies so from time to time I would trade off, preferably while Francisco was not looking and it actually paid off. Right before out take point down river I switched over to a flashy steelhead fly for kicks and the kick I got was a big one! Before I knew it I was whacked by a nice steelhead, talk about trying to land a steelhead from a fast running river, a small rod and yes, no net made this one of my best, or luckiest lands to date. It took me awhile but I managed to pull this freight train from across the river to an island pull off where I was one Happy Guy.
With another fishing day under our belt it was time to take in a few sites and to see what else this grand area had to offer. We had previously rented a car so what better place to use it than around the Chilean Lake district. We decided to take another drive down past the Petrohue and hit a national forest, some 50 Kilometers southeast of Osorno Volcano, the largest Volcanic peak in the area. The forest reminded me of a drive through a Costa Rican Rain forest with the allure of dense peaks around reminiscent of Montana, quite a diverse area. We took a 2 lane hwy done the coast area until it hit a dirt road than we were off to an exciting backroads day down through many villages. This 3 hour one way journey uncovered many sites to see and people to pass by, not many cars around this way. One big part of this area were the Salmon farms that make Chile the 2nd largest exporter of Salmon in the world, boy did I wish I brought my fly rod today to go after some lonely escapees around these cages.
Our last guided day was with Francisco again and he promised we would catch many fish (avg's he spoke of were in the 25-50 fish range) well you know what they say.... We put in early on the Rio Mansuey outside of Puerto Varas and I was surprised to see the river character similar to that of fishing the Florida mangroves. The water was again a true bluish-green spring creek that allowed close to a 40 foot depth clarity and you better believe the fish saw us before we could see them.
It didn't take long to hook up, yes Laurel was the first again and I tried to follow up shortly thereafter with my own 17” trout. We used similar patterns again with more off a damselfy red bodied composite, don't ask me to name it these flies are definitely not in my Colorado fly box. Francisco put us on a hole that showed to have plenty of fish, my first few casts included 2 break offs. Okay no more 3x it's time for the 0! I guess I still have a hard time tying on something that big in such clear water, but than again what do I know. I found myself hooked up on a few nice Atlantic Salmon and Laurel also got on to some as well. We fished for hours and though we did not reach the 25-50 fish mark, we did catch many nice Rainbows, Brownies, Atlantic's and a few South American beers were hatching.
Our last few days we spent traveling back to Santiago and enjoying the culture they had to offer as well as the many markets in which to get rid of my pesos before flying back home. Santiago is similar to that of Buenos Aires in that they both had their own appeal but when you are so close to the Mountains as you are in Santiago, it makes for a more picturesque setting in which to enjoy some drinks at a local cafe. We took the tour around town and gravitated to the Plaza De Armas, Metropolitan Catedral and even made it up the well known Cerro San Cristobal lookout. What a great trip we had and though it's very tough to decide on where to go, what to see, how long and how much/little that depends on each person but I can honestly say that just to get a taste of of the regions deserves about a month it's so big and there is so much to see. Next time I think I'll have to use a few more sick days and stay as long as it takes to catch a few more fish, drink a few more bottles of Chile's finest and to fill up my 2 gig memory card.