You can’t claim we don’t fish through some incredibly beautiful, unusual water at Chile West!
Alaska | The Bahamas | British Columbia | Chile
Back in the day, some 12 to 14 years ago, when a few of us first started fishing in Chile, we discovered the Cantaria beetle. Our fly tying materials consisted of a little of everything and not much of anything needed to tie a Cantaria beetle imitation. Our first beetle patterns were just black foam with black crystal chenille underbodies, and whatever color of rubber legs we had.
Some of the patterns were crude and not so aero dynamic. We tried to tie them as realistic as possible and were tying in the huge pinchers in the front. This would make the fly spin in the air and wind up the leader, so tying in the pinchers was dropped.
We experimented with gluing different types of mylar materials to the foam to give it the iridescent look of the real beetle. Some of these patterns worked and some didn’t, depending on the density of the mylar. If it was too thick, the teeth of the trout could not penetrate and the fly would slide out of the mouth. The glue tended to make the foam brittle. It was decided that just the soft foam body was best.
We then found “Loco Foam” which came in a variety of colors, but we liked the “Peacock” and “Oil slick” colors. We first used the foam with the color side up but then we realized this was more for the angler and that the fish never would see the color unless the fly was riding upside down. We then flipped the foam or sometimes glued two pieces together with the colored sides out.
Eric Neufeld, former guide and current Simms/Idylwilde/Ross rep, designed a pattern that he had great success with. It was one of the mylar designs but what was different about this fly was the rubber legs. He had used fluorescent orange and then painted them with a black magic marker leaving the tips orange. This fly caught hundreds of fish until the skid lip had been torn off.
Why did this fly work so well? What I learned from this fly was that the red/orange legs were the key. If you look at a Cantaria beetle from below, you really only have a silhouette except for the light that shines through the tips off the legs, giving them a red glow.
We then started experimenting using legs of different transparent colors.
Rick Sisler found a few orange squid jig skirts in his fishing gear and cut the tentacles off to use as legs. They were a bit thicker and stiffer than the usual rubber legs. They worked well but what we liked about them was that not only were they semi transparent but they had a bit of glitter in them for added attraction.
Back then we were throwing these huge patterns with 6 and 7 weights. In a good wind it was tough to get it out there, but they raised a lot of fish!
Today’s beetle is tied in a variety of sizes from realistic to bite size morsels but still based on these same principles.
In the fall, trout fishing is great in most fisheries around the world, and Chile is no exception.
Fall colors and snow dusted mountain tops create the backdrop for some exceptional fishing whether it be dry fly, nymph or streamer.
March can be a little on the rainy side but in April the weather clears up. Temps might be a little brisk but this means that the glaciers start to freeze up, and rivers that normally run off color in the summer months are now low and clear.
As the days get shorter, the shadows get longer and the fishing just seems to get better. The best thing about April fishing in Chile is that there are not a lot of other anglers around. Many operations have closed by the end of March, but we like April!
In early March of 2011 we ran a trip with some international flavor – Johan Kuhn from Capetown, South Africa and Pat Beahen from Whistler, British Columbia joined us in Southern Chile for some fun on the water!
The weather for the drive from Coyhaique to Palena was not conducive to mountaintop viewing, but the waterfalls were abundant and although things were looking a little soggy, the Chilcoes were in full bloom everywhere.
Arriving in Palena, the river was in great shape as usual. This is normally a travel day but we arrived early so Chris decided the group would get their feet wet on a short, afternoon float on the upper Palena. The afternoon started off a little slow and within a few hours the river had turned color as heavy rain in Argentina had caught up with them. Good times and Escudos none the less.
The next day Chris decided to focus on a smaller river that has almost never been ‘out’. The morning was inviting with gorgeous, blue skies. Everything was looking good. On the drive, Chris stopped off to look at a new section of the river. Peering off the bluff, the river below was beautiful. Large boulders, lots of pocket water and water clear as gin just couldn’t be passed up. Chris looked at Johan and Pat who were drooling and said “We have to go down there.”
The group made their way down the trail to the river. It looked just as good as from above. This would be a great day. Johan and Pat caught numerous brookies, all on dries and Johan broke a personal record for catching his first brook trout, one of which was quite large for this river.
The next day the upper stretch proved to be as equally beautiful but the fishing was not nearly as good.
Chris decided to call it short and finish the day on yet another section of the same river below town. This section has rainbows and browns. Fishing was good, again on dries.
Towards the evening Chris had spotted a fish that rejected Johan on a drift. Pat arrived and they worked the fish, taking turns with different flies. All were rejected until Johan suggested we try a Klinkhammer which he had in his box. This was a small, black emerger and seemed to be a good idea, so why not?
Klinkhammer it was. As the sun went behind the mountain, Pat cast to the fish and sure enough… “Klinkhammeeeeeer!” Pat landed the fish and we called it a day.
In the La Junta area the group started the fishing with a day float on the Rio Claro. It was another beautiful day and this would be a hot one. Arriving at the river, it was in great shape. The raft was assembled and away they went. Johan started the day with another personal record-breaking rainbow caught on a beetle. Pat later followed with a beautiful Brown caught on a Stonefly.
Even though the river was in great shape, the fishing was a little slow, so Chris pushed on the oars and down to the Rio Rossalot to a big back eddy called the “Maytag”. As they floated round and round, Johan hooked into a fish that took him down deep. “It must be a salmon”, Johan said. Chris turned to look and saw the rod was doubled and the line going straight down in the swirls of the back eddy. After a bit Johan pulled in a chrome 23” rainbow, breaking his record again. Twice in one day – not bad, Johan.
The Lago Verde area had good fishing as usual. The evening was topped off with a special invitation for a BBQ at Chris’ in-laws. A parillada was prepared comlete with sopaipillas, fresh pebre and the works.
The final day in La Junta the group floated the Rio Rossalot from bridge to bridge, Johan catching another rainbow that was thought to break the 23” record. Johan was fishing his 8 weight with a heavy sinktip and streamer. This fish had the rod doubled over, but when the fish came to the net it was not quite as big as thought – a great fighter though.
In the Coyhaique area the group had to battle some weather changes. Fishing was a bit complicated with the wind. Casting was more like flying a kite but Pat and Johan persevered and turned out a great day. As the wind increased to gusts of 40 mph, maybe stronger, Pat decided to walk his fly down a stretch which proved successful. Instead of casting, at times they used the dappling technique off the cut banks. This proved to be especially effective in the areas where the wind blew the hoppers into the creek. Johan had some great action here but none to hand.
Pat topped the day off with a nice brown taken on a hopper. After many casts in the brutal wind, the fly landed on target and the brown ate.
Chris invited the boys over to his house that night for drinks and dinner, another great BBQ with great friends and great stories.
It rained hard that night and the rivers were on the rise for the last day of fishing. The group fished 3 out of 4 places attempted. The last river was still in great shape and full of spawning salmon which Johan had never seen in his life. This alone was worth the price of admission for him. At one point Johan was just watching the salmon and said “I can’t concentrate on fishing with these things splashing around. This is just awesome!”
The group fished 12 different places in 9 days, everything different from previous location, in scenery, climate, fish and fishing techniques. It was a well-rounded trip and great fun had by all.
Michael White is back today with another fly lineup. Having spent approximately 300 million days fishing for trout around the Southern Rockies, Whitey is a good guy to listen to when it comes to advice on trout flies.
After he joined us on an epic trip to Chile West, we asked him for his top fly picks for trout fishing in Chile, and he obliged.
Last year, I had the pleasure of going to Chile West with Andrew and a few friends. As a fly rep for Idylwilde, I felt it was my responsibility to not only bring some flies to stock the boxes of my travel mates, but also to test fish. If pressed to answer the often asked question “what would you bring”, I would respond with the following 5 flies as must-haves:
1. Chubby Chernobyl: More and more imitated but never quite duplicated, this fly just crushes. It’s the perfect combination of buggy attractor, terrestrial imitator, large stone floater…you get the point. Use by itself or to support a dropper – it floats all day, fishes like mad and is easy to see out there on the water. A perfect fly for pounding the banks out of the boat on those long Chile floats.
2. Tungsten 20 Incher: A go-to fly all over the Rockies, it became our go-to dropper off the Chubby. A great attractor nymph, with definite Golden Stone overtones, it lit the fish up from Palena all the way to the smaller waters outside Coyhaique.
3: Yeagers Tantrum: New for 2011 from Idylwilde, this fly is a hybrid of the Turk’s Tarantula and a Chernobyl Ant. Combining foam body, rubber X’d legs, elk/deer hair wing and head and topped in pink for easy visibility, this fly will have all your buddies asking “whatcha throwing”? Easy answer…A Tantrum!
4: Space Invader: I like streamers. I like fish that eat streamers. I like big Chilean browns that eat streamers! We fished a ton of streamers and, if you’ve been reading other posts from Chile, you know that Trevor loves streamers. We played with a lot of different streamers to quite a bit of success, but personally I kept going back to the Space Invader. Both the Brown & Yellow and Olive & Black got chased and inhaled by more than a few fish. This is a great all around streamer pattern.
5: Hickman’s Mini-Hankey: Mousin’s not just for Alaska. Where’s there’s big browns, there’s bound to be one that can’t resist a mouse just trying to get back to his home. Leave his wife and children wondering…”what happened to daddy?”
Part of the beauty of our format at Chile West is that our guests really get to experience the culture of Chilean Patagonia. In our book night life counts as culture, and for our guests who are so inclined, there’s ample opportunity to go local.
Trevor Covich tells us a bit today about the evening culture on our last stop at Chile West.
Around the town of Coyhaique, the fishing is good and the weather is hot. At the end of a long day, you’ve caught your fill of trout and worked on your tan, and it’s time to relax. Experience all that Chile has to offer with authentic Chilean night life!
From low light salsa bars with a relaxed setting, to full on discotheques where you can dance into the morning hours…this place has it all. You will find the drinks are great, and people watching and great music put the puzzle together. Watching Chileans dance to the music can make your jaw drop – these folks are just out having a good time.
On the other hand, after the fishing day and a proper Chilean dinner you might take the road which leads straight to bed…
Our second trip of the year started out as usual at the always windy Balmaceda airport. The group of five arrived a day early to ease into the 10 day trip ahead. This group consisted of Jr. and Diane Stelzer, Marvin and Gloria Fishman, and Doc Thompson a guide from New Mexico who was hosting the trip. The drive north started out with clouds and rain on the first day of the trip – but the rest of the trip would be the exact opposite.
The first day of the trip was spent on a small river in Palena where the Fishmans went after brook trout while the Selzers targeted some rainbow trout down lower. It’s February and dry fly action is at its peak this time of year. Both groups worked out the kinks with casting and wading and all brought fish to hand. On the second day of the trip Gloria and Marvin tried their hand at streamer fishing with guide Chris Price on a small lake out in hills. Both landed some nice fish and Gloria had a big brown come unbuttoned next to the boat. Doc was also with the group – he lost a sinking line when a fish took him deep into some snags with no hope of coaxing the fish out. Bummer!
On day 3 the Fishmans floated a river outside Palena with Trevor as their guide. The weather just seemed to be getting hotter. We just couldn’t have enough water on hand! After some casting practice the group pulled into a spot the guides call “rock wall”. Trevor changed flies to a large Chubby Chernobyl with a small nymph on one rod and the other with a small Caddis emerger. A large foam line that ended in a back eddy was in front of them, with the light blue backs of the rainbows standing out in the emerald green river. Marvin and Gloria took turns targeting fish. They hooked 7 out of 9 fish, with most eating the nymph.
At our second destination Chris took the Stelzers and Doc on a walk and wade. With gin-clear water and the mountains surrounding them, stopping to look at the view wasn’t hard. Diane had good action on the dry with Jr. getting chances as well.
On day 5 The Stelzers floated a small river with Trevor. Fishing was great all day and the weather was too. It just got hotter and without any wind it felt like a suana. Jr. threw his Chernobyl behind some rocks at the far bank, and a Rainbow answered with a crushing take followed by some good jumps. Stopping half way through the day to eat lunch in the shade, they watched as a fish rose seven times. Diane, after eating her sandwich, provided the group with some lunch time entertainment, landing the fish on a small dry. Late in the day as Trevor pushed for the takeout, Diane placed her big dry behind some trees. A large brown hit so hard it knocked the fly 3 feet down stream and missed it completely. Before Diane could recast Trevor yelled “Leave it!” as the fish did a U turn, heading right back for another shot. This time he engulfed the fly spitting the hook after a few seconds – intense! Later that night, Paella was specially ordered for the group containing fresh seafood bursting with flavor.
Day 6 Doc and Jr. paired up as Diane stayed back to get some rest. Trevor took them on a walk and wade where Jr. learned the art of bow and arrow casting in a spot where the trees were hanging low and the brush was thick. Jr. hooked 4 rainbows using this new method, all of them falling for a small Comparadun. Doc worked a longer run up above with a Chernobyl. All Trevor and Jr. saw was the aftermath as Doc said a large mouth came up and took down his dry, snapping him off.
Day 7 took the group to the last leg of the trip. Chris took the Stelzers and Trevor took the Fishmans. The Stelzers had great action casting a small beetle pattern in the low water conditions, landing some nice rainbows. The Fishmans also did well on dries, getting all their action on a stone fly dry called the “El Camino”, a low rider that’s perfect for low, clear water.
On the last day of the trip the Stelzers fished with Trevor on a small spring creek. Diane landed the largest brown of the trip on her third cast, the brown aggressively taking a purple Chubby Chernobyl. Gloria decided to sit the last day out so Chris took Marvin and Doc to a small river for a walk and wade. This was relatively close to where Trevor’s group was fishing.
Today’s weather had changed and the wind was the typical Patagonia form, blowing hard. This complicated matters for Marvin who was just learning to fly fish. He had had a great week so far with little wind until now. Chris worked with him on some roll casting techniques and his casting improved despite the wind. Doc had been sent down stream to see about a fish that Chris had hooked on a previous day only to break him off. While Marvin fished, Chris went down to Check on Doc. Arriving to Doc Chris asked “Well?” Doc replied “Holy smokes. You were right!”
Chris said “Well?” Doc said “All I saw was this huge mouth come up and engulf the fly and then porpoise. He snapped me off in seconds. Probably the biggest brown I’ve seen.” Sorry Doc maybe that fish just can’t be caught.
We fished into the afternoon and the wind got tougher but Marvins’ casting stayed strong. We scratched out a few more fish and called it a day. Driving back we passed where Trevor’s group was parked and they too had wrapped it up.
We finished off the day with another great time at Café Ricer!
You know that we post fishing reports all the time, for all our operations, right?
A couple of recent examples are the summary of the “best fishing trip ever” that a very experienced husband-wife team just experienced at Chile West, and the tales of winter bonefish galore from Andros South in January.
Here are the main pages where we post our fishing reports. After you click on the lodge name, you’ll see links to each report on the left.