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.