Central Patagonia Fly Fishing Report by Patrick Kissel

PK with a closeup Brown Trout

Host: Patrick Kissel
Date: March, 2019
Trip Taken: Central Patagonia Fly Fishing Trip

On this years hosted trip, ten of us spent a week at the lodge, and six of us fished an additional four days at the base camp with our preferred outfitter in Central Patagonia. The fly fishing was great, and the group of clients made friends was even better. We all had loads of fun on this trip! I was able to fish all new rivers and creeks that I hadn’t got to last year. I think that is what is the most appealing for me about this lodge is that you have 35-40 different spots to fish which consist of large rivers, small spring creeks, and lakes. Many of these spots are exclusive access, and to me that is very important when traveling to fish. If it’s possible I don’t want to see any other fisherman when I am out and that is the name of the game here!

March 9 – Arrival Day

We arrived in the Santiago Airport and quickly found Ryan and Evan as well as Jared the camera guy. The stoke levels are high and everyone is excited. Part of the group is already at the lodge as they chose to overnight in Santiago and flew in on the morning flight, which is highly recommended. I’m sure they have settled in and fished the Laguna behind the lodge, and broke the ice with their first Chilean Patagonia trout. Once again flying over this landscape from Santiago to Balmaceda I am in awe and jaw dropped at the beauty of this place. I can’t wait to fish!

Lacey was the first to land a trout, and her excited yell when she hooked up was priceless.

Day 1 – Munoz Creek

On our first morning, Lacey and I set out with Eduardo and Jared to fish a spring creek near Balmaceda.

Munoz creek is a beautiful little spring creek that meanders through open country with cattle and horses grazing all around. When Eduardo was a kid, his father and he would walk a few miles to this creek from town and fish. At 10 years old he caught his first trout, and was hooked ever since.

Making multiple trips per week, and often by himself if his dad couldn’t go. Eduardo has private and exclusive access to many miles of this creek and we fished just two miles of it. This morning it was calm and hot, fishing was difficult with long casts to very spooky fish. Fish were very present, though eating mayflies, and we had no shortage of opportunities. I knew once the wind picked up the fishing would improve both by blowing grasshoppers into the river, and putting a ripple on the water making it harder for fish to see us.

Lacey was the first to land a trout, and her excited yell when she hooked up was priceless.

She had a great fish that ate with aggression and to my surprise once hooked swam past her down the creek and pulled some drag. I netted it, a perfect 15” brown for her first fish in Patagonia. We were all very excited and the creek really turned on after this!

We had a few more fish before lunch and then after continued to slowly stalk up the creek fishing to the deep grassy banks. The big trout would come out of the weeds and crush our hoppers we missed more than we landed but brought a few nice fish to hand before heading back to the lodge.

The largest fish for the day was 17” but we had a few larger that we missed!

Paloma Canyon is a very special trip and there are only a few times per year that it can be floated. I feel quite lucky to have been able to float and fish through this incredible canyon.

Day 2 – Paloma Canyon

This is a very special trip, and there are only a few times per year that it can be floated.

I feel quite lucky to have been able to float and fish through this incredible canyon. Monte one of Eduardo’s senior guides is one of two people to have ever floated clients through this section of river and he has about 55 trips through the canyon under his belt in the past seven years. Monte came to Chile in the 90s to chase his passion for whitewater, and ended up staying for the fishing. He is the pioneer of many of the put in and take out locations for the river floats in the area.

This canyon shows some class IV rapids, and is quite technical; the flows have to be perfect in order to run this section. If you are lucky, there are some large trout to be had in the canyon. I was just lucky enough to see a few, but unable to keep any of the really nice fish hooked long enough to coax into the net. I watched a brown refuse my fly that I would estimate to tip a scale well over 12 pounds!

Our lunch spot was incredible as we parked on a large rock in the middle of the canyon. I was able to sight fish a few smaller trout in the 12-15” range from the lunch rock. The Paloma is a special river, and I have no words to describe its jaw dropping beauty. The sections above or below the canyon are very productive trout water, and beautiful areas to fish.

Day 3 – Upper Rio Simpson

We had a short hike down into the canyon on the way we stopped to take some photos of a fox that was walking alongside us and to take in the gorgeous panorama from above the river. From the top you could see multiple nice runs that went into deep pools and also some rocky sections that were sure to hold fish. This river looked perfect and I was very excited to fish it since last season we had some unusual late spring rains that brought the river to an unfishable level. Eduardo guided Greg and worked down river while Lacey Jared and I went up stream.

Immediately I hooked up on nice rainbow on a small streamer in the first pool. Lacey added a few small trout on a hopper dropper before we started working up river. It was one run that slowed into a deep pool after another. Some sections had nice pocket water and we plucked some nice browns and rainbows by dancing a streamer in the likely spots, Lacey and her big foam hopper worked well too. From one spot she landed seven or eight trout.

We landed a few fish that were 18-20” along with 20-30 fish anywhere from 10-14”. I had one rainbow trout on a nymph that jumped out of the river at least 5 feet high and he did so 6 times before the hook came back at me that would have been the best one of the day. It was a beautiful perfect looking rainbow whose deep colors shown beautifully in the sunlight when he jumped. One of those fish that keep you coming back for more, a heartbreaker but I was happy I was able to play the game if only for a second.

After a fine dinner and wine several of us got in the wood fire hot tub and continued sharing stories from the day. The stars here are incredible and the Milky Way sits perfectly over the lodge.

I did however get lucky to catch a hell of a brown that was 20″ or maybe a touch over. He was dark and had the most beautiful blue sheen to his scales, not just in the gill plate but the color ran the entire length of his body.

Day 4 – Magote Creek

Noah was the guide today for Manor and Tria while Lacey Jared and I again got to do our own thing. We drove across the countryside along the Paloma to a tributary called Magote Creek we stopped where the road came to an end and where Alfredo the gaucho and his horses were waiting for us. When horses are involved you know it’s going to be a good day!

We packed up our gear and rode four miles or so up the creek crossing it several times. The horses are so well behaved and all you have to do is hold on and they will take care of the rest. We were dropped off and told to fish our way up river and to follow the smoke that would lead us to the lamb asado Alfredo would prepare for lunch. Noah gave me some tips and also said the creek was good to just drink straight out of…I love that! Being in a place so remote that you can drink from the stream.

Once again Lacey was the first to hook up and had several browns and rainbows on a small beetle dry fly before Jared or myself had any. We worked up river changing who would get first shot at the next “virgin” pool. This is not a river where you expect to catch large fish but they were indeed some of the most beautifully colored browns I have caught anywhere and lots of them. I did however get lucky to catch a hell of a brown that was 20″ or maybe a touch over. He was dark and had the most beautiful blue sheen to his scales, not just in the gill plate but the color ran the entire length of his body.

We found the smoke and made it in time to watch the last bit of prep work that Alfredo made to the lamb, he poured an Escudo over the lamb to keep the flames from drying out the meat. Alfredo’s parents were the first to move to the Paloma valley in 1939 and still there are only a handful of farmers in the area. We all toasted on the day with wine and feasted on the lamb served with sopapillas, salad, and potatoes.

Patrick and Lacey engaged on the river bank

It was such an incredible day with great friends and we all felt lucky to have been able to experience this trip together.

I was feeling so lucky, that when Lacey said she wanted to fish the pool near the lunch spot before leaving for the day I ran over and picked a flower then quickly asked her to be my wife! Of course she had no choice but to say yes.

We rode the horses back to the trucks. When we got there Noah grabbed the beers out of the creek that he had stashed to stay cold and we raised them up to cheers an unforgettable day!

Loyd and Keith went to “hero or zero” lake and came back after dark… Loyd landed one awesome rainbow that went 27”!

Day 5 – Arco Spring Creek

Tomas was our guide for the day and we fished one of the spring creeks just fifteen minutes from the lodge. We had planned to do a half day fishing then lunch and half day in town to get some goods from the artisan market.

We caught so many small trout from 6-10 inches. Lacey landed one 15” rainbow on a dry fly and I had one big brown chase a small rainbow I had hooked. I made a quick recast near the log and he came out and crushed my hopper! He made a few jumps and threw my hook. I was surprised to see such a large fish in the creek.

Lacey and I worked up to one last promising run with a deep grassy cut bank. I told her it was hers and I would go a little farther up. I said “Let’s give it 10 minutes and then we better head back, it’s already later than we planned to stay”. A short while later I could hear her yelling and looked through the calafate bushes to see her hooked up to a pissed off brown. It jumped three times before I got down to her and just as I did Tomas and Jared came around the bend. Tomas jumped in and netted it. It was a fat 22” brown. She was stoked! We snapped a few photos then headed for the truck.

We went to town and had a nice lunch with part of the group and looked around at the artisan market. They have some great hand made things and it is worth checking out if you are into that sort of thing or need a gift for a son/daughter or your spouse.

Loyd and Keith went to “hero or zero” lake and came back after dark… Loyd landed one awesome rainbow that went 27”! He also had another big fish straighten out his hook but he was pumped on that huge rainbow. I was very happy for him because I knew they fished hard all day for one of the toads that lurk in those waters.

Day 6 – Lower Simpson

Eduardo and Tomas drove the part of our group that was staying the extra days to fish the camp to fish the Lower Simpson River. This section is on the way to the trailhead to get to the Rio Blanco camp and is on another stretch where Eduardo has exclusive permission. In an hour and a half I landed over a dozen browns and rainbows, two of which were 18” fish. It was a great quick stop on the way to the Rio Simpson Base Camp.

We met Jorge the gaucho and the other group coming out of the Blanco. I didn’t need to get anyone excited about the horse ride or the fishing as the last groups stoke meter was topped out and it was story after story from them. The horses were loaded with our gear, food, and extra beer and we were off. If the group wasn’t already wide eyed and excited they were now. These horses do a great job climbing and descending rocks and walking through deep mud. It’s quite impressive the work they do and how well they perform in that terrain. They know where to go but sometimes need to be told. After an hour and a half ride we were at the boats. The guides had to fix a motor drive shaft before we headed up the river another 45 minutes to the camp. It was no problem, as we all understand things can go wrong and you just learn to figure it out and deal with it. Most of this group was from Alaska and understood the situation and our remote position.

The Rio Blanco and the valley looked and felt more beautiful than I remembered. The water was a little lower and clearer than when I fished here last December and looked prime. With a new kitchen/eating/hangout tent with large overhanging deck the camp is nearly complete now. The lumber to build the main tent was all milled on site by the head guide Andy. Rock paths go to each tent and to the shower and bathhouse behind the tent camp. This place is incredible and I can’t wait to fish it.

by Patrick Kissel

Read Part II

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