Gorgeous Brown Trout in Patagonia

Patagonia Fishing Report by Don Long


Don Long
Fly Fishing Lodge in Patagonia

December, 2017

This Fishing Lodge in Patagonia is only a few years old with inviting fresh and new structures on the grounds that are built between two lagos or lakes.

Our arrive at the lodge was by way of a, 1 hour, 4 wheel drive road tour of wild and rustic visuals. All aboard were likely saying to themselves, “This isn’t Kansas anymore Toto.” This area of Patagonia is especially primal in its terrain and ecosystem. Transportation in somewhat slow and circuitous so to be able to reach the fishing lakes and rivers and streams in the area we traveled by all terrain trucks and off road transports.

Keep a camera handy!

You’ll crest a dozen hills by way of a bouncing cobblestone back road strewn with free range sheep and cattle milling and wandering up and down plummeting side hills on your daily sojourns outside the lodge. There is surely going to be flocks of noisy, upset Ruff Necked Ibis that will voice their cacophony of disdain and complaint as you unseated them from their spot on the meadows and on the roadbeds with your passing. If the wind is up, and it always up, there could be a condor sighting in your immediate future. You will surely encounter one or more mounted Gauchos on the way into and out of the lodge on your daily treks to the angling waters. Horsemanship for them is ingrained in their mountain ranch life. They are truly gifted and talented equestrians. Every valley floor gives way to vast and deep lochs and lagos. All that being dwarfed by an endless balcony of towering mounts of rock and impassable expanses of old growth forest. You are decidedly plunged into a very physical and vertical, visceral canvas of primal geology. It will surely bring up thoughts of a Jurassic Park kind of venue upon your arrival.

Consuelo and Eduardo and their family owns and manages the lodge are very welcoming.

You are immediately made to feel you’re a pampered guest of the family in their home from arrival to departure. The rooms are exceedingly big and spacious and of a fresh and clean appointment in a ski chalet styling. The house staff and kitchen crew were all eager to know you and where you came from. Spanish is the daily speak but more than half the staff were able to communicate with a good command of English. We enjoyed their willingness and encouragement to let us try out our Spanish for a one or two word mixed response.

The daily guides are subcontracted and half of them have worked in the states both east and west and into Alaska as veteran guides depending on the season of the year.

Two of those guides are expatriated from the states and have been there for decades as the first boatman to explore and test the area for its cache of trophy fly fishing holds. We could not of been in better company on the water. The roadways you’ll travel must be navigated between and betwixt immense and awe inspiring bastions of geologic giants in every direction. The local populous is very sparse and sequestered in mostly, subsistence living, sheep and cattle farms.

Each mornings adventure will require a road trip of semi-rough passage for up to 1 or 2 hours before you’re able to wet a line. Every lake and river system was a hold for healthy fish populations that was time and again ridiculously target rich with opportunity to hook up. Browns and Bows were the only species caught with Browns being the norm in the net at a 5 to 1 ratio to their Rainbow cousin depending upon which water we were sampling. Only myself and two others were at the lodge this trip and we had the run of the place for nearly 2 weeks.

I was able to actively hunt fish for nearly 8 hours each day for twelve days straight.

The average daily catch by each of us, if your into numbers and conquest fishing, were easily fifteen to twenty-five fish each outing. We were overrun with individual takes of fish in the 18″ to 25″ length. What was remarkable and never waned was the aggressiveness and the size and strength of every quarry we netted. Violent and angry takes that would unerringly attempt to unhand the rod from your grip were the constant norm. Truculent top water surface explosions were replicated on every take for days on end. Steamer hits made you to set you feet and brace for sudden impact. Lock down the drag like you would for a Bonefish. That was our prerequisite to each certain episode of mayhem. I brought two 5 weight rods of stout backbone. I put those away after my introduction to the strength and size of our quarry to favor 6 and 7 weights for the majority of the days on water.

Quick action was often required to hoist and wrench a catch at both river and lakes from the underwater tangle of endless sunken timbers and limbs that rested in the subsurface.

One could liken it to a good bass hold on lakes of the USA casting prowess of anywhere from 10 to 60 feet was the standard buy in for floating a lake shore or rafting down rivers of big runs, riffles, deep pools with but few class 1 and class 2 rapids. I was delighted to find and land a subspecies of Brown trout known as the Loch Leven that was brought in from the wilds of Scotland a century past which now thrives and flourishes along side it German Brown brother that makes up the rest of the population along side the occasional full bodied Rainbow.

Weather of December for Patagonia is a doppelganger twin to what you would expect for a trip to the fishing fields of the Aleutian peninsula in Alaska. Rain and wind were our constant companions. Gore Tex, coats, buffs, chest waders and down or fleece hoodie layers were always needed at the ready. Sometimes the sun would visit us for a few hours. Sometimes it rain so violently we couldn’t hear each other save for shouting above the din of a percussive hail of endless rain sheets that didn’t seem to ever alter the fishing. For balance, a few days were bright blue sky and rain free but had gale force winds as a substitute between dead calm transitions of storybook weather. The last 4 days of the adventure were touted to be a signature feature of the lodge package.

For extended stays past the first week you are guided by Gauchos on horse caravan through wilderness forest and rock escarpments into a world few are privileged to enter.

This pack trip in is a measured and focused horseback adventure over a very rocky, mud and muck, vertical jungle of vines and old growth primal forest. Some sections are a jaw dropping rush down and up step and occasionally precarious heights that parallel the Rio Blanco canyon. Brief glimpses of unattainable vertical escarpments shoulder up to a cavernous and roaring river drop for endless minutes just off the side hill you are traversing. A canyon that is only bested by this ancient horse track due to it narrow walls and vertical climb. No boat navigation will ever be attempted to the up river camp other than helicopter or horse. Multiple twenty to one hundred foot fall drape this section of the Rio Blanco for the entire length of it narrows. The horse trail ends two hours later at the river bank in an area of open meadow at a primitive tie up and launch. We traded out for a one hour river run in a 16 foot Zodiac to the upper camp off 20 miles distance on the Rio Blanco. We were very aware that we were the only human souls to tread there for the next four days.

Camp is set up with all the modern conveniences that anyone would dare to imagine.

The weather port designs that house two anglers each was of metal and wood designed by our guide Andy. All these material were brought through at great expense by helicopter. Andy is the master designer behind the camp layout. He lives and works off season in the town of Coyhaique when he’s not guiding as a master carpenter and his designs and craftsmanship are more than impressive. He has built a marvel of a house there from the ground up in a traditional old world Swiss chalet styling. While you’re at the upper river camp, spacious weather ports along side dining and kitchen structures are manned by a gourmet chef that will have appetizers and drinks at the ready the instant you leave the river.

After a daily push for trophy water for miles more upriver and beyond the camp it’s a treat to return to a gourmet meal and an evening of great conversations and storytelling. Both women and elderly angler can be assured that they will be quite comfortable if not literally waited on at this camp that bodes safe and warm for what is their early springtime of December. A hot shower and a flush toilet are at your service while the generator is running during hours you are in camp.

Of all the camps I have set up myself or been in as a client, I have never imagined to see that in a location so remote.

Andy took us to the highest point up river that we could gain with our Zodiac and we rowed and floated for two consecutive days It was always drift style, up against heavy overhanging limbs. Dead fall and Jurassic Park like foliage and rock outcrops created endless holds and ambush points where the trout were laying for us in flurries of nonstop action.

Trophy fishing can be had at every cast.

We all took endless hookup on dries, foam bodied beetles, streamers and mouse patterns for hours on end. Our 1X leader and tippet were repeatedly challenged to the limit of their tensile strength. By the last day which would end with our departure down river to the horse pack out, we had so much rain in the night that the river rose. It was now suddenly foreboding, dark and violent and washed out any hope of going up river again. We would not be able to taste the final eight mile section we had not yet tested. The cautionary, off color and turbulent river had become dangerous beyond any chance to yield trout for this final day on the Rio Blanco.

The camp was strategically place at the mouth of the spring creek that empties into the main river about forty yards away from camp for just such a situation as we saw before us.

With a wink and a nod, our guide Andy said, “grab your gear and follow me” to us as he has an experience in store for us that we would never forget. Andy led Patrick and I on foot and straight to the spring creek which had now been transform into a clear water lake overnight. The former twenty foot wide and eight foot deep, brush littered still pools of the creek had backed up and were now 100 meters wide with clear spring water that was now being blocked from draining due to river rise.

This moss and reed filled spring creek was now overflowing into the meadow with a golf green like short grass bottom, void of any casting structural concerns for as far as you could see. This backflow now extended past the mile of creek where we had walked successfully landing lunkers the first night of camp. Now the conditions for stalking trout had turned into a tidal pool worthy of comparison to the Bonefish flats of Ascension Bay. Every twenty yards there were cruising, feeding, backs out of the water, sight fishable, twenty inch, cruiser weight bullies that were bitch slapping our offerings. Andy had us throwing small, slow stripping streamers in as little as ten inches of water. It was one of those rare moments in fly fishing that you continually say to yourself, “you need to hit it hard and nonstop because these conditions and this opportunity aren’t gonna ever pass your way again.” We did exactly that.

Andy had fallen into these rarefied conditions a few times before this.

He explained that it doesn’t happen but one or twice a season and we fortunate three were there for the event. For the three hours left to us before we would break camp, Patrick and Andy and I took turns. The conservative guess was that we roped in about three dozen eighteen to twenty-five inchers by sighting and stalking them exactly as you would a tailing Bone or tail up feeding Permit on a saltwater flat. Patrick’s turn in the rotation came at the moment we all saw a behemoth of a toad out beyond forty feet away. His entire back breached the surface as we all agreed he went twenty seven plus inches even from our distance. A few false cast and a trout that turned back the other direction ended in a retrieve and well placed follow up offer. In a rush at Patrick’s streamer, the stalk and take ended as a video moment and pics of three wide eyed grinning anglers intent on photobombing one magnificent Loch Leven Brown. This pesca measured out as a legit 28 inch beauty before its release to fight another day.

We may have been more successful with our fish count on another time of the season but Andy pointed out that bigger fish are more likely to be a encountered on the Rio Blanco during this early spring slot we found ourselves in. As a side note for your consideration, we as a group of two were capable of more advanced technical and occasionally extreme casting requirements. The need for drive by casting into vast overhangs of submerged dead fall and foliage to reach tight pools at thirty to sixty feet were occasional to common. The fact that myself and Patrick have both logged multiple seasons as river guides in Alaska and in the states afforded us casting experience to access the more difficult lies that can abound in a Patagonian river systems.

Be assured that we snagged many an overhung limb, submerged tree trunk and once or twice ourselves. We surmised that it was all worth the take and part of the process to reach out and hookup on these big trophies again and again. We made plenty of ill advised casts that resulted in bird nest tangles and drift stopping time outs to release a trophy “branch” back to the river. The beauty of this lodge is that they and their guides are most accommodating to the needs, abilities and limitations of a beginner and all the way to the veteran professional and world class angler.

I hope to return there in the future if time and life afford me the opportunity once again.

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There's a reason I keep booking this steelhead fishing trip!
Second time I’ve done this particular trip. The steelhead run was awesome! The food was even better than the first time, which is hard to imagine, and our guide is the best there is! If catching big fish is your thing I highly recommend booking through Outdoors International.
Ernie Sorenson
Mark Stasz with a great dorado.
We had an incredible time fishing in Mexico. We've already booked our next trip and can't wait to go back!
Mark Stasz
Greg Pope with a Strobel Lake rainbow trout.

I expected big trout on this trip based on all the stories I've read over the years, and I was not disappointed! I broke my own personal best rainbow trout record at least SIX times on this trip, with the biggest being a 16 pound beauty.

I will be going again soon!

Greg Pope

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