An impassable canyon above and below the Base Camp interrupts the Rio Blanco. We were one of the few who have ever fished this remote section of the Rio Blanco. Brown trout found there way into this system over 70 years ago. Descendants of the first trout Europeans brought to the region in the 19th century.
Continued… (read part 1)
A burly horse ride and a spring creek
Good remote fishing spots can take awhile to get to. This one was no exception with a 2-hour drive from camp to the horse trail, followed by 2 hours on a horse to the jet boats, and another hour ride up river to the Base Camp.
We turned off the paved road onto gravel the road follows up the Aysen River that is formed by the Manihuales, Simpson, and Blanco Rivers. Soon we take another turn off, the road begins to thin out it felt like I was headed into Jurassic Park, and we were now in a temperate rainforest the thick mountaintops were partially fogged in. We passed through two old wooden gates to get to the horses.
The gaucho Jorge is busy getting his horses ready to ride us in. He is as authentic as they come, having grown up in this valley with his father they used to ride twelve hours to get to and from town via horse. He still lives ten miles up the valley and farms cattle. There is no question he is tough, as we were introduced and he shook our hands I notice he’s missing his right thumb. Something that didn’t hinder his ability to throw packs on his horses and cinch them down. We watched him work fast, he didn’t want our help, and he trusts his knots and wants to do it his way without interruption.
He brought each horse over and helped us on one by one. He walked the pack horses in as we followed over rocks and through mud holes, across creeks and eventually to the jet boats. All we really had to do was hold on but it was an exciting ride in. We loaded the boats and jetted up an hour to the camp.
The tents are nice weather port style built on platforms with a front door and covered porch area. They are luxury when talking about tents, each had two beds in them, heat, and electricity when the generator was running. The bathhouse has a hot water shower and flush toilet. The dining tent has a woodstove and everything they need to make 5-star meals in a remote camp. At the front of the camp is the Rio Blanco and behind is a spring creek, the ideal location.
We wasted no time heading out to fish the spring creek before dinner. I watched and videoed as Don caught a couple really nice browns on a black beetle twitched across the creek. The violent takes were enough to make you jump and set the hook by instinct rather than skill. It was exciting!
Dinner blew my mind again; Esteban one of the cooks from the lodge came with. He even brought everything needed to make Pisco Sours (the national drink of Chile) something I grew fond of during my time in Chile. The dinner and wine was as good as at the lodge, maybe better due to our remote location. Everything here was either brought in by horse or dropped by helicopter.
Up the Rio Blanco
I woke up early today for coffee and to write in my journal. Esteban is kneading dough for breakfast biscuits. This is a luxury tent camp for sure, the table is set just like it was at the lodge only difference is we have a really cool white and red checker table cloth over the table and we are waking up already on the banks of the Rio Blanco!
It’s overcast and rainy a perfect combination to throw streamers! We won’t start fishing today until about 11am per Don’s request and I don’t blame him at 65 for being a little tired. He has been fishing his tail off the last 9 days!
On the jet boat ride up the river we saw at least a dozen explosions on the water. I am getting excited now! We are at the bottom of a vast steep valley; the steep mountains have fog hanging on them; just a small speck on this remote piece of river. About 18 miles up river we come to the big rapids where we can no longer jet up river.
Don started with a heavy sink tip and streamer pulling three in before I can rig up a heavy indi rig. We stayed here for about an hour each catching a dozen healthy browns and rainbows. I opened an Escudo and dumped some in the river thanking her for an already incredible day. Later on while I was on the oars Don landed a dinosaur of a brown on a streamer, an old buck with a large head and long slender body. It was exciting watching him come out of nowhere and crush it! It felt like I was guiding again, watching Don and Andi our guide bring in fish after fish.
We stopped for lunch and it really started sinking in how lucky I am, how untouched this place is. I crouched there on the bank enjoying my sandwich gazing into the clear water of a small stream trickling into the Blanco. I smiled, thinking of my friends and past clients I want to bring on this trip.
After lunch the fast action continued, the river has endless places to pull a streamer. It has so many downed logs and overhanging trees for these browns and rainbows to hide. The last fish of the day was the best. I spotted a big brown sipping in the foam I pointed it out to Don as Andi rowed over. Don threw a cast, his mouse dropped about 8 feet in front of him and he began to strip. BAM! The big brown came over in an instant and gulped Don’s mouse. We were all hollering and laughing as Don fought him to the boat.
More big browns
The sun rose over the mountains and dried out the camp as we sat drinking coffee at breakfast, talking about yesterday’s adventure and thinking of what’s to come today.
I started the day out with two fish well over 20” one chased it right to the boat missing multiple times before I pinned up with him. He splashed us as he fought to break free. We caught a bunch of fish again as we floated to camp. Sometimes Don would get one to move but not hook it pointing out what log it came from. If my cast was good I almost always hooked up or at least would get the fish to move, these fish aren’t shy!
We got back to camp at about 7pm so I grabbed an Escudo and my 5wt with a mouse tied on and headed up the spring creek. I spotted a big black tail sticking out from behind a clump of grass. He was big from what I could tell sitting in a small but deep hole surrounded by weeds. I plopped my mouse on the water and gave it a twitch, he turned around, and was so slow to slurp it I thought he was going to refuse. I fought him hard from the weeds and quickly tailed 25” of spring creek brown! As if it wasn’t already my trip to Patagonia is complete! I am fully content.
High water and tailing trout
It rained hard last night and the river has swollen a few dirty feet. We will fish the spring creek today then head down river to the horses. For some reason Andi seems excited about this…he left breakfast for a bit. He came back and said, “The creek is fishing good now, very excellent sight fishing.” We sprung up and got ready. It was insane the spring creek had quadrupled in size. The clear water was up over the grazed grass and caliphate bushes. Big Browns were slowly cruising sucking up worms and whatever else they could find. They looked like tailing redfish slowly crawling along the grass looking for their next meal. Casting a little streamer at them with a slow retrieve would peak their interest to come grab it off the bottom or in some cases as soon as it hit the water they were on it! This is the pinnacle of fly-fishing in my opinion, sight fishing to large cruising trout that are willing to take your fly.
The biggest fish of the day was one I spotted way out, a dark shadow bigger than anything else we had spotted that morning. I frantically cast my fly, too short, too far left, shit! I was shaky and losing my mind! I got a decent cast in, she came over and refused it but didn’t fully spook. I figured I had one more shot, my cast landed way out in front of her. I waited until she got closer to move it. I could tell she saw it but wasn’t too interested so I just stripped it as fast as I could and she locked on to it making a wake as she came over and smacked it, then again and I hooked up. Her predatory reaction couldn’t resist my fly frantically swimming for its life! We danced around the tall grass and bushes; Andi was able to help me tail her. She went 8-10 pounds one of my biggest browns ever! We were all ecstatic. As if last night didn’t cap the trip today surely did!
It doesn’t seem so long ago we were loaded up on horses headed in for this adventure. Now we ride out, still in our waders, a damn fine conclusion to the entire trip.
The Rio Blanco isn’t fished during the summer months because of a main tributary that is glacially fed. The river turns a milky white from the glacial silt that runs into the main river, hence the name Rio Blanco. The Blanco is mostly a streamer fishery in spring (mid October – Mid December) due to the aggressive rarely fished trout, but we did catch fish on beetles and mice. Late February, March and April offers good dry fly fishing as well with the usual big mayflies, caddis, beetles and other terrestrials. I would go again to the Base Camp if the horse ride was 10 hours or if I had to hike my way to the boats. It was that good!
The entire trip was incredible really and what you would imagine Patagonia to be. I’m confident we caught fish that had never seen a fly pass by and big fish. I was impressed with the level of guides Eduardo employs at his lodge many having 10-20 years of experience in the area! Aside from the spectacular fishing and scenery the level of service, professionalism, lodging, and accommodations were great. Twelve days was not enough time to explore the amount of water in the area.
I can’t wait to go back next season and fish with these guys again!
by Patrick Kissel