Friday, January 27, 2012

A new Stream

After a day of housekeeping – as in cleaning two inches of dust out of the car – I went fishing yesterday.  Found a great mountain stream.  Actually re-found would be a better way to describe it.  A couple of years ago, when Ethan and I made the “Race the Sun” trip, we saw it and though that it might be worth investigating.  Yesterday I finally got to do it with Gerlof.  Access is relatively easy as a hiking trail parallels the stream for about 1.5 Km.  Where the trail turns away from the stream to bypass a gorge, I cut down to the stream and walked along it to where it hit the gorge.  Gerlof being still young and full of energy had to go up and over the gorge to see what is on the other side.  I did one of those “let’s see what is over that hill “ trips with him last year on the Perdogosa!  Not this year.

This stream has a relatively high gradient with a good combination of pockets and bigger pools.  For a confirmed small stream guy like me it is perfect.  And, the size of the rocks was just right for walking and wadding.  With no-felt soles this is more important than you might realize.

The stream just has the look of a Rainbow stream.  A couple of streams I’ve fished in the same general watershed have both Rainbows and Browns but this one only had Browns – while actually Gerlof did get one rainbow below the gorge.  And there were lots of Browns.  I’m not a fish counter.  For me it is more of a qualitative disruptive process:  OK, Fair number of fish, Good day, and One hell of a day.  Yesterday was One hell of a day.  It seemed like every pocket you popped 
your big fat foam fly had a Brown between 11 and 13 inches in it with more than

 a few 14 to 15 inch fish.   

I brought two video cameras with me on this trip.  I'm like a kid in a candy store with them.  To put it in prospective let me quote my son Ethan:  (Me) "E, did you see the videos I put on Facebook?"  (Ethan) " Sure did Pop, all 27 of them.  Your getting to be a geek!" (editors note:  I think I just but 3 or 4 up).

I'm not a geek.  If I was I'd know how to use them.  Take the helmet camera for example.   With fish after fish coming up to my fly I thought, "what a great place to use the helmet camera to catch the rise on video!"  Out of the bag comes the camera and on it goes.   I'm turning it on at each new run, catching a fish and turning it of to save the battery.  I'm sure I have some awesome footage.  NOT.
What I'm doing is taking a single "snapshot" each time.  Do have some nice wide angle shots.  And I think I now know how to use the camera in video mode.

I'll get some footage of a take yet!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Both Gerlof and I have been noosing around the area along the Carretera Austral for the past 4 or 5 years looking for new places to fish.  Historically most of the people that have come to Patagonia to fish have gone to the lodges.  The typical programs at a lodge is a couple of days floating the bigger and well know rivers and a couple of days fishing the lakes and lagoons.  Very few offer walk wade fishing on the numerous other smaller rivers and streams.    But things are starting to change a little.  There are starting to be more folks like Gerlof and me.   Some stumble along like us, finding some rare gems of streams and then also fishing some streams that are complete bust.  Others try to pick our brains to find out what we have discovered.  And then there a few that just take them.  They are like burglars with a GPS in their pocket. Oh well, live and learn.  Over a glass of wine in a small Hospedaja we made a pack.  Rivers remain a mystery to all but the two of us.  No names and just general locations, as “in the vicinity of La Junta.” 

Our first location near La Junta was a river slightly bigger than the ones we normally fish.   But the water levels are a bit low this year so we were able to wade through shallow areas and find scattered spots where we could cross.  It took us all afternoon to fish about a kilometer and a half up the river.   We stopped where a nice tributary came in.  Most of our fish were Rainbows in the 13 to 15 inch range, a few fish 15 to 18 inches and one 20 incher for Gerlof from the tributary.  The Browns we got into tended to be larger, 15 to 18 inches.  Right below where the tributary entered was a long deep run.   It was full of fish just waiting for our big foam flies.   As we were reaching the head of the run we looked upstream and saw a fishing raft coming toward us.   The guide, looking very, very upset and talking tough for the benefit of the clients said, ”What are you doing here and how did you find this place?  You didn’t leave us any fish did you? ” He wasn’t interested in an answer.

Google Earth is the nosy fly fisher’s friend.  If a lodge got a raft into the river someplace upstream there were two likely alternatives:  1) the lodge was located someplace upstream on the river or 2) there was a way to get to the river that didn’t show on the maps we had.  If the answer was the first alternative we were finished.  But if the answer was the second we were in “Fat City.”  It looked like we were in “Fat City.”  Panning up the river on Google Earth, we found what looked like it might be a narrow road, barely more than a track, which led down to the river.  After about 3 Km the road became too rough for the car.  But what is a few Km walk to reach potentially rarely fished water?   Beside the bridge over the river was a gap in the willows that looked like where the rafts were launched.    The rest of the day was simply amazing, fishing over fish that in all likelihood had rarely if ever been fished to.   That night in La Junta we plotted our next year’s assault.  We would pack a sleeping bag, tarp, camp stove, rice and oil in our waterproof backpacks and fish up for a couple of days. 

The next morning we were off on a new quest.  On the way to our primary objective we crossed several small streams.  At each one we pulled the car off to the side of the road, scanned the water and debated where it was worth our limited time to give it a “test fish”.  A couple made the grade and rewarded us.  And a couple of them were less than rewarding.  The fishing at our primary objective was about as good as on the previous day’s river.  This time we didn’t run into any floaters.  But we cut the day a bit short when in late afternoon the river started to get off colored.  Once that happened the fishing shut down.  We were too far away from “civilization” for the color to be due to gravel mining and washing.  Our only explanation was that it had rained in the headwaters the night before.

A long day’s drive, with stops at one disappointing small stream and another gem of a find brought us to Coyhaique and the end of our fishing odyssey. Tomorrow I would clean 600 miles of gravel road dust out of the car and Gerlof would pack for a 10 day trip to Argentina.   But tonight we would meet at the Restaurant Charcabuco to have a beer and watch the TV, with the owner Juan, as the soccer team Colo Colo disappointed us once again.   The Chilean trout sure didn’t disappoint us on this adventure.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Heading North To Meet Gerlof

The long journey, and I do mean long via Chicago and Miami, from home to Coyhaique was basically without incident.  Everything made except one thing.  Some place in the Santiago Airport is a debit card without a home.   But thanks to WiFi at Veronica’s no harm has or will be done. 

On the 18th, a little later in the morning than I had hope, I started the long trek toward Futaleufu.   I was late getting on the road because I needed to make sure my float tube was OK. The distance isn’t all that far – 420 Km – but when over 300 Km is one or maybe two lane gravel road it is a long if you are lucky, if not it is a lot further.   I headed that far 
north to meet my Dutch friend and once a year fishing companion Gerlof.  He had taken the overnight bus from Santiago to Puerto Montt so he could float the Rio Maullin, the outflow from Chile’s second largest lake.  Gerlof’s idea of floating is not what most people think of.  He floats the river in his float tube!   From there he caught another bus, via Argentina, to Futaleufu where I picked him up for our drive along the Carretera Austral back to Coyhaique, fishing our way home.

Futaleufu is a tourist destination, but not for fishing.  The Rio Futaleufu is world class white water rafting and kayaking water.  But for small stream fly fishers like Gerlof and me there are more than a few opportunities.   The Ro Chico, just outside of town of the road toward Argentina, was our first stop.  This is a small stream fishers kind of stream with pockets and runs.  And, being in the mountains of Chile, there are of course gorges and waterfalls.  From there we headed back toward the Austral.  To reach the Austral we had to cross – that means fish – two more rivers.  The first was a bit of a surprise.   I was expecting Rainbows.  Sure the stream had as a few Rainbows but Brook Trout were the surprise!  As I headed back toward the car, I waded below a slow run.  I made that quick obligatory cast you always make.  Bam, my only brown!   I had my first Chilean Grand Slam!  The last river of the day, the Rio Malito was much bigger and rather boring after the others two streams and we debated stopping to fish it.  But it would have been wrong to drive over it without stopping and catch at least one or two fish.

Our final stop of the day was the shoreline Largo Yelcho.  Largo Yelcho is world famous for its big rainbow trout.  We would camp that night on the shore.  Gerlof, apparently like most Dutch fly fishers, is a confirmed float tuber.   He knows the Yelcho well having floated it many times.   His idea was that if the wind wasn’t blowing we would fish it for something to go with our meal of rice and eggs.  The wind wasn’t bowing.  I have a float tube.  In fact I’ve had one for about 10 year.  And in those 10 years, I’ve used it exactly once!  So here I am on a BIG lake with float tube expert expected to help secure diner.   Graceful in my attempt to get into the tube and then into the water, I was not.  But with only two falls I made it.  Float tube fishing is very different than anything I have done.  First off I was just plain nervous about being in the tube and secondly for a barely acceptable caster trying to cast a full sink line with your elbow just above the water level is not a pretty sight.   Realizing my limitations, I resorted to “trolling” a Pancora imitation.  I’d make the longest and sloppiest cast I could and then just kick like hell and twitch my rod from time to time.  Guess what?  The twitcher secured food while the artful floater came up empty!

The next morning after a shore breakfast of fried eggs and trout we set off for our next fishing adventure.