Escape the Winter

Patagonien | Chile

A new

When winter sets in here and the snow falls, it usually marks the end of fishing. The rod guides freeze, and the fish's activity drops to a minimum. It's the time of waiting or preparing. You can tie flies and perfect your fly boxes. For a true aficionado like myself, the time can feel long – and so I decided to travel to the southern hemisphere and embrace the summer. My destination: Patagonia in Chile

Patagonien | Chile
28.12.2011 - 07.01.2012

Wonderful Lodge


Arrival & Lodge

Arrival with Obstacles

The journey from Innsbruck through Frankfurt and Madrid to Santiago de Chile takes a full 20 hours and is truly arduous.

Relieved to have finally arrived in Santiago, I am met with a setback at the airport: pieces of luggage are missing! My rod tube and bag containing my clothing and equipment are missing, of all things. I file a complaint at the IBERIA counter, and I am assured that I would receive the missing luggage the next day. Amidst all the commotion, I also miss my connecting flight to Balmaceda, Patagonia, and I have to wait for the flight the next day. My frustration peaks when there is still no sign of my luggage the following day. // My idea to call the lodge pays off: The owner can reassure me; he has everything necessary in stock and can outfit me. A bumpy start - but now it's time to really get going.

The Salmo Patagonia Lodge & Luis Antunez

Luiz Antunez, the owner of the lodge, picks me up at Balmaceda Airport. After about 40 minutes of driving, we arrive at the Salmo Patagonia Lodge in Coyhaique - and at first, I can hardly believe my eyes: Luiz has more rods and reels than many small fly shops! His involvement in the development of Sage rods gives him access to the latest models in all line classes.

My outfit is rather meager: the waders are two sizes too big, and the rain jacket has seen better days. But the most important thing is that I can fish!

The lodge is located outside Coyhaique on a hill and is beautifully decorated with lots of charm. A true fly fishing lodge, filled with trophies and photos of trophy fish. After studying in Spain, Luiz established some fly shops there. Later, he moved to Chile, where he has lived for 20 years and runs his lodge. He knows the area like the back of his hand; within a few hundred kilometers, he knows every good water. Naturally, he's an excellent angler and a gifted caster, and on top of that, he's very practical. His wife, Lourd, and the cook, Gloria, ensure that culinary delights are not in short supply.

From Simpson River to Rio de oro

Day 1: Simpson River, Coyhaique

On the day of arrival, we fish at the Simpson River in Coyhaique. The wonderful thing about Chile's rivers is that there are no regulations. They create their natural riverbeds. The result is flood areas and perfect spawning grounds for the fish.

Currently, fish activity is limited to early mornings and late evenings. At sunset, an intense caddis hatch begins, the water surface comes alive, and the fish start rising.

On this evening, I catch some rainbow trout and notice how strong the fish are. Even a 45 cm rainbow trout provides a challenge on a 5-weight setup.

Day 2: Lago Alto

Today, we drive to Cerro Castillo National Park. Beautiful landscapes, impressive glacier views, and vast expanses amaze me. I am thrilled by the beauty of Chile, and I can understand why people undertake the long journey here to hike and explore nature.

We fish at a small lake nestled in the mountains amidst the forest. Luiz calls it Lago Alto. There, we stalk and look for brown trout 10 to 15 meters ahead. Spending a day sight fishing for brown trout with Luiz is an extraordinary experience. // It's not easy: the wind is strong, and the line keeps getting tangled in the tall grass. I miss a few good chances. But in the end, I catch four beautiful, strong brown trout measuring 40 and 50 cm with damselflies.

In the evening, dry fly fishing in the dark at the Simpson River. I catch six more trout, three of them in pitch darkness with deer hair caddis – I'm fascinated.

Day 3: Butterfly Lake

We head to Butterfly Lake. There are countless nameless lakes in Patagonia, and Luis is creative in giving them names. The lake is on the land Luis bought years ago. Situated in the woods, by the idyllic lake, he has also set up a romantic log cabin. I fish at this spot and catch many trout, some up to 50 cm. The fish population is so strong that it's not much of a challenge.

Days 4 & 5: Rio de Oro, Never Lake

Señor Luis, the lodge owner's father, is fishing with me at Rio de Oro today. At 84 years old, he's so fit that I can barely keep up as we hike for half an hour over steep terrain to the riverbed. He doesn't mind standing thigh-deep in the water; logically, he's an excellent dry fly fisherman. Admirable!

I catch over 20 brown trout, including many small ones, on this day. A regrettable experience is seeing the Didymo algae (also known as rock snot) that covers every rock in the lower reaches of the river. Luis tells me that within a year, the algae has covered every rock and multiplied rapidly. It's destroying the ecosystem.

The next day, we fish at Never, Never Lake. I hook many rainbow trout, but many of them are quite small.

What a pleasure


Some Days left

Day 6: Rio Emperador, Elf Creek

Today, we have planned to fish at the Rio Emperador. Using grasshopper imitations, I catch some good trout, some weighing over a kilo. It's a lovely morning with Señor Luis. // In the evening, I head to Elf Creek with Luis Jr. There's a nice video about it on the Sage website. The journey takes over two hours and leads through "Pampa Roads." The Rio de los Elfos flows into Z-Lake.

First, we fish with dry flies, and I hook some beautiful brown trout, some up to 60 cm in length. // Fishing at Elf Creek is a unique experience. At dusk, we set off from Z-Lake to Elf Creek. The old forests and the landscape are fascinating. Luis knows every stone at Elf Creek. Hand in hand, we work our way up the creek and fish the main pools.

In the dark at the creek, we use small Wooly Buggers and catch some superb trout, some up to 65 cm long. During the day, the trout in this crystal-clear water are so shy that you can land at most one fish, and then they're all gone. An extraordinary experience.

Days 7 & 8: Z-Lake, Elf Creek

Z-Lake and Elf Creek have captivated me, and I want to fish there for two more days. Fishing the lake from a belly boat is a fantastic experience. The fish are very strong, and I catch many beautiful trout.

Day 9: Tokji & Manihuelies River

Patagonia is experiencing increasingly strong runs of King Salmon, making Chile a fishing destination for this fish. The run takes place from late December to early February, precisely during my time, and I didn't want to miss it. // We fish a pool at the Tokji River and immediately catch a salmon weighing around eight kilos. After half an hour of unsuccessful casting, Luis has the idea to take a half-hour drive to the Manihuelies River.

He knows of a superb pool there - and he wasn't exaggerating: the pool is impressive. The excitement rises as we see truly large kings rolling in the pool. Two of them take my bait, and one of them weighs over 20 kilos. There couldn't be a more fitting grand finale!

Great Spot



To anyone planning a trip to this region, I cannot recommend the Salmo Lodge and especially Luis Antunez as a guide highly enough. This journey will be unforgettable.

PS: The humorous ending to this trip is that my luggage is delivered to the lodge the day before departure - just in time to lug it back home.


All images of the trip