About a month from now, I’ll be crossing the Mexico border with at least a year of road-tripping ahead through Central and South America. I have no idea what’s coming and the entire intent of this trip is exploration. If I see water that looks good, I’m stringing up a fly rod and casting. My end game however, and the origin of this entire idea began with a short road trip in Patagonia while working at a Chile fly fishing lodge.
The previous season, we had worked non-stop. To a point of frustration really because we weren’t allowed any time to fish and explore on our own. Our flights were booked without consultation, we guided 65 days out of 70 in the country and we were shuffled out the door. The following year however, the boss/crazy a**hole had runoff any potential for a full calendar of repeat business through his incessant rants, blatant racism and constant casting over paying paying customers lines. This left us with plenty of downtime and after working hard labor for no pay for a few months, Mark’s girlfriend came to visit, we jumped in a 4 cylinder diesel van and took off down the Austral Highway to fish Lago Yelcho, a bunch of small streams and the Futaleufu River.
We didn’t have a plan and we just kind of bounced around in an under-powered van that couldn’t make the run up a few hills but served as a functional home on the road. The amount of water between Chaiten and Futleufu is overwhelming and I could easily spend a lifetime chasing fish around here. Doing it with two good friends for a week was about as good as it gets. Here are a few fisheries we hit and photos to accompany them. I’m really just writing this because I’m dreaming about the moment I find myself back down here, in my own van, entirely on my own terms.
Rio Yelcho and Lago Yelcho Fly Fishing
These are the home waters and we knew them well. That meant actually having a few days to fish them was productive. We were dialed and ready to pick apart trout chasing schools of puye at Puerto Cardenas while dipping through the river outlet to fish our favorite banks and eddies in Rio Yelcho.
Fly Fishing the Futaleufu Region
We frequented the mouth of the Futaleufu and the lower river at Lago Yelcho but hadn’t ventured up the Austral towards the town. On the route, we managed to stop and hit a few tributaries. I am bringing a portable raft along on the next round and have plans to float a few of these smaller waterways until I hit the big river. Who knows what will turn up but I love small rivers.
Hiking the Yelcho Glacier
After a few days of fishing and doing my best to stay on the water while giving Mark and Kimberly some space, we were reluctant but managed to steer back towards the lodge. We stopped off to hike the Yelcho Glacier, something I’d wanted to do badly after staring at it from the lake for so many days while guiding. The weather wasn’t clear but we made our way up the trail and managed to sink a few cold beers in the river below the Glacier.