World Wide Fishing!


Futaleufu Chile, March 2004, Part 2

By David Briscoe

Harry & Paz Everything at each meal is either from the farm or the garden, prepared fresh by Evana, the tall blond girlfriend of on vertically challenged Juan Carlos.

The lodge has a generator to provide electricity during the morning and evening hours (the only electricity in the valley) and we had been told that the lights would flash later in the night indicating you have 10 minutes before lights out. Jim C. and I were out looking at the stars when the lights went out. Juan Carlos & Evana We stood there for a few moments expecting them to flash on again, we then realized they were out for good and when I say dark I mean dark. Pitch black, the stars are all you can see. I knew I had a flashlight in my bag in the room but I couldn't find the room, I could barely find the house. I felt my way in and tried to retrieve the flashlight but with minimal luck. I came back out and got Jim's lighter to assist in my search but with little success. After more than a little time feeling my way around my luggage I finally located the light and went back outside to find I was now alone. It seems the guys went to bed so I figured it was time for me too. When I got to the bed I found on the nightstand a battery powered lamp which had I known about a few minutes ago would have made it a lot easier to locate than my flashlight.

dinner 1st night

Sunday morning and Marcelo is the first person you see as each morning he sticks his head into your room and asks if you'd like some coffee and whether you need a fire started but the first thing you hear each morning is the classical music that awakens you. It begins when the electricity comes on along with all the lights that you left on when the power went off the night before. It's not a big problem though since you are getting to bed late (for me) and the power come on at 0700 which is about sunup anyway. I've always been an early riser so first light is like sleeping in for me. I'm up and in the shower which turned out to be a mistake due to the fact that though I had thought I'd figured out the electricity thing, I obviously had not yet figured out the hot water thing. The water started warm stayed that way just long enough for me to get the hair good and lathered then it went cold, really cold. I quickly analyzed my options and came to the realization that cold was all I could do so I bit my lip and attempted to finish my shower. Just about the time I figured out how to get the soap from my hair without having the frigid water hit the rest of me the hot came back on and then I hear laughter in the kitchen, which in on the other side of the wall, and I wondered if I've just become the victim of another of Juan Carlos' pranks.

I make it through the shower and met the others out on the porch in the crisp morning air with dew heavy on the ground and fog rising from the river at the end on the path. The mountains surrounding us were beautifully framed by the fog and low clouds in the distance.

To the river Breakfast is ready so we all head in for our choice of scrambled eggs, omelets or oatmeal. Freshly squeezed juices consisting of a variety of apparently whatever fruits are on hand because it was different every day. Homemade jams, orange and blackberry, to go on the homemade breads along with coffee and great conversation.

By the time we're done with breakfast our guide G.B. and Juan have the truck packed and ready for another drive over the mountain to a day of fishing on the "Lagoon."

Lagoon

Juan is a hunting guide from Argentina who during the hunting off season has been driving for the lodge. Juan speaks English as well as any of the natives and I asked where he learned and he indicated he is self taught from his clients.

Lagoon The lagoon is located off the valley road not far from the turnoff to Futaleufu. We pass through a gate and into a large pasture then down a plain into a flat area under a large tree. The lagoon is a section of the river separated by two pieces of impassable whitewater, one at the canyon just above and the other a way below the lagoon but the put-in area is the only way in or out. The lagoon is maybe 80 acres of swirling water 30 to 40 feet deep. (Harry tells us there's a Hexagraph and nice reel at the bottom but wouldn't go into details.) The rapids just above the lagoon constrict the river so that an enormous volume of water spills into the west side of the lagoon with such force that over half of the area is constantly releasing bubbles.

Lagoon

This highly oxygenated fast moving water make for some strong fish not to mention some interesting rowing. The fish cruise the foam lines moving across the backwater and we sight cast ants and mayflies. The fish have a very subtle take but once they're hooked they go straight down and as I mentioned they are strong and that along with the strength of the current makes this a real challenge. You're never disappointed with your fish but at times surprised the fish is not larger for the amount of effort it took to get them in.

Getting ready

On the Lagoon

Jim and I had the boat most of the day with Harry spending time before lunch fishing the riffles of the outflow. Jim had quite an argument going with G.B. concerning trout selectivity. It seems that Chile has no mosquitoes so the prevailing viewpoint is that the fish don't know what they are and won't take them but Jim was able to prove the theory void but it didn't stop G.B. from argueing about it all week.

Quiche?

We came off the water around 2:00 and G.B built a fire for our first shore lunch of which consisted of vegetable quiche, pasta salad with garden tomatoes and our first experience with Aji', a Chilean hot sauce that's not all that hot but tasty, a beer while we waited and of course a glass of wine with the meal.

These things really pull

After lunch Jim stayed on shore and Harry and I fished from the boat for a while. The fishing was kind of slow but we did manage eight or so for the day.

Later I swapped with Jim and did the fishing off the bank thing and hit the back water pond behind the big tree that apparently holds a large fish the guides would like to return to the river if someone could catch it. I was the only one to have a strike there but I don't think it was the big one.

But I pulled Back With the day winding down Juan our driver shows up to load the fishermen and the gear for the trip back over the mountain and to the lodge. By the time we hit the road it's almost dark and within a few hundred yards we meet a local walking along the road. Juan offers him a ride and he piles into the back with the boat and gear. As we rock and roll along, the local jumps out to get the gates and I think about where this guy would be had we not shown up. He rode with us all the way to the lodge then took off on foot again, we must have saved this guy 2 hours of walking and as I said it was getting dark, really dark. I can't imagine how that walk would have been in pitch black but this is how the locals live. As I said before, walk, horse or 4 wheel drive and we're in one of only 3 vehicles in the valley.

We're the last group back to the lodge and we're immediately met by Marcelo and his tray of Pisco Sours, and Or'derves. After a day of fishing and the rough road back, you're ready to relax and Marcelo and his wares is just the ticket. After an hour or so of milling around, cigar smoking and conversation, dinner is served and we all head into the dining room.

The fare tonight is Lasagna with a white cream sauce. As we ate Wayne asked each of us about our most memorable fishing experience, it was a good subject and all enjoyed hearing the stories. We retired to admire the consolations and then to bed.

Tom and Wayne

It's Monday and I now that I understand the shower routine I breeze through the process without issue and enjoy a fine breakfast of oatmeal in rich cream and toast from homemade bread. Harry planned to go to Jim Repines home in Esquel, Argentine so we decided to fish near the lodge in the morning so he could leave in the early afternoon.

Every day we swap the 2 guides so today Nicolas plans to take us up river from the lodge. The large size of the river limits how it can be fished and rowing is a particular art that I have no desire to learn. Nicolas begins by rowing Jim and me across the river while Harry stays on the lodge side and fishes downstream where a few years ago he caught the then lodge record 29 inch native brown. Jim walks upriver a ways and Nicolas sets me up fishing streamers downstream. The term streamer on the Futaleufu River is loosely given to everything from a woolly bugger type nymph, a conventional salmon-type streamer to a water-logged "Jim's Green" which is a local creation that resembles a large green pile of grass tied to a hook. It's actually a stimulator of some kind but is quite effective.

As was the case the day before, and will be for the week, the fishing is slow, so after an hour or so Nicolas loads me into the boat and we row across to retrieve Harry. Then it's back across the river where Harry and Jim walk up river to fish along the way. Nicolas drags and rows me up while I fish some areas. At one point we find a channel where a fish catches my streamer. I say it this way because I had little to do with it at that point; I believe it was a mercy catch. A nice rainbow with an unusual black head which concerned Nicolas since he had never before seen a two-toned trout in this river.

Harry and Nicolas

On the float back to the lodge for lunch we again stopped at the 'aquarium hole' between Jim's run and the lodge landing and after a good strike that I missed, I hooked a nice rainbow that took me deep but was apparently more than I could handle so I unwillingly approved a long distance release.

Since Harry was leaving us we only fished a half day and lunched at the lodge on pork chops and garden fresh potatoes then decided to head to a small stream on horseback. Paz, Jim, Warren, Nicolas and I loaded onto horses organized by Pete our Waso (wrangler) and headed to a small creek called the Kuillaeca, which is north of the lodge about a mile or two, for an afternoon of puddle jumping. I hadn't been on a horse for 10 or 20 years so it was an interesting effort just getting on but I made it on thanks to a bench and then got to thinking how I'd get off and decided falling would be effective.

To the Kuillaeca The Kuillaeca is a small boulder laden creek with small pools and steep banks, just the kind of fishing that is more conducive to my wading abilities. Large flies and small fish was the name of the game however, as has been the case the last couple of days it was slow but I did manage 2 rainbows and a brown which was about what the others did.

Argentine border to Esquel

Back at the lodge before dark we were able to start the Pisco sours and appetizers earlier than usual so it was nice to just kick back and relax for a while before a dinner of turkey, fresh vegetables and of course, fine wine.

Tuesday morning began with clouds and rain and an omelet. Jim C. had decided to drive into Esquel to retrieve Harry and Jim R. so I was left alone to fish with G.B. in the rain.

Rain day rainbow I suspect that the difficult fishing the previous 2 days was the result of the front that brought this weather. G.B. decided on the 'down river' float and we departed mid-morning and as has been the case the fishing was slow and that coupled with the rain made for a less than perfect day. At one point we beached the boat at the mouth of the small stream we had fished the day before.

Record hole


I caught a few with one special event when a long cast up a long pool beside a stream side willow resulted in the largest rainbow ever taken from that stream, a 16 inch lodge record, a beautiful fish.

The record fish We hiked back to the boat and started back downstream again. A hopper produced a couple of strikes but that was it. We stopped for lunch, in the rain, G.B. had trouble getting a fire started but I was able to get it lit and we enjoyed sausage and hot coffee.

Rain day

The rain continued and I was now getting a little uncomfortable since my waterproof jacket was apparently not prepared for the water it was subjected to. It was about 3:30 and we wanted to head back but the ox cart that is contracted to haul the gear back to the lodge was not supposed to be there until five. We were pleasantly surprised when the ox cart arrived after we had been at the pullout only about 20 minutes. They apparently monitor the river and when they see you pass they head your way.

Oxman The oxen were operated by an 80 year old man who had two of his 18 children with him. We understand that the old man had had open lung surgery just 2 weeks before and his daughter was on him the whole time to not be straining himself. We loaded up on 2 of the 3 horses they brought along and headed up the hill to a wide pasture and a most beautiful part of the valley.

The ride back


The ride back takes you through 2 large pastures, through a couple of gates, then along a path above the river, then past a few farms and the simple and quaint frame dwellings of the locals.

It's a beautiful day At one point we pass the works of the reconstruction of a swinging bridge that fell into the river a few years ago. Not having the bridge makes getting to town more difficult for the people on the east side of the valley since the only way to now get a horse across is to swim the river and that is a very difficult task so work goes on. The work goes slowly and completion is years away but some progress has been made in that you can now use a metal cage attached to one of the steel cables spanning the river and propel yourself across using a hand crank.

Wet, wet, wet are the three best adjectives to describe Tuesday, Harry and Jim picked a good day to not be on the water being that the most redeeming piece of the day was the horse ride back to the lodge. The pull-out point and the horse ride back is on the opposite side of the river from the lodge so when we arrive across from the lodge we must hope that someone sees us then rows across in another boat to bring us in from cold. Warren was out in front of the lodge and sent Pete (the Waso) across in the boat to retrieve us. As I may have mentioned earlier here at the lodge the guest is only expected to do about three things for themselves, eat, drink and cast and at this point in the day primary responsibilities consisted of removing my waders and finding Marcelo for a Pisco Sour the former always took more effort than the later.

Jim Repine, who had traveled back from Esquel with Harry and Jim C. was at the lodge when we arrived and it was wonderful to finally meet him. Jim has owned the lodge for about 15 years and this will be his last. He has Parkinson's disease and is not nearly active enough to host the lodge in the manner he feels is necessary. Only two more groups after us and he will sell the lodge so this week is pretty emotional for him and Harry who has been down here eight consecutive years now. Jim refers to him as his best friend.

The books and magazine articles Jim R. has written grace the coffee table in the main room and the photographs he has taken and published over the years hang throughout the lodge.

Driftwood naturally shaped into trout hang inside and out, faces and figures in river rock found over the years watch the events from window sills and floors. Original artwork by watercolorist C. D. Clarke of Jim, Sonia, the lodge and the river hang throughout. For Jim it will be a difficult week, his memories hanging on every wall in every room.

Cozy fire Before our fine local beef steak dinner Harry gave Jim R. a beautiful 6 ft one piece bamboo rod and a Hardy reel that had been sent by the Joan Wulff (Royal Wulff group) as a replica of one on which Lee Wulff had taken 25 lb salmon. (The Lee Wulff Classic.) I then presented him with one of my handmade maple landing nets so we got him on our good side early. During dinner we again reminisced of our years of fishing but this time with the welcome input of our host.

Jim and Jim

Jim's stories and experiences make him the envy of the table. We're just sorry he will be unable to fish with us, it seems every minute of our time down here is filled with something hear, something to see or something to learn.

Until tonight I had a room by myself, Harry was kind enough to relinquish the lower level room to me account of the stairs which Jim R. thought highly agreeable since he's slept with Harry's snoring before even referring to it in an article once using an analogy of a trombone.

Wednesday arrived in a spectacular fashion, the rain the previous day brought a beautiful bright and clear morning. Every morning it seems to bring you into a new world. With the wet grass and river warmer than the air the fog and haze lifting off the ground and river brings a kind of mysterious quality to the morning.

Eggs and bacon for breakfast and we all headed out front to watch Jim R. test his new bamboo rod that Harry had given him the night before.

Jim and his new toy It's time again to load up and we're off with Juan Carlos and Nicolas to Rio Chico, a small fast running river with large boulders and tough wading a few valleys over. Juan Carlos drops us off at an old horse barn and we rig up then hike up the hill to meet our host for the day Don Christino. This old man is one of the most interesting residents we'll meet all week.

Continued next time.... ~ David


More South American Fly Fishing:

Peacock Bass in Brazil (Brasil)
Dorados in Argentina
Argentine Patagonia - Introduction
Argentine Patagonia - Part 2
Argentine Patagonia - Part 3
Argentine Patagonia - Part 4
Argentine Patagonia - Part 5
Argentine Patagonia - Part 6
A True Chilean Adventure
Futaleufu, Chile, Part 1
Futaleufu, Chile, Part 2


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