Fishing in Patagonia has always been one of my dreams. I am not a great fisherman, not a specialist at all but I like a great adventure. This year I got the opportunity. We are staying for two months in Temuco with my wife’s family during which my friend Christian organised a fishing trip to Coyhaique, the heart of Chilean Patagonia. Two more friends of Christian joined, both experienced fishermen, which made me a bit nervous. We flew 1 1/2 hours south into the airport of Balmaceda which immediately made clear that we were close to the end of the world. Balmaceda receives maybe 5 commercial flights a day and the airport is one of the smallest I have ever been to. Balmaceda itself is in the middle of nowhere, an hour drive from Coyhaique and 300 meters from the Argentine border. The location of the airport is chosen for climatical reasons. Coyhaique would be a much more logical choice for an airport but apparently a combination of high and steep mountains with strong winds makes the place rather dangerous from an airport point of view. The town used to have an airport but after a crash of a commercial plane in the 80’s, it was decided to move the airport to Balmaceda.
We had booked a 5 day fishing trip and used the services of local guides: Nicolas end Christian. Both experienced guides and nice persons. Christian spoke some good English which I enjoyed as my compañeros only spoke Spanish, and they spoke it fast. We fished with two fishermen and a guide per boat. I fished with Rodrigo and Christian fished with his consuegro Leopoldo (not sure if there is an English word for consuegro: it is the father of his daughter’s husband). The funny thing is that they, while speaking they never used names but referred to each other as consuegro.
We fished four days on lakes and on the final day we fished on the river Aysén. The first day we fished on Lago Atravesado, 45 minutes drive north of Coyhaique. The lake is pretty but we were not lucky with the weather. It rained hard and continuously with strong winds and even a hail shower. It felt like combat fishing. Although we were well protected from the weather with rain suits and an additional weather protective poncho, it was still painful at times. I knew that the weather could be bad in Patagonia but March is still summer and I escaped the winter in Europe for weather reasons. This summer day in Patagonia was worse than a bad day in the Dutch winter. Pucha. Thankfully we had lunch in a shack that protected us somewhat from the elements and the guides built a nice campfire so we could warm up. We ended the fishing day a bit early because the already bad weather turned for the worse. The good news of the day was that we all caught several nice sized trouts.
The second day of fishing proved to be quite a bit better. We fished Lago las Torres. Although it still rained at times, it was not as bad as the day before and the sun even showed up every now and then. The lake is absolutely stunning with high mountains around and the water being crystal clear. The fishing was good, despite the presence of a lot of weed, and we got many good sized trouts (1 – 1 1/2 kg) in the boat. My compañero Rodrigo had clearly the most catches but I managed to get the largest fish in the boat, a beautiful brown trout of around 2 1/2 kg. The guide taught me not be a “macabeo” which gave room to great hilarity. “Macabeo” is Chilean slang for a man being dominated by his wife whereas the guide used it to teach me to dominate the fish and not to be led by the fish.
The following day was going to be the day that we would catch the trout that makes Patagonia fishing heaven. The weather was great, some sunshine, a little cloudy but no rain and cold. We fished Lago Quetru, a private lake / lagoon on the food of the beautiful Castillo mountain. It is a one hour 20 minutes drive from our hotel but once at the lake you have absolute stunning views with fresh snow capped mountains all around the lake. The road to this lake was absolutely horrible, we almost crashed our car and boat, but one has to suffer a bit to get to a fantastic fishing place. This fishing was different from previous days, we were trolling with fly and only interested to catch the big trout. And…. we got them, three out of our group of four managed to get the big trout (over 3.5 kg each) in the boat. Rodrigo even managed to catch three big ones. I am proud to say that I got the biggest trout of all, approx 6 kg, a beauty. It was an absolute great feeling, the biggest trout I ever caught and the main reason why we flew to Patagonia. Of course we released all the big fish, they are too beautiful to be eaten. In fact we released all the fish we caught during this trip. The celebrations in our boat were so enthusiastic that I almost fell over board which would not have been a good thing because the water of the lake is very cold. What a day!!!
The fourth day of our trip we fished two lakes that are connected with each other, Lago Paloma and Lago Azul. These lakes are rather close to Coyhaique, a 40 minute drive mostly over paved routes. Again beautiful views and great trout fishing, not the great catches from the day before but still very nice fish and quite a few. The high point of the day (besides catching fish) was lunch at the food of a waterfall. Like all days, we had the lake for ourselves. At the end of the day we were treated by a few condors on their spectacular way of using the wind. Chile’s national bird gave a show in the air just for us to enjoy.
Our final day of fishing was on the Rio Aysén, a large river that flows through Coyhaique. We started our fishing where the Rio Simpson is joined by the Rio Mañiquales and change the name to Rio Aysén. During the first hours of fishing we were trained in fly fishing which makes for beautiful pictures but we did not manage to interest any fish in our efforts. Later in the day while trolling with fly we caught quite a few smaller sized rainbow and brown trouts and even a small, very small Chinook salmon. Several times we witnessed large Chinook salmon jumping out of the water but we never managed to land any in our boat.
All in all I can say that this fishing trip exceeded my expectations. At times it was hard to follow all the Chilean Spanish of my compañeros but it was good fun and we joked a lot. Rodrigo and I focused a lot on fishing and as a result we caught many trouts. Every day Rodrigo clearly caught most fish but every day I caught the large one. Some say this is luck, but I think it also has to do with focus. The other boat at times talked more than they fished and were more enjoying the beauty of the landscape which resulted in less and smaller fish.
Coyhaique is a great starting place for a fishing trip. It is a relatively small town but has all the essentials like hotels, supermarkets and banks. The weird thing is that while we have been fishing trout all week, we did not manage to eat a single trout. The restaurants don’t serve it, Coyhaique is a meat eating town and the only fish that is available is salmon, congrio and merluza. The number of restaurants is limited and on Sundays Coyhaique is a ghost town.
We organised our trip through Guillermo Cifuente @fat_trout. He contacted the guides and put the program together. We fished beautiful lakes and in all five fishing days we never met any other fishing boat, in fact we never met any other boat. This part of the world is empty as of mid March and a great escape from the world / work. On and around the lakes there is no cell phone connection which is absolutely perfect.
Finally, I started this trip with one friend and two complete strangers, at the end of the trip I have three friends and we are full of plans to return next year. To be clear, Rodrigo and I will share a boat again.