Fly Fishing the Torres del Paine and the Rio Puelo, Chile

Bright Rainbow from the Puelo River, Chile
Thanks to Max for the stream report and photos from a recent fly fishing trip to Chile. Testament that Backwater Angler interns know how to spend a few weeks in January down South.

Hi Theaux!
Just wanted to tell you a bit about our trip to Chile this past month. We fished in the Torres del Paine National Park near Punta Arenas for a few days, catching big browns in the 22 inch range. We were fishing with a few guys who are opening a guide service next year, and they were really helpful in showing us where the fish were. We fished small rivers that feed into the third largest lake in Chile ( Lago Toro). Our favorite stream was a secret spring creek. Alex caught and landed a huge brown that measured 24 inches and must have weighed about six pounds. Between us we didn’t catch a single fish under 18 inches at the Torres del Paine. We didn’t catch huge numbers, but the ones we did catch sure were large!

Spring Creek Brown Trout from Chile

After Torres del Paine, we flew north to Puerto Montt where we met up with a friend of mine Carlos Klein (who is a guide in the region). Our destination was the Rio Puelo, a huge river that is home to an extremely large population of big rainbow trout. We stayed in a very comfortable cabin that belonged to Turismo Rio Puelo, a guide service owned by one of Carlos’ good friends. We spent the first evening tying flies and eating asado de cordero (Chilean lamb roast) with ten other guides from the area, trading fishing stories and fly patterns, and talking about what we would be doing the next day.
Fly Fishing at the Foot of the Andes
The myth on the Puelo river is that one can only catch fish on big streamers and sinking lines, but we heeded Carlos’ advice and fished big hoppers with nymph droppers. Alex and I immediately started catching big rainbows in the skinny riffles, water that most fisherman would ignore. On the first day, we caught most of the fish on dries, but Andrés (another member of our group, and former Rio Baker guide) managed to land a large bow on an orange and black white legged bugger he had tied the night before.
The biggest fish of the trip came on the last day at the Puelo, and Alex was the lucky fisherman. He tied on a birds-nest nymph, told me it never failed him, made a long upstream cast, and hooked a 25-inch 10 pound rainbow. At first he thought he was hooked on bottom, but when I walked up next to him, i could clearly see that the line was slowly moving towards the fast current mid-stream. I told him to keep the pressure, and just as he began lifting his rod, the fish decided to run. I have never heard a reel scream so loud, or seen such a huge fish racing upstream in 5 inches of crystal clear water. Alex and i chased the fish for over 20 minutes before the beast was in the net. We took some pictures and then quickly released him. Alex and I decided to end the fishing with that catch, so we returned to the boat with a nap in mind, but instead ended up watching another fisherman haul in a 35 pound Chinook salmon… We intend to return to the Puelo with spey rods and heavier equipment…My 7 weight Sage Z-Axis performed wonderfully against big fish and the heavy Austral wind, but it would have been no match for a monster Chilean Chinook.
Rainbow Trout from Chile
If you are interested in fishing in Chile, send me an email and I can give you some tips as to good places to go, and good people to contact down there.

-Max Meneveau