The Gunpowder dropped close to 100 CFs last week. The river gradually leveled out after the big surge of water on the 11th. Heavy rains last night bumped river flows up to 165 CFs. The Spring rains should provide good flows the next few months, since the river levels will fluctuate with rain and spillover. The City notified the shop they recently made a gate change to the 10 foot level at Prettyboy, and the temperature graph on the USGS shows a spike up to just over 48 degrees. Angler reports from last weekend of slightly off color water was likely the result of the reservoir thermocline “turning over.” The water cleared early this week, and I witnessed increased hatches of midges and blackflies. The days when the air temperature hit the sixties I saw stoneflies hatching in more numbers each day. One afternoon I watched a few dozen drop out of the hemlocks onto the water. The occasional splashy rise could be seen, but the rises to stoneflies were sporadic. The midges and black flies were what the steady feeders wanted on the surface. The black flies are more plump in the body than typical midges, so the fish were very selective. I found a few pods of risers working the surface over two hours and caught some browns, and missed quite a few others. The rest of the fish I caught using tiny larva patterns we have in the shop. The extended weather forecast shows a slight drop in temps over the weekend, but next week rain and highs in the fifties. Water temps approaching fifty and fluctuating flows should make for ideal fishing conditions in the coming weeks. In the latest video post I filmed some blackflies, a few browns, and nice sized rainbow I caught.
The Rio Puelo is a unique color of turquoise. The volume and surge of the river is impressive, especially during the boat runs up river. The amount of water to fish was overwhelming, so we used the boat to reach the best riffles. The gusting wind and the biting Tabanos created a challenging fishing scenario. We discovered while we were protecting ourselves from the Tabanos, and knocking them into the water, fish would occasionally eat them. A splashy rise would erupt in the steady stream of Tabanos floating down river. The hard part was locating a trout willing to rise more than a few times, and we found very few of those fish. Max did catch a brown on a big foam dry in a side channel to start the day. I was fishing nymphs under an indicator on my Sage TCX 11’9” 7 weight switch rod. I quickly hooked and lost a decent bow on a rubber legged nymph. I began cycling through flies and working the same drift. Big trout were known to hold on the inside edges (inches deep) of the shallows. I was still surprised when a big fish rolled in shin deep water with my nymph in its mouth. I started to chase the fish downriver, as the big rainbow jumped in front of Alex and Pipo. I watched as the backing started to go through the guides, and the fish took me into the main river current. Moments later I felt the line go slack, and checked to find both flies still there. At the time I shrugged off losing the 20 inch plus fish, but the rest of the day I only hooked one small fish.
The river was huge, but the three of us drifted different flies through the best looking water. It always felt like a fish was just another cast, or fly change away. We fished big nymphs on heavy tippet, small midges on light tippet, and all variety of weighted caddis patterns. We abandoned one technique for another when nothing produced. I quickly switched to streamers, while Max and Alex tried dry/dropper rigs. We even got dropped off at an impasse for the boat, and hiked up river to a hard to reach section. I took a gamble and decided to stick with streamer fishing until dark. I changed spools to a sinking tip line for the deep holes, and used the floating line in the shallow riffles. In a few hours of swinging flies I had one hard grab, a large fish flash in the shallows, and a big brown chase the streamer to the rod tip. I tried Zonkers of all variety, color and size. A size 4 white Polar Zonker produced the best results, and closely matched the Chinook Salmon smolts in the river. Alex snapped us out of our funk when he hooked into a big rainbow. I filmed while Max chased the rainbow down with the net. This fish reawakened our urge to keep fishing, and set off a chain reaction. I had fished a streamer all day in the hopes of catching an early Chinook Salmon, but that honor was bestowed on Max. I heard him yelling down stream of me and Alex grabbed his net. I just switched back to nymphs, and a huge rainbow nosed my indicator twice, so I wasn’t moving. I eventually started filming when I noticed the bend in his seven weight. The fish was within twenty feet of the me, and easily over thirty inches. The fish took a tan Zonker on 15 pound tippet. The latest video post features fly fishing on the Rio Puelo, Chile.
The last three days of our fishing journey in Chile put us on the road to the Rio Puelo. We had to go back into the city, load up the big boat, and restock on groceries. The four hour plus drive was pretty long, but the scenery was hard to beat. We passed over rivers and streams constantly, and Mount Osorno grew from a distant white capped volcano, to a looming giant. The pavement turned to dirt roads. Huge mountains with sharp peaks stood tall against the sky, as we drove along massive estuaries and lakes. Some of the rivers entering these estuaries, including the Puelo, experienced runs of Chinook Salmon, Atlantic Salmon, steelhead and sea run browns. The Chinooks were just starting to run, but it was early, so we were targeting the resident browns and rainbows in the river.
The drive was going smoothly, until we blew a tire on the trailer. We got the bolts loosened up, just as a local pulled off to help speed up the process. We hurried to the boat ramp, and began loading the boat with all our gear and groceries. The sun was setting, and Pipo navigated up the maze of logs and rocks in this massive river. Fortunately, he had an intimate knowledge of the river, and got us to the camping spot. We unloaded the boat and started a big fire. I set up my accommodations in the sand. The whole day was spent traveling, but we had the river right outside our tent flaps for the next two. The fire roared bright as we prepped a simple dinner, with the rush of water as background noise. We even heard a few big kings crash on the surface in the deep pool in front of the beach. We found some great wood for bench seats, and even a tying table. We ate a late dinner and discussed the plans for the following day. The latest video post is traveling to the Rio Puelo.
Chilean rivers are other worldly. It is hard to put your finger on it, but these are not your everyday trout rivers. It could be the lush jungle environment, or the blue-green water usually reserved for tropical saltwater paradise. Add in Summer temperatures in January, epic views and the fishing is a bonus. Exploring the rivers in Chile brought with it the excitement of the unknown. Just driving over a bridge could provide a passing glance at a beautiful trout river that seemed so foreign. The most striking feature of the rivers in Chile was there were so many of them. We passed rivers daily, of all size and variety, and all held trout. We passed spring creeks so small you could straddle, or so big you could use a drift boat. We drove over cascading streams high in the mountains. We saw where rivers entered lakes, and where lakes narrowed into rivers. The first river we fished was the one above, and yes, that is a massive waterfall thundering down behind Alex. We climbed down some rough terrain to get to the river’s edge. I looked down and noticed a big brown (22-24 inches) slowly swim over to the vine ridden far bank. The three of us spread out, and started fishing caddis pupa and rubber legged nymphs. I managed to catch possibly the smallest rainbow in Chile, a three inch fingerling. I kept dredging the spot where I saw the big brown take cover. There was a sense of urgency, because we had to cover a few miles to reach the road again. I decided to try a few more drifts and changed my dropper to a hot pink San Juan worm, a wild brown trout favorite. The next drift along the wall got a hit immediately, and I set the hook. The fish dove to the bottom, and I started putting pressure on what felt like a huge fish. Six seconds later the fish began head shaking, and threw the hook. I was hoping to at least see the fish, but it remains a mystery. We tried using the high banks to spot fish from a distance. The river was very low and clear. The trout were not visible in pools that usually hold fish. Pipo thought the three weeks without rain, and the bright sun caused the trout to take cover. We worked the deep holes and riffles, and caught small rainbows. We found where a big spring creek entered the river, but the four of us couldn’t spot any trout amongst the cressbeds. I switched to a streamer and covered a section of river littered with huge logs. I never got a single hit, and after two hours we decided to relocate to boats in a lake.
The second river we fished was four days later, and it was only two hours in the afternoon. Our plan to access a lake was thwarted by the trail being completely overgrown, so we started throwing out other options. I suggested trying the Gol Gol river (above) that we passed over minutes ago. It was moments later I realized my waders and boots were not in the truck, since I was expecting to fish in the boat. We found a nice section that offered me the chance to fish from the shore. I put numerous drifts through this pool where the river diversions flowed together. I quickly hooked and landed a nice seventeen inch bow. Many drifts later a big head surfaced and a trout ate my Thingamabobber. Out of reflex I lifted the rod, and the fish held on for a few seconds, but eventually let it go. When 9:00 p.m. rolled around we hiked back to the truck. It seemed the trout could be as elusive as the rivers were beautiful. We took advantage of the last hour of daylight by eating a riverside tailgate dinner of pasta with Chilean red wine.
The third day in Chile we decided to try one more lagoon nearby, before we left the region the next day. We really enjoyed the fishing for browns and bows on one particular lagoon, but Pipo knew of a really small lagoon loaded with rainbows. The bows were small and plentiful, but eager to eat dry flies. Once we got the boat in the water, and Max and Alex rigged up in their tubes, I started seeing fish everywhere. The water was so clear, it was possible to spot trout cruising in the shallows 75-100 feet away. The weed beds thinned to a packed sand bottom, and trout milled around the shadows of the trees. In the shallows the trout actually turned to inspect anything that hit the water, and a few strips brought consistent takes. I felt like I was on a bone fish flat, as singles and doubles passed off the bow. Splashy rises along the shaded shore line put me in the mood to toss a foam beetle. The rainbows were inhaling the size 12 fly, so I switched to a size 6 black foam cricket on 2x. The bows would explode on the large cricket when it splatted on the water. Occasionally the bows would nose the fly, until a few quick strips drew aggressive takes. We all fished big dries, trying to see how big a fly they would take. I know all varieties of Chernobyl and stonefly foam patterns were used, as well as a Hickey’s Condor. I started stripping my fly like a popper, and found the trout seemed to prefer the fast, splashy retrieve.
Max and Alex were in another cove putting steady bends in the rod. They too remarked how funny it was that the fish wanted flies stripped quickly on the surface. We twitched the rod, watching the trout refuse, only to go into a head shaking take seconds later. I tried explaining to Pipo how back in the US, the fishing most comparable to this type of fishing was bluegills in a pond. These trout were incredibly aggressive, and clearly rarely fished over. They were a lot of fun on a four weight, and if you missed a strike or lost a fish, another trout was only a cast or two away. The desire to catch more fish, to see the take and feel a tug on the line, was fading. I filmed a few minutes of casting, strikes, and hook ups. We were content after two hours to head back to the truck. The latest video post features fishing dry flies on a small lagoon in Chile.
Winter won’t loosen its grip on the Baltimore region, and recent storms dropped roughly 6-9 inches of snow in the Hereford area. The steady snow fall today should only amount to a light accumulation. I’ve gotten a few calls about the access points, and parking situation on the Gunpowder. Yesterday an angler reported that Falls Road was clear, but the lots were not. The park usually clears them a few days after a storm, but some anglers planned to push through or shovel a few spaces. Masemore and York are clear for anyone looking to wet a line. The Gunpowder is flowing at 144 Cfs and water temps are in the upper thirties. Most anglers reported a few fish in a few hours, but a couple anglers mentioned catching between six to twelve trout. I felt the itch to get out a few days, so I suited up and the hit the river. The high for the day was just above freezing, so I wasn’t surprised the lot was empty. The river welcomed me back from Chile by letting me know my waders had a hole in the foot. I toughed it out for an hour, landing four fish on nymphs.
The following day brought me back with a different pair of waders, and temps just below freezing. The icing on the guides wasn’t too bad, and the Didymo was surprisingly sparse in the Falls Road section. I stood in one fast riffle for an hour, putting drift after drift through the same seam. Every ten to fifteen drifts the indicator shot under, and I caught some feisty wild browns. Three browns were holding in really fast water, and not the slow tail out. A few of the fish went into the fast current and took line off the reel. I lost a really nice brown on a hook set, and watched the fish launch out of the water directly under my rod tip. The knots and 5X tippet held, but the head shaking and barrel rolls pulled the hook free. The trout was broader than long (16-17 inches), and was easily from finger tip to elbow in length and thickness. I lost a few other smaller trout, fumbling with mittens and slack line. The fishing seemed an improvement from the low flows before the holidays, and I hooked 3-4 fish an hour on both days. Two hours was plenty of time to hike along the river, and put a bend in the rod at the warmest part of the day. The shop has a number of patterns that worked for me, so swing by and we can direct you to some good areas. The latest video is a few quick shots of some Gunpowder browns caught in the cold.
In Chile the warm Summer temperatures were a welcome change from the frigid cold in the North East U.S. The Sun’s rays were so strong that it could quickly burn any exposed skin within a few hours. We all quickly learned another reason to wear long sleeves, and it wasn’t to avoid sun burn. The real reason to cover up any exposed flesh was the hundreds and hundreds of blood sucking Tabanos, which would feast on us between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The beginning of our trip in the mountains was the first place we encountered these huge flies, but it wasn’t until we reached the Rio Puelo that we experienced their full wrath. In order to best describe the Tabanos, imagine the biggest horsefly possible, with a long proboscis, but in swarms like Africanized Honey Bees. Luckily they couldn’t cut through waders, but they could get through 2 thin shirts, so most of the time we were heavily layered despite highs in the upper 70s. I brought a few Buffs for the Sun, but they became essential to reducing areas the flies could land and bite. The black and orange pests would occasionally find a way to bite through the thin fabric, and some even punched through my waxed cotton shop hat. We converted socks into gloves, and Alex made good use of a tee shirt below.
The most unbelievable trait about these flies wasn’t the painful bite or their huge swarms, but that they were tough. We slapped ourselves red, crunched them in our hand, threw them into the water and most of them flew right back into the air. We bounced them off rocks and the aluminum boat, only to see them rebound and take flight. A few hours of the day were just plain madness, and if you got tangled or broke off, you just hoped an extra rod was strung up in the boat. The worst part of losing flies was knowing that you would be bitten incessantly as you tried to tie a blood, a few clinch knots and add some shot. All of those steps took three times longer than normal with the Tabanos. We just flailed our arms to keep moving while changing flies, but the Tabanos got Alex good one day while re-rigging. Fortunately the loop trick and small hook didn’t require cosmetic surgery after the hook was removed. We discovered that while we came at a time when conditions were not the best on the Puelo, we did arrive to ideal conditions for Tabanos. The nuisance flies were not present on the trip they made last year, due to heavy rains. The Tabanos were only around for three weeks of the year, and we were right in the prime week for 2011. I asked Alex and Max before we flew down. “Do I need any bug stuff?” No, no bugs down in Chile was what I was told. Pipo told me that sprays and repellants don’t work anyway, not even pure DEET. We did the only things we could do in these circumstances, fish and make light of situation. We laughed, we yelled out constantly, and often got revenge. My favorite was pet Tabanos on a 4X tippet leash. Late in the day, a moment would occur when something felt different. It took a few seconds to pinpoint, but after reflexively flinching and involuntarily smacking yourself for hours, you suddenly become aware the flies are gone. You nervously peek over your shoulder. Slide your hand over the brim of your hat. The high pitch buzzing in your ears is still there, like your brain suffered sensory overload, and is playing the last noise it heard on a loop. Soon there is no buzzing, nothing hovering in your view, and you can give your full attention to fishing again. A brief chance to fish in peace, at least until tomorrow. The latest video features footage of the dreaded Tabanos of Chile.
The second morning in the mountains we hiked into the lagoon where we left the boat and float tubs from the previous night. The lake was quiet and shrouded in fog, as the sun rose over the mountains. The heavy cloud cover in the sky put a chill in the air. We rigged up and pushed through the path we created in the reeds. Pipo and I headed to the far side of the lake, where numerous fallen trees lined the shore. The water was so clear it was easy to see down eight to ten feet. Tree limbs and thick weed beds looked like perfect cover for big trout. I started fishing with a small olive Zonker. I stripped the fly through the reeds along the shoreline for twenty minutes, and it was obvious the trout were not in the shallows. In deeper water I cast parallel to the shore and let the fly sink at least ten seconds over submerged weed beds. On the third cast I felt the sudden resistance in my retrieve and hooked a nice brown. I landed the fifteen inch brown, which was one of many “cookie cutters” caught in this lake. The lake wasn’t known for big trout, but I felt like throwing a big fly anyway. I switched to a five inch long sculpin pattern with long rubber legs, rabbit and arctic fox fur. The fly had a lot of movement in the water, and dove deep with large weighted eyes. I switched colors a few times, and altered my retrieve speed. For the better part of two hours I worked the fly off reed points, logjams and weed beds. I felt a few takes, but got caught between strips. I had encounters with two nice browns that appeared from the dark depths and followed the fly to the rod tip, but spooked when they saw the boat. Max and Alex worked the shoreline nearby, and hooked up regularly. Max was using purple leeches, and I filmed him fighting and landing some trout. Alex caught trout on damsel nymphs and buggers, and mentioned catching only browns in one corner of the lake. I switched back to rubber legged nymphs, opting for quantity over quality, and picked up a few rainbows. We weighed our options for the afternoon at lunch time, and despite the desire to stay and keep fishing this productive spot, we thought we should try our luck elsewhere. The latest video post features more fly fishing on a mountain lagoon in Chile.
A few days after the New Year, Alex and I boarded a plane bound for Chile. The plan was to meet up with Max, who was visiting family over the holidays, and drive into the mountains to fish some lagoons (lakes). Our guide, Pipo, who fished with Max and Alex the previous year, picked us up in Osorno. We bought the supplies, gas, and packed our gear, while he offered us transportation, the use of boats and float tubes, and shared his secret spots for an extremely reasonable fee. The boat and truck were loaded to full capacity, and we drove for hours off paved highways onto narrow dirt roads. Snow capped volcanoes loomed over us as we snaked our way through a jungle type atmosphere with seventy degree air temperatures. We passed many incredible rivers and streams with only a passing glance, because there just wasn’t enough time to stop. We arrived at our mountain lodging, an empty ski resort, and unpacked the gear and groceries. The sun didn’t set until close to 10 P.M., so we had a few hours of fishing. Once the boats were in the water and we rowed toward the tall reeds, it finally sunk in that I was fishing in Chile. I laid a cast up against the reeds with a Polar Zonker on a sinking tip line. Slow strips from the reeds to the drop offs brought hard strikes from the rainbows in this lake. The majority of the bows were 11-16 inches long, but thick and beautiful. The three of us quickly got into fish and sated the itch to put a bend in the rod. We took turns rowing, and watching the casts land in prime spots. We waited as fish began to rise to small caddis, but no major hatch frenzy materialized. The air became cooler as the sun dropped behind the mountains, and we pulled ashore in the dark.
The following morning we checked out a sweet looking river in a lush forest (more on that in another post), but found ourselves bushwhacking with one boat and float tubs in the afternoon to reach another lake. This lake was the only one nearby with a good mix of bows and browns, but it was hard to reach. I was a little apprehensive about fishing the still water again for trout, since we only had so many days to fish, and the lakes didn’t beckon with the roar of falling water. The intrigue was there though, and only grew as we witnessed no tracks and tight, brush choked trails. Pipo and I worked the dinghy down a long steep incline, while Max and Alex readied the float tubs at the lake’s edge. The reeds were almost impenetrable, but we hit open water once Max and Alex cleared a path. This particular evening was one of the highlights of the trip for me. The trout were holding along the reeds, and thick weed beds. Damsel and dragon fly shucks covered nearly every reed above the water’s surface. Splashy rises, and watching the reeds sway as trout swam through in search of food made for easy targets. I rigged a large olive Girdlebug with rubber legs on 2X and cast the sinking line into the reeds. A few quick hook ups on chunky rainbows confirmed they were eating nymphs instead of the larger streamers I fished yesterday. I was hoping for a nice brown and wasn’t disappointed when after a hard strip set, one fish dove deep. I brought the thick brown to the net, and after that fished without much interest in filming or photos. There was no doubt that these moments would not soon be forgotten, even without the aid of technology. The next few hours passed quickly with laughter and the whining of our drags echoing across the lake. The last hour of light neared and if we weren’t doubled up, one of us had a fish on the line. The trout were a consistent 12-16 inches, and hungry. Before nightfall arrived we already decided we would scratch our plans to fish a river the next day, and return to the lake again. We recounted the highlights of the day while our dinner cooked over red hot embers. The latest video post features fly fishing lagoons in Chile.
The past two months I’ve hiked the Gunpowder (almost) top to bottom looking for spawning activity to film. I watched as redds began to appear nearly overnight along different sections of river. On a few occasions I was fortunate to witness numerous browns in the process of spawning. I watched two big trout pair up on a redd and spawn, before vacating the area days later. One day I filmed as many as eight to ten browns competitively jockey for position next to a female, and bump her to drop eggs. I also filmed some large browns that moved from their hiding spots to spawn in the shallows. I already traded the rod for the video camera in hopes of getting some good footage, and allowing nature to take its course. In the shop we urged anglers the past two months to use caution when wading, and avoid fishing to trout on redds. The New Year is fast approaching and the majority of browns have moved off their beds into their Winter lies. Although the redds are now empty, the clean gravel beds still contain fragile eggs, so anglers should be careful not to wade through them. In this video post I filmed browns in the process of ensuring the future of wild trout on the Gunpowder River.