Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ten days, seven rivers, two countries and too many fish to count

The Lake District and Chilean Patagonia

We fished the Calcarrupe, the San Pedro, the Petrohue and the upper/lower Maullin

The Lake District in Chile is much like Alaska with natural lakes and rivers that run to the ocean unimpeded by dams. This is a big reason that I am so grateful for this opportunity to explore and fish this region before it is spoiled by further development. There are plans to build dams on many of the rivers in this area to bring more hydroelectric power northward. As we know from our experience in California, it will drastically and negatively impact the anadromous fish (fish that live in the ocean and rivers like steelhead & salmon) population.

Not every river crossing is a bridge. Here we see a ferry used to get vehicles from one side of the river to the other.

Central Chile is notorious for bountiful farmland but Southern Chile has more than just forests.

That's Pat...

Isn't this a great picture the way the light shines on the water with the mountains in the background?

What I really love is that trout only live in pristine places with clear cold water, so whenever you are on a trout stream you’re most likely in a beautiful place. It is also a great way to get a work out…try wading against the current in water above your knees for hours and think about the number of casts made in a full day on the pounding the keys on a computer.

We spent the night in this riverside cabin

Around the turn of the century the Chilean government recruited many Europeans, especially Germans to this area so they could clear the land and establish settlements to keep Argentina from encroaching on what they considered be their turf. As a result many of the buildings and structures in Southern Chile have a definite European look and feel to them. Argentina also made a similar recruitment effort in Europe, focusing on bringing groups of people from Italy to the Bariloche and Patagoia region of their country. The recruitment of Europeans to this part of the world was at the expense of the indigenous people who had lived here for centuries and had their land taken with no compensation or recourse.

Southern Chile is a haven for many species of birds...we spent time admiring these beautiful swans and cormorants.

River eddies and cut banks are places that big trout like to hang, in search of food coming their way.
As a pastime some people golf or go to concerts, the opera, plays etc... for those of you that know me well, you know what I Iike to do…Fly F-I-S-H! The whole challenge of trying to ‘read the water’, match the hatch and present the fly naturally are the big appeal for me. I use barbless hooks and never take native trout or steelhead. If I want to eat freshwater fish, there are plenty of planters aka: hatchery or truck trout in California that can be caught for that purpose.
Most flyfish people are environmentally conscious and advocates for maintaining free flowing healthy rivers. Of course we have a vested interest but somebody has to do it 'cause it's not going to be the farmers from the San Juoquin Valley!

Here we are drifting down rivers...from morning till dawn.

The concept of ‘match the hatch’ means to try and determine the type of worms, larva, pupa or insect that the fish are feeding on, then select the appropriate fly to present. Some flies are pulled or stripped through the water and they are called streamers, others are drifted under an indicator/bobber in the medium moving current and they are called nymphs and my favorite, dry flies, are fished on the surface. Dry flies work best when a hatch occurs usually in the morning or evening hours and I just love how the fish will break the surface to attack the fly often coming completely out of the water to grab it.

Bringing in a feisty Rainbow Trout by drifting a nymph fly under an idicator...

The rivers here have many different types of fish but the majority are Rainbow and German BrownTrout and Atlantic Salmon. The trout are not native to Chile or Argentina but were brought here around the turn of the century where they have flourished in the rivers and lakes of this region.The rainbow trout that were planted here originally came from the McCloud River a world famous river, known for a hearty strain of rainbows. The McCloud is one of the most beautiful rivers in the state and it flows into Lake Shasta in Northern California...Diane Feinstein and Westlands Water District (Fresno Corporate Farmers) wants to raise Shasta Dam which will inundate the lower portion of this river...shame, shame, shame!

Pat caught and released a couple of beautifully colored German Brown trout.

A nice Atlantic Salmon caught on a streamer fly...

Now it's off to Argentina.

The Northern Patagonia of Argentina

We fished the Rio Malleo and the Chimehuin
In this area of Argentina the Spaniards had two extermination drives in the 1700’s that pushed many indigenous people (Mapuches, Huilliches and Chonos) westward, from their homelands on the eastern side of the Andes into Southern Chile.

The drive to Argentina from southern Chile was full of interesting sights including these farm animals doing their part to minimize the use of fossil fuels.

Going over Andes into Argentina included thirty miles of dirt road with objects to look out for.

Here we are going over the Andes leaving Chile and entering the Batman mobile. When you get to the border offices in both countries, everybody has to get out of the car, show their passports and fill out forms.

The town and region we stayed in Junin de los Andes is reknowned by fly fishing enthusiasts the world of many fly fishing meccas.

The terrain and rivers are far different from the lush greenery that we experienced in Chile. This area is high mountain desert terrain similar to what we see on the eastern side of the Sierra's in Califonia and Nevada.

Large out croppings and rolling hills dominate the terrain and the fish tend to feed on grasshoppers and terrestrial insects. That means dry fly fishing with surface, fun fun!

Fish on!!!

Like Chile Argentina has architecture with a European semblance or influence. These are two structures that caught my attention but there were many unique buildings throughout this area of the country. Not sure if those natural logs would be up to code in SF but they sure make beautiful support beams.

I suppose that most of you have heard of the world famous Argentinian beef…this place would be tough for vegetarians as Argentinians are big on meat.

One of the bonuses when fishing out on the river are that you never know what kind of animals or wildlife you will encounter. Here is an angora goat that came to the riverside to munch on the greenery, and one evening in the distance, llamas could be scene grazing with the cows.

This is a good example of a native hut constructed of poles, reeds and mud. The reeds continue to grow along the banks of the Malleo River. Like most civilzations they created shelter with the materials that were readily available.

Here is Carola 'sizzler of the day' with the most and the biggest fish.
Needless to say, both Pat and I were envious...but that's fishin'!

Here we are on our way back to Chile after four days in Argentina....leaving the dry eastern side of the Andes...And to make it a little more exciting the windshiield wipers went kaplooey soon as the hard rain started coming down. Overall we were blessed with great weather which is rare in Argentina, 'cause when the wind blows hard in that part of the world it's a major challenge to cast a fly....

Now it's time to determine my next destination...I'll let you kow once I figure it out.


Out of the city and into the countryside - Southern Chile

Since my last posting on the eight of March Sophie and I parted ways and she headed off to begin her program at the University in Valparaiso. I flew south from Santiago to Temuco, Chile where I began exploring the regions known as the Lake District and the Northern Patagonia of Chile and Argentina. As an experienced traveler, Soph has been the ideal companion (she has been to many more countries than me) with her street savvy and her good command of Espanol. Now as I venture on my own I’ll be forced to improve my Spanish communication skills, because in Chile unlike Peru and Ecuador, there are not that many people who speak English…gringo solo this could be trouble!

My friend Jack Trout and his gracious Chilean wife Carola, picked me up at the airport and brought me to their home in Los Lagos which is located about 250 miles south of Concepcion (about the same distance as from SF to Mt. Shasta) the epicenter of the recent earthquake. It is a small town with a population of twelve to thirteen thousand people and is near numerous rivers and volcanoes.

For you children of the sixties....What album cover does this picture remind you of?
On our way home from the airport we stopped in the volcano-active town of Pucon for some tacos.

Yes, even though Chile is mostly a meat and potatoes type of cuisine this place had great tacos. Admittedly, not quite what we find in the Mission, but nevertheless quite good. This was my initial introduction to Kuntsman cerveza, my favorite Chilean beer.

My friend Pat, from Fresno, CA came here for two weeks to fish and ‘hang out’ and I so enjoy his company and camaraderie. Having been friends since fifth grade he is like a brother to me. Here we are enjoying a pisco sour the national drink of Chile.

This establishment in Los Lagos serves as the bar/disco/restaurant/internet cafe all-in-one. It is where the locals go for food, spirits and communication with the world at large. In this part of Chile very few families have internet in their home.

The timing of everything in the southern hemisphere is different as they do not have daylight savings time and it’s not even fully daylight until well after eight o’clock in the morning. Everything is on a different schedule as many businesses close for lunch/siesta from 1:00pm to 3:00pm and stay open until 7:00 or 8:00pm. They tell me that on the weekends the bars/night clubs stay open until 7:00am. Down here we eat dinner at ten o’clock and I often stay up until one or two o’clock in the morning and sleep until nine or ten. At home I usually fall asleep before the eleven o’clock news, not sure where the energy comes but I’m still going strong at that time in this part of the world.

Now it's time to get out our fishing rods and do a little angling...