Fly Fishing in Patagonia Chile
Some of my best adventures frequently generate memories of more than just great fly fishing or hunting. Admittedly, I enjoy small, intimate lodge operations where I have the opportunity to connect more closely with the people I’m spending time with.
Tres Rios Lodge in Patagonia Chile is such a place.
Owned and operated by John Joy and his wife Teresa, Tres Rios is by design, a family run Fly Fishing Guide business that focuses on providing extraordinary service to their clients.
Tres Rios Lodge is reached by easy flights into the town of Puerto Montt, Chile; and Lan has several flights per day to Patagonia out of Santiago. John will usually pick you up in person at the airport and you’ll have an hour driving time to get to know each other on the way to his lodge. The most unique scene in Puerto Montt is the fish market at Angelmo and John will take you there if you’d like to see and photograph the interesting assortment of saltwater fish, shellfish, and other colorful local market items . You’ll go through the small lake front town of Puerto Varas, where your non-fishing companions can find a little shopping and tourism fun if desired; and then follow the beautiful lake coastline to the lodge.
The Lodge itself is comfortable, typically Chilean in style, and newly built in 2003. It sits in the middle of a secluded 5 acre parcel, high on a hillside that sits across from the extinct volcano Osorno, surrounded by quickly maturing gardens of flowering shrubs, and fruits that Teresa uses to hand make extraordinary culinary pleasures. And between the lodge and Osorno is lake Llanquihue (pronounced – yan-kee-way). The main lodge has a nicely furnished dining room with a beautiful view of the volcano; a comfortable living/social area; and two private guest rooms upstairs with private bathrooms. A short walk from the main house is a private cabin with spacious sleeping quarters downstairs (and a more luxurious bed than I am used to finding in a 5-star hotel), a loft upstairs, and a well equipped bathroom. Perfect for the family, or a couple that prefers a little privacy away from the main lodge. To say it’s comfortable, is a significant understatement. Tres Rios is the perfect place for small groups, up to 6 total including anglers and companions.
You awake in the morning, after a blissfully quiet night to look out a large window in the cabin and see the volcano staring back at you. Sit outside on the deck with a morning coffee and watch dozens of Andean hummingbirds dancing around 20 foot tall Fuscia trees in front. When you are ready for breakfast, walk up to the main house and prepare for the first big surprise; Teresa is a serious gourmet cook. Every meal you eat at Tres Rios, be it breakfast, lunch on the river, and dinner back at the lodge, will be beyond anything you expected. My wife Cinzia is a finicky eater; and even she couldn’t stop talking about the quality of our meals for a month after we returned home. Teresa makes breakfast to order, and usually starts
asking about your favorite things so she can prepare a unique menu for the next day; don’t expect any pre-boxed “Happy Meals” here, its all made daily from scratch. For all of you out there who have spent days afield with a guide, and had the misfortune of seeing him pull a package of bologna and stale loaf bread from the cooler; fear not. When the mood to stop catching fish and eat a little strikes you, John will start by teasing you with locally made delicacies like fresh cheeses and traditional German salamis on crackers, and let you wash it down with a beer, soft drink, or maybe an excellent Chilean wine if you like. Then he brings out the big guns; hot thermoses stuffed with Teresa’s famous Chicken Wings in wine sauce; Kibe Meatballs; or maybe a nice Pasta Salad with fresh Razor Clams or Smoked Salmon sandwiches. The list is endless; and its all spectacular. When you get back to the lodge, you’ll find appetizers waiting to keep the hunger pangs away until dinner. Teresa has become famous in her own right for home-made Guacamole, and a hot Artichoke dip that makes you forget that you came here for the fly fishing. Wash it all down with selections of wine, whiskey, or (my favorite) Teresa’s proprietary Pisco Sours.
Fly fishing in Chile
The interesting thing about fishing this part of Chile, is the diverse nature of different rivers and lakes that are available to you in reasonably close proximity. I’ll hit on a couple of these, but let’s start with the closest; Rio Petrohue. The Petrohue flows directly from Lago Todos Los Santos, and the upper section is fast; Class 3 white-water fast in places, and runs deep and green. John and I have fished this section of the Petrohue many times together, and the only other people I ever saw on the river were white-water kayakers. It winds through shallow canyons, with dense tree cover to the water’s edge. There are big fish in this section of the river, and John may be the only person who can take you there; in fact, as of my last visit to Tres Rios Lodge, he was still the only guide who fished the upper section of Rio Petrohue. The only way to safely run and fish this type of water is with a large cataraft; which he just happens to have. He gets a bit of a gleam in his eye when you suggest fishing there, because he’s a genuine adventurer at heart, and this is serious fun; …if you’re up to it. It’s Run-and-Gun style casting with 200 grain sin k tip, and big streamers; and the fish in this part of the river are opportunistic carnivores. When they strike, they do it with serious intent to do harm. You’ll want at least a fast 6 weight fly rod in your hands here, and a 7 might be better. I’ll tell you why a little further on. My wife has joined me on this run a couple of times solely for the fun. She enjoys riding in the back seat of the cataraft, with a waterproof camera in hand, mixing photography with fast water fun.
As you enter the middle section of Rio Petrohue, it slows and widens, slightly. You have a little more time to pick your casting targets and react, and there are nice sections where you might stop and wade fish it to cover the water more thoroughly. Its in this part of the Pet that having a stronger fly fishing rod can pay off; because broad shouldered brown trout and even a few salmon are not uncommon. I was here with John one December afternoon, only 500 yards from where we were going to pull out, making a few half-hearted casts at the end of an action-packed day. A 12 inch Rainbow came up and snapped my Butt-Monkey,and I started line stripping him in for a quick release. Just as I brought him to the side of the boat, a torpedo sized Brown Trout came up from the depths and grabbed him sideways in his mouth like a Rottweiler snatching a chicken leg off the table; then turned and plunged straight for Hades. About four seconds of screaming folly ended with a loud snap. It still haunts me today, and keeps me dreaming about the Petrohue.
For something a little different, John might decide to take you to the Rio Maullin (Mau-ssheen). For all the world, it reminded me of my childhood years, bass fishing in small tropical tributaries of the St. Johns river in Florida. Its close-quarters, technical fishing while slowly drifting in the boat; but there are monsters waiting in this little river, and John knows where to find them. The water has an almost tannic look to it (the result of a vegetation strainer several miles upstream so thick even canoes can’t pass); completely different from the clear jade waters of the Petrohue. An eight and a half foot rod might be better in these tight conditions, but you don’t want to give up power either; all kidding aside, there are really big fish here. I stayed with my 9 foot 5 weight, and learned to make shorter, side stroke casts around structure.
I could continue to expand on waters that reside very close to Tres Rios Lodge, but it would be only part of the story. As I mentioned before, John is a bit of an adventurer; and he loves to take clients to other parts of Southern Chile to places that he helped pioneer almost 20 years ago. John traveled through Chile back in 1976, when Pinochet was still in power; going from one mountain village to the next by local bus. He returned for several seasons in the early 90’s looking for fly fishing heaven from Temuco to Tierra del Fuego; riding into the mountains on logging trucks, and venturing by horse and hiking deep into the unexplored river country in search of virgin water. He has now expanded his exploration transport mode, and frequently takes his more adventurous clients into remote water by helicopter. For others, he has an almost unlimited number of locations throughout Patagonia to satisfy fly fisherman, and will custom design trips to meet your expectations.
Moving past the endless stories of fly fishing heaven, and Teresa’s sensational cuisine; I think perhaps the most important thought to convey about Tres Rios Lodge, is the way you feel when you are preparing to leave. The first time that we stayed with John and Teresa, my wife and I both felt like we were leaving the home of a family member or close friend, and wished our vacation could have been a little longer; we were not ready to go. I have fished with many guides in my life, and stayed many places; but when the trip ends, it usually feels the same way to me, a very commercial sensation. Tres Rios Lodge is different; John and Teresa relate to people in a manner that seems to typify Patagonia; warm, generous, and with good humor, and you will carry that feeling home with you, where ever home may be.
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