Patagonia Trout 2019 // Day by Day Report

August 16, 2019

Hosted Trips to Patagonia 2020

Travel and Arrival at Cinco Rios Lodge, Chile

Fly fishing in Chile has been the #1 international destination on my bucket list for a long time. Since I first started guiding at 20 years old, this has been the place I've dreamed about.  As a young guide, a few friends of mine were guiding there during our winters, their summer season, and would come back with stories about the most beautiful rivers, big Brown Trout on dry flies, and many wild adventures.  It will always be sort of that phantom destination that always sounded to good to be true. Fast forward nearly 20 years and here I am on a flight from JFK to Santiago, binge watching spy movies trying to pass the time.  The flight was no problem.  I thought 10 hours on a plane would be miserable but it was a piece of cake.  

guy and joe in santiago chile at the airportAt this moment in Santiago Guy is very happy.  This was before LatAm Airlines lost his bag en-route to Balmaceda haha.  We checked our bags side by side, but when we landed his wasn't there!  It took a couple of days but they eventually recovered his bag and all was still intact.  The lodge took him into town so he could buy some underwear, and since we're the same size he borrowed some extra clothes. The lodge owner said he has never seen a guest so patient, relaxed, and enjoyable despite a lost bag!  

Chile is easy to get into, no Visa required and customs anymore is a breeze with all the automation.  One more short flight from Santiago to Balmaceda and we were there.  Some folks elected to overnight in Santiago, the group I was with elected to take the red-eye and it worked out great. Even coach on the LatAm flight was very comfortable.

Sebastian and Joe Rotter in Balmaceda ChileMy friend and owner/operate or Estancia Del Zorro and Cinco Rios Lodges, Sebastian Galilea greeting us at the Balmaceda airport.

The airport in Santiago was easy to navigate and the flight from there to Balmaceda was about 2 hours.  We arrived mid-day and Sebastian met us there himself which was great. Part of the group was already at the Cinco Rios Lodge, about 45 minutes away.  We got in the van and headed for the lodge.  Upon arrival we were greeted with cocktails and a spectacular lunch!

lunch at cinco rios lodge chileJust after arrival, we sat down to a spectacular lunch with salmon, amazing Chilean wine, and a local beer "HAPPY TROUT ALE" which the lodge has on tap. Best part its "serve yourself"!


Day 1 - Lake Elizalde, Paloma River, Desagüe River

Vital Stats:

Date:  January 13th

Guide:  Lalo

Weather:  Sunny with Mixed Clouds - highs near 70 degrees

Strategies:  Dry fly fishing on the rivers, and sight casting with dry flies on the lake.

Flies:  We primarily used beetle patterns, with the top fly of the day being the Double Parachute Post Flying Ant.

Rods:  I fished a Winston NIMBUS 6 Weight all day.  It was nice to have a number 6 rod for casting in the wind, but its a fairly relaxed action so false casting and dropping a dry fly on the trout's nose was possible.

Catch Summary:  We caught enought fish to keep us busy, but it wasn't easy.  You had to be on top of it working hard and paying attention.  Biggest fish was a 21" Brown.  We had a mix of Rainbows and Browns.

Most Memorable Moment:  Joe hooking Stanley in the mouth trying to cast left handed at a fish that fed near the boat, 15 seconds later Stanley hooks Joe in the back trying to do the same thing. It was a hot mess!  "Eye for an Eye!" haha.

I fished with Stanley from Driggs, Idaho and we got paired up to fish with Lalo, the head guide.  Angler extrordinaire, comedian, and one hell of a fly fishing guide.  The drive was about 1:10 minutes from the lodge to the put-in on the Paloma River, and the scenery was amazing!  The drive was really great.  We fished the Paloma River for about an hour, then motored up the Desague River into Lago Elizalde (Lake Elizalde).  The video speaks for itself.  The dry fly fishing on the lake was awesome.

Other anglers fished various lakes and rivers, most had a really good day except for a couple that fished the Simpson River. They had tough fishing for whatever reason, but overall most anglers reported good action.  

Top Fly Used:

We were able to catch fish on a big variety of beetle type patterns, but the fly that seemed to get the "picky ones" was this parachute post flying ant.  It was "fly of the day". 

parachute post flying ant

Double Parachute Post Flying Ant

Day 2 - Simpson River Canyon Float

Vital Stats:

Date:  January 14th

Guide: Rodrigo 

Specific Destination:  We fished the Simpson River Canyon, the launch was only about 20 minutes from the Cinco Rios Lodge, the takeout was about an hour or so.  

Weather:  Sunny with Mixed Clouds - highs near 70 degrees.  Short sleeves were fine for me.

Strategies:  Dry fly fishing 90% of the time with Streamers 9% of the time... we nymphed for the first few minutes but gave up. The guide strongly suggested nymphs for pure numbers of bigger fish.

Rods:  I fished a Winston Kairos 690-4 for streamers and a Sage X 590-4 for dry flies, but caught my largest fish on a Winston PURE 490-4.  All rods were great and was grateful to have the right rods for the various situations.  

Flies:  The Purple Haze and the Split Wing Adams were very productive, and we also fished the Parachute Post Flying Ant.

Catch Summary:  We caught plenty of fish, lots of little fish were available early in the float.  the video makes it look like the catching would have been easy, but you had to really focus and be attentive all day.

Most Memorable Moment:  Sight casting a #12 Split Wing Adams to a suspended 24" Rainbow feeding just under the surface in a foam line along a cliff wall.  It was either that, or Guy catching a nice brown in an isolated pond.

Day 3 - Lower Manuhales River Float

Vital Stats:


Date:  January 15th

Guide: Rodrigo 

Specific Destination:  We fished the big section of the Manuahales River downstream to its junction with the Simpson River.  Big water! I personally requested to float this section as this is where the guides target Atlantic Salmon later in the year, so it was a bit more of an "exploratory" trip for me to say I've been there. The guide did NOT want to do this float. He wanted to hit the Simpson, which turned out to be on fire.  So.... in conclusion. Don't guide the guide if you want to catch fish.  

Weather:  Mixed Clouds with a little drizzle - high was around 60 degrees.  Wore a sweatshirt and jacket most of the day.

Strategies:  We threw streamers pretty much all day looking for a big giant Brown Trout.  We nymphed a fair bit trying to generate some action, but caught most of our fish on streamers.

Rods:  I fished a Winston Kairos 690-4 as my light rod, and a Winston Air SALT 790-4 for my sink tip rod.  The Kairos was great all around, but the SALT threw monster casts in the open water. It would have been way too much rod for a small river though.

Flies:  JJ Bugger (most fish), some huge streamers the size of a Quail that Rodgrigo tied.

Catch Summary:  We caught about 8 fish or so, the biggest landed was an 18" Rainbow at the very start of the float.  I didn't even turn on the camera as I thought we were going to have a whack fest.  That was 5 minutes into the float, saw a couple of big ones follow but didn't catch another fish over 12" haha.

Most Memorable Moment:  Probably fishing over the hundreds of dead logs in crystal clear water or actually rowing for about 3 hours. The mountains were beautiful, but the river was even more so.  Very cool float over all that downed timber.

Day 4 - Nirehuao River // Wade Fishing

Vital Stats:


Date:  January 16th

Guide: Hector

Specific Destination:  We fished two pieces of water that day.  First was a little tiny spring creek with some big Brown Trout in it. I managed to get two fish to my fly, but didn't connect with either one.  One nice take on a big Beetle pattern, one on a JJ Bugger.

We drove about an hour+ over a big mountain divide into the Valley of the Moon.  The drive was awesome with lots of wildlife including Eagles, Guanacos, Emus, and all sorts of really neat birds.  I just love the drives in the mornings and evenings in Patagonia.  These guides aren't afraid to cover some country!

Weather:  Brilliant sunshine with a steady wind.  I wore a standard fishing shirt with a Simms G4 Pro Wading Jacket as a windbreaker all day.  It wasn't uncomfortable at all. You get used to the wind after a day there. It's just part of the adventure.

Strategies:  We threw dry flies most of the day.  I mixed in a streamer a few times, but the hopper fishing was the highlight.  This stream isn't known for big fish (other than the slough we fished first), the Nirehuao is known for dry fly fishing with good number of 10-16" Brown Trout.

Rods:  I fished a Winston Nimbus 690-4 all day that day. This wasn't my favorite rod, but will say that I believe a 9' 6 weight in a medium fast action is the right rod for Patagonia. I'll be frank in saying I preferred the Winston Kairos 690-4 to the Nimbus. 

Flies:  Streambank Hopper, Black Gypsy King, Morrish Hopper, Panty Dropper Hopper, JJ Bugger, Pink San Juan Worm (had to try it in the first half of the day before the dry fly fishing warmed up.  Don't judge me!)

Catch Summary:  We caught a couple of dozen fish between Stanely and I, the biggest was about 15".  We knew that it wasn't a "big fish" trip and were very satisfied throwing hoppers at Brown Trout... in January!

Most Memorable Moment:  I would say the drive.  Every day is an adventure and being able to do a road trip through the mountains drinking coffee on the way there, and a couple of beers on the way home is what I remember most abou that day.  

Day 5 - Estancia Del Zorro // Spring Creek Wade Fishing

Vital Stats:

Date:  January 17th

Guide: Hector

Specific Destination:  We stayed on the ranch, no long drive today.  We took the pickup truck down to the creek and drove on the ranch (which is HUGE) and staked fish in smalll water.  There was only a hint of current, making the fish very technical!

Weather:  Sunny and a bit of wind. It was very pleasant and I got pretty warm at times.  I don't think I put a jacket on all day.  Good breathable waders were necessary as we did lots of walking, and didn't get in the stream very often.  Just wearing long underwear under your waders was the right layering system.

Strategies:  We threw dry flies quite a bit, but only had one take in the area we were in. Some anglers in our party on other parts of the ranch got fish on Hoppers.

Rods:  I fished a Winston Kairos 690-4 all day.  Love this rod at this price.

Flies:  Streambank Hopper, Beetles, JJ Bugger, Bou Face (used as a dropper), Pink San Juan Power Worm. Hale Bop Leech

Catch Summary:  I caught about a dozen solid browns, ranging 16-22" and cast at some larger fish.  Average angler should expect about 1-4 fish to hand in a day, but it will be very exciting. You'll see the fish at times, stalk them, and there will be contant action!

Most Memorable Moment:  Site casting to a 24" plus Brown Trout, hooking him, and loosing him. That was very intense!  Can't wait to get back there and try him again.

Day 6 - Argentina // Spring Creek Wade Fishing

Vital Stats:

Date:  January 18th

Guide: Hector

Specific Destination:  We crossed the border into Argentina and fished a wonderful spring creek FULL of Rainbows.  The lower end of the creek was all dry fly fishing for me, with a huge number of 10-14" Rainbows on dry flies.  The headwaters had less fish, but we did pursue fish up to 24" - 25"  We came back to the lodge, had a big party, and then did some night fishing!

Weather:  Hot and sunny, only a bit of wind.

Strategies:  I threw dry flies most of the time, when we began to site cast at the bigger fish we needed to use "Hopper Dropper" rigs.

Rods:  I used a Winston PURE 490-4 all day long, loved it.  

Flies: Double Post Flying Ant, San Juan Power Worm (dropped under a hopper), Streambank Hopper, Black Gypsy King

Catch Summary:  I caught a lot of small Rainbows (Hector sent me downstream to the "nursery" while he took Guy, the other angler, up to the hawg farm.  I landed about 20 small trout, then as I worked upstream I got less fish but landed a few big ones. 

Most Memorable Moment:  Without a doubt, the best was going out at 11 pm and fishing till 1:30 am with Stanley and catching a couple of slabby Browns in the pitch dark.  We fished big Beetle patterns, twitched 'em, slapped 'em down, and caught some nice ones!  It was really cool.  Fishing under the Southern Cross at night catching Chilean Brown Trout... how could it get any better?!

Day 7 // Lake Fishing in the Mountains

Vital Stats:

Date:  January 19th

Guide: Hector

Specific Destination:  We went into the mountains to hit a lake the guys were pretty sure would fish well, but hadn't been to in a while. It was a pretty long drive from the lodge but the scenery is so good who cares!  I can't recall the name of the lake but it was beautiful.  We fished one end of this large lake is all and we were in the right spot at the right time!

Weather:  Clear and Sunny with big wind.  We layered with just a light sweatshirt underneath a good wading jacket to break the wind. It wasn't cold, just windy. 

Strategies:  We used floating lines and very small streamers, the trout were up in the weed beds feeding on Damsel nymphs, Dragonfly nymphs, and Leeches.   

Rods:  I fished a Winston Kairos 9' 6 Weight with a fighting butt which I was glad that I had!  Lamson Litespeed Reel.  

Flies: Thin Mint aka Twin Lakes Special and Rainy's Hibernator (best bug)

Catch Summary:  We landed about 10 big Brown Trout a piece, it was crazy and the fishing didn't get good until about 1 pm and then it was mayhem.  We stalked fish around the flat like Bonefish!  It was all sight casting!  I had never seen anything quite like it and can't wait to try and experience this again. 

Most Memorable Moment:  Watching my buddy Guy land about a 25" Brown Trout.  He's been such a great friend and customer and seeing him catch that type of trout really made this last day very special.

Day 8 // Lake Fishing in the Mountains... Again

Vital Stats:

Date:  January 20th

Guide: Hector

Specific Destination:  We had the best day of our lives the day before, but opted to try another lake on our last day in Chile and roll the dice. Hector hadn't been there in a while and since we had a great day. 

Weather:  Clear and Sunny with big wind.  Windier even that the day before.

Strategies:  We used sinking lines in this lake, small streamers again.

Rods:  I fished a Winston Kairos 9' 6 Weight with a fighting butt and Lamson Litespeed Reel.  Used a RIO Deep Series sinking line. 

Flies: Thin Mint aka Twin Lakes Special and Rainy's Hibernator

Catch Summary:  We didn't catch a fish. Didn't hook a fish.  Not joking!  

Most Memorable Moment:  Just realizing that fishing these big wild places can kick your ass, and how lucky we were to have 7 awesome days prior to this one. We rolled the dice and went to a different lake, but I think it wouldn't have made a difference.  Steve and Dan (our buddies) fished exactly where we were at on Day 7 and only landed one fish, albeit it a big ol' Brown Trout but it was nothing like the day before.  We were very fortunate, but I have found in order to get "lucky" it helps to be there.  Patagonia is a big wild place and nothing is gauranteed. 

We had a couple of beers and let the finality of our trip soak in. It was time to wrap it up and head home.

Final Thoughts on Chile

This is the one and only trip I've ever been on that I booked again, before I even left from the first trip. Sebastian, the owner, is a wonderful guy and made the trip over the top. Our entire group was delighted with the service, guide's skills, attitude, and the food and wine was over the top.  I am pretty good at analyzing value on these trips, and even if the fishing had been terrible this trip was still a fabulous adventure and value.  These lodges and guides get a 110% positive endorsment here at Red's.