The Palena River is another great fishery located about 1 hour and 15 minutes from the Lodge. This river while still large by Western standards is a bit smaller than the Futa and is known mostly for the big browns that inhabit it’s waters. The full day float that we do here is a canyon stretch with beautiful canyon walls, crystal clear water, deep forests, cliff wall pools, riffles and runs. In the eddies we look for rainbows sipping midges but generally this is a streamer river and it is possible to catch a double digit Brown here. This river is like the Futa with it’s headwaters in Argentina. The Palena begins it’s journey from Lake Wintter as the Corcovado River and changes names when it enters Chile. Aside from the fishing, the drive here from the Valle Bonito takes you into the heart of the very remote Palena county and the scenery that you pass along the way will amaze you.
Nearby the Palena are 2 small seldom fished lakes that have some great fishing. Rainbows and browns in the 2-6 pound range provide great sport for the fly angler and when the Dragonflies are hatching, this is where you want to be throwing big dries to the reeds and getting explosive takes.
Within 3 miles from the Lodge are 2 other lakes that especially in the early season can be awesome. Lanacano and Seno Muerto both have good populations of browns and rainbows and oftentimes we will do an early morning or late evening session on one or both of these lakes. Numerous remote small streams full of smaller trout can be entertaining to visit and walk along casting a small dry. For the adventurous, there are 2 lakes in the mountains above the Lodge that have great fishing as well. We access these lakes by a 45 minute fairly rugged horseback ride and have rafts stashed on the shores to access the best waters. There is a connecting stream between the 2 lakes and here you can sight fish for large browns as they slip into the stream to eat.
Every day at the Valle Bonito, our guides are up early assessing the daily river and weather conditions to select a venue that will put you on the fish.
The Patagonia region of Southern Chile is home to many species of Trout and Salmon. These include Brook, Rainbow, and Brown Trout, Sea Run Browns and Rainbows as well as Chinook, Coho and Atlantic Salmon. As peculiar as it seems, none of these species is native to Chile. In the mid 1800’s Europeans introduced the German and Loch Leven Brown Trout, with McCloud strain Rainbows being introduced in the 1950’s. Both of which without much competition, immediately flourished in the rivers and lakes. Over time sea run species evolved due to the proximity to the Pacific Ocean and to take advantage of the richer food sources that the ocean offers. In recent years Chinook Salmon have developed self sustaining populations in many of Southern Chiles’ waterways. With the abundance of cool clean glacial water, mild winters, good food sources and little pressure, the fisheries have evolved to contain healthy populations of wild trout and salmon. When a 16 inch Rainbow takes you into your backing in about 4 seconds, it’s easy to regard these powerful chrome bright fish as being every bit as wild as the ones you catch at home.
Chile is a land of extremely large rivers and lakes that hold their share of equally large fish. The watersheds have their origins in the high glacial mountains which abound in this area. Water quality is excellent and often you can see a trout 30 feet down through gin clear water. Typically the rivers do not offer the smorgasbord of aquatic food that we see in our western and coastal rivers but there are Mayfly, Stonefly, Caddis and Midge hatches that can offer excellent dry fly fishing. The Futaleufu River is an exception with prolific Caddis and Midge hatches that can blanket the water.
Dragonflies and Damselflies provide a large portion of the Chilean Trout’s diet. When these are hatching on the lakes, it is something to witness as large trout lose all caution and slash the surface chasing these tasty morsels. If you are lucky enough to hit one of these hatches, it will be an unforgettable experience. Many times I have seen huge trout leap high into the air to ambush a low flying Dragonfly. This is an incredible sight that can cause shaky fingers and accelerated heart rates. Even when the adults are not hatching, the nymph forms of these large bugs are always available to the trout and sub surface imitations can trigger rod wrenching strikes on the edges of the weed beds.
In recent years the Salmon farming industry has flourished and provided economic diversity to a region otherwise dependent on mineral and timber extraction. As with Salmon farms all over the world, many fish escaped their jail like confines and struck out on an instinctive search to find suitable rivers in which to spawn and propagate. They didn’t have to go far and now there are Salmon in almost every river that is connected to the ocean. Initially captive fish, they have had success in their spawning efforts and currently there are self-sustaining populations of Chinook, Coho and Salar (Atlantics) in many rivers. In front of the Valle Bonito Lodge 50 pound Chinook salmon have been caught which are identical in every way to their cousins in Alaska. Generally about 50-100 fish make the trip to the Lodge each year where they reside for 2-3 months before spawning. They are very difficult to catch on a fly and seem to take when you least expect it. I watched a friend fight a 35 pound plus Chinook for over an hour on his 5 weight trout rod before the inevitable parting of the ways occurred.