From the Valle Bonito Lodge we have nearby access to many great wild trout waters including both rivers and lakes that can provide a lifetime of fishing and exploration.
Outside the door is the crystal clear Espolon River that flows about six miles from Lake Espolon to the Futaleufu River. The Espolon is an easy float trip or walk and wade and contains a fair amount of medium sized Rainbows and Browns with the occasional monster. In January and February, large King Salmon enter the Futaleufu system from the Pacific and migrate right past the Lodge to spawn below the falls just above. While not easy to catch on a fly, it does happen and we have caught several in the 35 pound range. Typically, we do not target the Salmon on our trips as they are better fished with a spinning rod and big spoon, however we had clients hook a few Salmon with a fly over the years. The Espolon is great for an evening fish and scenic float and an excellent walk and wade section is just a 15 minute walk from your door.
The Futaleufu River is the biggest river in the area. Known for it’s famous and world class whitewater sections, the Futa as we call it also holds excellent populations of Browns and Rainbows. Average size is about 16 inches with 20 inch plus fish fairly common. One thing that you will note is the incredible power of these chrome bright fish. We have been nearly spooled by 19 inch fish and almost all of these wild fish are assured to show you your backing.
From the Valle Bonito we have access to 3 different float sections of the Futa. Our favorite stretch we call the Limite section as our full day float begins right on the Argentine border and descends into Chile. On this stretch of river, there are many gravel bars that are great for walk and wade type fishing. The scenery is outstanding with huge peaks and glaciers reaching up from the verdant farmlands that border the river. Here we employ a variety of tactics to catch the fish depending on the time of year and your preferences as an angler. Typically we will fish tiny dries in the eddies to rising rainbows, big streamers under the willow trees for big browns, dry and dropper for both species and most fun of all, we skate large foam flies in the riffles. Skating flies seems to be more productive than dead drifting in certain areas and when a large fish comes up to inhale your waking dry, it is a thrill that you won’t soon forget.
Below the Limite section is our second float section we call Las Escalas. From the Valle Bonito we drive about 20 minutes on a rough and steep dirt road to access the river. Las Escalas is a remote community of subsistence farmers that have lived without electricity their whole lives. One of the highlights of this stretch aside from the fishing is seeing how these “campesinos” live and spending some quality time with the people that make this isolated area their home. Fishing here is similar to the Limite section up above with many pools, riffles and runs that hold good fish.
Further down the road and about 45 minutes from the Lodge is the Macal section of the Futa. We begin our float here, just below that last class 5 rapid and float a gentle section to where the Futa joins Lake Yelcho. This is a spectacular stretch of water as the surrounding glacier capped peaks rise dramatically from the water. The first half of the float is similar to our western rivers in the US (although bigger) and contains numerous runs and riffles that hold both Browns and Rainbows. On the second half of the float, the river changes characteristics and slows down into a long, deep and wide river lined with overhanging willow trees. It is under these willows that we look for monster Brown trout, typically with streamers and sinking lines.
Above the Valle Bonito about 2 miles is a Lake that is a gem. This road less lake is about 7 miles long, 1/2 mile wide, over 1000 feet deep and has a deep sapphire color. On the far side is a two mile wide shallow bay that is lined with reeds. In these reeds live the Dragonflies and Damselflies that provide most of the groceries for the 16-22 inch rainbows that live here. From the boat, we will cast dries, streamers and nymphs on floating lines right to the edge of the reeds and begin a slow retrieve. Most of the takes here are very subtle and the fish seem to always eat the fly when heading for the boat. Anglers must pay close attention to their line/leader junction where just the slightest amount of slack or tension can indicate a big rainbow eating the fly. We have had many incredible days of fishing here and it is not uncommon to catch 20 rainbows in the 16-22 inch range in just a few hours. In early 2015 we had days where 2 anglers hooked over 150 fish in 5 hours. Bueno!! This is one of our favorite venues as we have a beautiful beach to stage and eat lunch on and the upper river valley to explore on foot. Also, an hours walk up the valley is another isolated community that is an interesting walk/visit if we want to take a break from the fishing.
The Futa river ends when it flows into an enormous Lake about an hour from the Valle Bonito, Lake Yelcho. Yelcho is arguably one of the best fisheries in Chile if not Patagonia. Full of Rainbows and Browns and yielding the occasional large Brook Trout, this 25 mile long natural lake is home to some monstrous trout, some of which exceed 20 pounds. There are generally 2 different areas that we fish on the South end of the Lake, the “boca” where the Futa river runs in and the reed beds that line the entire south bay. Fish come into the reeds for Dragonflies and Damselflies and a large foam dry can produce dramatic results. The boca oftentimes contains a foam line that can be as large as 5 acres and many days we row slowly around the foam and sight fish to cruising fish on the surface. One of the most captivating events that occurs here is the Puye run. These Puyes are small baitfish that congregate in the boca from December through April to ascend the river and spawn. When the Puyes are in, fish leave the reed beds and feast on these small silvery fish. Many days you will see pods of 15-20 rainbows(some over 20 pounds) crashing the water and hunting their prey. Much like Marlin in the ocean, the Rainbows pack up and push the Puyes into baitballs before crashing the surface and throwing spray high into the air. Seeing several pods of Rainbows churning the water near the boat is a sight that will leave almost any angler nearly as frenzied as the Trout. This is not easy fishing and the fish become very selective for the Puyes. This type of fishing requires patience to wait for the schools to approach and good casting, as many times one cast is all you will get before the fish disappear only to resurface several hundred yards away.