Today was epic. Epic because the weather was outstanding. Cold in the morning but warming nicely to shirt-sleeve weather by mid morning. Epic because we got up at 4am to hit the road at 5 with another angler, Juan Carlos, headed for big salmon country—the River Petrohue, near the Mt. Osorno volcano.
We quickly loaded the boats and headed across the river to the mouth of a tributary stream, where its heavy incoming currents formed a monster reverse current in the main river. The salmon greeted us even as we were loading the boats, many fish jumping and crashing back to the surface.
Everyone set up their rods, lashed on huge flies of green or chartreuse and began casting into the converging currents. Javier took a nice salmon right away, but the rest of us merely had great casting practice. I decided to explore a bit. After all, the salmon were running up the tributary stream, too, and there had to be some place in its swift, tumbling waters where the big kings could be spotted and fished to on a one-to-one basis.
I found just to spot inside of five minutes, and hooked a fish immediately. The second fish came just as fast. By then, Pablo and Exequiel had noted that I had gone up the tributary and not returned yet, so they came looking. I quickly explained the tactic to them—a black leech-style fly, a couple of shot on its nose, and cast and drift as precisely as possible. Again, almost immediately, they were both into fish.
Pablo headed back to bring his father, Benito, up to have a shot at the fish. Benito caught on quickly and soon had a big king taunt on the line. While he was battling it out with the big fish, Javier showed up, and after a moment or two of discussion of the tactic, headed out to his first sight-caught salmon.
And then the wild rumpus commenced. We caught salmon after salmon. Big powerful brutes that defied us with the greatest of zeals. And we struggled against them, eventually landing them for photos and then putting them back to continue their life’s end ritual. All of us caught big fish, and lunch was an affair of much toasting. While we milled about during the break, Exequiel set up his trout rod and took several nice rainbows on an egg fly.
Just before lunch, Pablo had discovered that the big kings would take a nymph, too, and so after our noon rest period, he headed back up the tributary, looking for another salmon to nymph. Sure enough, he came running back downstream, being towed by a salmon 105 cm long and in the 20 kilo range (over 40 pounds)—and this on his 6 wt rod! .
After all the photos and congratulations, I set up the SC20 rod that Jason had built (see here). I had lost some kings on it last fall and wanted a chance to land a really big fish on the rod. Tying on a black size 6 Hair Leg Woolly Worm, I pitched it to a really big king. Another king intercepted the fly, and it wasn’t until 15 minutes later that I could try for the big king again. This time, he took on about the fourth cast. Nearly 20 minutes later, Pablo saw me struggling with the fish and came down to tail it for me. Just as he was getting into position, the hook pulled out. Pablo crashed into the water and saved the day by tailing the now free fish. It was in the 20 kilo range and 105 cm long—exactly the same size and Pablo’s earlier fish. What a way to end a day of extraordinary angling.