Chile Patagonia Baker Lodge Day 3

Today Exequiel and I fished the Rio Baker together. The action started about the time the sun fell onto the water in mid morning. And then it was very good. We caught many fish in the 15 to 18 inch size on small nymphs fished in the currents around a mid stream gravel bar.

I was using my Hardy 10 foot 3 weight Zenith rod, and the fish gave a powerful accounting of themselves in the heavy currents of the massive river. There were any number of doubles.

Later that day we floated and cast huge streamers for the big browns of the Baker, but the high overhead sun and warm weather  had the big fish on the bottom of the 30 foot deep river, awaiting better feeding conditions. None-the-less, it was a great float on an impressively beautiful river.


Doubles were common. In this case we netted them at the same time with one net.


The Hardy 10-3 got a good workout on the health rainbows of the Baker.

Chile Patagonia Baker Lodge Day 2

Pablo Perez and I travelled with our guide, Marcello, to the short neck between Lago General Carrera and Lago Bertrand to fish for big browns. The water of the lake is impossibly blue, and yet clear at the same time. We could easily see to the bottom in 20 feet of water. The fish are in preparation for spawning and use this area to build their redds. It seems unlikely waters, 15 to 30 feet deep, but the current is strong where the waters of the big lake gather to exit.

We fished big, articulated, black leech-style flies on 300 grain sinking heads, and found a number of nice fish. Pablo hit the first big one, which proved to the be the biggest of the day—a lovely 5 kilo female (12.5 lbs). A bit later I found a very fine 4 kilo (9 pound) male to accompany her. Later, Pablo found the brother to my fish. We both caught other fish of 2 to 3 kilos (3 to 6.5 pounds), but these three were the “big boys” of the day.


Pablo’s decidedly trophy sized female. Note the blue of the water.


I’ll smile anytime I catch a brown of this size!


A second big brown to compete the brace of big boys.



Chile The Saga Continues Baker Lodge Day 1

After our stay at most pleasant Cantarias Lodge, we hopped a plane and headed further south to the Patagonia Baker Lodge on Rio Baker. This river drains the massive Lago (lake) General Carrera—second largest in Chile. The mountain backdrop–as seen in early morning mist, is stunning against the expanse of the river. The lodge is very comfortable, nestled in the forest along the blue waters of the Baker. It is a welcome sight after our trip from the airport on well over 100 miles of gravel road.


The lovely Patagonia Baker Lodge snuggled in the forest along the banks of Rio Baker.


The massive Rio Baker as seen from the veranda of the lodge.


Chile 2014 Day 3

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.


Mt Osorno is beautiful, but volcanic.


My second king of the morning, Pablo graciously shot the photo before tearing off to catch a king for himself.


Good on you, Benito!


Doubles! Javier with a 20 Kilo class salmon, and Pablo with a nice king.


Chicken, carrots, onions, peppers in a white wine reduction over a wood fire. Now that’s a lunch.


Toast the river, toast the fish, toast the day, toast the fish, toast each other, toast the fish–toast, toast, toast; sounds like breakfast and not lunch.


One of the nice rainbows that Exequiel took over the lunch break.


Pablo’s big, run away king.


Exequiel also hooked a huge run-away. Look at the belly on that beast.


In the Lake States where I fish for salmon in the fall, the sea gulls are the scavengers. In Chile, it’s vultures.


The big king that Pablo saved for me.Note its length agains the little 5 wt SC20 trout rod.

Chile 2014 Day 2

Day two opened with great anticipation. We were headed to Rio Rahue for giant browns and coho salmon. That turned to quick disappointment when we discovered the water up about 2 feet and very dirty—an extremely rare event in this river. So we ran a quick float just to see the country and headed back to the lodge and the boca of a small, nearby stream. There we cast for trout and salmon. Bonito caught two nice rainbows, Exequiel caught a large lake perch, and Pablo caught a 4lb king salmon. The kings live in the lake and get to perhaps 15 pounds. I caught Exequiel’s line, and Javier and I caught each other’s lines. Then it back to the lodge in preparation for a longer trip in search of big ocean run king salmon.


Rio Rahue, high and dirty.


Lunch on Rio Rahue was a delightful Ploughnam’s lunch of cheese and meats and breads.


Fish or no fish, we toast the river and good friends.


Our day on the Rahue was made sweet with handfuls of wild blackberries.


The boca or mouth of a tributary is a good place to find fish.



Benito was the first to connect–a nice rainbow.


Exequiel with perch on.


Javier and Pablo with a king.

Chile 2014 Day 1

I arrived in Chile on Saturday, March 29 and met my friends, Benito and Pablo Perez and Exequiel Bustos at the Santiago airport. That afternoon we flew south to Osorno and met Javier Dietz who owns and operates the Cantarias Lodge, named after the monster beetle that is great food for very large trout.

We unpacked at the lodge, had a lovely dinner meal, and slept very comfortably in the large and very comfortable rooms.

Sunday was an all day clinic. Those in attendance opted for a PowerPoint presentation on Long Flies, a fly tying session, and a casting session. We certainly covered a great deal of ground.


The rather large Canrtarias beelte–a true mouthful for a rather large trout!!


Pablo and Javier posing in front of the lodge.


A most peaceful rest in confortable quarters overlooking lake Puyehue–hot tub, sauna, and all!


The rooms are spacious and very comfortable for the angler, trekker, climber, skier, and other outdoors people.


The members of the day long clinic, smiling in anticipation. They were well filled with information and a great lunch of lamb with all the trimmings.


Holland’s Big Pike

Theo’s been at it again. The early spring in Europe has the fish moving actively, and the anglers just as active in pursuit of them. The canal’s in Holland contain many northern pike, and they are a great fish to pursue with the fly rod.

This 43-inch fish took a big streamer and fought powerfully. What more can one ask of a day’s outing?


Northerns get to be really fun when they reach the 40 inch mark and beyond.


A big pike like this one demands huge flies–the biggest thing you can cast on your fly rod will still seem small to a huge pike.


Kings in Chile

King salmon were first introduced into Chilean waters in 1886, but the plant did not take. A single stocking of juvenile fish in Rio Santa Cruz about 1930 produced a viable wild population of spawning kings. Then in the mid 1970s, the fish were introduced in fish farms along the coast of the Chilean Patagonia. There are now viable, reproducing populations in several rivers in the area, established by escapees from the fish farms.

The Patagonia encompasses the southern portion of both Chile and Argentina. The name is derived from a tall person described in a Spanish novel of the early 1500s. Magellan used the word to describe the “giant” people he encountered in the region in 1520. They were taller than the Europeans of the time. It’s a good place for the giant king salmon.

Like all kings, they get big and fight like bulldogs, shaking and plowing around with serious vigor. Occasionally one will jump, but more often the fight is deep and very strong. And like other salmon regions of the world, anglers searching for the Patagonia Kings often hunt them with Spey equipment.

My friends at the Mendoza Fly Shop are no exception. Pablo Perez, Manager, and owner with his father, Benito, has been developing a series of very nice rods—his Aguas Claras (Clear Water), which I enjoyed fishing last year on my trip to the Argentine Patagonia. Pablo recently spent time on the Peulo River near Puerto Montt in the Chilean Patagonia is search of kings on which to test his new G3 Spey series. The rods worked very well, delighting Pablo with big kings on the bank.


The Chilean Kings have established spawning populations. They came from fish farms in the cold waters along the coast of saunter Chile.


A delighted Pablo with a big king in his G3 Spey rod. Note the size of the river behind him.


The Spey rod certainly measures up to the big kings.

Time of the Carp

The Polar Vortex rotated down over the US this year, giving Europe a very mild winter and early spring. Theo Bakelaar recently wrote that the daytime temperatures in Holland are near 70F, and the carp are moving into shallow water, seeking the warmth.

Of course, that means carp fishing time. Carp are powerful brutes, and they take the fly well. Small nymphs (a size 10 or 12 Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear is my favorite), small woolly Buggers, and small crayfish imitations work very well for carp. The carp is actually in the minnow family, and so it’s mouth is not the downturned spigot of the sucker family. The carp’s mouth is forward pointing, even if relatively small. It is also just a bit tender, and one cannot pull against them too hard for fear of tearing the hook free. None-the-less, a carp on a 5 weight is very exciting. They can certainly teach you the ins and outs of truly fighting fish and not merely playing them.

I addition, carp are very spooky. They often travel in schools, and if you spook one, you spook the entire school. If you are fishing the carp flats in the Great Lakes, for example, and you spook one school, the whole flat will empty. They are every bit as touchy as bones.

When our spring finally does peek out from under the blanket of the Polar Vortex, and the ice leaves our lakes, it will be carp time here. Hook up to some of these big burnished bronze beasts and discover how much fun they really can be.


As the spring warms, the carp move into the shallows seeking the warmer waters, to feed, and eventually to reproduce.


The carp is in the minnow family, and its mouth is a bit more tender than that of a trout, bass, or pike.


Theo, playing the role of the happy angler. Who wouldn’t want to play that role with a big carp like this one?


Catch and release of carp assures that there will be plenty of big ones around for tomorrow’s outing.



Skittering Anchor

I’m just back from a Saturday clinic with the Ozark Fly Fishers. My friend, Dr. Gary Eaton, was there, and we had a great chance to say “Hi” and get caught up a bit. He told me of a couple of big trout that fell to his “Skittering Anchor” tactic, and then sent me photos of these big guys. The Skittering Anchor is a great tactic with the big fish flies like streamers, bucktails, leeches and more. Below is a story about this tactic from my book. Long Flies.


Gary with a big rainbow that ate a fly fished on the Skittering Anchor.


The business end of a big brown that took Gary’s fly fly fished on the Skittering Anchor.

Cry “Goby!”

Duane Stremlau and I were fishing the Lake Michigan tributaries for king salmon, with some outstanding fish being taken each day. Duane had to leave early in the morning on day four, and I spent the morning exploring a spot that had performed well the night before. There were fish, and they cooperated.

Regulations vary in the Lakes States regarding fishing to spawning fish. In Wisconsin, the laws allow fishing in all sections of the Lake Michigan tributaries because the salmon cannot reproduce in these streams. In other Lake States, fishing is not allowed in the prime spawning areas, in order to protect the reproducing fish. But even there, one finds jousting males and cooperative females in pre-spawn behavior well downstream of the protected waters.

I left the early morning fishing area after a couple of hours, and moved to another section of the river where I’d told my long-time friend, John Beth, that I would meet him. John and our mutual friend, Dan “Doc” Zavadsky showed up at 11 am, and I informed them of the river’s condition and the fish “exercising” experiences to date. After they were fully regaled with stories of fish won and lost, we went in search of other cooperative fish.

There didn’t seem to be any in the river; all we got was plenty of wading exercise and practice in spotting fish in deep water. Then about 3 pm, John hit his first fish of the day. The bite was on—for John. I couldn’t buy a fish. John didn’t want to sell any, either, and no one else was offering, even at twice market price. When John hooked his third fish, I waded over and netted it so I could checked his fly. It was a tan strip fly, not his usual grizzly barred strip fly. “Must look like a Round Goby,” John said. He was probably right. This invasive, sculpin-looking species has spread rapidly through the Great Lakes since its introduction in about 1999. At least they were serving as salmon food.

John’s imitation was tied with heavy lead eyes, and he fished it with a Jigging Retrieve. He would cast down-and-across—more down than across—and then keep the rod tip high and work the fly like a jig. As the currents swung the fly across, John would jiggle the rod tip to keep the fly jigging up and down right across the fish’s face. They took it powerfully.

I dug in the boxes and found a big Down and Dirty Sculpin. It was close enough, I was certain of that. But it was an unweighted version that I had tied as a demonstration fly at a sports show. So I hung a size 3/0 shot on the tag end of the leader about two inches under the fly.


The shot hang on the tag end of the tippet and “skitter” along the bottom, creating noise and giving the fly very attractive motion.

This was a tactic that my friend, Dr. Gary Eaton, had written about. He uses it to prospect his beloved spring creeks of Missouri, and other places that he fishes. Gary has used several terms over the years to describe the tactic; I like his “Skittering Anchor” terminology the best. The easy way to rig the leader is to run it through the eye of the fly, then tie an overhand knot at the end of the tippet. Next tie the knot you normally use to attach the fly to the leader, allowing the tag end (with its overhand knot) to protrude out of the knot for whatever length you need.  Gary fishes his long flies with the knot as close as 1⁄2 inch (1 cm) to the eye, or as far away as a couple of inches, depending upon the action he wants and the size of the stones on the bottom—generally the larger the stones, the farther the shot is from the eye.

In this case, I determined the length of the tag by the distance I wanted to keep the fly off the bottom. I allowed the shot to hang about two inches below the head of the fly so that it would run up off the bottom just a bit (more at the level of the fish’s mouth). I’d been working a big female with several ardent admirers, and I went back to show them my goby look-alike on the Skittering Anchor. I fished it with the same jigging action that John had used, and as the fly passed by the front of the big female, she turned and followed for about two feet, and then simply engulfed the fly. The cry of “Goby!” went up along the river as John and I went on to fill out a most-successful afternoon. Then suddenly it all ended, and the day faded into the annals of another salmon season. We had hooked 16 and landed 14.


The big female followed the skittering sculpin and then just inhaled it.

Day five started with a definite whimper—my whimper. There was nothing. Every fish that saw the fly fled in seeming terror. The day had dawned dark and cold, with clouds that suggested snow was soon to come. But about 9:30 the sun broke through and the fish turned on. A Black and Purple D & D Leech (black fur and purple flash mixed in the collar) on a Skittering Anchor was fish candy. My score for hits was great—7 fish on in a little over an hour, including a huge male that simply would not give up, and tussled with me until the hook pulled out. The day ended at 11 am with my score 7 hooked, 3 landed. The fish certainly won that one. But I won, too. I’d developed the feel for the Skittering Anchor, adding a new tactic to my fly fishing bag of tricks.