Rugged Chile lures a fisherman



It was January, and I was thinking forward to spring and fishing my favorite trout stream. Winter for a fisherman is a time of restlessness. But it was not winter everywhere, and it occurred to me that the rivers in the Southern Hemisphere were running strong and fast, and the trout were probably rising. Within 30 days I was on the water in Southern Chile.

The western region of Patagonia, about three hours south of Santiago by air, has become a draw for fisherman the world over. I stayed at Isla Monita, on a trip arranged by Frontiers International. I was joined by five others, two from the United States and three from Europe.

The trip lasted 10 days, although four days were spent in travel. The area was remote, requiring two flights after touching down in Santiago, a two-hour overland ride and a short boat trip to the lodge, where I was welcomed by Anne and Hanz, my hosts.

There was no phone, fax or e-mail at the lodge. The food was outstanding, and meals were complemented by fine Chilean wine.

Trout live in beautiful, undisturbed places, and there are not many places more beautiful or undisturbed than southern Chile. Though the fishing was the draw, the mountains and glaciers and night sky punctuated by the Southern Cross would have made the trip worthwhile.

The wild geography of Chile consists of 2,700 miles of coastline, yet the country is only an average of 110 miles wide. More than 2,000 volcanoes speckle the countryside.

The rivers flowing out of the Andes are fed by run-off and mountain glaciers. There are big, deep rivers, rich in nutrients and aquatic life, supporting a trout population famous in fly-fishing circles. The native trout in these rivers grow large and jump high. Twenty-inch fish are the rule, not the exception. One member of our group landed a 31-inch brown trout.

The rivers are sport to kayakers, many of whom were headed to the region for an international competition the week after my departure. The mountain backdrop draws climbers and trekkers as well.

I don't think Chile comes to mind as a travel destination for many people. My experience was a surprising delight. I did not anticipate a country so diverse and appealing.

Douglas Bruns lives in Baltimore.


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