Chilean Time

Going fishing.

by Scott Sadil

I’m a little wobbly of leg when I dismount from my sure-footed mare high up the headwaters of the Rio Mapocho. I’m not exactly used to going trout fishing on horseback, I tell my guide, José Tomas Achondo. He smiles, the way guides will when the message, one they almost never share, is You ain’t seen nothing yet.  

Can you do much better on a layover day in Santiago than a bit of technical creek fishing for both brown trout and rainbows that seem bigger than water of this size should hold? A promise of things to come? But in Chile, I suppose, the point is to expect the unexpected, if not also the exceptional.

The fishing soon makes this point perfectly clear.

brown trout
Brown trout.

Santiago, of course, is a big sprawling city, on the order Los Angeles, in a region that looks and feels quite like Southern California. You don’t have an immediate sense of trout country. But those are the Andes looming close by, and as you climb into the steep foothills, through sparse vegetation and rugged terrain, you can sense the presence of cold water pouring out of the high country – all trout need to flourish in the wild.

rainbow trout

Still, it’s a tight, boulder-strewn canyon we find ourselves in, the sort of place where you’d be watching out for rattlesnakes if you happened to be in any North American trout country. But Chile is a long way from that – yet another reason it seems like a good idea right now to head that way.

Guides like José Tomas are another. Friendly, energetic, with a command of the English language, Chilean guides and outfitters seem excited to see foreign anglers beginning to trickle into the country. 

As we poke around in pocket water bubbling down through the canyon, chunky brown trout begin responding to my pair of little nymphs, fish that suggest, in this tiny little river, that I’ve arrived at the right place at just the right time.

Rio Mapucho headwaters
Rio Mapucho headwaters

I just hope that come morning I’m not too stiff to walk.


Gray’s Angling Editor Scott Sadil is happy to report that he’s alive and well in Chile. He’ll have more to say, he claims, when he pulls himself away from all the good fishing.