El Zorro


by Scott Sadil

The spring creeks in and around Estancia del Zorro, the remote and rustic ranch house converted into half the elegant accommodations offered to anglers by the Cinco Rios Lodge, are low this year. 

A winter of light snow, followed by an early warm spring, have left creeks both clear and, in many places, choked with algae and weed. But in the narrow channels between the vegetation, or in the tiny pockets along the steep clay banks, big brown trout lie in wait for food to come their way.

Or flies. Today we’re fishing with size 12 foam beetles. The casts are difficult, the fish flighty as wrens. But now and then the toss lands just right, and after Gabriel, my guide, tells me to move the beetle, but only just so and, please, not too much, a brown trout the size of a cat appears below it in the narrow slice of clear water and begins to eye the fly like a jeweler studying a gem through a loupe.

I’ve never seen such a slow, deliberate rise. I have to tell myself to keep breathing – or pass out. The trout opens its mouth but remains uncertain whether to eat. Does it actually start to move away? I move the line just enough to adjust the attitude of the fly; the trout, mouth still open, studies the fly again, as though a devil on one shoulder is telling it to eat, an angel on the other side saying no, no, no.

This time the devil wins.

At this moment, on these tiny weed-choked creeks, there’s little chance to land these big browns unless you immediately get their heads up and keep the fight on or near the surface. Otherwise you are in the weed and algae, where the promise of awful problems looms large.

Long casts to distant lies

But your tippet is light, the only reason you fooled the fish in the first place.

Thank God your agile guide is good with his big long net.

So it goes at Estancia del Zorro, the sister ship of the elegant and luxurious Cinco Rios Lodge (www.cincorios.cl/en/fishing), operated by Sebastian Galilea, from one of the very first families to settle in the Coyhaique region of Chilean Patagonia. 

The lodge enjoys private access to more than 170 kilometers of rivers and streams, much of it within its own extensive holdings, others accessible through arrangements with owners of other large estancias

A typical stay at Cinco Rios allows you three days on the challenging spring creeks in and around El Zorro (www.estanciadelzorro.cl/), then another three days floating on rivers closer to the main lodge.

And there is no better time than now to visit. Since the start of the Covid pandemic, Patagonia has received very little fishing pressure. Trout season, in full swing right now, runs until March. Cinco Rios is waiting for visitors as I write.

The brown trout are waiting, too.

“Playing a Nice Brown Trout,” by Sebastian Letelier


Gray’s Angling Editor Scott Sadil keeps getting distracted by good fishing while trying to report from Chile.