by Scott Sadil
If you’ve seen the brief video shot while I was fishing a tributary of the Rio Ñirehauo, near Sebastian Galilea’s Estancia del Zorro, you can imagine the very real possibility of fishing for stillwater trout in Chile with patterns imitating adult dragonflies, or matapiojos.
Still, you think, gazing down at a fly that covers the palm of your hand: Really?
Sebastian Salas drops me off at a bus stop near his father’s Los Torreones ranch, en route to Lago Yelcho and the Matapiojo Lodge, located on the final reach of the Futaleufú River, which feeds the enormous lake with thunderous flows, famous to whitewater enthusiasts worldwide, directly from the Andes of northern Patagonia.
In contrast to the grandiose setting, the unpretentious lodge (www.matapiojolodge.com/home) is nestled beneath a giant rock cliff along the quiet runs at the end of the Futaleufú.
The accommodations are a cluster of well-appointed “glamping”- style canvas tents, with private baths, situated on the bank of the river below a single open-room cabin that serves as dining hall, meeting place, and galley.
Of course, there’s also a fly-tying bench where anglers of all stripes try their hand at concocting their latest version of the adult dragonfly.
Cristian Mellado, the manager of the lodge, has devised one he ties on a tube to help keep the fly from helicoptering during the cast, preventing your leader from twisting into something resembling a bowl of cooked pasta.
Whether the tube is the key, I’m glad to report that Cristian’s fly, tossed along the edge of vast reed beds at the top end of Yelcho, works really well.
Then again, so does a size eight Fat Albert – with legs long enough to embrace a fat mouse.
You can have a lot of fun with this kind of sport. What I especially like is the way you toss the over-sized fly into the edge of the reeds, twitch it a time or two, and then wait.
And wait. And wait.
Sometimes the strike arrives as an explosion, the trout breaking through the surface like a salmon trying to ascend a falls.
Other times, you barely notice some sort of disturbance near the fly. A fish is interested. Whether or not you move the fly is always a question; on occasion you play cat and mouse with the fish, your nerves threatening to fray unless, unlike me, you have chilled or even distilled blood in your veins.
Then there are those fish, usually big browns, that sip the big, gangly fly as though it were a size eighteen mayfly, only to vanish the moment you lift the rod, tightening the line — a moment too late or a moment too soon, nobody is ever sure quite why.
It always hurts just a little bit to see that one and have to say goodbye, and if it were your one and only chance, it would break your heart.
But we’re in Chile, after all, so the hurt is usually only temporary – although you can be sure there will be a few that haunt you late at night, even if they don’t start you howling.
At least I don’t think that’s what woke me in the tent last night.
Gray’s Angling Editor Scott Sadil is happy to report he’s never missed as many good trout as he has in Chile. Of course, he’s never hooked as many, either.