by Scott Sadil
Yesterday, Monday, November 1, fly fishers far and wide shared a cheer, if not also a spirited pisco sour toast: Chile and Argentina, destinations marked on every traveling trout angler’s radar, reopened to foreign tourists, the first time since who knows when.
I bought a ticket Sunday to Santiago.
It wasn’t entirely on impulse. What seems like years ago now, I was hanging out with Dave Hughes and Rick Hafele on the upper Columbia, just below the Canadian border, bringing up big fish on big dry flies while trying to identify, at last, the big mayfly that was behind all the commotion. It must have been after the usual late-night wee dram or two of Aberlour that I felt bold enough to ask Hughes if I could tag along the next time he headed to South America.
“I don’t know if I’m going back,” said Hughes.
He entered into a long discourse why.
“But you should go,” he added. “Chile is my favorite place in the world.”
Long before I met Hughes, I’d gathered as much. Decades ago, when he first wrote about fishing in Chile, he did nothing to hide his enthusiasm for the otherworldly trouting he experienced there. This is no place to share another writer’s stories, other than report that I’ve heard Hughes say more than once that if he wasn’t so happily married, to a woman he deeply adores, he would move to Santiago, maybe buy a boat and, with luck, find himself a Chilean wife.
Later, Hughes gave me the name of a guy he had met at one of those fly fishing extravaganzas we remember touring the nation during the BC (before Covid) era.
I called Marc Whittaker from Rod and Gun (www.rodandgun.cl) in Santiago.
It’s taken us since before the start of the pandemic (you can figure the length of time as well as I can) to finally close the deal. I’m fully vaccinated, I’ll get a booster next week, and as long as I have a negative Covid-19 PCR test both at home and upon arrival in Santiago, officials will allow me into the country without any period of quarantine.
Better yet, I’ll be able to travel freely throughout Chile and Argentina.
Like everyone else, of course, I’ve heard mention any number of times recently that, without visiting anglers in Chile and Argentina the past long while, the trout have grown – how shall I put it? Incautious? I try not to anthropomorphize, much less disparage, the unknowable genius of all wild animals. But, sadly enough, there’s a little bit in all of us that secretly longs for big, undereducated trout.
Still, I’ve been crossing borders, chasing rumors of empty waves and big reckless fish, for a long, long while. I know better than to expect too much.
Sometimes I even heed these warnings.
Gray’s Angling Editor Scott Sadil enjoys his home waters as much as the next angler. But he still likes to cross international borders, sights set on adventure, now and then.