by Scott Sadil

The thunder starts well before dawn. I’m still asleep, dreaming about fish and fishing in a way I have, throughout my life, that nearly always ends up with me failing to get my fly in the water, while anglers all around me enjoy the fight of good fish. 

Lightning flashes through the curtains; dreamscape and reality merge. It’s the moment of this tireless dream where my fly rod turns into a lug wrench, say, or a baseball bat, or I watch my truck floating down the river, when suddenly my room ignites once again, an explosion of light followed immediately by another blast of thunder, this one sounding as if the mountains around Rucapeley, my wayside stop near Panquipulli, are bursting at the seams.

A wee bit anxious? Not surprising: Over the past week, my first seven days in Chile, the only time I feel perfectly confident of the nature of things around me is when I’m on the water. That part I get. But in between there’s probably been more movement from river to river, region to region, host to host, than is good for the sanity of the traveling fly fisher.

Yet Chile is a big place, with more good water, from what little I’ve seen so far, than one can probaly imagine from afar. I feel like I’m trying to select from a banquet set for royalty and friends. Sure, the souffle looks delicious, but have you tried the curried chicken?

My host for two days, Hernan Lepeley, owner of the small lodge Rucapeley (, in the seven lakes region of Panquipulli, serves up a special brand of sport, perhaps more intimate than one might expect on a tour of fancy lodges in a country well-known for its high-end offerings. 

Home and cozy cabin front the outlet from yet another lake with a name I can’t pinpoint on my map, in a part of Chile where east and west, upstream and down, all conspire to leave me unsure of my whereabouts at any moment except when aiming a cast.

Things make clear sense, however, when I ride in a cataraft, towed by a hard-bottomed inflatable, with Hernan and an old friend of his across a breezy bay at one end of Lago Panquipulli. 

We approach the broad outlet that begins the Rio Enco. A smooth sweeping drop starts us immediately into vibrantly blue water that calls out for one of the big articulated streamers that have become so popular of late in Chile – the same type of fly I used days before on the Rio Bio Bio while trying to hunt up a trophy brown with Daniel Iturrietta ( out of Temuco. We didn’t find that trophy, but I did get introduced to a handful of fine trout with this effective style of fishing that regularly brings monster browns to the boat in this and other regions of Chile.

On the Enco we’re delighted by a steady rush of spirited rainbows that appear as if those same bursts of lightning from early in the morning, in this case attached to our oversized streamers. 

The Enco is yet another big rumbling river, a dreamy, all but surreal blue, that gives up fish from all angles, from heavy water and slow. Yet it’s a short river; the float from one end to the other, from Lago Panquipulli to Lago Rinihue, takes a full but doable day, leaving just enough time for another midnight dinner in Chile and just enough sleep, including dreams, to get ready for the next day’s fishing.


Gray’s Angling Editor Scott Sadil remains at large in Chile.