Lago Yelcho

by Scott Sadil

I’m not much of a lake angler. So when Marc Whittaker of Rod and Gun ( tells me he can line up a trip down the length of Lago Yelcho, fishing all the way, as long as I change my flight home, I hesitate.

So what? A big lake, I think.

But the photos of Yelcho en la Patagonia (, the lodge near the northern end of the lake, look pretty enough: A big chalet surrounded by picturesque mountains topped by towering glaciers. And, from what I can tell, home is yet again a snarl of pandemic nonsense, while Chile, at least, seems to have a solid grip on things, averaging throughout the entire country fewer cases and deaths than many counties in Oregon.

And, as soon as I get my first taste of Yelcho, watching both big browns and rainbows attack adult dragonfly patterns dapped along the reeds, I figure the cost of my changed flight ticket home is about the best deal I’ve ever made.

Roland Bastidas, head guide at Yelcho en la Patagonia, arrives in a panga not dissimilar from those used by sea-going pangeros anywhere in Latin America.

That gives you some idea how big the lake is – and how rough it can get.

Big water, of course, can produce big fish.

I sense we might see more of those if we put up the six-weight and cast a streamer on the sinking line. But Roland, younger than my sons, has the instincts and audacity of a bobcat. Plus the eyes of a falcon. He likes nothing more than to nose the panga into the lee of a sheer rock wall, take up the oars, and ease us into deep protected nooks and crannies littered, far below, with huge boulders and sunken logs, while I pitch a Fat Albert into shadows shimmering on the surface.

Yelcho panga

Strip!” whispers Roland. “Now stop!”

She’s coming.

Often I don’t see the trout until it’s right below the fly. Or its mouth opens.

“Set!” shouts Roland – sometimes too early, sometimes late.

Sometimes we both get it just right.

The lodge, it turns out, is a sprawling, handsome, rough-hewn yet updated affair, with all the amenities of a multi-star hotel. Most everyone has already left for the holidays; after dinner I sit with a group of Spaniards, heading home in the morning, who have been coming to Yelcho for the past 20 years. Despite my tortured Spanish, I gather they’ve found exactly what they want in terms of fishing, accommodations, and service.

That’s pretty much the gist of the place. Sebastian Blanco, the lodge manager, makes certain I have everything I might possibly need — a short list once my pisco sour arrived, followed by a plate of exquisite beef, served rare as seared tuna. 

Later, Roland wanders in and joins a gal at the bar, part of Sebastian’s staff.  I head over to pass along my tip for the day. I ask about our plans. Roland suggests we just keep hunting – floating line and big foam flies wherever the wind allows. We rehash some of the day’s sport – and once again, like most days in Chile, I fail to get to bed until tomorrow.


Gray’s Angling Editor Scott Sadil keeps telling himself he needs to head home soon from Chile.