Streamer fishing for large Brown Trout, as many of you know is one of my favorite pursuits with a fly rod; the constant process of figuring out currents, dissecting every section of a river, casting larger flies into specific locations only to have that next voracious eat and your line coming tight on a gator-like brown trout measuring in pounds not inches never seems to get old.
When the opportunity presented itself for me and a group of anglers to head to Chile to chase larger than average Browns in a pristine setting, I jumped at the opportunity. Visiting the General Carrera lake region with Lance Wilt and his partner J.D. both of Wilts Outcastanglers made a dream come to reality. I have always dreamed of going to Patagonia to flyfish, but I never really understood how labor intensive a trip of these sorts would be until I left a little over a week ago. After 27 hours of travel which included 3 separate plane changes, a two hour truck ride and an equally as long ferry across a lake that felt like an ocean, we arrived at our destination where we would call home for the next 6 days. Oh and if you can’t quite wrap your head around the geographical aspect of getting to Patagonia, lets just say its another 2 hour flight north of Antarctica.
Any seasoned streamer angler would agree, fishing streamers for any species is work, and although the potential for some very memorable fish was around every corner of the river we fished, we covered large expanses of riffles, runs and plunge pools every day over some relatively rough terrain. The scenery was spectacular, and every moment spent walking the banks of the river was taxing on the legs, it was all quickly forgotten once you picked your head up from the water and took a look around you. 10-16 miles of hiking a day was the norm, but every section of water we encountered seemed to exude that feeling that something large was lurking below that mesmerizing milky blue glacial water.
Every exotic trip I take, I don’t put any expectations on what I am about to experience, but I do however assign a magic number in regards to what would be a truly awesome catch considering the locale. My first time to Alaska, that number was a rainbow trout of 30 inches; on another trip deeper into the state for some apex predators, that number was a northern pike of 48 inches just to name a few. For this particular trip that magic number was a brown trout north of 30 inches, but more precisely tipping the scales at 15 pounds. Early on I recognized that was a very large number, but that size seemed very attainable as this particular fishery hosted a very healthy population of migratory browns. When I say migratory, I am not referring to sea run fish, but fish that migrate from a massive lake reminiscent of our own Great Lakes fisheries. As I said earlier, I did not expect to catch one of that caliber, but I knew that the potential was there and maybe I would actually get a glimpse of such a creature.
Every day we drove into some pretty rugged terrain and found ourselves streamside to a boulder-strewn pocket water fisherman’s delight. The backdrop was equally as spectacular; snowcapped peaks off in the distance with various rock and sand formations lining the banks of where we fished. Every day we set out on the water, I couldn’t help but wonder how few people had ever set foot there. Feeling insignificant is an understatement; everything was vast and expansive, and it reminded me very much of some of the places that I have visited and fished on the western side of North America. Two hours into my first day that number that I had in mind was not only about to happen but be surpassed beyond measure.
Lance had brought my brother in law Jeff and I to a very fishy piece of water that any streamer fisherman would quickly fall in love with. Within a few casts I found myself releasing a very respectable trout in the 6-7 pound range. Two casts later after snapping a couple pictures and releasing the very colorful Brown Trout, my Headbanger Sculpin disappeared into the jaws of something prehistoric looking, and the battle began.
After falling in the water and filling my waders to prevent the beast from wrapping me around a large boulder, Lance and I scrambled to shore in hopes of keeping pace with this monster that decided he wanted no part of being netted. Barely escaping a dunking of his own, Lance high tailed his way to the shoreline and motioned me along as we ran downstream to keep up with the beast. After five minutes of running the banks as it barreled downstream through a rather rough set of rapids the moment I had only dreamed of became reality as Lance lifted the net out of the water with a fish that literally spilled out of both ends of the hoop. The three of us sat there in awe of what had just transpired, and the many obstacles that clearly could have been disasterous were overcome as we stared at the largest brown trout all three of us had ever put eyes on, a 34” x 20” hook jawed dinosaur which calculated out to a conservative 17 pounds. Everything after that moment was what I termed “gravy”, considering a milestone I had only ever dreamed of had just come to fruition.
The remainder of our week was equally as impressive; we sight fished to some very large trout, chased some with mice patterns in broad daylight, watching as shadows erupted from the depths behind boulders and in slicks only to devour our offerings, and cast weighted streamers into plunge pools, glides and slicks. The takes were visual and violent, and once committed it seemed nothing was going to stop these fish from eating your fly. There is nothing more exciting than watching the shape of a large brown trout chasing your fly down several yards and smashing it violently, then jumping out of the water like an Atlantic salmon several times before coming to net.