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Fly Fishing Chile:
The Fish of Patagonia Chile

Patagonia Chile Argentina

Rio Grande

The meaning of Futaleufu, in the Araucanian language of Chile's Mapuche Indians, is “great great waters”, and before the turn of the last century the Futaleufu river was only known to the Mapuche. It was only eighty years ago that the first settlers of European ancestry arrived in the valley, and with the Europeans came the arrival of game fish.

Trout species were first introduced to South America in the late 1800s and early 1900's and salmon were introduced approximately thirty years ago. The gin-clear waters of Patagonia Chile and Argentina made a perfect habitat for these transplanted species and they quickly overtook the native Perch ( Percichthys trucha) to became predominant game fish in the ecosystem. It has been reported that the first Brown, Brook and Rainbow trout eggs arrived from New York in 1904 and were stocked in Argentina's Lago Nahuel Huapi, and from there spread all across the Patagonia region. In Chile , sport fishing may have had an even earlier start; if the reports are accurate the first trout fish hatchery was opened in the early 1890's to specifically promote fly fishing in Patagonia. Over the years there have been numerous other importations of fish from both the United States and Europe . Combined with Patagonia 's spectacular waters and almost non-existent fishing pressure these non-native fish have thrived to produce one of the world's greatest fisheries. In the upper Futaleufu region the most prolific fish is the rainbow trout, followed by brown trout and the brook trout. In the lower Futaleufu – the Puerto Ramirez region, where the Futaleufu flows into Lago Yelcho – fly fishers have opportunities to connect with large sea-run brown trout in addition to rainbows. And, if the season for fly fishing in Chile is right, Lago Yelcho becomes host to many species of escapee and transplanted salmon, from Chilean aquaculture programs, that have now become wild residents. Atlantic , Chinook and Coho salmon have all be caught in Futaleufu and Lago Yelcho watersheds.

On average our river caught rainbows typically range in size from 14 – 18 inches, and occasionally larger. River caught browns can weigh-in up to ten pounds, and there are many reports of larger fish taken. In Patagonia lakes and calmer estuaries the fish come bigger, 20 inches is not untypical for rainbows and 24 inches for brown trout. The seasonal runs of Chinook, Coho, and Atlantic salmon offer the possibility of landing fish that weigh over 20 pounds.

"Oncorhynchus mykiss"

The rainbow trout is Patagonia 's premier sport fish, and the Futaleufu and Lago Yelcho watershed has them in world-class numbers and sizes. They are the predominant fish caught on or Patagonia fly fishing trips. Their explosive nature, jumping ability and willingness to fight makes fishing for rainbows extremely exciting. Typically rainbow trout live a non-anadromous life, meaning that they inhabit fresh water for their entire lives, however some fish do migrate to the ocean. These anadromous sea-run rainbows are known as Steelheads. After spending between 1-4 years in the ocean, steelhead return to their native fresh water rivers and streams to spawn, but unlike salmon they can spawn more than once.

Almost all of the rainbow fly fishing in this region of Chile is for the non-anadromous variety, but there have been reports of Steelheads caught in the brackish estuaries leading to Lago Yelcho. In the Futaleufu region the season for rainbows runs from November through April. Our rainbows feed on aquatic and terrestrial insects, mollusks, crustaceans and fish. Their coloring can range from the classic pink-stripped dotted flanks to silvery, depending on the maturity, aquatic habit and season. The color of the rainbow trout will change when it is spawning. Rainbow trout are also the predominant species caught on our Argentina fly fishing trips.

"Salmo trutta fario"

The brown trout, originally a native of Europe, was introduced to both North and South America as a game fish. In the Patagonia region the brown is not as prolific as the rainbow trout but still accounts for almost forty percent of the fish caught on our Chile fly fishing trips in the Futaleufu region. The brown trout is known for it's large size, unpredictable and combative nature, and it's crafty ability to elude fly fishing enthusiasts. Thankfully, the fishing pressure on the Futaleufu is very light, and our browns are much larger and less wary than their North American cousins. When caught they fight hard, but unlike rainbows they run deep, preferring to hide on the river bottom, behind obstructions, instead of fighting on the surface. Brown trout will migrate upstream to spawn during early winter months and can be found downstream during the summer. They are territorial and solitary by nature and will often inhabit pools and eddys for extended periods of time. Brown trout also have the ability to become andromous; and while the steelhead is somewhat rare in our waters, the sea-run brown is not. Large sea-run browns have been caught in the lower Futaleufu and in Lago Yelcho. They are often a paler color than their non-andromous cousins and often can be mistaken for salmon. The color of brown trout will vary with the type of water they inhabit. They typically feed nocturnally, on aquatic and terrestrial insects, mollusks and crustaceans, amphibians, small fish and even rodents. This nocturnal pattern makes them very selective feeders during the day.

"Salvelinus fontinalis"

Brook trout are often called speckled trout in many areas in the Northern Hemisphere. These are the smallest of the Patagonia trout and also the least plentiful. They are a cold water fish, preferring glacier fed streams and brooks over the larger warmer rivers. Their spawning pattern mirrors that of the brown trout, but they have less longevity, typically living only four years. The brook trout feeds on aquatic and terrestrial insects, mollusks and crustaceans, amphibians and occasionally small fish. The brook trout is known for its spectacular coloration, which is influenced by diet, habitat and season. When spawning the fish will often take on a heightened brilliance, becoming orange or red on its belly and undersides. We typically look for brook trout in the early or late in the fly fishing Patagonia season, when waters run colder - and in the higher spring and glacier fed lakes of the region.

"Salmo salar"

These fish are native to the Atlantic and North Atlantic oceans and the fish caught in Patagonia are escapee fish from the Chilean aqua-culture programs that have established resident wild populations. The Atlantic salmon is an andromous fish, living in fresh water for the first year or two before going to sea. During spawning season mature fish return to the river in which they born to reproduce, but unlike Pacific salmon they do not perish after spawning. While spawning the fish do not feed, but will strike at flies. Spawning fish will over winter in the river and return to sea the following spring. The diet of Atlantic Salmon varies with its maturity. When young they typically feed on the larvae of aquatic insects such as blackflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies. As they mature their diet will also consist of crustaceans and other fish. It is crustaceans like shrimp that impart the reddish-pink color associated with salmon flesh. While we rarely ever go out fishing for Atlantic Salmon, their increasing abundance in Patagonia waters often means that they will be taken on flies meant for other species. There are populations of landlocked salmon (salmo salar sebago) that inhabit many of the lakes of Alcere Parque that we will encounter while fly fishing in Argentina.

"Onccorhynchus kisutch"

Coho salmon, or silver salmon, are also a non-native species of the Northern hemisphere, another byproduct of the Chilean aquaculture industry. Cohos tend to be the smallest of Chile 's resident wild salmon, typically weighing in between 8 to 12 pounds, and measuring about 24 inches. During spawning season mature fish return to the river in which they born to reproduce, which makes them andromous; and like most Pacific salmon, which are semelparous, they perish after spawning. Typically Coho run from late March and into May. When hooked they are combative spectacular fighters and the most acrobatic of the Pacific salmon. When taken on light fly fishing tackle the experience of landing them can be quite memorable. As soon as they are large enough, young Coho begin to eat smaller fish, mostly of other fish species, so they are often caught on streamers while fishing for other species of trout. The coloration of Cohos can vary greatly; in the ocean, or when newly arrived in fresh water, they tend to be silvery. Cohos living in fresh water take on color according to their habit and the season. The males of the species develop distinctive hooked jaws, humped backs and lateral red stripes during spawning.

"Oncorhynchus tschawytscha"

Chinook salmon, or king salmon are also a product of the bountiful Chilean aquaculture industry, they are native to the Northern Pacific Ocean and Asia . Chinook are the largest of the Salmon species and can weigh in over thirty pounds when mature. Chinooks are andromous - they begin and end their life in fresh water - and they spawn when they reach sexual maturity at ages between two and seven years. Because maturity is not set at a specific age, spawning fish can vary greatly in size. Chinook salmon spawn die after spawning. The colors of spawning Chinooks range from red to black, with males being more deeply colored than the females. Male Chinook have the distinguishing hooked nose or upper jaw. While we rarely go fly fishing specifically for Chinook Salmon in the Futaleufu and Lago Yelcho watersheds they can be hooked at the right time of year.

Other Chile Fly Fishing options include: Fly Fishing in Chile at the Isla Monita Lodge, Chile Fly Fishing from the CondorNest Ranch, Patagonia Fly Fishing Lodge - Multisport Vacation, Argentina Fly Fishing in Los Alerces, Chile Fly Fishing Lodge Instruction . All of our programs adhere to our Catch & Release Guidelines for Fly Fishing in Chile.

Downloadable pdf Brochure Chile Fly Fishing

Chile Kayaking on the Rio Futaleufu
Patagonia Adventure Travel in Chile. Chile Kayaking & Argentina Kayaking.
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Traveling in Patagonia Chile
Information on traveling in Patagonia Chile. Secrets of Patagonia Tour on our website.

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Whitewater rafting in Chile. Rafting from our weatherproof Futaleufu lodge.
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Rafting en el Río Futaleufú
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