After just an amazing experience with Alvaro & Oscar in central Patagonia, we continued South to visit two more, already established operations that we have had connections with, Paloma River Lodge & La Pasado de los Farios.
Arriving in Balmaceda with our next host, Paul Kinney, we collected our rental car, a small four door pickup truck that was perfect for the mission, and traveled a very causal hour or so to Paul’s lodge. Paul has been the operations manager for Southern Chile Expeditions since we worked with them back in 1999. Since that time, Paul has branched out and purchased the old Paloma River Lodge (burned down a few years ago) and put it back together.
I had first heard about this place in 1993 when I met their head guide Frans Jenson. Frans & I were working together at the notorious Katmai Lodge at the time in Bristol Bay Alaska. My time at Katmai was just a month or so during the late spring, early summer run off the Kamchatka river I was guiding on while its waters were un-fishable. In the evenings at Katmai, Frans would bring out his photos of Ox carts, complete with wooden wheels, pulling the first drift boats in Chile. He told stories of amazing dry fly action for large Brown Trout. To my knowledge, Frans was the inventor of such flies as the Techno-Wog and really introduced North & South America to the use of closed cell foam for beetle backs and dragon flies and such.
As we drove down the road to the Paloma, my mind was drifting back and forth between thoughts of the majestic helicopter experience we had just come from and trying to recall all the tales and images that Frans had shared with me years ago. It was really hard to imagine, as we sped down the rolling highway of the high plains of Southern Chile, that this next leg of our adventure was going to hold a candle to what we had just come from. Then we broke over a hill and descended down into a river valley that was so dramatic, the chatter of three excited anglers fell silent. After about two seconds the silence was broken by Paul pointing out the features of the watershed and how it related to his fishing program. A mandatory stop on the bridge sealed the deal for us. Crystal clear water flowing through a stunning gorge. As we scanned the water someone yelled out ‘look at that pig’! We all watched in awe as a double digit Brown worked the tail-out of the pool. This was going to be good.
We only had a short time with Paul because of our crazy schedules and commitments back home. In hindsight, we really wished for a week at the Paloma River Lodge, as this place was too cool. What we discovered was a small, intimate lodge similar in focus to our own ABBC in Mexico. Clean and comfortable with great food and best of all it only takes 4 – 6 anglers! And all the rooms are private with there own bathroom. No snoring buddies to keep you up all night here. As we in the lodge business know, this is not the best of lodge-business models, however we all agree it is a very special type of place where you feel at home.
As quick as we could, we threw on our gear and marched across the road to start fishing. A hundred yard walk across the road had us to the Paloma River making our first casts. The water has such clarity, that when the fish rise to the fly, it is if they are suspended in air. And rise they do. This river is considered to the be the finest dry fly fishing stream in Chile and the Patagonia’s. After fishing the stretch of river immediately in front of the lodge, we boarded a cata-raft and moved down the river from pool to pool enjoying some very nice Brown Trout along the way. We all ended up with tales of big fish rising to our flies and missed by our strike. After a week of mainly streamer fishing, there was no doubt that we were all a little rusty on our dry fly timing. Seeing those beautiful trout rising up to take our beetles was very mesmerizing to say the least. We finished our first day floating through the beautiful river canyon, arriving at the shuttle point right at dark. As we drifted down the last riffle into a pool to within sight of the truck and trailer, one last Brown slammed my fly. A great finish to a stunning day in Patagonia Chile.
Back at the lodge we were treated to as decadent a meal as you could expect at one of the world’s nicer hotels. Incredibly fresh ingredients were crafted into little works of art that mettled away in our mouths. Of course we were treated to some fine local wines that paired perfectly with each course. Again, we realized that we should have pushed back our schedules and stayed longer.