salmon in Chile
CHROME KING SALMON
Imagine a river where the salmon’s average size is substantially bigger than those on any river you know in Europe or the Eastern Canadian seaboard. Bigger on average than those of even Norway’s legendary Alta herself.
Imagine a remote, untouched valley where the glacier-studded scenery is as astonishing and as beautiful as anywhere on earth, with pristine forests and vast snow-capped mountains towering all around.
Imagine huge, chrome-silver salmon averaging over 30 pounds that often skyrocket into the clean, clear air before doing their best to empty your reel in little more than the time it takes to read this sentence.
Imagine fishing a river where you will see nobody but your team, your guides and the camp staff, and where you one of less than fifty anglers to throw a fly line that season.
Imagine fishing that same river in the depths of the northern winter. While the rain and snow falls back home, the sun will shine and you will fish in shirtsleeves and drink not fortifying Scotch whisky but icy bottles of beer to celebrate your first thirty pounder.
This place really exists.
Deep in the heart of Chilean Patagonia, two glacially fed rivers cascade off of the high Andean ramparts before tumbling into the gleaming waters of the Pacific Ocean. The salmon that run them are not Atlantics, but Chinook salmon, and they absolutely dwarf most Atlantic Salmon in terms of their size and power.
The Chinook are regularly caught in many Chilean rivers with heavy-duty spinning gear, but as in Alaska & British Columbia, in most of the rivers that they have colonised, they colour up and lose condition before they reach waters narrow and shallow enough to make them a legitimate fly rod target.
In this stunningly beautiful valley, they can be caught just a mile or two upstream of the tide, and when they are still ocean-bright and chrome, they pack a formidable punch.
This is Austral Kings.
Austral Kings ITINERARY
FLY TO: Puerto Montt via Santiago, Chile.
PRICE: From USD 6000 without flights and hotel in Puerto Montt.
Arrival in Puerto Montt, stay at hotel.
Early morning transfer to camp via private transfer service and boat. Fish Homepool in the afternoon.
Six days of guided fishing.
Fish Homepool in the morning before you depart for Puerto Montt. Stay at hotel.
Depart Puerto Montt for Santiago where you will catch your return flight home.
Learn more about the camp, the fishing and the history of Chile’s best chinook fishery.
THE ORIGINAL AUSTRAL KINGS CAMP
Despite the remote location this wilderness camp will be staying in two comfortable cabins with private bathrooms, flush toilets and heated water, comfortable beds and equipment storage. All meals will be prepared in the fixed camp kitchen and served in a large dining/lounge tent.
All meals are simply prepared with delicious, locally sourced ingredients, and they are accompanied by excellent Chilean red and white wine and refreshing local brands of cold beer. On the last evening, the camp usually prepare a delicious ‘Asado’ – the classic Patagonian barbeque of lamb or beef over an open fire, washed down with a delicious Chilean ‘tinto’.
The days are satisfyingly long, but there is plenty of time for rest and refreshment. Following a hearty lunch, guests are able to enjoy a much-needed siesta, often in warm sunshine, whilst after supper, the anglers often like to don a fleece and rove outside to sit round the fire and enjoy the astonishing southern starscape over a glass of brandy.
AUSTRAL KINGS FLYBOX
One of the fascinating things about Austral Kings is that the fishery is in its infancy, and the best techniques and fly patterns are yet to be fully established. What we have found out during the first two seasons is that big, extremely flashy patterns or large intruders between 3 and 4 inches in length are successful in slightly coloured water.
Our favourite colour combinations are Blue/Chartreuse and Fuscia Pink/Orange. Interestingly, unweighted or lightly-weighted flies often perform better than heavier patterns.
When the water is clearing up, Intruders with less flash work well, whereas once the river is completely clear, small conehead Frances and Snaelda patterns fished on longer leaders can be very effective.
The fish are just out of the ocean, so imitating the baitfish and shrimps that they have just been eating with patterns like clouser minnows, sunray shadows and various shrimp imitations may well prove effective.
The fish are big and extremely strong, so sturdy hooks are essential. We recommend that you fish tubes rather than shanks, as the wire loop on commercially tied Intruders may let you down. Employ ultra-strong hooks like the Owner SSW in sizes 1 to 3/0, and check all knots thoroughly.
GEARING UP FOR KING SALMON
A double-handed eight, nine or ten-weight rod, usually 13-15 feet in length, is perfect for the job. The question of whether to choose the lighter 8-weight or the heavier 10-weight is a matter of personal taste and temper. Longer rods certainly allow for easier mending and line control, while shorter rods are lighter in the hand and offer a pokier weapon when fighting the fish.
The fly reel must have a great drag system and hold at least 400 yards of 50-80lb backing. Bring spare backing! These fish can spool you, especially if you are slow in taking to the boat when the need suddenly arises. We recommend bringing both Intermediate and Floating Skagit lines to cover all pools and water conditions. If you were only going to bring one line, we would recommend a Floating/Intermediate Skagit line.
The river is full of sunken logs and many of the kings are simply unstoppable, so we recommend stout, reliable abrasion-resistant fluorocarbon leaders like Seaguar Ace with breaking strains of 30 to 44lbs. Leaders will typically be anywhere from 2ft in coloured water right up to 15ft in ultra-clear conditions. Powerful leaders will even help you turn over the bigger flies.
Our fishing season is during the Chilean summer and the weather is generally quite friendly. Anglers can look forward to 13-15 hours of daylight and most of the time; temperatures will be between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius. Due to its closeness to the marine environment you might experience occasional rain or fog. Even though you’ll be leaving Europe during winter, the clothing needed is very much like that used for salmon fishing during the summer in northern Europe. One important thing to remember though: Wading is fairly easy and cleated boots with studs or spikes are forbidden – they ruin our aluminium boats!
The go-to rods for Chile:
13-15’ #9 or 10 two-handed rods
#10-12 reel with 400 m 50-80 lb braid backing
500-750 grain Skagit heads (floating and intermediate) with 15’ sinking tips in different sink rates,
such as Sink6, T11, T-14 and T-17
Tapered leaders 35-45 lb
0,38-0,48 mm tippet material 30-44 lb