Genie and I made our first trip to Patagonia in January. We visited the Challhuaquen Lodge near Los Alerces National Park. The lodge sits on the banks of the Futaleufú River, which originates on the Argentine side of Patagonia, and a few miles below the lodge, flows into Chile and on to the Pacific.
In addition to the great fishing, we went hiking to waterfalls, exploring the National Park, birdwatching, enjoying great food and wonderful people. We left winter in the states to enjoy a couple of weeks of summer, with 9:30 sunsets, 90 degree temperatures, and beautiful blue skies behind the serrated ridges of Argentine Patagonia. Find this photoset on Flickr here.
Getting ready for a ten hour overnight flight, change airports, another two hour flight, then an hour drive. On the return, Delta reconfigured aircraft and booted us out of Economy Plus without even telling us.
The lodge is on the Futaleufú River, across from Los Alerces national park. 10 miles from Chile.
Log lodge on the Futaleufú River.
Gourmet Fare for the guests. Latest dinner was served at 10:50 PM
Wonderful setup for tying flies
Looking over the river at the mountains
We had clear blue skies, temps in the 90's, time to catch some rays on the deck
Gotta get this recipe. This was a 6 PM snack to hold you over until the 10PM dinner.
One night at each lodge we had a BBQ, reminiscent of the Brazilian BBQ's in the states.
across the river from the lodge
By this point, we had been up about 36 hours.
An Indian name meaning Rio Grande, or Big River. Originating in Los Alerces National Park, the river flows east, picks up several tributaries, then turns west, flows into Chile and empties into the Pacific.
Looking out across the river from the lodge.
There is a beautiful waterfall hike a few miles from the lodge. This river is another fly fishing destination. We saw hundreds of trout in the pools.
Pool is full of feeding trout
The arrow points to a huge dam on the Futaleufú. The river then forms the southern border to the park, and the lodge is across the river about 10 miles from the Chilean border.
After the hike, Gustavo wanted to take us into the park to see the dam.
The mountains in Patagonia are distinct by the serrated edges of the ridges.
The lake impounded by the dam generates electricity to power an aluminum factory at the coast
The Futaleufú flows towards Chile. I didn't realize it at the time, but the dam has an incredible impact on the fishing. Because of the cold water flowing from the dam, the fishing was great even on cloudless 95 degree days.
The most common raptor we saw in Patagonia
Our host, Gustavo, insisted on taking us to a small museum to hear a talk about the original Welch immigrants to the area around Esquel
Genie's Spanish was a little rusty, so Gustavo translates what we are hearing in this pioneer cabin.
About a half mile from the lodge was a long gravel bar with a glacial stream flowing into the Futaleufú. A huge eddy with Rainbows feeding on the surface. My first strike. I don't know if I've ever fished in a more beautiful spot.
Hooked him on a big grasshopper. In my experience, Patagonia is unique for the big fish feeding on the surface.
Nice to hook a fish on a new river without a guide. Another guest had been down there several days without a bite.
Similar to an Ostrich
Gustavo took us for a daylong drive up into the park.
We drove up into Los Alerces one day. There are many rivers and lakes you can reach from Challhuaquen.
The water color was stunning
Los Alerces national park is named after these trees which are endemic to the park. The oldest specimens are 3000 years old. They call them the Grandfather Tree. this specimen is 300 years old.
Notice the beach full of people in the foreground
Despite the frigid waters, the 90+ degree weather brought throngs to the beach in Los Alerces.
Check out Los Alerces national park
Duck flies over the river as we embark on a day fishing
There was a huge eddy across from the sandbar where I caught my first fish. On my two days of guided fishing, we started here.
We fished the whole morning in this eddy. We could often see eight or ten 16-21" Rainbows feeding on the surface within a 20 foot radius.
Float a parachute adams into the feeding fish, and bam! Genie came with us both mornings, and took the pictures on the river.
Our guide was incredible. He was respected enough by his fellow guides to be elected president of their association.
I caught eight 16-2" rainbow trout between 9 and noon. When they quit biting on the surface, we went back to the lodge for lunch and siesta.
In the afternoon, we went back out and fished with streamers and a sinking tip line. Each afternoon, I caught three or four big browns. Unfortunately, Genie didn't come back in the afternoon, so I didn't get a picture of the biggest one.
We saw Kingfishers many times on the rivers and lakes. They are bigger than our kingfishers.
The second day of guided fishing, we went back out to the eddy where we started the first day.
Once again I had great luck. Caught 9 Rainbows in the morning on the surface with the parachute adams, and another three browns in the afternoon on streamers
Got where if I hooked into a 15" fish, you'd just shake him off
We had an incredible five nights at Challhuaquen. Gustavo and the staff were wonderful. The fishing was great. The scenery was spectacular. Put it on your bucket list.