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Journal of Dan T. Cook - Fly Fishing the Globe

Traveling 75,000 miles around the world in search of fish and friendship.
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December 27, 2007 - Location: Puerto Natales, Chile

Hola mi amigos! Greetings from Puerto Natales, just south of Torres del Paine National Park.  During the last 3 weeks I've tried unsuccessfully to fish and then fished without much success. Most would think a rather grim report follows, but that is NOT the case!

Fishing the bottom of Chile

To find really good fishing, I usually look at a map to find hard-to-reach rivers or lakes. Fortunately, that is most of the rivers and lakes in Tierra del Fuego. Even if the place has a road into it, the road is usually in horrific condition and deters the majority of fishermen.

On this particular occasion, I found what should be a "perfect" fishing spot WITH a great road into it. The catch was...... the road wasn't really open...... yet. In an effort to capitalize on the rapidly increasing tourism interest in the area, the Chilean government began building a road that will eventually connect to the Lago Fagnao/Ushuaia region of Argentina. It's a great idea....... but a sizeable task. The road is now about 35 kilometers longer than when I last saw it in 2002 while I was not-catching sea run browns in the Rio Grande. At this rate, they will have to compete with the tourist attractions on Mars by the time it is complete.

So the river is called the Rio Azopardo and it has all the indications of being a superb and somewhat secret fishery: Up until 2-3 years ago, it could only be reached by a very long hike through very dense forest, the river is only about 15 kms long, it connects the massive Lago Fagnano to the ocean (read: sea runs and salmon). Lastly, and best of all, no one I talked to knew anything about the river. Period.

So I drove to the end of the road where the signs say "Camino Cerrado" (road closed). Although the road looked perfectly fine on the other side of the sign, I never-the-less turned the truck around, put on my waders and loaded my backpack for 2 days of fishing bliss. Although not on the GPS, a quick line-drawing indicated that I was 6 kms from the Lake and another 6 kms to the mouth of the river. "No problem," I thought. After about 45 minutes the switchbacks came into sight. Another 30 minutes later I stopped to admire the wonderful view and rue my decision to don my waders. 30 minutes after that I was regretting my "hike-in" idea altogether. After walking a total of 3 hours I stumbled into the construction manager's office. I was hoping he was a fisherman and would take pity on my sad state of affairs. Turns out, he wasn't a fisherman and his men were blowing up the area near the river in preparation for a bridge. He said going to the river was impossible, unless I wanted to be blown to little pieces. That didn't sound very appealing, so after about 60 seconds of uncomfortable silence in which no compromise or alternative suggestions came forth from him, I asked if any of his men would be driving back to the area where I was parked. He said "No....... that is another of your problems." He meant it in a good way, but his grasp of English twisted it into a harsh, albeit true, statement. Back up the road I went.

3.5 hours later, I arrived at my truck with around 3 square inches of blisters on my feet. While my wading shoes are very comfortable in normal circumstances, I reckon they don't make the best hiking boots. 20 kms of walking without a cast. Ouch.

Time with Mom

Not wanting her transient son to be lonesome during the holidays, my Mom visited me for a couple of weeks. Mom has no problem camping or fishing, so I knew we'd have a great time exploring Torres del Paine and doing some fishing.

First up, we went on a cruise. Yes...... I know..... that is NOT a very "roughing it" thing to do, but it is the only way to witness the incredible scenery of the Southern Ice Field and Bernardo O'Higgins National Park. Anyway, could 5 straight days of sleeping in a bed really be all that bad?????

Turns out the cruise was pretty okay. Don't get me wrong, I was ready to throw myself overboard and swim to shore by the end of the second day. However, the glaciers were enough to keep my sanity in-check. The real test came on the 3rd day when the captain informed me that I had drunk all the beer on the ship. "How could that be???" I pleaded. The lead waiter quickly intervened to back-up the captain's story. He suggested that I diversify my beverage consumption. "Perhaps a Pisco Sour?" My Mom boldly suggested water. Hmmm......

After the cruise we high-tailed it up to Torres del Paine National Park (TDP). The "torres" (towers) of the park are what most people look at when they see pictures of "Patagonia." The majority of Patagonia is in Argentina, but the bulk of the spectacular mountains are in Chile. Also in TDP is the Rio Serrano, one of a handful of rivers in South America that have a Chinook salmon run. Before researching this portion of the trip, I didn't know that there were any salmon in South America. But I can now attest to the fact that there are indeed some down here. And pretty nice ones too.

I hooked two Kings in the first 45 minutes of fishing and landed one beautiful fish. Then, over the next 3 days and a total of 8 hours of fishing, I didn't get a single hit. This was certainly an example of an "immediate gratification" fishing experience and by the end of our time in the Park I was feeling very fortunate to have caught even one. All the locals we talked to said that the fishing was poor to very bad. I guess I finally had some luck on my side! (I think it must have been Mom)

For the first time in a while, I don't really know where I'll be in a couple of weeks. All I know is that I will be heading north and fishing every spot I can find out about. Of course, I have a list of fishing destinations, but I'll just let the "flow" dictate the pace.

I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Christmas and a happy holiday season. I wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2008!

Special thanks to my wonderful and adventurous Mother and to all my friends and family back in Salida, CO and SLC, UT! See everyone soon!!!!!

Springtime snow at the bottom of Chile.

A glacier and our beer-less, itsy, bitsy ship.

You know life is good when you catch this....

.....only 18 miles from this.

A large iceberg in Lago Grey, with the glacier in the background

The real fisherperson in the family: Mom with a Brookie from Laguna Parrillar


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