On the water
Enjoy Chile’s beauty while learning to fly fish in Coyhaique
Fly fishing fanatics from around the world flock to this northern Patagonian town for its trout-filled rivers, and it’s a great place for beginners too.
Monday, April 15, 2013
Catching fish on Río Emperador Guillermo. Photo courtesy of Liz Rickles/This is Chile.
I’d never picked up a fishing rod before I arrived in Chile, but by the end of my first day of fly fishing in Coyhaique, I’d caught more than a dozen fish. With plenty to catch and an unforgettably beautiful setting, Coyhaique is the perfect place for beginners to try out this exciting sport.
Coyhaique is a small town of around 60,000 people located in Chile’s Aysén Region, about 900 miles (1,500 km) south of Santiago. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, lush green fields, and dozens of rivers, Coyhaique is an outdoor-enthusiast’s dream.
Fly fishing fanatics from around the world flock to Coyhaique for its brown and rainbow trout-filled rivers. Unlike many other popular fishing destinations around the world, Coyhaique’s rivers are largely untouched, and you can enjoy the area’s pristine beauty undisturbed by other visitors.
The immense variety of locations to fish in this region also sets Coyhaique apart from other fishing destinations. The Río Simpson and Río Mañihuales are known for excellent boating excursions, while the Río Emperador Guillermo, Río Ñirehuao, and Río Mañihuales are perfect for wading into the water to fish. All are within a two hour’s drive from downtown Coyhaique.
Out on the water
I caught my first fish with the help of Matthew Nagler, a fishing guide at the Coyhaique River Lodge who has been guiding in the region for the past 10 years. After loading up our gear at the Lodge, Nagler drove us about an hour and a half outside of town to a beautiful stretch of the Río Emperador Guillermo.
My first lesson was in casting the line, a technique for using a flexible rod to gently place bait onto the water in a way that mimics the natural movement of a real fly. While it took me about 45 minutes to learn this basic technique, it takes about 30 hours to truly master, according to Nagler.
Lucky for me, fish in Coyhaique are anything but picky, and with the help of Nagler I was able to start catching fish immediately. While all of the fish we caught during the day were “catch and release” (a nearly universal practice in Coyhaique), I was still able to snap plenty of Facebook-ready photos of myself with my day’s catch.
While the rivers of Coyhaique are undeniably loaded with fish, it’s essential to hire a guide to accompany you on fishing excursions in the region. Your guide will not only be able to take you to the best spots to fish, but also help you select the right bait for your location on the river and time of day.
The cost of a full day of guided fly fishing in Coyhaique starts at around US $200 (CLP 95,000) and typically includes transportation, lunch, and equipment. Many fishing lodges in the region also offer multi-day fishing packages that include meals and lodging for an all-inclusive rate.
By Liz Rickles