Chile Part II – Big Fish Waters

In the last issue of Catch Magazine, I presented a collection of photos from Martìn Pescador Lodge near the outlet of Lago Yelcho. In this issue, I have only moved a couple hours east to Rio Palena Lodge for access on Rio Palena and the other end of Lago Yelcho, where the Futaleufu River enters Lago Yelcho. This is one of the most scenic places in the world and is home to some super-sized rainbow and brown trout. Except for the famous dragonfly hatch on Lago Yelcho, there isn’t as much match the hatch fishing here as there is streamer and dry/dropper. Your mind set on these waters is big fish, seven-weight rods, some fast-sinking tips and ‘adjective’ flies: rubber legs, cone-head, articulated, lead eye, stinger hook, etc.

Flies with long names for long trout. Often, as an angler, we are faced with a choice of quality or quantity. At Rio Palena Lodge and Martìn Pescador Lodge, you have both, and you will never forget those days. On the lower Futaleufu River and where it dumps into Lago Yelcho, there is trout food everywhere. Dragonfly nymphs and adults, migrating chinook, salmon fry and smolt, the ‘galaxiids’, a skinny freshwater fish that the locals call eels (brown trout will eat these even if they are seven inches long) and probably other smallish trout, all contribute to growth and girth. Did I mention some of the best scenery in the world? Add the creature comforts at Rio Palena Lodge, a truly incredible lodge, with world-class guides and chefs and a helicopter… if you can pry the Lago Yelcho rod out of your hand.

Rio Palena Lodge.
Streamer fishing on the Rio Palena.
Power drifters are a hybrid watercraft. With a 65 horse-power outboard, they are great for running up rivers where there are no boat ramps, thus having all the river to yourself.

“Your mind set on these waters is big fish, seven-weight rods, some fast-sinking tips and ‘adjective’ flies: rubber legs, cone-head, articulated, lead eye, stinger hook, etc.”

Dylan Thomas nets a nice brown for Laura Hazelton in the lower Futaleufu River.
Dylan Thomas with a very nice Lago Yelcho brown trout. Medium sized streamers and big rocks were the winning combo.
While guests at Rio Palena Lodge are enjoying a great breakfast, the guides and pilot are organizing the day.
On some rivers we fished dry flies all day, but even on the streamer floats, we always had a dry fly rod rigged up and ready to go.
Where boats ramps and road access is slim to none, the Rio Palena Lodge power-drifters were just perfect for moving up or down Rio Futaleufu.
Traditional fly fishing rafts are great for the Rio Palena.
Morning on the lodge deck. Start the day with coffee or tea, and finish the day with a pisco sour, beer or wine.
Towering cliffs are part of the Rio Futaleufu landscape.
South America, and in particular Chile’s Patagonia region, has incredible scenery, great people and food, but it is the trout that get many people down there to experience all of it.

Contributed By

Brian O’Keefe

You know when you are living right when you visit Rio Palena Lodge enough that the guides know where you like to fish, and just a nod means ‘It’s on’. Or, when the bartender delivers your favorite pisco sour variation to the hot tub, without asking. Or the chef has your favorite breakfast ready to go a few minutes after you sit down. As Napoléon Dynamite said, “Luckyyy”. For more information on this destination, contact me, or Eleven Angling. For more helpful information, photos, travel logistics, etc., please check out And @elevenangling on Instagram.

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