Chilean browns are extremly beautiful and agressive. This one fell for a Fat Albert.

Chilean Patagonia

All the images in this essay were taken several years ago on a photo assignment for the Redding Fly shop with fisherman/fly tyer Mike Mercer, a magnificent tyer and one of the best fisherman I’ve ever met.  

We visited several lodges in the southern part of Chile in the area called Patagonia which is roughly Chile’s rugged, desolate and sparsily populated lower half.

We spent three weeks fishing and photographing in various locations and enjoying some wonderful camaraderie.

Travel throughout Chile in general, and the Patagonian area in particular, is like stepping back into time maybe 30 or 40 years ago. There’s a saying in this part of the country that distances are too great and the weather to severe to turn away any travelers seeking shelter.

Amazingly, all the farm animals on the ranch at Patagonia Base Camp seem to enjoy each other’s company.

We traveled the gravel backroads, through this rugged but wildly beautiful landscape, enjoying the local people encountered during our daily activities. They are some of the friendliest on the planet. 

Even the Huasos (the counterpart of the Argentine gauchos or the American cowboy) are only too willing to pose for pictures. We fished hoppers and dry flies and threw streamers for big hungry rainbows and browns. Many have never seen a fly before.

Patagonia river crossings. Catch Magazine
Patagonia river crossings on old narrow wooden bridges are always exciting.
Marcel Sijnesael the owner/operator of Patagonia Base Camp greets Chilean wood cutters.

These working estancias (the Spanish word for ranches) are magnificent and are often like small little communities in themselves. Located in picturesque valleys bordered by mountains, rivers and virgin beach forests, it’s a wonderful opportunity to witness a way of life that is rapidly changing in much of the world. So when it’s cold and wintery up here in the states, consider traveling down under to Chile for some summertime trout fishing and amazing cultural experiences. 

Left: Hauscos (Chile’s guacho or cowboy) in Patagonia are often stylish dressers. Most will willingly pose for pictures. Right: A small mountainside chapel. Congregants arrive on horseback.
Huasos (Chile’s version of the Guacho) on their way to round up cattle on the El Saltimontes estancia. They are excellent horsemen.
Children growing up on Patagonia estancias are happy and full of wonderment. This young fellow is collecting grasshoppers to feed the trout. Ranch hands on the estancias are very friendly and never too busy to pose for a pesky photographer.

“The Patagonian area is like stepping back into time maybe 30 or 40 years.”

Early morning fishermen departing Patagonia Base Camp Lodge for a day’s adventure.
Mike Mercer picking out Club Sandwiches for lunch at an old weathered picnic table.
Mike Mercer wading up one of Chilian Patagonia’s many small streams. Only the solitude abounds.
Floating the translucent emerald waters of the magical Rio Figueroa. Patagonia Basecamp.
Anglers toss streamers into the bankside structure for browns along the upper Manihuales River.
A remote fishing cabin in Patagonia sits silent waiting for the guests to return from a day on the water.
The beautiful Rio Palena winds through a peaceful valley.
The local ferry boat on Rio Palena on a rainy day.
Launching a drift boat into Chilean brown trout haven.

Midday lunch break for hard working fishermen.
Striking shallow water gold on a remote Chilean Laguna.
A serious dry fly eat on one of the many lagunas that Patagonia Base Camp fishes.
Going home.
Sneaking up on a big laguna cruser.
Some very small spring creeks at El Saltimontes hold very large trout. Extreme stealthiness is required.
Dry fly action on Chile’s Rio Pico. Patagonia Basecamp.
Mike Mercer with a very nice brown taken on a hopper from one of the lagoons at El Saltimontes Lodge.
What a surprise. How did this big King Salmon get into this laguna. We had originally thought it was a record brown trout.

Contributed By

R. Valentine Atkinson

R. Valentine Atkinson is an internationally acclaimed and much-published photographer specializing in flyfishing lifestyle and travel worldwide. His assignments have taken him to 29 countries. He divides his work between advertising corporate and editorial photography and is published in most major fishing and outdoor magazines. He has been the staff photographer for Frontiers International Travel for 18 years and operates his own stock photo library with 80,000 images on file. He studied commercial art and photography at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio. Val is very proud of his 4 books; “Distant Waters,” “Trout and Salmon,” “The Greatest Flyfishing Around the World,” and most recently “Friends on the Water.” Check out the new metal (aluminum) prints available on his website!
Val was recently inducted into the Flyfishing Hall of Fame. www.ValAtkinson.com

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