The green glacial water lapped around my waders as the fly swung across the water column. A wind gust blew over the high bank and the clouds moved to expose the large granite towers of the Torres Del Paine. The fly swung tight to the bank as I waited patiently on the hang-down before making another cast. Three steps down the river and I snapped my rod into action to make another Snap T cast. Finding the rhythm of the river was just part of the recipe for success out on the Serrano River in Torres del Paine National Park.
Torres del Paine National Park is located in the Magallanes and Chilean Antarctic region of Southern Patagonia. The eighth wonder of the world is most well known for the trio of granite towers that extend 8,200 feet above sea level. But, that is just one of the many spectacular sights at the National Park. Guanacos roam the grasslands, pumas feed on the guanacos and the condors soar high above. Large glaciers are found around the park, with massive glacial lakes and rivers. While fly fishing is prohibited in most of the Torres del Paine National Park, there are some areas where you can fly fish. Check out the full guide below for an in-depth guide to fly fishing Torres Del Paine, Patagonia, and its nearby regions.
How to Get to Torres Del Paine:
Torres Del Paine National Park is located in Southern Chile within Patagonia. The two closest cities are Puerto Natales (70 miles away) and Punta Arenas (194 miles away). You can find flights into these cities from Santiago, Chile. Making travel quite accessible. Puerto Natales is the preferred town to stay in before, during, or after when exploring Torres Del Paine. It has plenty of awesome lodging accommodations and restaurants to fit anyone’s budget. Puerto Natales has great fly fishing opportunities within a day’s trip reach.
The best time to visit Torres Del Paine is typically from November to April, which makes up the summer season in this region of the world. Late December through February, is the warmest but also can be the busiest part of the tourist season. Due to its location, the weather is extremely variable, it is similar to Alaska in the summer but windier! Rain, snow, sun, and wind, it is all part of the experience.
Fly Fishing in Torres Del Paine:
Within the Torres Del Paine National Park fishing is restricted to a few select bodies of water the Serrano River and Toro Lake. The Serrano River is home to resident browns, sea run brown trout, chinook salmon, and even Atlantic salmon. The 24-mile-long river flows from Del Toro Lake and feeds directly into the salty waters of the Ultima Esperanza Sound. The river’s scenery is unlike any other river. You can catch anadromous fish and just off in the distance, you can see the 8,000-foot granite peaks of Torres del Paine. The story has it, near the river’s mouth, geologists found “the Cueva del Milodon,” evidence of a prehistoric man that dated back to 6,000 BC. It is like you are fishing in the land before time.
The Serrano River is very mysterious, with shallow bars, deep pools, and minimal insect activity. Anadromous fish move through the river throughout the spring, summer, and fall months. While resident browns are active throughout the summer. The peak of the chinook salmon run is from mid-December to February.
Due to the sheer size of the river, spey rods are the preferred fly rod of choice but single-hand fly rods can also be used. Scandi-style heads like the Airflo Rage Compact paired with a floating or intermediate Airflo Polyleader are the preferred setup for the windy conditions. For flies, steelhead-style rabbit leeches and hobo spey flies work well.
If anadromous fish and two-handed rods aren’t your thing there are plenty of spring creeks, lakes, and other bodies of water around Puerto Natales to fly fish. Many of these areas are private therefore most of the time require a fly fishing guide.
Recommend Fly Fishing Guides in Torres del Paine:
When traveling to Torres del Paine National Park we went out with Magallanes Fly Fishing Outfitters owner Rafael Gonzalez and one of the guides Martin Saide. This guide service is the preferred one for fly fishing the Rio Serrano. Rafa has pioneered fly fishing on the Serrano River and is one of the reasons that sport fishing is still allowed and regulated on this river. You can find more info about Magallanes Fly Fishing HERE. They offer day trips in the Torres del Paine region, as well as all-inclusive fly fishing packages in Tierra del Fuego.
Fly Fishing Regulations in Torres del Paine:
According to the National Park, “Fishing is only authorized in the Serrano river and Toro lake, with return and complying with the requirements of Law 20,256 (fishing license, in the fishing season, type of tackle, etc.). Considering that in the limits of the Park the presence of Didymo, the disinfection of all rigging and equipment is mandatory used, which must be done in the goals and with the presence of park rangers Please help us prevent the spread of this algae!”
To fish the Serrano River, you do need to pay the park entrance fee and have a valid Chilean fishing license. More info can be found on the park’s website here.
Hiking in Torres del Paine National Park:
If you are headed to Torres del Paine, it is probably not solely for fly fishing. You may be headed down to Tierra del Fuego to fly fish or like many other tourists doing some hiking and exploring within the National Park. While I was down here, we completed the O Circuit backpacking Loop, which circumnavigates Torres Del Paine. The 8-day, 90-mile loop is the complete way to experience the park.
On the front side of the O Circuit, we were met with many other hikers doing the W Circuit. Which is the shorter 4-5 day backpacking trek through the front side of the national park. This trek hits the more popular sites in the park and is definitely busier. There are plenty of resources online about these treks. Be sure to book your camping ahead of time. You can choose to have support like full food and accommodations on the trek or you can bring your own gear and food, making it accessible to all kinds of travelers. I would suggest doing some fly fishing on the front end or back end of your backpacking trip when you are staying in Puerto Natales.
Fly fishing in Torres del Paine is definitely limited to the Serrano River, but it is worth the trek if you are in the area. The river’s mysterious beauty and untouched fish make it one to add to the bucket list. Not to mention a trek into the park is part of the whole experience.
Article and photos from Patrick Perry @patperry.