After 13 years of busting our asses each year in order to spend 3 months fly fishing Canadian winters in the New Zealand sun, that door slammed shut thanks to C-19. In turn, we had to rebuild everything in life moving forward as we sat locked in the dark, cold, snowy Canadian winter for the first time in 14 years.
“What do we want life to look like and what road map do we need to build?” was the pervasive question as we plodded through winter, 2021. The world would open up again, we simply needed to construct a life that was more sheltered from the outside financial impact. That framework also needed to provide the leeway to not winter in Canada.
As we began that long journey, the social media posts of friends in New Zealand remained an emotional trigger. There was no way we would spend the full winter of 2022 locked at home if the opportunity arose.
Eduardo at Magic Waters Lodge in Chilean Patagonia was experiencing much of the same. We had long discussed an extended trip to his region with him. He was extremely hopeful the borders would allow travel by November 2022.
We were among the first travelers to arrive in Chile in mid-November. We jumped through the extensive hoops of applications, testing, reporting, and the 3-hour arrival lineup for additional testing and screening and more in order to clear customs.
During the first month of our trip, we fished incredibly gorgeous landscapes, remote waters, spring creeks, lakes, and rivers big and small. We fished dries and droppers, some streamers. The weather dictated the fishing – the howling, cold wind of mid-spring gave way to that stagnant, oppressive heatwave of late spring. And then back to that Patagonia wind.
We soldiered on with rod and camera to capture the region and its fishing through the tough conditions – and revealed the good. As you’d anticipate, some wonderful fly fishing occurred.
A Kiwi at heart, I had a longing – a day where the big browns could be sighted. I longed for a day where the hunt revealed that flagging tail, where the sun glowed on the lower fins, where that big green-blue head was unmistakable in gin-clear water.
In a moment, I was staring at exactly that. A 5 hr drive south of Magic Waters Lodge to their new Patagonia Baker Lodge and a short drive to the Cochrane River. The numbers were low but a prototypical brown trout hunting river was ours to pick apart. And we did exactly that.
Amelia had just run amock on 3 big browns from one out-turn bank’s undercuts. It was my turn.
Fishing this river with our new guide the day before we ran into communication issues on netting two large browns. The one now in front of me on day two would be more direct and deliberate.
The locals’ knowledge of dainty gear and setup was overruled. This was our kind of river. 2X. Big Beetle. Draw the fish laterally with as heavy a smack as possible. Draw it over to have a chance on the fight, to angle it to where we want it to be – to steer it from danger. NET!
We’ve caught heaps of big browns through our decades but the smile on Marcelo’s face as we worked together to get that brown to net made it complete. Holding a thick peduncal and feeling solid muscle as I lift for a reveal as we sent that brown home reconnected a piece of me missing through the pandemic.
Chile. Who knew?
Winter 2023 looks to be a Chile – New Zealand split. Who knew?
Article and photos from Dave Jensen, follow along with Dave and his wife Amelia on Instagram @jensenflyfishing.