Trip Reports - Chile's Paloma River Lodge Fly Fishing

THE ANGLING REPORT March 2014 Vol. 27, No. 3
Honor Roll Report: Paloma River Lodge Gets a Rave Review

Editor Note: We love it when Honor Roll subscribers check in with new reports. Their reports tend to have an added edge of credibility, and they often contain important new insights, as witness this report on Paloma River Lodge from Honor Roll subscriber Don Childress. What he says about spouse programs at many lodges being little more than promotional come-ons is dead right. We've long thought lodges are missing a good bet by not catering to whole families, including kids, but especially nonfishing spouses. After all, how many all-guy trips can an angler take before he gets pushback at home? Have you been to a lodge that had a great (or not-so-great) nonfishing spouse program? Please check in with a report. And thanks, Don Childress, for this one.

The December issue of The AnglingReport, with its report on Chile's Aysen region, came at a good time, as my wife, Roxann, and I were scheduled to go on a fishing/ecotour trip that month to Paloma River Lodge. We were invited to join some fishing friends for a relatively inexpensive trip to an area I had long wanted to visit. When my wife noted that they offered ecotours, she requested to join our group.

I have been to many fishing lodges over the years that advertise activities for nonfishing spouses but that in reality have no planned program other than going to town on a one-day shopping "adventure." The rest of the time, spouses wind up reading books and trudging along the river on their own. When we brought this issue up to Paloma Lodge owner Paul Kinney, he said they could indeed set up a fullfledged ecotour program for our group if two people were prepared to take part. The lodge accepts six anglers per week, so I invited a fishing partner and his nonfishing (but outdoor-loving) significant other to join us. This rounded out our group of six fishermen, plus two ecotourists. More on the ecotour program later.

The friendly and accommodating staff of Paloma River Lodge picked us up in Balmaceda for the one-anda-quarter-hour ride to the lodge. The countryside and the staff was good at answering our many questions and giving local information as we traveled. When we arrived at the lodge, we were greeted by the lodge chef, Jorge, with pisco sours for everyone. Sours turned out to be a specialty of the house, as we had various flavors after each day's fishing, along with an assortment of appetizers.

Jorge turned out to be a favorite staff member of my wife and mine, as Roxann doesn't eat red meat and I don't like cheese, both of which are regulars in Chilean cuisine. Jorge took care of both our irregularities in an elegant manner. The meals were well prepared, of local ingredients, and just plain excellent.

The lodge sits in a glaciated valley only 100 yards from the river that gives it its name. It has the appearance of a small ranch house but it has a comfortable living area equipped with a fly-tying bench and an open bar. Each bedroom has its own bathroom with shower. Fernando, the host and head guide, was very attentive to everyone's needs and wishes. The Chilean wines served with dinner were appropriate and tasty, and glasses were refilled as often as you liked.

One thing I liked about the overall arrangement was the rotation of guides each day. This gave everyone a chance to fish with the "best" guide. Actually, Fernando, Mauro, and Nacho were all excellent fishermen who know the local water well and were just a pleasure to be around. Our week of diverse fishing flew by without any problems, the windy conditions notwithstanding.

The six of us who were fishing started out on the small, wadeable Boca Leon River. It held many 12- to 14-inch browns and rainbows. We took them mostly on foam beetles of various styles. Terrestrials are abundant in Chile and a major source of the trout's diet. I did land a 22-inch brown while sight fishing with a caddis pupae-style nymph after it refused my dry fly efforts.

This was a good warm-up for the fishing to come. After that, we either float fished the Paloma River or made our way to one of the many nearby lakes, rotating daily between venues. The Paloma River was unusually high, and we mostly fished the more manageable side channels. Most fish caught in the river system were in the 12- to 16-inch range, although one of our group managed a great-looking 26-inch brown trout in a side channel. Again, we used mostly dries. The lake fishing was exceptional. We used mostly beetle patterns there for browns that ranged between 17 and 22 inches. It was not unusual for us to catch more than 20 fish per day. One lake had a flats area where we could wade and target 20-plus-inch fish using small nymphs. My partner and I had a double at one point as we waded side by side, taking turns at sighted quarry. The double came when we sighted two fish in the same area. Our guide said it was the first time he had seen clients take a double when they were fishing this way. Great fun!

As for the ecotour, it turned out to be a great adventure for the two ladies. They spent two days hiking, birding, and getting to know the native flora; one day kayaking; one day shopping in Coyhaique; and a once-in-a-lifetime day in the high Andes with a naturalist observing Andean condors at roost and in the air, some from a distance of less than 10 meters.

On our last day, the fishermen and the ecotroops joined forces for a horseback ride up a creek-filled canyon where the fishermen did their thing and the ecofolks did theirs. The ride ended at a ranch house where a skewered lamb was barbequed for dinner. Wine and stories flowed well into the night. Jorge fixed non-meat-eating Roxann a delicious steamed salmon dish in various spices.

I gauge my fishing trips by answering just one question: "Would I go back?" The answer is, Paloma River Lodge is virtually assured of having several new regulars. - Don Childress.

Reprinted courtesy of:
The Angling Report
4431 Greenwich Parkway
Washington DC 20007
202-770-9942 Leave message for Mike Lyons.
mike@anglingreport.com

THE ANGLING REPORT JUNE 2013 Vol. 26, No. 6
oUTFITTER CRITIQUES: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY:
Paloma River Lodge

Subscriber Pat Durno has filed a very useful and interesting report on his visit to Paloma River Lodge in Chile this past February. Durno says he was part of a group of six anglers, four of whom (including himself) are old hands at fishing in this part of the world. Despite what he calls pretty awful weather and some minor deficiencies at the lodge, he gives the trip good marks. He writes:

"Our trip to Paloma River Lodge would have been much better if the weather had cooperated. It was cold, and we had rain and high winds, but our group had a good experience anyway. Remarkably, we didn't see another angler the whole week. We spent most of our time floating the Paloma River, but there were opportunities to wade, as well, including a small feeder stream. I'd say we averaged about 10 to 15 fish a day on the river, mostly on dry flies. We also fished on two nearby lakes. I have never been particularly fond of lake fishing but this fishing experience was spectacular, especially the scenery: big lakes surrounded by mountains and picturesque waterfalls. We fished exclusively along the shore to rocks, downed trees, and similar pieces of cover, which made the fishing fun for me.

We definitely had to hit our spots. Our average catch was a bit higher on the lakes than in the streams, and all the fish we caught in the lakes were very nice, heavy fish. Two of the largest measured 23 inches. Paul Kinney, an American who also manages Yan Kee Way and El Patagon Lodges in Chile, owns Paloma River Lodge. He is very service oriented. The head guide, Feña Barros, and the two other guides were excellent. The lodge itself is situated on the river. The accommodations were more than adequate, but definitely not what you would call luxurious. There are four private rooms and a double room, all with private baths. A generator powers the lodge, but I would be remiss not to note that the lights went dim occasionally and the hot water in the showers could be tricky. The Chilean wine was quite good and the food, while not gourmet quality, was very good as well. On our last night, we were treated to a whole lamb roasted on an open fire. The dinner was orchestrated by a local gaucho and his family, who also provided ox cart transportation to the dinner site. This was a very nice event and a great way to end the week.

"My group and I had good fishing, and I recommend the lodge, especially if you are looking to get away from the crowds that frequent some of the rivers in Chilean Patagonia. Given the low population density in this area (possibly the result of no government-provided electricity or water), this comes close to being a wilderness experience."

Reprinted courtesy of:
The Angling Report
4431 Greenwich Parkway
Washington DC 20007
202-770-9942 Leave message for Mike Lyons.
mike@anglingreport.com