Fishing upside down, Part VI
Fishing and hunting
TROUT FISHING in Chile at Huilo Huilo is excellent. Tom Culligan plays this nice trout, which was one of many we caught and released on the Blanco River, in the Chilean Andes. Our guide, Miguel Sarah, also an excellent photographer, told us that this very remote part of the preserve sees few anglers.
Index-Tribune photo by Miguel Sarah
Passing through the Andes from Argentina to Chile is probably the closest thing one can come in real life to journey to a mythical middle Earth, especially if you take the lake crossing we chose.
A narrow, winding dirt road led us into the steep and heavily forested wilds of western Patagonia. For close to two hours, we bounced along in a cloud of dust, climbing ever higher until we came to a remote border crossing, where we said adios to Argentina and buenos dias to Chilean customs folks, who inspected and stamped our passports. A kilometer or so past the border, we came to a little alpine village on the edge of a mountain lake nestled in a narrow pass surrounded on all sides by snow-capped peaks and piney woods leading down to the water's edge.
A little red passenger and car ferry called Hua Hum (Wah-Um) took us on a cruise on what looked more like a wilderness river than a lake. We landed at Puerto Fuy – gateway to the eco-inspired fairyland Huilo Huilo, a private 232-square-mile biological preserve, founded by Chilean businessman Victor Petermann.
Petermann’s intent was to restore, conserve and protect this remote, almost primeval region, some of which was logged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
From the start, he intended to share it with others, and, to this end, he added accommodations in the form of Montaña Magica Lodge and Nothofagus Hotel, which appear more like habitation for hobbits than the unique luxury resort hotels they are.
There is also a canopy village with small tree house hotel rooms suspended between trees and connected by walkways 30 feet above the forest below, through which native animals are encouraged to roam.
The River Fuy, complete with several spectacular waterfalls and rapids, tumbles through the grounds. A few miles away, there’s a small ski resort on the side of a volcano, and crossing steep canyons below the volcano is a series of canopy (zip line) lines that are the longest and highest in South America. The five-stage canopy ride is called El vuelo del Condor (Flight of the Condor). After I rode it, they considered changing the name to El vuelo del Pollo (Flight of the Chicken).
Huilo Huilo has a magical, mystical feel to it, especially when you take one of the nature walks through the dense, shaded, intensely green woods. It was easy to imagine little fairies and other forest dwellers peaking out at us from the hollows of moss-covered trees and rocks, or from the heavy canopy of tree branches above.
The volcano-shaped Montaña Magica hotel is covered with vines. A waterfall tumbles down one side. The Nothofagus is built in the shape of a large native tree, wider at the top that at the bottom (trunk). The natural, woodsy, hobbit-like theme is repeated inside and out, but the accommodations are first class. The indoor pool and spa are the ultimate in luxury. The hotel staffers from reception to dining room are generally young, enthusiastic, courteous and eager to please. But few speak English and most are as pure (inexperienced) and unspoiled as the preserve's creators have tried to keep the outdoors. The Four Seasons this is not. But after a rocky start involving something lost in translation, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Most important, there are also several pure and unspoiled trout streams in the preserve loaded with trout, to which guests have exclusive access.
Next week I'll tell you more about the fishing and the Flight of the Condor.
Meanwhile, fishing in our area is best in San Pablo Bay and in the Napa and Petaluma rivers, where striped bass are hitting bullheads and live shrimp with regularity.
Valerie Lightborne, of Leonard's Bait Shop at Port Sonoma, reports good striper fishing from the Petaluma Marina downstream to the railroad trestles where the river enters the Bay. The lower Napa River and the Suisun Bay area near the mothball fleet are producing nice sturgeon action.
Kevin Wolf, at Loch Lomond Bait Shop in San Rafael, said anglers are catching some nice stripers near the Pump House and from shore along China Camp. He added the tides are good this coming week for sturgeon.
Capt. Rick Powers of Bodega Bay Sportfishing, is still bringing home nice limits of dungeness crab for his clients, plus, weather permitting, good loads of sand dabs.
Steelhead fishing on the Trinity, Klamath and Rogue rivers is fair to good right now and varies day-to-day, but worth the trip. Trout fishing on the upper and lower Sacramento River is also fair to good, depending on the weather conditions.
Clear Lake, Berryessa and Lake Sonoma are still just fair, although there seem to be lots of bass tournaments at Clear Lake and Berryessa, in which anglers are bringing in some nice bass.
Sonoma’s Ron Church announced the 30th annual Al’s Ark Striper Derby for Saturday and Sunday, March 16 and 17. Local registration is at Steiner’s Tavern on First Street West.
In addition to cash prizes for the largest striper and sturgeon, there are also special divisions for women and kids. Entry fees are $30 for adults and $15 for kids under 15. All fish will be weighed at Cuttings Wharf Boat Ramp both days between 4:30 and 5 p.m. Call Ron at 938-0133 for more information.