Fishing upside down, Part VIII
Fishing and hunting
THE ONE BIG rainbow I caught in the Rio Blanco fought hard before I released him.
Miguel Sarah/Special to the Index-Tribune
Huilo-Huilo Biological Preserve covers more than 250,000 heavily wooded acres in Chili’s rugged Andes Mountains. Several rivers filled with wild rainbow and brown trout run through it.
Dottie and I, along with Tom and Katherine Culligan, spent four nights in Huilo-Huilo, in what one might describe as the fanciest tree fort ever built.
Chilean businessman Victor Petermann, owner of the preserve, built two hotels on the property: Montaña Magica, shaped like a nearby volcano; and Nathofagus, built like a tree – narrow at the bottom and large and full at the top. Luxurious and woodsy, these hotel-spas provide the bases from which guests can partake in numerous activities, from horseback riding and trekking and skiing, to simply relaxing and getting a massage; and one more thing – fly-fishing in seldom touched rivers.
While Dottie and Katherine chose the spa on our third day, Tom and I arranged a fishing trip with guide Miguel Sarah, who oversees all of the fishing access within the 250,000-acre area.
“It’s the best job in the world for a guy who loves fly-fishing,” Miguel told us as we bounced along in his four-wheeler out into the preserve’s wildest area.
“The river I am taking you to – nobody has fished for three weeks,” he said. Such is apparently the case for a lot of Huilo-Huilo’s streams. Most guests come for outdoor activities other than fishing, while avid fly-fishers head for southern Chile’s famous sea-run trout.
Sarah manages many miles of rivers, creeks and lakes, all loaded with fish, and he can control the amount of fishing exposure each receives, preserving the pristine nature of them all.
After 45 minutes on a narrow, winding dirt road through the mountains, we stopped alongside a bend in the Rio Blanco, one of many rivers in Chile of that name, Sarah said. It was small, as rivers go, with brush and fallen trees along the way and in the water in many places. We could see lots of bugs flying and small fish rising.
Sarah said that this river, like those we fished in Argentina, was home to some really big trout, but you had to put the fly in the perfect spot to catch them. In this case, the perfect spots were narrow spaces close to the opposite bank, surrounded by brush, fallen trees and other obstructions.
Even then, the fish that readily rose to our little dry Mayfly imitations were mostly in the eight to 12-inch range.
“You’ve got to catch all the small ones to get them out of the way so the big ones will take it,” Sarah stated with certainty.
Tom and I hooked and released dozens of smaller fish until near the end of our afternoon, when, after I had caught almost a dozen small trout from one riffle, a much larger trout took the fly. It turned out to be about a 17-inch rainbow; not as big as the Argentine trout we caught, but a nice fat fish nevertheless.
Without more days on the water, I can only say that fly-fishing in Huilo-Huilo provides lots of fun and action for anglers who like to catch lots of trout, if size doesn’t matter. There is some bushwhacking involved in getting to good spots, but Miguel is an excellent guide and we were rewarded with lots of action for our efforts. He will set up special fly-fishing packages at the preserve for you. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will have more photos of Huilo-Huilo preserve and fishing on my blog page at sonomanews.com/Bills-Blog/.
Striped bass continue to be the story in North Bay fishing this week. Anglers from China Camp to the Petaluma and Napa rivers are finding great action on stripers using live shrimp and bullheads for bait. I saw one report that some guys are having a blast catching stripers from kayaks near China Camp. Kevin Wolf, at Loch Lomond Bait Shop, said most anglers are hooking the stripers near the Pump House using live shrimp for either sturgeon or bass. He had one report of a guy landing two sturgeon Tuesday in the 63- to 64-inch range.
Valerie Lightborne, at Leonard’s Bait Shop at Port Sonoma, said there has been good action from the trestles upstream on the Petaluma River. One guy caught a 35-inch striped bass off the point near the bait shop on Monday, then came back on Tuesday and landed a 45-inch sturgeon.
Capt. Rick Powers, and Bodega Bay Sportfishing, is still bringing home nice limits of Dungeness crab and lots of sand dabs when the wind isn’t blowing too hard. Ocean salmon season will probably open on April 6.
Fishing on local lakes, including Berryessa, Sonoma and Clear Lake, is only fair. The warmer weather, however, should get the fish biting. Expect improvement this weekend.
Bob Grace, at the Ted Fay Fly Shop in Dunsmuir, said the weather in his area is excellent and fishing on the upper Sacramento River has been fair to good.