Fly Fishing the Lago Yelcho in Patagonia, Chile
Do you like fly fishing on lakes? I’ve heard from people more times than I can count that fishing a lake is just not nearly as fun as a river. I even admit I was in this party for a time as well. However, as I learned the nuances of lake fishing, and started having some success, I became a believer. What sealed the deal for me was Lago Yelcho.
Chile as a fly fishing destination has grown in popularity through the years and offers trout anglers the chance to land trophy-sized fish in a beautiful setting. Patagonia, Chile is home to some of the best trout fisheries in the world. These fisheries include both rivers and lakes and Lago Yelcho ranks among the best of them.
Ready to get excited about lakes? Let’s go!
About the Lago Yelcho
The nearest town to the lake is Chaiten located at the northern part of the lake – this is the entry point used by anglers today, but in the 70’s fly fishers accessed the lake usually by float plane.
The lake itself is huge:
- 27 miles long
- Covers 45 square miles
- Up to 2,000 feet deep
And just like many lakes in Patagonia, Chile, Yelcho is fed by glacial run-off. While on the lake, anglers are surrounded by steep Andes mountains covered thick with trees, and at the tops blanketed with white snowfields.
The cold oxygenated water provides a perfect habitat for insects, and of course, trout.
Between a dragonfly hatch, trout crashing bait balls, foam lines packed with rising fish, and swinging for trophy trout in the Boca, or mouth of the lake, Lago Yelcho provides all the elements for an unforgettable experience.
Dragonflies and Bait Balls on Lago Yelcho
If you’ve never seen a trout jump feet clear out of the water to snatch a wandering dragonfly, or have yet to see a bunch of trout crash a ball of swimming bait fish, you have to put it on your bucket list!
During the months of December and January, dragonflies are hatching in the shallows of the lake in the thick reed beds. The reasons it’s a unique experience and what makes Yelcho so special is that:
- You’re sight fishing for browns and rainbows – the ones that are roaming the flats in hopes of finding a hearty dragonfly.
- Similar to fishing the flats in the Bahamas or Central America, you and your guide will be searching for cruising trout and the perfect moment to cast to them. One well-placed cast and you could land a six or seven pound trout.
Frans Jansen, guide at Martin Pescador Lodge has fished many waters all over the world for the last 35 years, for trout, salmon and all kinds of saltwater species and he still rates fly fishing the annual dragon fly hatch on Lago Yelcho as his personal favorite.
Thousands of dragon flies hatch out of the reeds the rainbow and brown trout lie in wait and then burst out of the water to greedily eat them.
You will see anywhere from a few trout to several hundred trout free jumping in the air up to 4 ft high to take the dragon flies. As Frans says, "it's magical."
It's dry fly fishing like you never seen before on a lake or river.
The dragon fly hatch is one of the best times to fish at Martin Pescador Lodge in Patagonia, Chile.
If fishing the flats doesn’t make the lake seem like a saltwater experience, maybe it’s the bait balls.
Small minnows named puye make their way into the lake to the delight of hungry trout. The trout will school up and “crash the bait on the surface, much like jacks or bluefish.” This saltwater-like frenzy only adds to the already unique fishing of the lake.
In addition to the dragonflies and minnows, fishing the foam lines that form off the banks or the Boca - where a river flows in or out of a lake – often have proved addictive to an angler.
Where the Guides Target the Fish
Often times knowing where to find fish is half the battle. For that reason, it’s important to do your homework on where guides are fishing, and where fish are likely to be found at your destination.
Fishing the Foam Lines
Fly fishers have been found to spend entire days stalking cruising trout that are feeding on mayfly spinners, beetles, and ants found in the foam on the lake’s surface. The rainbows will be plucking the insects from the foam, so be on the lookout for rising heads. There are reports of trout junkies being so enthralled with just chasing trout in the foam it’s become a near obsession.
But, if you don’t find yourself stalking the rising trout in the foam, you may find yourself fish the part of the lake where the Rio Futaleufu flows into Lago Yelcho. This is called the Boca.
Lastly, the Boca can offer anglers the chance to catch trophy-sized trout.
Not all that different from swinging for steelhead, large fish stack up where the Rio Futaleufu feeds into Lago Yelcho. There are numerous ways to fish the lake, all of which are unique and all of which offer fly fishers the chance to hook into a large trout.
What about gear?
Even though there are wading opportunities on the lake, such as the Boca, almost all the fishing is done by boat.
- A sinking line can be used for getting down deep to fish lower in the water column
- On the flats and foam lines, a floating, weight-forward fly line in #6-#8 is ideal.
- For flies - Chubby’s should do the job. Trout perceive these as dragonflies and will readily take them.
- Recommended rod weights are #6 - #8
If you equip yourself with the gear outlined above you’re on the way to fishing one of the best lakes in the world.
If sight fishing cruising trout, chasing trout in the foam lines, or fishing the Boca, in the picturesque setting of Lago Yelcho sounds like an exciting time to you, be sure to contact John Hudgens at Yellow Dog Flyfishing to start planning your next trip.
Yellow Dog offers all the resources, under one roof, to start planning the next adventure. You have access to veteran guides in addition to staff well versed in travel logistics.
Remember that no one ever regretted an adventure.