To an Eastern
angler, accustomed to small trout in sparse numbers, a fish in excess of three
pounds is big. Expose him to a five-pounder and he is ecstatic. But take him to
Chile, let him understand that this is a land where a three-pounder is small
and a five-pounder is average and a fish isn't really big until it hits at
least 15, and you will know my feelings as I watched Santiago, that favored
nation's capital, appear under the wing of my airliner on a sunny
from Miami by air, Santiago is the jumping-off place to the most magnificent
trout fishing in the world—the home of the lunker rainbows and browns
inhabiting the streams and lakes along the base of the Andes. There is a day
train that runs through some beautiful country to Temuco, 400 miles south of
Santiago. I gave in to a severe case of rainbow fever and took a plane.
At Temuco, a
young lawyer named Mario Rurich took me out to the river. Mario had broken a
leg skiing; his leg was still in a cast, but somehow he managed to heave that
great lump of plaster over the rocks and down to the water. This crippled
Walton took the first three trout while I, reasonably hale and hearty, raised
nothing until just before dark, when I managed to net a beautifully colored
I slept that
night at the Frontera—a clean, modern hotel in Temuco—and was off the next
morning by taxi to the Hotel Antumalal in Puc�n. This was a four-hour drive
(one flat) over gravel roads through dry, dusty country. Ahead was the great
white cone of the Villarrica volcano. As we approached it the character of the
country began to change. The scrub gave way to pine forests, and we crossed, on
rickety wooden bridges, several rivers foaming down toward Lago Villarrica.
Villarrica is a
lovely lake, perhaps 12 or 14 miles across. The town of Villarrica is at the
western end, and from there the road winds around the lake to Puc�n,
headquarters for fishing the Liucura, the Trancura and the famous Barra, which
is a series of reefs at the point where the Liucura empties into the lake.
The morning after
my arrival at Puc�n I set out for my first full day of fishing in Chile—the
long, exciting run down the Liucura. By rights, this magnificent river deserves
two full days, but if you are willing to work hard at it you can do it in
In the first
watery light of dawn the boat was loaded onto a truck and taken 12 miles
upstream. The water seemed comparatively narrow and quiet, but I had been
warned that there were heavy rapids below.
We heaved the
boat off the truck and I set up my fly rod and tied on a Gray Ghost. In Chile
most wet-fly fishermen fish two flies at once, and on the advice of Bascur, my
boatman, I also tied on a Woolly Worm for a dropper. Although Chilean trout are
not primarily insect feeders, they are just as selective as their northern
cousins, and fly patterns are as important on Chilean rivers as elsewhere.
Liucura is the most exciting river trip in Chile. The boatmen—who have spent
years on the river—are the most skillful I have seen anywhere. Bascur took us
down stern first, oars thrashing, picking his spots and then going hell-bent
down the chutes between the rocks. Once we were through the fastest water, he
was equally clever at working over the areas that held fish.