After four winters in Northeast Tennessee working on the South Holston and Watauga Rivers, I was feeling the need for a new adventure.
One of the things that drives me as a fishing guide, is the desire to guide in new places. I feel it makes you a better angler. You can be the best on whatever water you like, but as a professional guide I feel it is important to be able to fish on all types of water (freestone rivers, spring creeks, tailwaters or lakes), so you can provide the best experience for your guests. Now, I’m not talking about going out and studying Tenkara, but fishing the same water all year long is just not for me.
While on a trip with one of my longtime guests last spring, he asked if I had any interest in guiding in South America for trout? “Absolutely! It has been on my radar for quite some time”. Having been burned in the past by an outfitter in Brazil, I was a little hesitant to guide outside of the states again. However, I thought this might be my shot. When opportunities arise, you should seize them. Right? So, after an introductory email to the owner at the Coyhaique River Lodge and several phone interviews, I was given the chance to guide the much desired “endless summer”.
Traveling through the Miami airport watching carts overflowing with warped luggage, it reminded me of the Grinch’s sleigh when he stole all the Christmas presents from the people of Whoville. Miami already felt like a foreign country. Was I nervous? Yes, anytime I start a new job I get nervous. I have been the new guy plenty of times, but I take my job seriously and want to make sure that I do a good job.
Chile is well known for their world-class fishing. Similar to Tikchik Narrows Lodge in Alaska, the Coyhaique River Lodge allows me to target large wild trout in a beautiful remote place without seeing many other anglers. The 10,000 square foot lodge is located on 40 acres along the banks of the Coyhaique River and features many special waters for guests to choose from each day. Whether it be the world-famous Rio Simpson, a small stream meandering down from a glacier high in the Andes Mountains, or a high-country lagoon with monster Brown Trout, the diversity here is hard to find elsewhere.
From the minute I arrived, everyone at Coyhaique River Lodge was more than welcoming. The two brothers, Gaston and Claudio, who are accomplished guides in their own right and built the lodge 10 years ago, make you feel like family; and it runs through the entire staff. There is no glory-guiding here. As a team, we share info and patterns. Everyone here works extremely hard to show the guests a first-class experience. The hospitality staff is just as hard working and professional, which combines for a great guest experience.
One thing the team can’t prepare you for is the wind. It can be crippling, if you don’t have the right equipment. Bring 5-7 weight rods. Much of the time, we are throwing big foam bugs with droppers on big rivers. Why not move up a rod size instead of flailing in the wind? Often times, using a 9ft 7 wt. with a 7-1/2 foot 2x or 3x leader gets my big dry dropper rig in the right feeding lane. Using a 5wt. will have you coming up short all day.
I get asked a lot, “How do you know where to fish?”. Over the years, guides at different lodges and shops have shared their knowledge on good fishing spots and what lines to take down the river, but at some point, you must be confident in your own skills. Sure, the bugs are different sizes and colors but the techniques and skills you learn transfer from one place to another. And the boat handling skills work on all bodies of water. Have I had slow days throughout the process? Of course, and there will be more in the future. If anybody tells you otherwise, they have not been guiding long enough.