As I write this, I’m tucked into the lodge at Yelcho en la Patagonia in southern Chile, waiting out a torrential rainstorm and reflecting on a week of truly unique fly fishing. We’ve fished Lago Yelcho a number of times, and have floated the upper Rio Yelcho twice, enjoying some truly good fly fishing for brown and rainbow trout, with some coming to the boat at 22 or even 24 inches.
But even fishing this good has challenges.
On the Rio Yelcho just yesterday, we happened on a pod of rising trout—some true trophies mixed in with the “average” 16- to 18-inch fish. When we first arrived, we quickly picked off a few of the less wary fish, but after a fashion, the streamers we threw at the fish stopped working. Then we got serious.
“What are they actually hitting?” I asked our guide, Roland, a young Chilean who’s on his way to becoming a great angler in his own right. We tried to see what the big fish were actually hitting, but the prey was so tiny that we couldn’t even see a shape or a color. Some fish would swirl just under the surface; others would appear to gulp something from the top. But try as we might, we couldn’t tell what the fish were on. Roland, in his practiced English, simply said, “Minnows… baby rainbow.”
Nevertheless, any small, light streamer we tossed to the fish was simply ignored.
Later that day, as we motored back to the lake for the 20-minute run across to the lodge, I saw perhaps the most impressive caddis hatch of my life. Clouds of light blonde bugs were lifting off the water into the trees along the glacial green river. It was remarkable. And it got me thinking. Could those big trout have been gorging themselves on small caddis emergers?
Chances are, we’d solved the riddle. Sadly, we solved it too late.
Enjoy Tim Flagler’s video showing how to tie the Holy Grail Caddis Emerger. I wish I’d seen the video a day or two earlier!
— Chris Hunt