On the fly

Chilean Patag­o­nia is a trout fish­ing par­adise

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - TOM FORT

One ver­sion of heaven on Earth is sit­ting in the wooden hot tub at Posada de los Far­ios (the Inn of the Brown Trout) in a re­mote val­ley of Chilean Patag­o­nia eas­ing aching limbs af­ter a day of amaz­ing trout fish­ing, eat­ing crisp em­panadas filled with melted cheese, let­ting the pi­quant liq­uid plea­sure of the pisco sour spread its heal­ing in­flu­ence. An­other is lunch be­side the blue rip­pled wa­ters of Lago las Que­mas with chicken, av­o­cado, tomato and a dab of chilli sauce wrapped in tor­tilla and ac­com­pa­nied by a cool beer, on a shore shaded by an­cient lenga trees af­ter a cou­ple of hours stalk­ing (and catch­ing) the big trout that cruise along reed beds and nose into bays un­der rock cliffs.

And here’s one more ver­sion — ly­ing on my back in a long, deep, crys­tal-clear pool on the Cisnes River, star­ing up into a flaw­less blue Patag­o­nian sky, rod, waders and clothes left on the bank, in cer­tain knowl­edge no­body will ap­pear on the sky­line to be ap­palled by the spec­ta­cle of my un­clothed 60-some­thing body be­cause there is no one for kilo­me­tres around.

And this – the al­most non-ex­is­tent hu­man touch on a pris­tine land­scape – is the chief im­pres­sion left by my ex­tended stay on the Cisnes, which runs 160km through the cen­tral part of Chilean Patag­o­nia to the sea. Hardly any­one lives here, and those who do are campesinos (coun­try peo­ple), gau­chos and their fam­i­lies, men on horse­back in ab­bre­vi­ated flat caps and jeans or sheep­skin leg­gings, who ride out to keep an eye on the cat­tle and sheep that graze the up­lands and the mead­ows by the river.

The Cisnes Val­ley is a thumb of Chilean ter­ri­tory thrust through the An­des into the pam­pas grass­lands east of the moun­tains, with Ar­gen­tine ter­ri­tory ei­ther side. The gau­cho way of life still prevails, no­table for the slow­ness of its pace. I never see a man on horse­back mov­ing faster than a walk, usu­ally with an ox and a cou­ple of cows am­bling ahead and dogs of du­bi­ous parent­age trot­ting at his heels. One evening, nurs­ing my beer on the ve­randa out­side the lodge, I watch the old­est gau­cho, Tito, pass by, as erect in the sad­dle as a mar­shal of the French army tak­ing the salute. He is in his 80s, the fa­ther of 13 chil­dren, with a mother still go­ing in the lo­cal vil­lage at more than 100.

The ex­cep­tion in this very ba­sic mode of ex­is­tence is

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