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So, what is the latest on that ash fall in the area of Lago Yelcho in Chile? Last May, you’ll recall, we reported that ash fall from a volcanic eruption in that area was threatening fisheries in parts of Chile and Argentina. We’re indebted to Honor Roll Subscriber Robert McMeekin for the following update. Thanks, Robert, for checking in: “When the Chaitén volcano erupted on May 2, 2008, sending a plume of toxic ash that destroyed the town of Chaitén and spread over Lago Yelcho and its tributaries, many of us who consider the Yelcho fishery the best in Chile (and one of the best in the world) were deeply concerned for its future. Well, I visited Lago Yelcho this past December with Gonzalo Cortés to see what effect the ash was having. I’m delighted to report that the fishing was good and, for now, the damage from the ash appears to be limited.
“We stayed at Gonzalo’s Chucao Lodge on the Yelcho and fished areas close to the lodge where the Rio Yelcho begins, at the Bahía de Los Leones (a prime area well known to those who have fished Yelcho), and at one of the big eddies on the Rio Yelcho where trout cruise in sight just beneath the surface waiting for the river to bring in food. In all the places we fished the action was good to very good. The trout seemed strong and healthy, if a little on the thin side.
“The water was very high and we were there during an unseasonable hot spell, so conditions were not typical. All the reeds that are home to dragonflies – for which the trout leap clean out of the water – were under water and it was not easy to observe insect life. When you rubbed the bellies of trout you could feel the snails in their stomachs. This is important because snails are normally the key component of the trout’s diet during the winter when there are no flying insects and few nymphs.
“When we approached the lake from a distance, the water seemed to have a turquoise or aquamarine color not characteristic of the lake before the ash fall. From a boat the water was slightly turbid. We could clearly see the column of vapor rising from the volcano on the horizon.
“There were no other fishermen on the water and Gonzalo’s Chucao Lodge/Yelcho seemed to be the only one open. The caretaker at the Bahía Los Leones Lodge said they were expecting clients on December 5.
“You need to be aware that access to Yelcho is difficult now. We flew to Coyhaique’s Balmaceda airport and drove to Gonzalo’s new lodge on Lago Rosselot, called Chucao Lodge/Rosselot. The trip takes five hours from Coyhaique. It is not a long trip measured in kilometers but the going is very slow on a very difficult part of the Carretera Austral. Yelcho is another two hours south of the Rosselot lodge, where we stopped over on the way. The airport that served Chaitén is closed, so the former access via small plane from Puerto Montt is not possible at this time.
“Will Yelcho continue as it is, get better or have greater problems in the future? No one really knows. The lake is very deep and 24 miles long, but it is possible that the long-term and cumulative effects of the ash in the water will cause more damage to fish and their diet than is evident now. There’s also the possibility of further eruptions and additional ash fall. For now, however, the fishing on Yelcho is very good. You can contact Gonzalo Cortés for accurate, up-to-the minute information. He’s deeply involved in Yelcho and in touch with authorities about matters of access and so on.”