For live and premium content, sign up for our email newsletter and we'll send reports directly to your inbox
Editor Note: We love it when Honor Roll subscribers check in with new reports. Their reports tend to have an added edge of credibility, and they often contain important new insights, as witness this report on Paloma River Lodge from Honor Roll subscriber Don Childress. What he says about spouse programs at many lodges being little more than promotional come-ons is dead right. We’ve long thought lodges are missing a good bet by not catering to whole families, including kids, but especially nonfishing spouses. After all, how many all-guy trips can an angler take before he gets pushback at home? Does anyone agree or disagree? Have you been to a lodge that had a great (or not-so-great) nonfishing spouse program? Please check in with a report. And thanks, Don Childress, for this one.
The December issue of The Angling Report, with its report on Chile’s Aysen region, came at a good time, as my wife, Roxann, and I were scheduled to go on a fishing/ecotour trip that month to Paloma River Lodge. We were invited to join some fishing friends for a relatively inexpensive trip to an area I had long wanted to visit. We were to fill the lodge on a down week (just before Christmas) so we received a discount on the regular season price of $3,400 per week. When my wife visited the Paloma River Lodge Web site and noted that they offered ecotours, she requested to join our group.
I have been to many fishing lodges over the years that advertise activities for nonfishing spouses but that in reality have no planned program other than going to town on a one-day shopping “adventure.” The rest of the time, spouses wind up reading books and trudging along the river on their own.
When we brought this issue up to Paloma Lodge owner Paul Kinney, he said they could indeed set up a fullfledged ecotour program for our group if two people were prepared to take part. The lodge accepts six anglers per week, so I invited a fishing partner and his nonfishing (but outdoor-loving) significant other to join us. This rounded out our group of six fishermen, plus two ecotourists. More on the ecotour program later.
The friendly and accommodating staff of Paloma River Lodge picked us up in Balmaceda for the one-anda- quarter-hour ride to the lodge. The countryside was exceptionally beautiful, and the staff was good at answering our many questions and giving local information as we traveled. When we arrived at the lodge, we were greeted by the lodge chef, Jorge, with pisco sours for everyone. Sours turned out to be a specialty of the house, as we had various flavors after each day’s fishing, along with an assortment of appetizers.
Jorge turned out to be a favorite staff member of my wife and mine, as Roxann doesn’t eat red meat and I don’t like cheese, both of which are regulars in Chilean cuisine. Jorge took care of both our irregularities in an elegant manner. The meals were well prepared, of local ingredients, and just plain excellent.
The lodge sits in a glaciated valley only 100 yards from the river that gives it its name. It has the appearance of a small ranch house but it has a comfortable living area equipped with a fly-tying bench and an open bar. Each bedroom has its own bathroom with shower. Fernando, the host and head guide, was very attentive to everyone’s needs and wishes. The Chilean wines served with dinner were appropriate and tasty, and glasses were refilled as often as you liked.
One thing I liked about the overall arrangement was the rotation of guides each day. This gave everyone a chance to fish with the “best” guide. Actually, Fernando, Mauro, and Nacho were all excellent fishermen who know the local water well and were just a pleasure to be around. Our week of diverse fishing flew by without any problems, the windy conditions notwithstanding.
The six of us who were fishing started out on the small, wadeable Boca Leon River. It held many 12- to 14-inch browns and rainbows. We took them mostly on foam beetles of various styles.
Terrestrials are abundant in Chile and a major source of the trout’s diet. I did land a 22-inch brown while sight fishing with a caddis pupae-style nymph after it refused my dry fly efforts.
This was a good warm-up for the fishing to come. After that, we either float fished the Paloma River or made our way to one of the many nearby lakes, rotating daily between venues. The Paloma River was unusually high, and we mostly fished the more manageable side channels. Most fish caught in the river system were in the 12- to 16-inch range, although one of our group managed a great-looking 26-inch brown trout in a side channel. Again, we used mostly dries. The lake fishing was exceptional. We used mostly beetle patterns there for browns that ranged between 17 and 22 inches. It was not unusual for us to catch more than 20 fish per day. One lake had a flats area where we could wade and target 20-plus-inch fish using small nymphs. My partner and I had a double at one point as we waded side by side, taking turns at sighted quarry. The double came when we sighted two fish in the same area. Our guide said it was the first time he had seen clients take a double when they were fishing this way. Great fun!
As for the ecotour, it turned out to be a great adventure for the two ladies. They spent two days hiking, birding, and getting to know the native flora; one day kayaking; one day shopping in Coyhaique; and a once-in-a-lifetime day in the high Andes with a naturalist observing Andean condors at roost and in the air, some from a distance of less than 10 meters.
On our last day, the fishermen and the ecotroops joined forces for a horseback ride up a creek-filled canyon where the fishermen did their thing and the ecofolks did theirs. The ride ended at a ranch house where a skewered lamb was barbequed for dinner. Wine and stories flowed well into the night. Jorge fixed non-meat-eating Roxann a delicious steamed salmon dish in various spices.
Our trip was organized by fishing friend and Paloma River Lodge regular Chad Chorney. I gauge my fishing trips by answering just one question: “Would I go back?” The answer is, Paloma River Lodge is virtually assured of having several new regulars. – Don Childress. Postscript: The Web address for Paloma River Lodge is www.palomariverlodge.com.