For live and premium content, sign up for our email newsletter and we'll send reports directly to your inbox

Sign Up Now!

This past March, three colleagues of mine and I traveled to Jim Repine’s Futaleufu Lodge (*) in southern Chile on business for my company, Hexagraph Fly Rods. Turns out, the trip provided not only an exquisite opportunity to pursue wild rainbow and brown trout in a remote and pristine setting, but it also offered a rare chance to experience a glimpse of another time, place, culture, lifestyle and attitude.

For the last eight years, you see, Jim and Sonia Repine have been inviting four guests per week to join them during their summer (December through March, 16 weeks) at their home on the Futaleufu River. Jim Repine is an author and photographer with a noteworthy resume in the fly fishing business. One of his books, Fly Fishing the Pacific Rim (*), expresses his subtle passion for sharing the Futaleufu experience, reminiscent of the American West in the 1920s.

The lodge is situated in a little valley on the banks of the Futaleufu River, nestled in the Andes Mountains. The Futaleufu is a full-sized river, bigger actually than it looks from a distance. It is swift in the central currents but has side channels, gravel bars, eddies and tail-outs that provide comfortable access. Most amazing to us was the incredible depth of its holes – probably 30 feet in some places – and generally crystal clear to the bottom.

You can spend all six days of your stay fishing, unless you want to take a half-day or day during the week for horseback riding, sightseeing, photography or simply relaxing. We chose to fish each day. We spent five days on various stretches of the Futaleufu and one on its major tributary, the Rio Espolon.

One guide generally takes two guests to different stretches of the river by either horseback, four-wheel-drive or simply wading from the lodge’s backyard. We made our way up and down the day’s stretch in inflatable boats managed by our guides, with some fishing as we floated. Mostly we were a float-and-wade expedition, fishing runs and holes on foot. We saw no one else during our days, except for an occasional native tending his fields or flocks, a local fisherman using a hand line and spinner, and a passing kayak expedition. They were not an interference, but rather just another little piece of the adventure.

The fish were a bit presentation and pattern shy on some days and in some locales. We used about one-third dry flies and two-thirds sunk flies, mostly Woolly Buggers and Muddlers. We used sink-tip lines a good bit due to the depth of the runs and the propensity of the larger fish to hold deep. I imagine the true giants of the river (rumored to be in excess of 15 pounds) are generally unreachable in the deep holes. The typical fish is a very robust brown or rainbow of 15 to 18 inches. We caught several over 20 inches, and I capped the trip with a 29-inch, 10-plus-pound brown that took a black Zonker in a swift side channel.

Each angler usually landed between eight to 15 fish per day, although on my best day I had nearly 50 strikes with over 30 landed. The catching was good, but I would caution anyone whose mission is simply "body count" that other destinations may suit them better. This is not a "catch ’em till your arms ache" trip. The Repines are strict catch-and-release advocates and the picture album in the lodge parlor is testament to the exceptional quality of the fish that reside in their care.

The guests stay in one of two upstairs bedrooms, each with two double beds. Each has its own wood stove for heat and a small balcony overlooking the valley. There are two bathrooms upstairs with wall-mounted water heaters for showering. The lodge has generator electricity during the daytime (lights out at 11 p.m.). The downstairs includes the dining area, a fly-tying and desk area, and a parlor area of couches and chairs in front of the fireplace. Also downstairs are the Repines’ quarters and the kitchen. The delicious and satisfying meals are all prepared with local ingredients and cooked on a wood stove. Breakfast is usually served at 8 a.m. and dinner is at 9 p.m. Excellent Chilean wines highlight the evening meal. Lunches are a full-blown affair prepared streamside. Each guide takes an entire chest on the day’s outing, builds a wood fire, sets a table and chairs, and prepares a grilled lunch complete with meat, salad, vegetable, dessert, coffee and wine or beer in a picnic setting to rival any you have ever experienced.

On returning to the lodge each evening, you are greeted with a plate of munchies and a pitcher of Pisco Sours (a local standard something like a Margarita). This is before you even get out of your waders. Jim usually has some classical music or light jazz playing. The guides insist on helping you remove your boots and then they rearrange vests and tackle for the next day. Your only chore is to savor a spectacular sunset and prepare your mind for the dinner adventure.

This place is not fancy but the experience is elegant, and that is very much a part of Jim Repine’s intent. Jim and Sonia are the penultimate hosts. They and their staff of eight tend to every detail of the day and the week with the intent of making this a truly memorable time, one that focuses not only on the spectacular fishing but also on the existence of this place and all that surrounds the fishing. The valley is home to 50 or so locals who live on their small farms. A schoolhouse is located some 400 yards down the road from the lodge. The people live a simple life and are as happy and friendly as any you will meet. On the night before the guests depart, Jim hosts a fiesta in the barn for all his neighbors. Some walk or ride their horses as much as seven miles to attend. Jim’s ranch hands barbecue a couple of lambs and the boom-box plays Chilean music until 10 p.m. The guests are expected to dance with the locals, varying in age from seven to 70, none of whom speak a word of English. This is a National Geographic scenario in itself!

Overall, Jim and Sonia Repine have done much in an understated and respectful manner to create a lodge and deliver an experience that projects their love of the land and the Chilean people. I enjoyed it thoroughly. And, oh yes, there are some awesome trout in Chile as well. – Harry J. Briscoe.

Previous reading
Guided Fishing In Lake Tahoe
Next reading
Adventure Fishing The Xingu River