In an Andean valley surrounded by majestic mountains lies El Saltamontes Lodge or “The Grasshopper” which is the oldest, most refined fly fishing lodge in Chile. Situated on a 5000-acre working ranch, the family-run Lodge has access to fine fly-fishing on the Rio Ñirehuao, which is easily waded and “arguably the best wild, resident brown-trout river in South America and perhaps the world.”
With innovative, professional guides and an estimated 9,000 wild brown trout in every mile of the river, the hopper fishing is remarkable and with numerous pristine waters in close proximity to the ranch, including spring-fed lakes the opportunities are endless.
The main lodge is made of local stone and timber and beautifully furnished to create a unique rustic charm. The working ranch is home to the largest single herd of Alpacas in Chile that graze freely around the lodge and provide an authentic experience for guests, as well as equestrian horses and unique riding program available for guests.
El Saltamontes Lodge consists of 4 buildings all constructed of local river stone – the main lodge building and 3 guest cabins. The main lodge incorporates the kitchen and dining areas, a bar, living room with 2 huge fireplaces. It is beautifully appointed with rustic antiques and cosy furniture providing a lovely ambience. Each of the 3 cabins has two bedrooms and a lounge area. The lodge also offers a spa with a hot tub, sauna and massage room. A traditional Quincho lies just beyond the main lodge – a 3-sided building with a huge fireplace that allows for comfortable outdoor dining.
The main Lodge, accessed over a sweeping, curved timber deck, is an impressive building with high ceilings and two immense fireplaces. The communal living room is furnished with magnificent antiques, cozy leather sofas, and rich rugs. The adjoining bar, with a cheery wood stove, offers another option for socializing. It is always open, but the focus is more often on fly-tying and card games, rather than the comprehensive array of beverages. The dining room seats a maximum of 15 people intimately around a heavy, antique table, and a warm fireplace. Set with gleaming candelabra, silverware and crystal, it is a feast for the eyes as well as the pallet. Huge picture windows provide a backdrop of dramatic Andean peaks. The kitchen beyond is always a hive of activity into which guests are welcome. Through the door, waft inviting aromas and friendly laughter and banter from the domestic staff. Although the chef has an array of modern appliances, the big wood stove takes pride of place.
If the kitchen is the heart of the lodge, the old wood stove is its soul. Hidden discretely to one side of this building, is one spacious guest apartment with a super king-size bed, a single bed, wood stove, living room, en-suite bathroom, and river views. Returning guests and couples often request this room for its comfort and proximity. The three guest cabins are all within a short walk from the main lodge and have river views.
Cocktails and nibbles appear spa side to those guests who chose to soak away the day’s exertions and every week guests enjoy a typical Patagonian style barbeque with a whole lamb and choice, roasted beef. Neighbours arrive on horseback to enliven the atmosphere with local music, and it is always a memorable night.
The Ñirehuao River – “The Home Water”
Much of this river flows through high desert grasslands, reminiscent of Wyoming’s portion of Yellowstone National Park. In addition to the many miles of 4-wheel drive accessible river that flows through the ranch, El Saltamontes also has the fishing rights to all of the best off-property water, including some beautiful canyon stretches accessible only on horseback. The Ñirehuao is a wonderfully fisherman-friendly stream, with open banks for easy back-casting, and washed-gravel bottoms that make wading a pleasure. The fishing, season-long, is heavily oriented around large terrestrials, with hoppers and jumbo-sized beetles standard fare. Average fish will run 15-17 inches, with specimens over 20 inches common. As a bonus, the lodge is located right on the river – very convenient for those that want to put in an extra hour or two before sundown!
Creek Fishing – Outside the Ranch
In addition to the main river, El Saltamontes has a number of outstanding small streams for the adventurous flyfisher – many of which offer nearly virgin fishing. One little waterway connects two small lakes- when the stillwater warms up, the big browns move into the moving water to cool off a little. The water is very clear, so the fish are edgy, but are suckers for a well-placed beetle. This is visual fishing at its best. Another little freestoner has miles of miniature riffles, runs, and crystalline pools, full of aggressive 12-18 inch trout that absolutely annihilate hoppers. Yet another stream pours out of a lake and winds through a spectacular Andean setting. The fishing in this creek’s fast-moving flows is wonderful, though the scenery is so incredible, it is very hard to keep your eye on the fly! Finally, there is the upper Nireguoa itself – this tiny spring creek flows through the Chilean “Valley of the Moon” for miles, with each miniature meadow bank and riffle chock full of gorgeously-marked browns averaging 14 inches, with an occasional “surprise” fish in excess of 20 inches. While hoppers work as well here as downriver, there are more aquatic insects present, meaning more diverse hatches – mayfly emergences and spinner falls are common. Serious birdwatchers will love this area, as condors and other indigenous bird species are often observed here.
Falling under this broad category of “lagoons” are a large number of what can best be described as ponds, ranging in size from pools the dimension of a small automobile, up to small lakes of 1-2 acres. Some of these are actually ancient river oxbows, while others are spring-fed. They are fascinating fisheries, and consistently hold browns of larger proportions than the average of the main river, often in the 18-20 inch range, with fish over thirty inches occasionally hooked. They seem to pop up at random over the landscape of the ranch – the knowledge of the guides is invaluable in locating them.
These stillwater additions to the program have been met with great enthusiasm from recent clients. One of the most unusual lakes is largely surrounded by what can best be described as “floating earth”, essentially undercut banks of gargantuan proportions. Getting close enough to the water to fish involves hiking across areas of spongy terrain – safe, but quite bizarre! There are many other small lagunas in the immediate area, most of which are connected subterraneanly to the main lake, and are also loaded with fish. Another favourite, Lago Saltamontes, is best described by guide Adam Henderson: “Lago Saltamontes is quite simply awesome. Any angler harbouring a prejudice against stillwater fishing will change their point of view after this experience! Using the lodge’s pontoon boats, we can cover most of the lake’s shoreline over the course of the day. From cliffs, logjams and weed beds, this lake offers a lot of great structure. Large browns are often found hugging the shorelines in unbelievably shallow water. The fish enjoy dragonflies, damselflies, grasshoppers, beetles, caddis, mayflies and midges on their daily menu – basically, anything will work, as long as it is big and ugly! The lake area is incredibly scenic, and guests seem to very much enjoy the one-hour ride through the native forest to get there.”
Passport with a minimum of six months validity and photo ID to purchase a fishing licence.
Fly direct to Santiago and take a three-hour flight to Balmaceda where you will be met by the lodge representatives and taken for a two-and-a-half-hour transfer to the lodge.
Let us do the groundwork for you.
Our tailored fly fishing and accommodation itineraries are designed with you in mind to suit your preferences. They are also quoted in your local currency with very favourable exchange rates.
Fly Odyssey has access to the best guiding and lodging rates, suitable tides and updated availability to this destination which can vary throughout the season.
This includes flight bookings, transit accommodation, transfers and a host of non-angling activities and experiences.
We specialise in group stays to the region, and our long involvement with our partners on the ground in Chile will ensure you are well looked after both on and off the water.
This includes extended stays in Chile, Argentina and throughout South America.
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