After two years of extensive scouting for a viable King Salmon river in Chile, we are thrilled to introduce our new fishing program for Chinooks on the fly, Austral Kings.
After 10 years of guiding for Sea Run Browns in Tierra del Fuego, Dorado in Bolivia and Argentina, and trout in Patagonia, we figured it was time for a new challenge. We wanted something new and exciting, not just for us, but for our amazing friends and clients who have supported us over the years. Following rumors of 50 pound kings on a remote river in the far south of Patagonia, our journey for the elusive King started on the Serrano River in Chile.
Fishing for Kings in the Serrano was very difficult at first. Not only did we not know the river, but we didn’t understand the behavior of this foreign quarry, which didn’t respond to our standard sea trout or Atlantic salmon techniques. Moreover, the fish were holding very deep in heavy current and even in the best swings would rarely result in a grab. Nonetheless, after several days of nothing but goose eggs, we finally landed a few fish and began to unlock the keys to success on the Serrano. However, we ultimately came to the conclusion that the Serrano was too difficult of a fishery to be a viable destination. There were decent number of fish for sure, but the character of the river was simply too deep and powerful to be well-suited for fly fishing.
Our experience on the Serrano planted a growing desire to explore the potential for other King Salmon fisheries in Chile and Argentina. Some rivers were already known to us, while others had no mention the existence of salmon at all. Days of pouring over Google Earth images led us to a handful of likely candidates, none of which were we able to find a reliable source of information to confirm the existence of Kings. It was clear that if we wanted to locate quality King fishing on the fly, we were going to have to discover it for ourselves.
We spent the next two seasons playing a number of rivers along the Chilean Fjords, with underwhelming results. River after river disappointed, and we started to wonder if the we were on a fool’s errand. Long days casting hoping for a single take seemed to be the norm. Should we just abandon the fly and pick up a spoon like the locals we encountered suggested? Did such a river even exist where fresh chinook salmon and primo fly water coexisted?
But then things changed. On the final river of our expedition, we encountered a river that completely changed our view of Kings on the fly. A river which would eventually become Austral Kings camp. Aesthetically speaking, we fell in love from the first moment we saw it. With its striking granite cliffs perched over a valley of verdant rainforest bisected by turquoise river, with a seemingly endless series of fly water to explore, we hoped against hope that this river would finally be the “one”. The first pool we waded into was boiling with rolling kings, and we could scarcely contain our excitement. We landed several fish that first session, none of which dipped below the 25lb mark. We returned several more times later that season to confirm that our initial experience wasn’t just a cruel aberration. Luckily, the more we returned to the river that season, the more fish we landed. After that season ended we decided to build a fly fishing camp for four anglers at our favorite spot on the river.
After months of hard work and planning in 2015, we finally realized our dream in January 2016. With the help of some local builders, the camp was finished along with all the necessary boats, equipment and staff to start our first season at Austral Kings Camp!! Yes!!
We started in late January with our first experimental group of four fishermen. We concentrated on river runs and pools where we knew Kings held. After good casting and persistence, Derek B. hooked the first chrome King Salmon of the season, weighing in at a hefty 49 lbs. ( let’s call it 50)! This is the kind of fish every Spey angler dreams about. Derek’s fish was followed by many others caught by the group. All were chrome, all were big and fought like crazy! The biggest fish of the week was a 51 pounder also caught by Derek B on his secret “hog” fly.
The following weeks also went well with a total of 24 anglers visiting over six weeks. The conditions were mostly good with an occasional rain shower that helped the river to stay in prime condition. Numerous runs of fish came with each tide in January, February and March. Most of fish weighed around 30 pounds and some even exceeded 50 pounds! We rarely encountered a fish under 25 pounds.
Overall, all the anglers that experienced the fishery saw success, however our primary goal to better understand the fishery was also realized. We studied the water and we fished the river every single day of the season with at least four anglers on the water. We gained an understanding of how these giants interact with the river thanks to the persistence of our guests. River knowledge cannot come from reading a book, but only through experimentation and the shared experience of our visiting anglers.
For the 2017 season we will accommodate a maximum of four anglers in the upper Austral King’s Camp – five miles from the ocean. In addition we are opening the Austral King’s lower lodge for an additional four anglers. Below is a brief description of both programs:
Accommodations and Meals:
Austral Kings will be comprised of the the following two programs starting in 2017. They are located roughly 12 KM apart and will share fishing beats.
Austral Kings Camp:
Despite the remote location this wilderness camp is Chilean “glamping” at its finest. Guests will stay in two spacious double occupancy luxury canvas tents equipped with comfortable beds, chairs, and equipment storage. There will be a bathhouse with two bathrooms – each having a shower (with hot running water!), sink and flush toilet. All meals will be prepared in the fixed camp kitchen and served in a large dining/lounge tent. While it would not be fair to call this camp luxurious, it has been thoughtfully constructed and is very comfortable by camp standards. It is located in the middle of the upper river’s most productive reach in a spectacular setting near the river.
The lodge, which overlooks the fjord into which the river empties, is the most comfortable of the accommodation options. Here anglers will enjoy single occupancy rooms with attached shower and bath as well as easy access to power and even cell service (potentially) beginning in 2017. The lodge is built in Chile’s classic rustic style featuring local hardwoods and natural finishes. There is a wood burning stove, a common sitting area and relatively easy access to the lower tidal reaches of the river and estuary.
“Where great food, a super staff and a comfortable camp come together on a unique and inspiring wild river.”
Interested in joining us for the 2017 or 2018 season?
Currently all of the spots for the 2017 season are full as most of are guests are returning. However we are taking requests for the 2017 cancellation wait list along with the 2018 season! Let us know if you’d like to come join us:
Nico & Alex Trochine