One of Patagonia’s most diverse fly fishing programs for wild trout is Patagonian BaseCamp, on the banks of the remote Rio Palena, owned and operated by Marcel Sijnesael.
Marcel traveled the world for several years before settling in this hidden corner of Patagonia, choosing to build his dream lodge in an area as wild as it is beautiful. From his comfortable lodge, Marcel and his guides can access an amazing array of fisheries; it would take, literally, a month of solid exploration and fishing to see all of his options.
“When we came to Northern Chilean Patagonia for the first time we could hardly believe what we encountered; impressed and speechless by the pristine beauty of the landscape, the mountains, the skies and the rivers. It was right then when we decided to make our home here in the wilderness. And since then we have seen many guests leaving with the same fantastic impression; and they come back year after year. No longer are they just our guests, but our friends sharing the same passion.” – Marcel Sijnesael
One of the beauties of Marcel’s location is the dearth of anglers on many of the waters – on most you will see few or no other fishermen during your stay. In addition, using state-of-the-art inflatable catarafts and outboard powered jetboats, he is able to organize two and three day overnight float trips into wilderness rivers, spending the nights at either small riverside cabins, or camping out in comfortable domo tents under the Southern Cross. These are truly a highlight of most guests’ trips, and an opportunity to cast over virgin fish in spectacularly scenic surroundings. As well, the lodge has access to small high mountain lakes, full of heavy-shouldered trout, accessed via short oxcart-pulled carriage rides, horse ride, or for the adventurous, mountain bike. Rounding out the menu are a variety of smaller walk-n-wade steams and creeks, float streams and larger jet boat rivers. It would take a month of solid fishing before you’d repeat a piece of water fishing at Patagonian BaseCamp.
The fish you’ll see in this area are wild, and largely untouched; accurate presentations usually assure success. You need to be prepared for all types of fishing here. At any given time, on any of the fisheries, fish may be looking up and smashing skated dries, cruising deeper, requiring sinking tip lines and streamers; or sipping drifting terrestrials off the banks. Plan on using boats a lot here, whether actually casting from them, or simply using them for transportation to wading areas, as they are a necessary component to accessing the generally wilderness waters.
For a relaxing non-fishing day in the wilderness, you do not have to leave the premises – the wood-heated hot tub and sauna on the river bank will give you that feeling of being completely away.
Patagonian BaseCamp is a small occupancy lodge, with a serious and incredibly diverse fishing package that has made it popular and well-known in the fly fishing world. Handling up to 12 guests in private accommodations, the two-story facility is warm and inviting, with spacious, well-appointed rooms overlooking the river. The lodge features just about every imaginable comfort you can think of, including a sauna, hot tub, private rooms with full baths, unlimited hot-water showers, therapeutic massages, and daily laundry service. The chefs create amazing and sumptuous meals every morning and night, the latter capped by desserts you won’t soon forget! The best of Argentine and Chilean wines are served with lunch and/or dinner and the open bar is always fully stocked.
Reservations & Rates
• 7 nights / 6 full days of fishing Program $7,995 Sunday to Sunday Including Río Palena overnight float with a stay in IslaLeonCamp
• 10 nights / 9 full days of fishing Program $11,995 Tuesday to Friday Including 1 or 2 nights at TempleCamp and/or Rio Palena overnight float with a stay in IslaLeonCamp
• 11 nights / 10 full days of fishing Program $12,995 Friday to Tuesday Including 1 or 2 nights at TempleCamp and/or Rio Palena overnight float with a stay in IslaLeonCamp
• 14 nights / 13 full days of fishing Program $15,995 Sunday to Sunday Including 1 or 2 nights at TempleCamp and/or Rio Palena overnight float with a stay in IslaLeonCamp
Included in your package price is the 40-minute charter flight to and from the Chaiten Airport, where you are met and driven to and from the lodge. Lodging, breakfast, lunch and dinner and all drinks consumed (so called "open bar policy"). In case of special drink preferences, we recommend you bring libations of your own taste, because they might not be available in Chile. All guided expeditions, by horseback, boat, raft, kayak, 4x4 vehicle, mini-van, etc. All necessary fishing licenses and flies. Limited daily laundry services and free-to-use, but NOT obligatory wading boots, which will help you meet your 45 pound maximum luggage restriction (wading shoes are heavy!).
Other non-inclusions are possible extra lodging, transfer, travel expenses or trip modifications as result of a delay, either planned or requested by the guest or as a result of an act of God. Fishing equipment, like waders, rods, and lines (though there is some loaner gear available on a limited basis). Gratuities, which are customary though not required and should be an accurate expression of your feeling about the service received.
The Fly Shop® is not in the insurance business, but we recommend Travel Guard coverage as a service with a desire to see your best interests protected. It is impossible to know when an unfortunate situation (loss of luggage, fly rods, illness in the family, or an accident) may occur. However, such things can and do happen, and this insurance can provide a means of recourse against non-refundable financial losses.
• Travel Insurance Information
Seasons at Patagonian BaseCamp
The first brown trout were introduced to Chile rivers in 1906, and three decades later the world famous strain of McCloud River rainbows was added to the cold clear rivers and streams of that part of Patagonia.
With no natural predators, no freshwater fishing tradition, and little competition for food from native species, the trout grew fast and multiplied quickly. By the 50's, articles began appearing in print about the
phenomenal trout fishing in Chile, and that part of the world became a Mecca for those few anglers who could afford the money and time to get there.
There are also a few waterways in Chile that hold some reasonably good populations of sizeable brook trout, but few regional outfitters target them.
With a coastline stretching 6,435 kilometers (about 4,000 miles), Chile is a world leader in the global aquaculture industry; the number one producer of farm-raised trout and second only to Norway in salmonid production. Millions of rainbow trout, silver salmon and king salmon escape those farms and their offspring can be found cruising the rich saltwater shoreline. The physical condition of these saltwater raised trout and salmon is awesome and they are some of the hottest fish we have ever tied into.
Over the last decade we have seen an increase in the number of Pacific salmon making their way upstream, and resident trout have started to key-in on the salmon spawn as a food source. Although a few fly fishing outfitters are targeting the migrating salmon, we don't think this trend is going to take over the trout fishing in Chilean Patagonia. However, it does warrant attention and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Spring in Chile begins in December. Trees have dropped their blossoms and warm summer weather lands in Patagonia before Christmas presents have been opened.
Trout season in Chilean Patagonia swings into high gear by the New Year, and continues until leaves turn crimson and drop with the arrival of winter in late April. The summers of Patagonia are abbreviated, much like those of Montana and Wyoming. Warm days often begin with cools mornings and can be punctuated by sudden thunderstorms. But for the most part, the best time to visit this fantastic part of the world is from mid-November through mid-April.
Opening day in Chile is in November, traditionally a time when North American fishermen are preoccupied with family and holidays. Schools in South America release their students just before Christmas and the rivers of Patagonia don’t see much pressure until after the first of the year. Raul San Martin, one of the most highly respected fly fishing guides and outfitters just across the border in Argentina insists that the best fishing happens in December. The landscape is ablaze with a mind-baffling wildflower display, known locally as "Chocho" (Chilean word for "Lupine Season"). European Lupine carpet the landscape in an explosion of violets, reds, purples and yellows.
Fish are on the surface, targeting caddis and mayfly emergences, as well as blizzard hatches of small creamy moths.
Their January is our June/July. Spring snow melt is gone, the weather's reliable temperatures are pleasant, and the hatches are predictable. Mosquitoes aren't a concern in most of Patagonia, but the Lake District of Chile can be plagued for a few weeks with Chulihuachos, a pest resembling a horsefly that has all but disappeared by the end of the month.
By the first of February trout begin to key on the caddis hatches and hoppers, stag beetles and other terrestrials that dominate mid-summer fly fishing action. Probably because of the weather, February and March are the most popular months to travel to and fish Patagonia. Too, our winter is a great time to escape to Chile's summer and trout fish for a week or so; something difficult to do when Michigan or Vermont is frozen solid.
April is the beginning of fall in the Southern Hemisphere. Kids go back to school and the traffic is light on the streams and rivers of Chile. Like the Rockies, the weather is less reliable in the fall; days are shorter and temperatures are cooler. Dress for a full range of weather possibilities and plan on some of the best mayfly hatches (especially callibaetis on overcast days) as well as streamer fishing.
The country of Chile is divided into 15 regions, with the vast majority of fly fishing taking place in the XI Region, called Aysén, which stretches from Puerto Montt to O'Higgins. Within this vast region of more than 109,000 square kilometers, fly fishing outfitters base out of the communities of Lago Verde, Coyhaique, Aysén, and Cisnes.
Weather in this part of the world is complex; a mixture of heavy maritime climate with cold water influences from the Pacific, switching to an increasingly dry continental climate as you head east toward the Andes and Argentine border. There are four different recognized climates with the Aysén Region; cold rainy temperate, Andean degenerating to steppe, cold steppe, and high altitude icy.
Getting to Patagonian BaseCamp
Getting to Chile these days is relatively simple and painless with a wide choice of convenient, daily flights from Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, and New York.
In the mid-60's, it took pioneer fly fishers, like Joe Brooks 22 hours to fly from Miami to Santiago and another twenty hours in the air with numerous stops along way to reach the trout infested waters in and
around Puerto Montt - now that's dedication!
Getting there is easy with a wide choice of convenient, daily flights from Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, and New York. Most flights are direct, departing the States in the afternoon or early evening and arriving early the next morning in Santiago, the Capitol of Chile. Airlines that service Chile include LAN, Delta, United and American.
Arriving in Chile is simple, hassle free and safe. The flights are almost always on time, the new ulta-modern airport is clean, and the entire experience, from clearing immigrations and customs to connecting with domestic flights, is very smooth. Airfares from the U.S. to Santiago vary widely, with tickets from New York, Miami and Los Angeles ranging from $900 to $1,200 round trip. Usually the best fares can be had by flying LAN, the national airline of Chile. LAN is one of the largest air carriers servicing South America. Their modern, new air fleet has a superb record for reliability, safety and on time departures and arrivals.
Anglers will arrive Santiago, Chile, where you will spend the night.
After a good night’s rest and a delicious breakfast in Santiago, you need to be booked on a flight to Puerto Montt, arriving no later than 10:00 am. After collecting your luggage there, you will be met by a representative of The Patagonian Basecamp and driven a short distance to the small airstrip at La Paloma, Puerto Montt, for the charter flight to Chaiten. All arrangements have been made in advance for you and the check-in procedure is swift and easy. The flight itself is approximately 40 minutes and flies over a stunningly beautiful and rugged landscape. Keep your cameras out and ready!
Upon arrival to the airstrip at Chaiten you will be met by Marcel Sijnesael or a representative of the lodge and transferred via vehicle to the lodge. The scenic drive follows the famous Careterra Austral, the Southern Highway and arrives at the lodge on the banks of the Río Palena in about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The Rio Palena flows just in front of the lodge, and you are welcome to wander down to the water in search of your first Patagonian trout of the week. If, however, you would like to relax from your journey, the pisco sours (typical Chilean cocktail) will be cold, and the hot tub and sauna hot! A wonderful dinner – the first of many to come – is served at approximately 8:00 p.m.
Departing Patagonian BaseCamp:
After breakfast, you will be transferred back to the airstrip at Chaiten for your flight back to the Paloma airport. From there you’ll be transferred to the Puerto Montt airport and onward connections.
Immigration Requirements for entry into Chile: U. S. Citizens:
When traveling to Chile, a valid passport is required with an expiration date occurring at least 6 months later than the day of arrival. Chilean Tourist Card: A Chilean Tourist Card Application will be handed out by your carrier during your flight to Chile. Please fill out the application and present it and your passport to Chilean Immigrations upon arrival into Santiago. Immigrations will take one copy of the Tourist Card and leave you with another which you must keep with your passport and present to Immigrations when you leave Chile. Loss of your tourist card may result in a penalty upon departure.
Inoculations and Health Concerns:
There are no formal requirements, or recommendations, for immunizations and very little risk of infectious disease in Chile. The risk would be about equivalent to what it would be for a trip to Colorado. You should check with your personal physician if you are concerned. We recommend that anglers be up-to-date on their Tetanus, Hepatitis-A and Hepatitis-B vaccinations.
Lodging at Patagonian BaseCamp
Patagonian BaseCamp Lodge is located in the midst of a pristine evergreen forest on the banks of the Rio Palena and within easy striking distance of the best regional waters in the area.
When designing the lodge, Marcel had only two things in mind: maximum comfort and as little impact as possible to the environment. The stylish and comfortable building is completely constructed of wood. The roof
alone counts 34,000 wooden shingles. The lodge offers very comfortable private accommodation for a maximum of 12 guests. All of the private rooms are spacious, tastefully decorated and feature en-suite full bathroom with unlimited hot water showers, sink, vanity and toilet. As a courtesy to guests, body soap and shampoo are provided along with plenty of fresh towels and a robe. There is also daily laundry service available at the lodge, which really helps lessen the amount of clothes you need to pack and travel with. Guests have their own private rooms at no extra cost, though at the out camps each tent will have two anglers. The main gathering room features a large central 360° fireplace, bordered by a huge bank of floor to ceiling windows that look out at the Palena River and surrounding mountains. There are plenty of comfortable sofas and chairs to relax in and enjoy a cocktail, pisco sour or glass of wine from the open bar. Other amenities of Patagonian BaseCamp include 24-hour electricity, heated wader/drying room, sauna and riverside wood-fired hot tub.
The food is a mixture of traditional Chilean cuisine with an emphasis on fresh, home-grown, organic vegetables from the lodge's huge greenhouse, local meats, homemade bread and pastries, along with lots of fresh fruit. All of the food is grown or raised on the farm or purchased from local farmers. The master chefs and their attention to detail and tradition along with innovative cooking style is a real treat. They are also very accommodating and adept at cooking any special cuisine, i.e. vegetarians, low cholesterol, diabetes, gluten-free, etc. American-style breakfasts are cooked to order and there is always, fresh fruit, cereals, fresh-baked breads and rolls, along with homemade yogurt and fresh raw milk for those who want the real stuff. Most lunches in the field are served streamside and include wine, beer, hot dishes cooked over an open fire with desserts, fruit, sodas and bottled water.
Marcel's wine cellar is extensive and guests can look forward to fine Chilean and Argentine varietals including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Carmenère, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and others. Marcel also stocks a good selection of spirits that include Bourbon, Scotch, Vodka, Gin, Brandy and Pisco. And finally, a good selection of Chilean beers are always on hand and cold for after a hard day of fishing.
Fishing at Patagonian BaseCamp
The waters surrounding Patagonian BaseCamp hold a very healthy population of brown and rainbow trout.
Trout have not been stocked here for close to a hundred years and the fish have found their own natural balance in numbers and sizes. You will catch lots of wild and strong fish within the 12 to 20 inch range. Fish over 20-inches are caught almost daily and over 24-inches weekly. The lodge
record for a brown trout is 32 inches, and the rainbow trout is 28 inches.
Patagonian BaseCamp is strategically located to access a surplus of rivers, creeks, lakes and lagoons – the fishing options are seemingly unlimited and it would take an entire summer season to see and fish them all. The fishing program will be personalized to the best of the lodge's ability, taking into consideration the prevailing weather, river conditions and other guests' desires. Each evening after dinner, Marcel will sit down and discuss with all of you the fishing options available. It could be a two day float down the Palena, or run to Lago Verde to explore the Rio Pico or Rio Cacique Blanco. Or maybe a horse trek or mountain bike ride to a secluded high-mountain lake where you sight fish to surface cruising browns and rainbows. It's up to you, Marcel and the guides to decide.
Rio Palena (easy to moderate):
This has to be one of the most enjoyable and unique floats in all Patagonia. Depending on your preference, and weather and river conditions, you can fish two long days, overnighting one or two nights at beautiful little riverside cabins complete with two bedrooms (sheets and linens supplied –no sleeping bags), and a full bathroom with flush toilet and shower. The guides cook amazingly delicious dinners over an open fire and you toast the Southern Cross with great wine and stimulating conversation – all the while being serenaded by the whispering of the river and crunching sound of cows and sheep chewing their cud.
The Palena is a relatively large river - about the size of the Lower Sacramento - that offers every conceivable type of water you could possibly imagine. The river is choked with massive logs, root wads and boulders – perfect habitat for wary brown trout to melt into, staging for their next meal. In addition, there are many long stretches of willow-lined banks, gravel bars, slots, pockets, riffles, holes, seams and runs that hold equal numbers of rainbows and brown trout. You can pitch streamers back into the logs and strip like mad, run a dry-dropper rig down the seams or cast hummingbird-sized terrestrials and twitch them into being devoured – it doesn’t really matter; you will catch a ton of fish and experience some of the most remote and beautiful country in Patagonia – all at the pace of the river. The overnight float ends right at the doorstep of the lodge, where you are met by the staff with a cold beer and hot empanadas, followed by a long hot shower and another delicious dinner.
Rio Yelcho (easy to moderate):
Fishing the Rio Yelcho is a lesson in adaptation to an ever-changing fishery. In one instance you will be casting tiny dry flies (size 20 – 26) on 5x or 6x tippet to surface-cruising rainbows in the 20-plus inch class; just around the corner you will put down the finesse rod and grab your 7-weight loaded with a sink-tip tied to a big rubber-legged streamer and hammer the banks and subsurface structure for the big browns that call these haunts home.
Lago and Rio Rosselot (easy to moderate):
After breakfast, your guide will take you to a nearby lake, Lago Rosselot, where he will launch a jet boat to access two rivers: the river feeding the lake, Rio Figueroa, and the river draining the lake, Rio Rosselot. The rivers are very different from each other, and your day will include both dry fly and streamer fishing. A hot lunch will be prepared on the riverbank accompanied by a good Chilean wine. When the conditions are right the shallow water "flats" and shelves of the lake can offer some great sight fishing with dry flies for good numbers of cruising rainbows.
Rio Rosselot (moderate):
The river connects Lago Rosselot with the Rio Palena and is one of our favorites. The first section of the river is pretty calm and loaded with shore structure creating great streamer fishing for large brown and rainbow trout. After about a mile or so, your guide will have you secure your life vest and store your fly rod, as you are going to raft through an exhilarating Class IV rapid followed by miles of amazingly productive and beautiful water for the duration of your float.. You will fish either from the raft, or wading from the gravel bars. Large whirlpools hold cruising rainbows looking for surface naturals or spinners in the foam lines. Brown trout tend to seek shelter at the banks, rock ledges and submerged logs.
Rio Figueroa (easy to moderate):
The Rio Figueroa connects the lakes Lago Verde and Lago Rosselot and there are two separate day floats available to guests. The Figueroa is incredibly beautiful where it winds through canyons and flows over big boulders. It holds very good numbers of fish. And big ones, too. You will mainly be fishing dry flies like Fat Alberts and Gypsy Kings, but you might want to try pulling some streamers off the banks and around structure, as well.
Rio Figueroa "Temple Float" (moderate to difficult):
Marcel's newest outpost camp located on the upper Figueroa allows anglers to fish and float two different sections of the Figueroa, never before fished. The upper float ends at the camp, while the lower float begins at the camp. Both floats are full-day, utilizing 14-foot whitewater rafts. The camp is located just below "Diablo", an unclassified rapid. The name "Temple" comes from the unbelievable "temple-like" rock formations in the canyon you float and fish through. The outpost camp is built on top of wood platforms overlooking the river, and each yurt-like wall tent - "domos" - sleeps two fishermen and are equipped with real beds with comforters, and lavatories with (cold) running water. This is an incredibly unique opportunity to fish and explore water that until now has never seen an angler. It is also a serious whitewater trip and a certain level of physical fitness is recommended. Distance from BaseCamp is about 1.5 hours driving.
Patagonian Adventure (moderate to difficult):
A thirty-minute oxen cart or horseback ride, hike or mountain bike trek will take you to a remote and rarely fished lake high in the Andean Mountains. Marcel has a cool wooden boat stashed on the lake, and your guide will row you around the reed-studded parameter while you sight-cast to fat rainbows and browns chasing and eating dragonflies. The lake is stuffed with trout and all it takes is a tan Fat Albert cast within 15 feet of a fish to bring a savage strike and reeling-screaming run. You often take many trout apiece, with the biggest topping-out in the mid-twenty-inch class, or better. The lake is gin-clear and you will see every single fish eat your fly. And although a lot of fly fishers are not into still-water fishing, this lake might change your mind.
Lago Verde (moderate):
Lago Verde is located in a semi-arid pampas area and is ruled by a very pleasant micro climate. Only 2 hours away from The BaseCamp, the scenery is completely distinct and different. And so is the fishing. The dry and extended grasslands around the rivers are home to thousands of grasshoppers. The winds blow these little critters into the rivers and into the mouths of hungry trout. Hopper fishing at the right time of the year can give you the best dry fly fishing you have ever experienced. And these rivers are also great places for some serious nymph fishing for large trout.
Small Creeks & Tributaries (difficult):
The main rivers in Patagonian BaseCamp's backyard are all fed by many little creeks. Most of them are very difficult to access but can offer surprisingly great fishing. These creeks are hardly, if ever, fished and if you are ready for some hard work and technical fishing, you will not be disappointed. Two of these fine creeks are within minutes of the lodge and well worth the extra effort involved in getting to.
What Makes This Destination Special and Unique?
• The lodge is located in a very remote and visually spectacular part of Chilean Patagonia; you will fish daily on rivers that get almost no outside pressure, in jaw-droppingly beautiful surroundings. Such little pressure on the fisheries assures guests of ample opportunities to cast dry flies over happy and hungry trout.
• Patagonian BaseCamp is custom-tailored to anglers who prefer to float and fish. They have pioneered access to many rivers that can only be fished via boats, and guests cast large foam dries to miles of streambanks that hold large brown and rainbow trout. If your wading days are over but you still like to trout fish, then PBC is the place for you.
• Owner Marcel Sijnesael has built numerous comfortable overnight camps on various rivers, allowing anglers the option to float and fish into a vast wilderness area, overnight in relative luxury far from any civilization, then float and fish out the following day, finding themselves back at the lodge that night. Guests can experience true Patagonia wilderness solitude without sacrificing the creature comforts of a world-class lodge.
• Marcel has spared no expense acquiring the finest (largely Rocky Mountain) guide staff in Chile; along with his impressive fleet of catarafts, rafts, jet boats and drift boat, guests get the benefit of a familiar guide experience, located in an exciting, untouched locale. Anglers will learn techniques from these guides that will serve them in trout rivers anywhere in the world, and never experience a communication challenge with your guide!
• Despite its remote location, the lodge is wonderfully appointed, with large and private comfortable accommodations (double accommodations at the out camps), hot tub, and a sauna. Coming back to the lodge each night is something to look forward to! Guests will sleep in large beds with comfy, padded comforters, beautiful picture windows, and private baths. They even do your laundry as often as you would like. You’ll be royally waited on and in very capable hands…the lodge staff will take care of the logistics of the trip, so all you have to do is fish to your heart’s content.
• Marcel’s trained chefs adhere to a farm-to-table meal plan; the masterpieces created daily are made even better by the fact all the ingredients are local, and many are from the surrounding farm. Meals here are absolutely delectable, and memorable! This is farm fresh food that tastes delicious and is also healthy – don’t plan on losing weight on this trip and don’t miss any meals…you need the fuel for every action packed fishing day.