EL SALTAMONTES LODGE
EL SALTAMONTES LODGE
It wasn’t that long ago when word began to trickle up from the southern hemisphere about the amazing trout fishing to be had in Chili’s Patagonia. Following the few leads that were available we at Wild On The Fly began a search to find not only the best fishing but the best lodges.
Our research paid off when we found El Saltamontes Lodge that is situated on the 5000 acre Gorrono Ranch which located in the Patagonia region of Chile. The lodge sits on the banks of the Nirehuao River that is estimated to be home to 9000 Brown Trout per mile.
The Nirehuao River provides arguably the best hopper dry fly fishing in the world and incidentally, the name of the lodge “El Saltamontes” translates into “grasshopper” in English.
El Saltamontes is situated on the Gorrono Ranch is one of the major producers of Alpaca’s in the world. They also breed horses and beef cattle. The Alpaca’s have free roam and it’s not unusual for you to notice several eyeing you as you fish the river.
Don’t get embarrassed if they seem to be smiling at you after you made a bad cast, as they are born with a permanent smile. Anglers staying at El Saltamontes enjoy the authentic atmosphere of being immersed in a working ranch. Cowboys in goat-skin leggings, ponchos and berets ride by with lean, scruffy dogs at foot.
There is always something going on in the corrals or the barn, from branding to shearing and guests are most welcome to observe or even “have a go” at some of these activities. A stay at El Saltamontes Lodge is an immersion into the Chilean culture and an opportunity to experience Brown Trout fishing that exists in very few other locations in the world.
At a Glance
Target Fish: Brown Trout
Location: 90 km north of Coyhaique, Chile
Seasons: January through March
Lodge Capacity: 10
Nearest Airport: Coyhaique, Chile
Electricity: 220 volts
Documents needed: Passport
The Nirehuao River has been designated by the Chilean government as the first “catch & release” river in the country. Though you only have to take a few steps from the lodge to start catching fish, the lodge has exclusive access to several other waters in the area, so no matter what the weather conditions, the lodge’s guides can find a suitable location to fish. The river is very wadeable so even novice fly fishermen can access the best holding lies.
Each season, each year, week after week, from January through the end of March, the dry fly fishing on the Nirehuao is remarkable and, for the most part, lives up to the outlandish claims made about it. Both novice and expert fly fishermen can expect to experience lots of strikes when the fish are into hoppers, with the possibility of hooking a behemoth “hog” on any cast. The lodge record is 14 lbs.
Since the ranch covers such a large area, each day may present you with a different environment in which to fish. Your guide will be happy to design a fishing itinerary that meets your personal needs. The guides at the lodge are comprised of both North Americans and native Chileans amd they pride themselves on being accomplished instructors, and their ability to find fish.
During your stay you will have the opportunity to fish several of diverse waters, that include rivers, creeks, lagoons and lakes.
The Nirehuao River
Flowing through high desert, the Nirehuao River is reminiscent of high desert rivers that flow out of the Rockies and the Sierras in the USA. The lodge is located right on the river.
Small creeks vary from freestone to spring creeks filled with 12 to 18 inch trout. The creeks get very little pressure so you can imagine the quality of fishing this option presents.
In addition to the rivers and creeks, there can be some great fishing in the river’s oxbows and ponds that dot the ranch. Some of the ranch’s biggest Browns are caught in these stillwaters.
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 favorite is Lago Saltamontes where by using the lodge’s pontoon boats you and your guide can cover most of the lake’s shoreline over the course of the day.
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
Best Fly Fishing Seasons
January through March
The El Saltamontes Lodge compound of four buildings is nestled in a beautiful valley and is luxurious by world standards. The architecture of this recently constructed lodge reflects the rustic location of where it is situated.
The lodge is constructed completely from rough hewn local timber and river stones. The interior décor is first class. At the entrance to the lodge is a wide curved deck where you can kick back, have a drink and discuss the days adventures with the other guests. The large picture windows provide expansive views of the Andes.
The communal living room is furnished with magnificent antiques, cozy leather sofas and rich rugs. The bar, with its own wood stove, is a great place to socialize after a day on the riv. The dining room seats 15 guests around a heavy antique table and a warm fireplace. Gleaming candelabra, silverware, and crystal create a luxurious ambience that is reminiscent of historic royal hunting lodges of Europe.
The three guest cabins are all within a short walk from the main Lodge and have river views. Built also of river stone, they are solid, roomy and comfortable. Each of the cabins has two bedrooms, accessed from opposite sides of a cozy living room, warmed by a wood stove.
All six bedrooms have recently re-modeled, en-suite bathrooms. Some have twin single beds, some twin doubles and others a mixture of the two. All rooms are designed to accommodate two guests comfortably but in some instances, single occupancy is an option. Electricity is available 24 hours a day. 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. Saltamontes remains a small, intimate experience by allowing only 8 fishermen and two non anglers each week of its short season
Among the cabins and woods is a spa where an open air wood-fired hot tub steams invitingly as anglers return after a hard day on the river. Cocktails and nibbles appear spa side to those guests who chose to soak away the days exertions. A hot sauna and a massage room are available too.
Just beyond the main Lodge is the a three sided building with a huge fire place known in Chile as the Quincho which allows outdoor dining in sheltered comfort. Every week guests enjoy a typical Patagonian style barbeque or, with a whole lamb and choice, roasted beef. Neighbors arrive on horseback to enliven the atmosphere with local music and it is always a memorable night.
El Saltamontes' talented chefs deliver meal after meal of gourmet and regional specialties and the owner, Jose Gorrono, stocks the lodge cellar with a fine selection of domestic wines for each season to accent these his chefs' wonderful meals. This superb facility along with the experienced guides and staff, has to rank among the best angling experiences and fullfill's Gorrono's plan: to make El Saltamontes the standard of angling comparison in South America.
On Site Amenities and Activities Include
Satellite TV and VCR
Guests of El Saltamontes usually arrange flights that fly into Santiago, Chile in the morning. After an afternoon exploring the town they spend the night in one of the local hotels and fly to Coyhaique the following morning. Once they arrive they are met by a lodge staff member and are driven to the lodge. Travel time is about 2 ½ hours.
Available fly fishing packages are as follows:
6 Nights/ 5 Days (Sunday - Saturday) $4,150 per person
7 nights / 6 days (Saturday - Saturday) $4,575 per person
Includes: round trip auto transfers to and from the lodge, all meals, accommodations (double occupancy), wine, beer & spirits, fishing license, and daily guided fishing (two anglers per guide).
Not included: air transportation and equipment.