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 backcasting, 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 hard cores that want to put in an extra hour or two before sundown!
Outside the Ranch
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. Wonderfully, we continue to find new ones every year!
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 Nireguao 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
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, Lago Saltamontes, is best described by guide David Burger: “Lago Saltamontes is quite simply awesome. Any angler harboring 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 weedbeds, 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.”