“We didn’t take no fancy rock-star airplane [to get here]. [Pause.] All right, all right, we did take a fancy rock-star airplane. But we thought about driving. ”
Great summer trout fishing in February
A quarter mile from the Estancia del Zorro-the ranch of the fox-flows a stream my friend Brian O'Keefe calls the best spring creek he has ever fished. This is saying something. O'Keefe, who lives in the Oregon high desert, has made an enviable life of searching the world for great fishing. He has waded with his fly rod in exotic waters from Christmas Island in the middle of the South Pacific to the foothills of the Himalayas.
The ranch is near the town of Coyhaique, Chile. My friend's first morning out, he cast a fly made of deer hair (clipped to look like a mouse) in a bend of the winding Zorro Spring Creek. A brown trout, almost 30 inches long, engulfed it. The stream was full of wild trout. Big ones.
Brian was the lucky guest of a young man named Sebastian Galilea, a successful attorney in Chile, who personally opened the gates to vast family ranches, which are, O'Keefe said, "easier to figure in square miles than acres." Estancia de Zorro alone covers 15,000 acres. The rivers and streams are seldom fished. Now they are open to a select few groups of fly fishers who are able to make the journey to summery South America in the middle of the North American winter.
The trout aren't the only attraction. There are the colorful gauchos with their guitars gathered around fires, the singers inspired by rich red wine and delicious beef and lamb asado. O'Keefe said the memory that most sticks with him was of the day when his adventurous host took him into the Andes. "We stopped and hiked a short distance to the edge of a huge cliff," he recalled. "When the air started to move and a slight breeze came up, large brown objects similar to those on the tops of old buildings hurled themselves like Acapulco cliff divers into the updraft. First one, then five, then 20-all soaring right in front of us."
Twenty condors with 11-foot wingspans "hovered and worked the breeze and gained altitude, but never flapped a wing."