Fly-fishing in Patagonia
In the height of summer's swelter, a wintertime getaway is likely the farthest thing from your mind. But six or seven months down the road, when you're already sick of slogging through icy puddles and scraping your windshield, you'll be stoked that you had the foresight to plot a sweet South American escape. Here's the perfect sabbatical: A one-week, fully guided, totally cushy fly-fishing trip to Martin Pescador Lodge in Chile's breathtaking Patagonia region.
Founded by husband-wife duo, Frans (a fly-fishing expert) and Anna (a culinary master) Jansen, Martin Pescador does it right with tricked-out, all-inclusive accommodations that feature amazing chef-prepared meals and some of the best trout fishing in the world. You fly into Alto Palena, Chile, where Frans picks you up and drives to your first stop, the Puerto Cárdenas Lodge. You'll stay and fish the Lago Yelcho region for three days before the whole operation moves down to La Junta Lodge on Rio Rosselot for three more days of fishing. Even if you've never casted a fly rod, no worries. A seasoned crew of English-speaking guides will teach you the ropes – and put you on fish.
Trout aside, the scenery is insane. You'll fish several lagoon-like lakes and rivers that carve through dense, jungle-like forests, all tucked beneath towering, snow-topped peaks. As for the turquoise water, head guide Garrett Blackburn puts it best: "It glows green from a distance but looks 'gin clear' at your feet."
According to Blackburn, who splits his guiding time between Martin Pescador and Bozeman, Montana, where he owns Hooked Outfitting, the big fish are much, much bigger in Chile than in the Western U.S., to the tune of 20-pound rainbows and browns. And because the area has no large predatory birds that swoop down and poach dinner, giant trout aren't afraid to hang out just inches below the water's surface, making them super easy to spot – and upping your chances of a trophy catch. Also, with so many small lakes and streams to explore, the guides can easily cruise you to 20 different spots on any given day, making finding fish pretty much a sure thing.
But remember, fly-fishing is only part of the gig. The luxury lodges are spacious and comfortable, and the food – all locally sourced, made from scratch, and featuring a mix of familiar flavors and South American inspirations – is out of this world. Each morning, you wake up to a full spread of everything from farm-fresh eggs and meats to fluffy waffles to seasonal fruits and granola. Then the kitchen crew packs you a shore lunch – think a stacked Cuban sandwich or Chilean beef empanadas. Back at the lodge in the evenings, you're greeted with cold Pisco Sour cocktails and appetizers before chef de cuisine Melissa Harrison, a past contestant on Bravo's Top Chef, rolls out a three-course dinner with entrées such as wood-oven-fired rib eye and wild duck breast. On two of the evenings, the Lodge hosts asados, which are traditional Chilean barbecues serving up ribs, chicken, lamb, and all the fixings.
As for when during the winter to go, Blackburn says his best fishing weeks shift from year to year, but he tends to catch the biggest trout at the beginning and end of the season (usually December and March). However, the weather is nicest in January and February, the height of the Southern Hemisphere summer. Whenever your pleasure, book your trip now, because each week-long excursion accommodates only 10 anglers.
More info: Trips run Saturday to Saturday; high season is December through April; $5,600 per person; martinpescadorfishing.com.