By Montana Angler Fly Fishing
Day 2:
This was my first day of fishing and I was excited to get out on this legendary river that I had heard so much about. I was encouraged by the clear waters, only a few days before the river was running milky white and was above the banks. I teamed up with Randy and Brian McKight to try our luck on the Limite float. The waters were already dropping but still very high. It reminded me of the Yellowstone at about 10,000 cfs when we first start fishing it (although it was probably closer to about 20,000cfs). We started in a wide riffle on the Argentine border. The guys dropped me off for some wade fishing which felt great after a few days of sitting on airplanes. This was one of the few places on the river where it allowed wading at these high flows and I was wading in waist deep water that just a week before was a high and dry gravel bar. I had several good hookups and managed to land for or 5 trout all on a large black beetle. Even in the faster water the rises were slow and deliberate. The ferocity of these trout on the reel was amazing - they are some of the hardest fighting trout in the world and even a 17” rainbow will make blistering runs on 3x tippet across the river.

Before lunch we floated down to the “aquarium” which is a large eddy/backwater where a smaller channel joins the main river. The big rainbows in the Futaleufu love this kind of water. It is hard to describe this type of habitat if you haven’t fished a really big volume trout river. The only other places I have seen trout behave this way is on the Yellowstone and Missouri in Montana and the Tongariro in New Zealand. These holes are often 15-30 feet deep and the fish are completely interacting exclusively with currents and not the bottom or shore. These current features pulsate and change and fish suddenly disappear and then show up 30 seconds later in a different location. They produce site fishing at its best and you must first get a visual on a trout and then make an accurate cast to lead the fish. The calmer the water the farther you need to lead the trout. In nervous water leading by 4 or 5 feet is enough but in glassy currents leading by 10 or more feet may be necessary. These trout seldom get hooked but the gin clear water results in spooky trout that are picky about presentation. If there is any drag they will nose the fly but not take which adds to the drama and excitement. When the fly is properly presented they almost always eat it even if it is a large terrestrial pattern. My favorite fly of the day was the gaucho which is a black beetle style attractor with an elk hair down wing for visibility. After lunch we hit one or two more productive eddies to site cast and then pulled streamers in the bigger water below. The river was still up so the water between the big eddies was tough to fish and mostly unproductive. By the end of the day Randy and I had netted about 15 trout between 15-20” - mostly high quality hookups on dries while sight fishing!

Bryan and Anthony stayed with Royce for day two. After a long night of strumming the guitar and enjoying the local brew “Escudo”, Bryan opted for a few extra zz’s in the morning while Bryan and Royce explored the upper reaches of the home waters. This float is completely isolated and the Futa guides have the only access. You start in front of the lodge and slowly eddy hop for about a mile up the river. Anthony had a great morning stripping streamers and site casting dries in had about ten trout to the net by lunch. Bryan joined in after lunch for the float down to the McKnights house on the other side of the river for the takeout. The lower waters were still high and produced slower fishing both guys got a few more fish into the net.

Day 3
All four of our Montana Angler team headed for the lower Futaleufu just above Lago Yelcho on day three for the “McCall” float. This is big water with big scenery. The climate quickly changes and the forests are lush temperate rain forests with towering mountains filled with hanging glaciers. Magical is the best word that comes to mind when attempting to describe the scenery. Most of the day our heads were on a swivel as we tried to take in the overwhelming beauty of our surroundings.

I teamed with Anthony and Royce and Bryan and Randy fished with Brian McKnight. This is streamer water at its best and we pulled out the seven weights with T-250 sink tips and lead eyed rubber legged streamers to go after the big boys. In the gin clear water you can see your fly to depths of 10 or 15 feet. I opted for a white version of my home cooked “Home Wrecker” which is a big rabbit fur concoction with lots lead and rubber legs. The white color helps to see the fly which allows you to guide it over logs and into troughs. The amazing facet of stripping streamers on the Futa is that you see the trout rocketing toward your fly from up to ten feet away. Sometimes they do figure eights around the fly then chase it and leave just to come back from 15 feet for a big eat. We had some hookups where the trout followed the fly for at least 25 feet before eating! On some instances they would grab and not get hooked and we would recast and seal the deal. After warming up on some nice 17” bows Anthony connected with a reel testing 20” brown that finally made its way to the net. Just before lunch I connected on something huge that schooled me in some big currents...exciting stuff!

Randy had the hot hand of the day and seemingly every time we looked over at our friends in the other boat his rod had a deep bend in it. Bryan and Randy stopped at a few inside corners on riffles to put a lot of fish in the net. After lunch we spent a half hour or so in our boat fishing a giant eddy where the El Malito joins the Futaleufu. We spotted about a dozen rainbows cruising in the foam and managed a few hookups on dries sight casting. Anthony also tagged a nice 15” colorful brook trout just above the confluence that probably came from the Malito. All in all a great day with some very nice trout to the net.

Day 4
This was Randy and Bryan’s day for the home waters in front of the lodge. Randy spent the morning solo and repeated Anthony’s success from the previous day with Royce on the upper waters eddy hopping. After lunch Bryan jumped on board and they floated the lower section of the home waters which produced a few more fish on streamers.

Anthony and I fished the very special Poson de los Reias on this day. The water had been dropping and the river was gin clear when we fished it. The drive in is worth the price of admission as we travelled overland across a private estancia across open fields. After dropping over a steep hill the river appears and you feel like you have been transported into a secret fly fishing haven. The massive rapid thunders at the head of the pool. This is by far the largest eddy that I have every seen in my angling career. The fishing was good from the beginning and we had a blue bird day which made locating the trout easier. Fishing the Poson is like a combination of bone fishing and stalking trout in New Zealand. The complicated currents slowly shift and trout suddenly appear moving just below the surface. In some ways it reminds me of fishing the gulpers at Hebgen lake except at in Montana you usually just see rises and not the hole trout. The waters are so clear on the Futa that it seems like these big rainbows are levitating in air. The midge hatch was on shortly after arriving and we were rewarded when we made long and accurate casts with a delicate presentation. The key was to get enough lead time so the fish didn’t spook and still have enough of a drag free drift when the trout arrived at the fly. Because of the subtle currents the trajectory of the trout was easier to predict than on a lake where cruising fish are more random. These fish are just like wild trout in New Zealand in that they are not too picky on the fly pattern as long as there is zero drag. They are also spooky like New Zealand trout and I had several big fish scurry off when they saw my bright green fly line in the air while false casting - I wished I had my drab olive spring creek lines for our day on the Poson. Even with the challenges we had plenty of hookups and average one or two eats per lap around the massive lake like backwater. We also had plenty of moments where are targeted fish moved for our fly just in time for ever so subtle drag to set in which produces a casual refusal at the last second. The great thing about these wild trout that rarely if ever see flies is that they seem to always give you another chance. Even if at trout eats and doesn’t feel the sting of the hook you can almost always get them to eat again by making a better cast or changing a fly. What an amazing place! By the end of the day we put about 15-20 trout in the net - each a very high quality fish that was targeted in advance; by far the ultimate fly fishing experience in my book.