In Jan 2016 I led one of the first exploratory trips to this extraordinary destination deep in the Chilean wilderness. We entered into an unknown world to tackle a species, I relatively speaking, knew little about. The numbers of fish we landed suggested we had a disaster, although the standout picture of 'our great catch' an enormous, fresh run King Salmon, that must of been close to 50lbs, alluded to the huge potential.
3 seasons of fishing later, there is still much that is unknown about the location, however, the secrets to unlock the means to catch these Kings on a fly are definitely being unravelled. The destination as a whole has matured! In place of a multitude of forms of transport concluding in some jungle marches that would have made Bear Grylls feel uncomfortable, there are now much better logistics both to reach the river and to access the fishing. Jet boats allow much greater access and seasoned guides who have a far far better understanding of the river and the King's provide continuity and experience. The techniques, tactics and means to unravel the 40kms of the accessible river have been refined. As with any fishing where you are after a prize as great as is on offer, the fishing, of course, can remain challenging. However, the chances of catching a fish as enormous as any you are likely to catch on a fly-rod, in surroundings that are a cross between Jurassic Park and Kong Island, make this a destination that will evoke dreams beyond compare.
King Salmon, as with all the salmon and Trout in Chile are not native. They have either been introduced (Trout) or are the result of escapees from the fish farming industry (salmon). Whatever your views on non-native species may be, the original escapee King Salmon have naturalised, are now firmly established within a breeding cycle and now form their own migration that would be the envy of any river
What makes the fishing at Austral so exceptional, is that the river is almost entirely cut off from civilisation and the subsequent threat from over-fishing. Combine this with a mystical glacial green river, outstanding surroundings but above all the huge size of these fresh run King (Chinook) Salmon and you have a fishing destination with few comparisons.
A bright silver King Salmon in the 30-50lb size range is the fishing equivalent of winning first prize! Not everyone will come first on every day, but over the course of one of the prime weeks at Austral Lodge, everyone will have a very good chance of standing on the podium! The length of the fishable water is approx 40kms from river-mouth to the uppermost accessible area.
There is a huge mixture of water to fish, requiring a broad spectrum of techniques. Primarily a swung fly, fished with a fast sinking tip on a skaggit line, is required to get a fly down to the Kings, which typically run in the deepest sections of the river. Most of the fishing is done wading from the bank however there are some areas which are best accessed by boat.
The Austral Kings covers all of the available accessible fishing on the river. Anglers access the river using both vehicle and jet boats. Conditions will dictate where guides suggest anglers focus their attention but with all of the river at your disposal and split between just 4 anglers staying at the camp there is no shortage of variety. For the 2020 season Austral Kings will be the only dedicated fly-fishing operation on the river which will ensure excellent access as well as making use of the very experienced guides who have have been fishing the river since 2015 and importantly passing on its secrets!
There can be few more important parts in a trip of this nature than an experienced guide who understands the ever-changing river as well as the lies, methods and tricks to hook a King, and then the knowledge to help land what must be considered one, if not the most formidable anadromous species of fish you can catch on a fly-rod.
The camp is located immediately opposite the area which provides the best boat access to the upper part of the river, which, incidently is where the best fly-fishing is located. Although you will be staying in tents this is not rough and ready back-packing! This is Chilean 'glamping' at its finest. Guests will stay in two spacious double occupancy luxury canvas tents equipped with comfortable Twin XL beds, chairs, and equipment storage. Guests will use a bathhouse with two bathrooms – each with a shower (and hot running water), sink and flush toilet. All meals will be prepared in the fixed camp kitchen and served in a large dining/lounge tent. While it would not be fair to call this camp five-star, it has been thoughtfully constructed and is very comfortable by camp standards. It is located in the middle of the upper river’s most productive reach in a spectacular setting near the river. The camp accommodates four anglers.
The first salmon enter the river in December and the Austral Lodge season runs from early January well into March. The focus is very much centred on fishing for fresh, bright king salmon, so the lodge stops fishing well before the fish start to show their spawning colours.
We will only be offering the prime weeks for four rods weekly. On every tide new, fresh salmon enter the river — in any given week of the season you will be fishing to a sizeable number of fish. What makes a great week is therefore not based on the number of fish in the river but instead on favorable weather and river conditions. Clear-water and blue skies make for more challenging fishing than when rain or glacial melt add colour to the water. Whatever the case, the river drops and clears quickly; days lost to high, dirty water are rare.
All this is to say: Join us any week in our season that fits your calendar. Chances are you’ll find yourself with a great chance to hook a fish of a lifetime!
The Austral Kings Camp is located in southern Chile in the Los Lagos Region six hours south of Puerto Montt. The location is accessible only by sea or by air. Your journey to Austral Kings begins in Santiago, Chile and from there take a connecting flight to Puerto Montt where guests overnight in a hotel. At 6-7 AM you will be picked up at your hotel and transported to Caleta la Arena to catch a ferry across the fjord, continuing on by land to the port of Hornopiren. From there, a private boat will take you the remainder of the way (~2hrs). Total travel time is 5-6 hrs. Alternatively, a private Cessna 206 charter plane is available with amaximum capacity of 4 anglers (~1hr flight ).
-Fly to Puerto Montt via Santiago in Chile
-Overnight in Puerto Montt
-Collected and transferred to Aerodrom Airport (7-8am)
-Private 30 min charter flight to the lodge
-Settle in and fish lower beats in the afternoon
-6 Full days fishing
-Depart Austral Lodge arrive Puerto Montt approx 12 pm
-Overnight Puerto Montt
-Depart Puerto Montt
The season runs from mid-Jan to mid-March
-Six full days guided fishing
-Full Board accommodation at Austral Lodge
-Wines and Beers at the lodge
-International & Domestic flight
-Overnight accom and expenses in Puerto Montt
-Charter flight $1,000/person extra if booked as a group of 4
The lodge only operates during the prime weeks of the season from mid-Jan to mid-March
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