THE HOME RIVER, Rio Ñireguao, has proven to be one of the finest hopper-fishing brown trout streams we've ever experienced, with amazing numbers of surface-oriented fish. Testimony to its excellence is the large numbers of clients who return annually.
The Gorroño family opens their ranch to angling guests in early December, welcoming guests over the Christmas Holiday, and fish straight through the end of March. El Saltamontes is exclusively brown trout angling. Most fishing is done in the Ñireguao River and its oxbow lagoons. Some of the best water in the valley is only a few yards from the door of the deluxe lodge. Browns actively feed on grasshoppers and other terrestrials and the grass bordering the stream is loaded with them in January, February, and March. Even the lodge's name, " View more...El Saltamontes" means grasshopper.
The superb lodge is nestled in a beautiful river valley and is luxurious, by any angling standards. Each of the nine guest rooms has private baths, and magnificent views. A small and intimate experience, El Saltamontes allows only eight to ten fishermen and four non-anglers each week of its short season. Constructed completely from local timber and river stones, the furnishings and final touches reflect the Gorroño family commitment to make this the finest fishing lodge in Patagonian Chile. The cuisine at El Saltamontes is nothing short of gourmet. Talented chefs deliver meal after meal of mouth-watering regional specialties, guaranteed to put a smile on your face, and a few inches on your waistline! To accent these dining masterpieces, your host Jose Gorroño has already started stocking the lodge cellar with a fine selection of domestic wines for next season. The final evening you'll be treated to a traditional asado, an outdoor barbeque complete with live, local entertainment.
The trip to the lodge from the States can be made in a single day, but allowing a night en-route in Santiago makes the trip much more comfortable and enjoyable. Balmaceda, the nearby center of the Chilean cattle ranching district, is serviced by direct jet flights from the capitol, and fishermen usually sample the fishing upon arrival at the lodge.
Brown trout, Rainbow trout
Dave Whitlock, widely traveled author, angler and fly designer, himself a legend in fly fishing, wrote after a March trip that, "I've never seen a river so full of big browns that were so totally hooked or spoiled on hoppers, as this place."
John Randolph, editor and publisher of Fly Fisherman magazine, states that the ranch's home river, the Rio Nireguao, is, "arguably the best wild, resident brown-trout river in South America and perhaps the world."
High praise, indeed, from people who have experienced the finest fly fishing on the planet!
The Chilean government has designated the Nireguao as the first study-catch-and-release river in the country. It has been estimated that approximately 9,000 brown trout swim in each mile of the river, a mid-sized stream that is easily waded and ve View more...ry user-friendly. Expert casters often hook large numbers of trout each day, and when the "hopper grab" is on, even novice fly fishers can expect lots of strikes, with a monster fish an everyday possibility. The lodge record is in excess of 14 pounds!
Anglers who have visited El Saltamontes in the past will attest to this remarkable fishing, but recently the program has improved even further. Spearheaded by innovative professional guides and intrepid crew of local and imported guides, the angling opportunities at El Saltamontes have blossomed.
In addition to the home water, fly fishers now have the opportunity to ply pristine off-property waters, fisheries that, for the most part, get absolutely no outside pressure. Our own Pat Pendergast describes a day exploring an unnamed grassy, spring-fed lake that was full of heavy-shouldered 18-20-inch browns. Wading the edges, he'd plop a #6 Chernobyl Ant into openings in the weeds, and watch as huge mouths engulfed his offerings.
Clients report fishing remote spring creeks full of feisty 12-16-inchers, rising eagerly to large dries, as well.
For the angler wanting a challenge, the lodge has found locations that seasonally offer demanding, small dry fly opportunities for chunky browns, as well. The lodge even has rafts and pontoon boats for day trips to local lakes and rivers. Finally, Jose Gorrono has reclaimed nearly two miles of a picture perfect little stream flowing through the ranch. Fishing the miniature, pristine pools and riffles throughout this past season produced encouraging numbers of 10-18-inch browns.
Fishing conditions range from easy to moderately demanding at El Saltamontes – though there truly are few scenarios that accomplished anglers would describe as remotely difficult. The vast majority of the fishing is done with a floating line, with rods in the 4-wt to 6-wt range.
Occasionally, a heavy rain spate may briefly cloud the water, making streamers as effective as dries, but most of the fishing here is done with surface flies, particularly large terrestrials. As in most of Patagonia, breezes range from light to strong - fortunately, the lodge has such a diverse fishing program, there is always someplace to go to avoid the heaviest winds.
THE ÑIREGUAO 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 nearly all of the best off-property water, including some beautiful canyon stretches accessible only via raft. The Nireguao 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 12-18 inches, with specimens over 20-inches available. 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. In addition to the main river, El Saltamontes has a number of outstanding small streams for the adventurous fly fisher - many of which offer nearly virgin fishing. One such waterway flows into a small lake - 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 10-18 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 smallish spring creek flows for miles through the Chilean "Valley of the Moon", with each miniature meadow bank and riffle home to gorgeously-marked browns averaging 12 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.
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.
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 tundra", 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 El Saltamontes, is best described by know guides: "Lago Saltamontes is quite simply awesome. Any angler harboring a prejudice against still-water 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 weed beds, 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 45-minute ride through the native forest to get there.” There is even a beautiful, glass-walled little lakeside cabana on Lago El Saltamontes for fishing couples, or pairs of anglers that would like to wake up lakeside.
The infrastructure of El Saltamontes consists of five independent buildings, all constructed of local river-worn stone and rough hewn logs.
It is the creative mixture of rustic building materials and fine furnishings that lends El Saltamontes Lodge its unique charm. Electricity is produced 24 hours a day on the ranch by an eco-friendly and sustainable, private hydro-electric turbine. 220-volt outlets are available throughout the lodge and cabins but adapters must be used for North American 120-volt appliances and chargers. The water supply is sourced from a pure mountain spring, gravity supplied to the lodge.
The main Lodge, accessed over a sweeping, curved timber deck, is an impressive building with high ceilings and two immense fireplaces. The communal living room is furnished with m View more...agnificent antiques, cozy leather sofas and authentic traditional rugs. The adjoining bar, with its cheery wood stove, offers another option for socializing. It is always open but the focus is more often on fly-tying and card games, rather than the comprehensive array of beverages.
The dining room seats a maximum of 15 people intimately around a heavy, antique table, and a warm fireplace. Set with gleaming candelabra, silverware and crystal, it is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Huge picture windows provide a backdrop of dramatic Andean peaks. The kitchen beyond is always a hive of activity into which guests are welcome. Through the doors waft inviting aromas and friendly laughter and banter from the domestic staff. Although the chef has an array of modern appliances, the big wood stove takes pride of place. If the kitchen is the heart of the lodge, the old wood stove is its soul. A stone’s throw away is a 100% organic vegetable garden, providing the kitchen with fresh greens, salads and vegetables throughout the season.
Hidden discreetly to one side of this building is a spacious guest apartment with a super king-size bed, a single bed, wood stove, living room, en-suite bathroom and river views. Returning guests and couples often request this room for its comfort and proximity. The four guest cabins are all within a short walk from the main Lodge and have river views. Built also of river stone, they are solid, roomy and comfortable. Each of the cabins has two bedrooms, accessed from opposite sides of a cozy living room, warmed by a wood stove. All six bedrooms have recently re-modeled, ensuite bathrooms. Some have twin single beds, some twin doubles and others a mixture of the two. All rooms are designed to accommodate two guests comfortably, but in some instances single occupancy is an option.
Nestled amongst the cabins and woods is a spa. An open air, wood-fired hot tub steams invitingly in the evenings as anglers return following a hard day on the river. Cocktails and nibbles appear spa-side to those guests who choose to soak away the day’s exertions. A hot sauna and a massage room complete the little spa installation.
Just beyond the main Lodge is the “Quincho”, a three-sided building with a huge fireplace. A traditional structure on all ranches, the Quincho allows outdoor dining in sheltered comfort. Every week guests enjoy a typical Patagonian style barbeque or “Asado”, with a whole lamb and choice, roasted beef. Neighbors arrive on horseback to enliven the atmosphere with local music and it is always a memorable night.
El Saltamontes Lodge is situated within the Gorroño family ranch, “Estancia Adelaida”. The River Nireguao meanders through this 5,000-acre property, nestled in an Andean valley, surrounded by dramatic mountains.
Initially, the ranch was dedicated to the production of beef cattle. Jose Gorroño was an innovative grazier and the first in the region to successfully undertake embryo transplants. By introducing fine pedigree Hereford embryos into rustic, local cows, he was able to effectively fast track the improvement of the quality of his herd.
During travels to Australia, Jose and Erica were amazed at the popularity and value of the South American alpacas, both “down under” and in the USA. These docile and intelligent “camelids” produce a luxuriously soft, warm fibre, which is highly valued. The animals themselves have a special charm and there is a high demand for breeding stock.
This prompted the couple to embark on a new venture. They spent weeks on end, scouring the “Altiplano”, in the extreme north of Chile, bordering with Peru and Bolivia, at over 4,500 meters altitude (13,500 feet), purchasing export quality alpacas from the Aymara Indians.
These were vetted and trucked south the entire length of the country, to form the base of what is now the largest single herd in Chile. After building their own quarantine station, the Gorroño´s chartered a DC-8 and exported 300 live alpacas to New York. There, they were exhibited, bred and sold all over the country, over a period of four years.
Back at El Saltamontes, guests are charmed by the numerous alpacas and their babies that graze freely around the cabins. Along the River Ñireguao, large herds of these gentle creatures curiously watch the antics of the fishermen and fisherwomen.
Local Chilean ladies hand-spin and weave the natural colors of the alpaca fiber into beautiful shawls, scarves, throws and clothing, which are available to the anglers at the lodge.
Transfer Service In/Out