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Brown trout flourish in the pristine waters of the Estancia del Zorro.
The autor (to and opposite) with the fruit of his labors.

I did scoff a bit at Rodrigo when we approached the creek and he pionted to the little spot where he thought I should drop my fly in the pool. Actually I didn't scoff so much as I laughed. The wind was blowing so hard that seven out of 10 casts hit the pasture rather that the stream. But eventually I plinked one in place, and a flash came off the bank and made my rod dip like a dowser's. The brown was 19 inches long, more silvery that its butter-bellied North American cousins, its flanks less crowded with spots.

Chile is a country that without apology sold its economic soul to Milton Freidman during the pinochet regime. Chile is so pro-free-trade, a fruit industry spokesperson told me, that they have their own IRS -an "Instant Ratification Syndrome," which leads the government to ratify every trade agreement dropped in its lap before bothering even to check how the document squares with Chile's own domestic laws and regulations.

The result is a country whose export model is seen by some as the star of South America in terms of economic stability and the production of wealth, but also a nation that suffers from the ninth worst income distribution gap in the world. (right up there with other "stars" like Nicaragua and war-torn Sierra Leone), a country that enjoys a blistering six percent annual GDP growth and continually expanding unemployment, and one that is rapidly and eagerly transforming large portions of itself into a place that looks just like the stretch of highway between Los Angeles and La Jolla.

Patagonia is a pleasant exception. Patagonia is what it is -and what it is is magnificent, wonderful, fantastico and laced with fish-filled rivers- primarily because there are no roads into the region. Only in relatively recent years has there been regular air service. Bordered along the eastern frontier by the looming volcanic peaks of the Andes, hemmed by fjords on the west, sliced by the Straits of Magellan to the south, and isolated from northern population centers by hundreds of miles of roadless mountain terrain, Patagonia is an inner kindom little disturbed by the busy machinations of the export wizards in Santiago.

Except, of course for the timber trade, in which multinational corpotrations like Trillium and Boise Cascade scalp vast swaths of ancient and rare Patagonia forrest, exporting raw logs in exchange for silt-choked rivers and compromised ecosystems, albeit far from the pesky scrutiny of US conservation groups. or the mining industry, of which firms like Noranda propose building five dams on magnificent rivers to power a new aluminium smelter-far removed from bothersome air and water quality standards of the developed world, Or the aquaculture industry, which provides consumers in Dallas and Pittsburgh with plump salmon fillets, but spares them notice of the toxic chemicals poures into patagonia´s fjords or the degradation of wild ocean fish stocks, five pounds of which are used to produce one pound of farmed salmon.

But eco-tourism -now there's an export sector the fly-fisherman can line up behind. In fact, flyfishing in Patagonia is the region´s biggest eco-tourism activity, and growing fast. Still, anglers log only about 1,500 fishing days in northern Patagonia annually. By conparison, Montana racks up about three million angler-days. Chilean Patagonia is a big, empty place. Fly-fisherman have been poking around Chile for 50 years now, and we´ve only scratched the surface. Folks are just getting around too many of the springs and smaller streams. >>Next Page

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Estancia del Zorro®
c/o Five Rivers Lodge
Plaza 65, Mail Box 419
Coyhaique, Chile
Jay Burgin, Mary Jacques & Sebastian Galilea
56-67-244917 or 56-67-231210
Fax: 56-67-212502

© 2007
Photos by Brian O'Keefe, Sam Talarico, Ben Edmonson, Brent Taylor and Guests
Designed by Manuel Perez Astorga