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By Ken Morrish

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When our longtime friends Alex and Nico Trochine (who run Kooi Noom) said they were starting up a king salmon program in Chile, we signed right up to be part of their first exploratory season. Four of us planned the trip for mid-February. We flew to Santiago, then on to Puerto Monte and then had an overnight at the fun lakefront eco-tourist town of Puerto Varas. The next day we made a series of long transfers ending up at the “camp” in the early afternoon.  It was a wonderful camp in a spectacular setting and far more developed and comfortable than we had expected.

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We headed out that afternoon for our first session and knowing that the group before us had had a tough go of it, we were both nervous and excited. The river was gorgeous and the fish were definitely there and rolling often. We fished 14ft 9wt rods and we were casting heavy tips, sometimes with intermediate heads, as far as we possibly could.  Not long in to the first session, Nils Rinaldi from Switzerland hooked a heavy fish.

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It is hard to explain how excited we were to see this first fish laying calmly on its side in the shallows. We taped it, lifted it up for a quick image and released it. There were hugs all around and the pressure (for Nils at least) had been lifted. The week was off to good start!

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Bruce and Tom were both into fish their first session as well, so as a host the pressure was to some degree off,  but as an angler it was still on! That night the river rose four feet but it was dropping hard and very fishable in the morning. Conditions seemed perfect but it still took me nearly two full days to get my first strike. This is ,in some ways, the essential nature of Austral Kings. There are lots of fish, and most of them are brand new, but they are finicky and bite only when they choose to.  Were you covering the same number of fish in Alaska you would likely be sore from fighting so many, but here you will work hard for one great fish a day.

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As the week progressed we fished both while wading and from the boat. The river is fairly large and as the week progressed the water continued to drop and clear. Knowing that I was almost constantly covering big fish I began to experiment with really long leaders and small flies. Both proved very effective in the right situations. One of my largest fish was landed on a #8 bonefish fly I tie called a Crab Cake.

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Throughout the week we fished a split day schedule, taking a break from roughly 1-4 PM. Each night we would fish until near dark then head back for drinks and great dinners prepared by our lovely Chilean chef Fracisca. My crew could not have been more happy with the food and general good vibe of the entire crew.

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All in all this trip turned out to be great on all levels. We averaged about five fish per person for the week between 20 and 40 pounds and fish over 50 pounds were landed during the season. Also, the learning curve is still steep so I imagine that the river will be revealing more of its secrets as time goes on.  Spaces are going to be very hard to come by but we have an active wait list that we would be happy to place any and all interested parties on. For more information email Kyle at kyle@flywatertravel.com or call us at 800-552-2729.  Also please check our web page for Austral Kings.

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