Salmon are here to stay

Editors Note: The following is from Issue 7
 
By Rodrigo Sandoval
 
  "I went for nearly an hour casting my flies, trying all types and colors, without getting anywhere. The cold outside was beating me back little by little, so I decided to do five more casts and move elsewhere. Throwing a shooting line requires some getting used to, which during this fishing season I had not yet mastered, but it seemed the best choice to achieve adequate depth at this spot."
 
"I was finishing the third cast, when I felt a pull.  Instantly, the adrenaline I felt made me forget about the cold, but when raising the rod two times it appeared that the fly was stuck at a point near the bottom of the water. I immediately thought of the trunk or rock that was about to make me lose one of the most beautiful flies I have, a fly that had taken so long for me to tie during winter.”
 
"I tried changing my position, to see if a pull in another direction could free up the fly, but after renewed attempts it seemed as if the trunk had moved upstream. So I pulled again, lifting the rod, but again, the trunk inexplicably moved a few meters more. Finally, just a second after I understood what was really happening, the water exploded and the tension in the rod changed drastically, together with the squealing of my reel."
 
Fishermen in Chile have become used to finding salmon in rivers like the Toltén, Petrohué, Puelo, among several others, so stories like the above have become more commonplace. However, the presence of salmon in this part of the world is somewhat recent, only becoming a significant presence during the last few decades. Salmon have arrived here not only due to efforts to cultivate salmon during the first half of the 20th century for enhancing sport fishing, but also because of the salmon farming industry, which has developed at an intense pace since the late 1980s in Chile, including in some cases using freshwater methods, wherein they opt to harvest just a small percentage of salmon that return years after natural feeding in the sea.
 
Today, the great majority of salmon specimens that have adopted the Patagonian waters as their home are descendants of these first efforts to introduce salmon, with the population further expanding in numbers after the occasional escapes from countless salmon farming cages found from the fjords near Puerto Montt, to the canals of the Magallanes region in the far south.
 
Among these species, the most common type are the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), also called king salmon. The first two, along with rainbow trout, are the most exploited species by the fishing industry today. The coho and the chinook belong to the group of salmon found in the Pacific region, which, unlike Atlantic salmon, die after spawning. Although these species are the most common, there are other species such as keta and sakura, which were released in the waters of the Aysen region as part of a free cultivation technique called "ocean ranching".
 
Every fly fishing season, especially in the last few months of the season, fishermen aspire to snag one of these giants. Chinook runs are found as far north as the Toltén River and its tributary, the Allipén River. The Atlantic salmon go up the Maullín River. The runs of Pacific salmon can be seen in the Petrohué River and its closest river, the Puelo. As well, they run in the nearby tributaries of the southern channels. Sometimes they go up the network of tributary rivers arriving as far as the border with Argentina, such as the waterfalls of the Espolón River in Futaleufu. Further south, the Aysen River, Mañihuales River and the lower section of the Baker have their regular visits.
 
In the Magallanes region, there are diverse, small rivers in Tierra del Fuego which have recently been receiving migratory visits from the family of Pacific salmon. This population promises only to grow greater in numbers with the increasing salmon farming concessions operating in the surrounding area.
 
The wide distribution of the fish, together with the continuing presence of the salmon farming industry, will assure the survival of this species in Patagonia for a long time to come. As such, fishermen would do well to learn to understand their cycles and their preferences for flies.