Species - Chile's Yan Kee Way Fly Fishing

Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Chile Fishing Rainbow trout possess a small head and a long body. Related to the brown and brook trout, rainbows have two dorsal fins, the smallest of which is composed of adipose tissue. Rainbows display a bright blue or green flush on their backs, and a silver-white shimmer on their bellies. The middle of each side of the fish exhibits a distinctive longitudinal red stripe. This coloration is typical of the species, but may vary from one trout to another and even disappear in some fish, particularly sea-run rainbow/steelhead.

There is a distinct color variability as rainbow trout near the spawning season. Mature rainbows in particular display a darker and brighter pigmentation. Rainbows are speckled with little dark spots that extend from their tail and fins to their head, particularly above the longitudinal red side stripes.

Rainbow trout are found in almost every river in Chile's Patagonia region and in many of the lakes. Rainbow trout are esteemed by anglers for their combativeness, aerobatics and size. They reach as much 22 pounds in lake environments. They feed primarily on insects, mollusks, crustaceans and fish and readily take dry flies, terrestrials, streamers and nymphs.

Some interesting trivia about rainbow trout habitat:

  • The optimum temperature for the rainbow trout to flourish and grow is between 56° to 70° F. At temperatures above 70° F, rainbows become sluggish and inactive.
  • The minimum amount of dissolved oxygen in the water required by rainbow trout to survive is 5 to 6 parts per million. Rainbows thrive in highly oxygenated waters, from 9 to 11 parts per million.
  • Alkalinity (pH) is another important factor. The adequate range is a pH of 7 to 8. Rainbow trout will not reproduce in an acidic environment (waters with a pH of 6 or lower).
  • Rainbow trout are sensitive to color. Rainbows, browns and brook trout perceive some colors in spectrums which are invisible to humans. Red is one of the colors they perceive more intensely.
  • Rainbow, brown and brook trout are often found deep in the bottom of holes, under banks, or lily pads. On a bright sunny day, cast to these areas and to the shady sides of rocks.

Brook Trout (Salvelinus Fontinalis)

Chile Fishing The Brook trout is the most beautiful of all the trout species found in Chile, and the most voracious feeder.

They are greenish brown, sometimes iridescent, with white and red spots on their backs and upper part of their heads. Their abdomen is pale pink to bright orange or red. A brook trout's color can change and is influenced by the food it eats. Colors are very vivid and pronounced during spawning.

Brook trout feed primarily on insects and terrestrials but also feed on crustaceans, frogs, amphibians, mice, voles and minnows. They strike dry flies, nymphs and streamers readily, to the delight of those fishermen who work a bit harder, trekking or horseback riding to high mountain lakes and streams where they are the predominant trout.

Brook trout require clear, cold waters rich in oxygen, with a narrow pH range (a pH of 8 is optimum) and they thrive in southern Chile's alpine lakes, outlets, and mountain streams. They are the smallest of the Salmonidae in Chile's Patagonia, and only occasionally surpass 4 pounds in lake environments. Six to eight pounds is truly a trophy brook trout in Chile or anywhere in the world.

Brown Trout (Salmo Trutta)

Chile Fishing The brown trout is probably the most popular Salmonidae among anglers in Chile. Brown trout prefer more inaccessible waters, for example under cut banks and log jams that are hard to reach with a fly or streamer. Browns can be unpredictable, elusive and cunning, which can make them challenging to catch. Fishing for big brown trout can be a bit like trophy hunting.

Brown trout can vary greatly in color. In rivers, their backs are darker brown, with a golden brown color on the flanks and a white yellowish tone in the abdomen. They have spots scattered on the body: green and brown on the upper part, and on both sides they mingle with red dots wrapped in pale circles. Larger trout, found in lakes, can be reddish brown with a few spots along the tail, back and head.

Brown trout can tolerate a wider range of temperatures and water conditions than the other trout species found in Chile. Brown trout are found in different kinds of environments, and are the most abundant trout found in Chile's Patagonia. They feed on aquatic and terrestrial insects, larvae, voles, mice, crustaceans and other fish. Brown trout can weigh 35 pounds or more making them the largest in size of all the trout species.

With proper fishing techniques, brown trout readily take a variety of dry flies, large terrestrials, mice patterns and streamers.

King Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Chile Fishing The Chinook or king salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) is the largest species in the Pacific salmon genus Oncorhynchus. The scientific species name is based on the Russian common name chavycha.

Chinook are anadromous fish native to the North Pacific Ocean and the river systems of western North America, ranging from California to Alaska, as well as Asian rivers ranging from northern Japan to the Palyavaam River in the Arctic North-East Siberia. They have been introduced to other parts of the world, including Chile, New Zealand and the Great Lakes of North America. A large Chinook is a prized and sought-after catch for a sporting angler.

Physical Description

The Chinook is blue-green, red, or purple on the back and top of the head, with silvery sides and white ventral surfaces. It has black spots on its tail and the upper half of its body. Chinook have a Black gum line which is present in both salt and freshwater. Adult fish range in size from 24 to 36 in (610 to 910 mm), but may be up to 58 in (1,500 mm) in length; they average 10 to 50 lb (4.5 to 22.7 kg), but may reach 130 lb (59 kg). The current sport-caught world record, 97.25 lb (44.11 kg), was caught on May 17, 1985, in the Kenai River (Kenai Peninsula, Alaska). Some were found dead at well over 100 lb. The commercial catch world record is 126 lb (57 kg) caught near Rivers Inlet, British Columbia, in the late 1970s.


Chinook salmon may spend one to eight years in the ocean (averaging from three to four years) before returning to their home rivers to spawn. Chinook spawn in larger and deeper waters than other salmon species and can be found on the spawning redds (nests) from September to December. After laying eggs, females guard theredd from four to 25 days before dying, while males seek additional mates. Chinook salmon eggs hatch, depending upon water temperature, 90 to 150 days after deposition. Egg deposits are timed to ensure the young salmon fry emerge during an appropriate season for survival and growth. Fry and parr (young fish) usually stay in fresh water 12 to 18 months before traveling downstream to estuaries, where they remain as smolts for several months. Some Chinooks return to the fresh water one or two years earlier than their counterparts, and are referred to as "jack" salmon. "Jack" salmon are typically less than 24 in long, but are sexually mature and return at an earlier age.

The Yukon River has the longest freshwater migration route of any salmon, over 3,000 km (1,900 mi) from its mouth in the Bering Sea to spawning grounds upstream of Whitehorse, Yukon. Since Chinook rely on fat reserves for energy upon entering fresh water. Chinoook salmon eat insects, amphipods, and other crustaceans while young, and primarily on other fish when older. Young salmon feed in streambeds for a short period until they are strong enough to journey out into the ocean and acquire more food. Chinook juveniles divide into two types: ocean type and stream type. Ocean-type chinook migrate to salt water in their first year. Stream-type salmon spend one full year in fresh water before migrating to the ocean. After a few years in the ocean, adult salmon, then large enough to escape most predators, return to their original streambeds to mate. Chinook salmon can have extended lifespans, where some fish spend one to five years in the ocean, reaching age eight. More northerly populations tend to have longer lives.

Salmon, for spawning, need adequate spawning habitat. Clean, cool, oxygenated, sediment-free fresh water is essential for egg development. Chinook use larger sediment (gravel) sizes for spawning than other Pacific salmon. Riparian vegetation and woody debris help juvenile salmon by providing cover and maintaining low water temperatures.

Chinook also need healthy ocean habitats. Juvenile salmon grow in clean, productive estuarine environments and gain the energy for migration. Later, they change physiologically to live in salt water. They rely on eelgrass and other seaweeds for camouflage (protection from predators), shelter, and foraging habitat as they make their way to the open ocean. Adult fish need a rich, open ocean habitat to acquire the strength needed to travel back upstream, escape predators, and reproduce before dying.

Natural range

Historically, the native distribution of Chinook salmon in North America ranged from Ventura River in California in the south to Kotzebue Sound in Alaska in the north. Populations have disappeared from large areas where they used to flourish, however, shrinking by as much as 40 percent. In some regions their inland range has been cut off, mainly by dams and habitat alterations: from Southern California, some areas east of the Coast Ranges of California and Oregon, and large areas in the Snake River and upper Columbia River drainage basins. In the western Pacific the distribution ranges from northern Japan (Hokkaido) in the south to the Arctic Ocean as far as the East Siberian Sea and Palyavaam River in the north. They are consistently present and the distribution is well known only in Kamchatka.

Introduced populations

In 1967, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources planted Chinook in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron to control the alewife, an invasive species of nuisance fish from the Atlantic Ocean. Alewives then constituted 90% of the biota in these lakes. Coho salmon had been planted the year before and the program was a success. Chinook and Coho salmon thrived on the alewives and spawned in the lakes' tributaries. After this success, Chinook were planted in the other Great Lakes, where sport fishermen prize them for their aggressive behavior on the hook. The species has also established itself in Patagonian waters in South America, where escaped hatchery fish have colonized rivers and established stable spawning runs. Chinook salmon have been found spawning in headwater reaches of the Rio Santa Cruz, apparently having migrated over 1,000 km (620 mi) from the ocean. The population is thought to be derived from a single stocking of juveniles in the lower river around 1930.