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Fly-fisherman’s dream: Luxury fishing trip to Chile

The Atmosphere, complete with helicopter onboard, was home base for a fly-fishing trip to Chile. The ship is operated by Nomads of the Seas, which provides luxury fishing adventure trips to Patagonia.

My wife and I recently spent a week on and fly-fished from what can only be described as the ultimate mother ship.

To set the stage, one needs to have an understanding of what constitutes a mother ship. For fly-fishing purposes, a mother ship is any ship where you eat and sleep, then are taken to a place to fish every morning. Therefore, a mother ship can be anything from a single-wide trailer on a barge to the vessel we were on, and everything in between.

We were on Nomads of the Seas’ Atmosphere, a 168-foot ship based in Puerto Montt, Chile. In my opinion, the Atmosphere is what every mother ship hopes to become. To fully describe the Nomads of the Seas adventure would take more words than this column allows. Plus, I need to tell you about the fly-fishing from the Atmosphere, which can be described simply as the ultimate toy box.

First, in an engineering feat, on the back of the ship are arranged boats for fun and adventure. There are four Zodiacs with 25 horsepower motors, a fifth Zodiac with twin-250s, three jet boats of various sizes and more khakis than you count. The pièce de résistance of toys is a helicopter used to ferry guests to far reaches of the Chilean rivers, lakes, glaciers and forests.

Also on the Atmosphere are three hot tubs, a sauna, a masseuse, very comfortable quarters, an attentive staff that outnumbers the guests, great food and wonderful Chilean wines.

All that and fly-fishing, too. While I really don’t like the term “bucket list,” I have to say, spend the kids’ inheritance or college funds, but get to Chile and the Atmosphere.

A typical day begins by meeting on the holding deck for the helicopter. You and your assigned fishing partner for the day are loaded on the helicopter and flown to either a lake or river. The lakes have a clarity of more than 10 feet, and the rivers are crystal clear. When you arrive at a lake, your guide already is there with a drift boat. If you are delivered to a river, your guide is there inflating a river raft.

Then the fun begins. Whether you are on a lake or stream, your guide most likely is going to suggest using a sinking tip line with a really big, ugly fly. Your guide wants you to catch lots of big rainbow or brown trout, and that is the best way to it.

Hard as it is to believe, I threw my guides a curve. I wanted to fly-fish with dry flies, and only dries. The guides had a hard time understanding why any gringo would rather cast dries. We came to an understanding. I would cast dries when they weren’t looking and sinking tips when they watched me. It worked out pretty well – I always was in the back of the boat, so they couldn’t see me.

How did my numbers and sizes compare to those who fly-fished on the dark side? Well, in two days of a betting pool with two other anglers, my two 20-inch browns didn’t come close to winning. I didn’t care. I was in Chile based on a mother ship that moved every night to a new place, giving me new opportunities to lose more of my children’s inheritance.

After a morning of fly-fishing, a picnic lunch, cooked onshore, was served. It included wine or soft drinks on tables with china and linens, accompanied by salad and desert. We then fly-fished until the helicopter picked us up and delivered us back to the Atmosphere. Evening activities started with a nap, followed by cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, then dinner. The evening was capped off with a movie of everyone’s activities edited by the staff while we napped.

After a good night’s sleep, we did it again.

Reach Don Oliver at durango_fishing@frontier.net.

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