Somewhere during the mid 90s my feeling that I had to change my life became unbearable. I had been working as a manager of a Dutch shipping company for the last years and I felt that I was drifting too far away from my dreams as an outdoor lover and fly fisherman. I wanted to look for another goal in life and I needed another horizon to look at. Finally in September 1996, my girlfriend and I had our backpacks packed with some clothes, a tent and a fly rod. We left with a credit card and a single ticket to South Africa. Since then I travelled through Africa, Asia and Central America for more than a year. I fished in many beautiful waters, caught fantastic fish, met great people and felt very fortunate to be able to do this. I was keeping a diary and wrote articles about my experiences for a European fly fishing magazine. But still I had not found the place I was looking for. By December 1997 I arrived in Chile and from the moment of touching ground, I had the feeling: this might just be it. When I landed my first Chilean trout, I was truly convinced. But when I had pitched my tent on the shores of Lago Rosselot and I was fishing from a small pink wooden boat, which a local farmer lent to me, I knew that there was no way back. The unbelievable beauty of the scenery, the unspoiled nature, the untouched fishery and the endless variety in rivers and lakes, was something I had not seen before in my travelling. After more than a year of searching the globe, I finally found it. Northern Chilean Patagonia would be my new homeland. Three years later, I handed over my shares in my shipping company to my business partner and left again for Chile. But now in search of a piece of property to build a fishing lodge. I was in love with the area around Lago Rosselot. The near-by rivers Figueroa, Rosselot and Palena are amongst the best trout streams of the country. With the help of some local friends, I met the owner of a most amazing piece of land on the banks of Río Palena. With my (back then) very limited knowledge of the Spanish language I managed to come to negotiate with the old man and after a few months I was the proud owner of a small estancia. Being surrounded by evergreen virgin rain forested mountains of which the peaks often are covered in snow and knowing that the river in front of me holds monster size trout, I guess that I was the luckiest man on earth.
The question was, however, not only how to catch these fish, but also how to build a comfortable fishing lodge here in the wilderness. My first concern was to make an entrance to my land and to the location where I wanted to start building. For that I needed to clean a road into the forest and had to build two little bridges crossing a creek. On the property there was a humble little wooden house which was my base for the next year. There was no electricity, drainage system, running water or telephone. Together with a great group of local craftsman we managed to build the lodge in just over a year. Building materials were shipped by ferry from Puerto Montt, chainsaws were the most used tools, oxen charts were used to bring wood, rocks and sand for the building, a 30 feet deep water well was dug by hand shovel, 34.000 wooden shingles were one by one hammered in place, huge hardwood construction beams were lifted by the joined manpower of 8 men. Furniture, staircases, doorframes etc. were designed and made here by hand and limited tools and the rest I do not even want to remember.
But when we finished the building of the lodge in the summer of 2001 and when our first guests arrived I was so proud that I could finally share the beauty of this country. I guess only then I realized how special this part of the world really is. This is how the old world was hundreds of years ago, virgin forests; crystal clear rivers where trout die of old age without ever having seen an artificial fly. And with still so much to be discovered. The location on the bank of the Río Palena, proved to be the best possible I could have chosen. From the beach just below the lodge, our jetboats can cover almost the entire area from the ocean to the border with Argentina. Numerous side rivers and creeks are within easy reach and some lakes are only a short horse or car ride away.
Once our BaseCamp program was well established, we started to add overnight floats to our excursions. After having leased a small property, I was able to buy a mile long river farm on the upper stretches of Río Palena where we built our IslaLeonCamp. The only access to that camp is by water. A challenge of its own as all the building materials were brought in by boat.
In 2008 we added The TempleCamp to our program. On the banks of Río Figueroa we purchased a small property where we initialy had in mind to create accommodation for 4 anglers. Just in 2016 we added a third domo and guide quarters. And just in 2018 we finished our boat house. Now TempleCamp can run almost as a separate operation for 6 anglers.
Are we ever ready? I guess not. I just love it here and our latest development, The Escondido Project, will keep me busy for the next 20 years for sure.