Tag Archives: Fly Fishing near Quito

Fly Fishing Ecuador

Campuchoca Lodge, near Quito, Ecuador

November 10, 2018

I have caught thousands of rainbows in my time, but this one has to be one of, if not the prettiest big ones I have ever caught and released.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those that know me know I have been all over the world through business travel… usually related to Microsoft. So, I always get asked, “What is your favorite place in the world?” and my answer is usually, “The one I’m in at the time. But, I can give you a top 5.” Ecuador is always in my top 5 list. Quito is one of my favorite big cities in the world. It’s at 11,000 feet and nestled into the Andes. Its people and its food are awesome. It’s traffic; not so much. However, what big city can argue being just a few hours drive from total nature in the Andes or the Amazon?
That is one of the many reasons Campuchoca Lodge, near Quito, Ecuador is so special. It’s in the wilderness at 12,000 feet near Cayambe-Coca National Park. And it is still within an hour’s drive of Quito. And it has awesome fly fishing that can excite the beginner as easily as the expert.
This was my 2nd time visiting Campuchoca Lodge and my good friend Eduardo Campuzano who runs the lodge and guides me to 20+ fish days of catching and releasing big Andean Rainbow trout.

Campuchoca – aggressive takes no matter how big the streamer is

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I believe I did a good job of documenting my last experience at Campuchoca in 2016 well here:

Campuchoca Lodge, near Quito, Ecuador


So in this post I’ll try to focus on what was unique this time; and the fly fishing experience; and guidance on how you can do this too when you are in the Quito area.

Compuchoca Lodge is only 30-40 or so miles outside of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. Some of Eduardo’s property lies in the national park. Cayambe-Coca National Park is an Ecological Reserve / nature reserve in Ecuador located along the Equator. When the clouds clear (which they did not for me this time), the world famous, snow-topped Cayambe volcano is within view.

I have never been anywhere that has so many hummingbirds; frequently 10+ at a time buzzing loudly while competing for nectar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, what was the same this time around at Campuchoca was catching a lot of big rainbows and getting my ass kicked hiking at 12000+ feet by a 71 year old. But, I am 20 pounds lighter than my visit in 2016 so I think I held up pretty good; a lot better. It was physical for sure. There is some huffing and puffing. I’m sore today and my back and left arm are killing me from hiking and fighting big wild rainbows – a problem I love to have.
Eduardo picked me up at my hotel in Quito. There was zero traffic because it was a Saturday. Because we were excitedly catching up it seemed like we were at the turnoff into the wilderness in no time. As we drove up the well beaten up 4 wheel drive dirt road to the lodge we noticed a few rises here and there. As is typical, Eduardo was quick to point out that the Solunar Calendar was not in our favor and that I should have come to fish a couple days earlier. He said the exact same thing last time and we still killed.
We had a quick cup of coffee and I wadered up. You really don’t need waders or wading boots at Campuchoca; you never need to go in the water. But, I have fallen in love with my $69 wading pants from bass pro shops…. So much that I tend to wear them more than my $800 Simms Waders. I wear Korkers for wading boots so for Campuchoca I used the interchangeable hiking soles for them.

Is this burly little left-hander from N. Hollywood, CA having fun in the Andes or what?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a quick cup of coffee we got back in the truck and drove down to the water in the lower part of the Campuchoca lodge property. On this part of the property the water is not natural; Eduardo designed and built it. it’s mostly slow moving, but not froggy and it’s connected by a number of small creeks, locks and weirs. Sure enough we got there during a midge hatch and the rainbows were rising everywhere. I have some fantastic size 20 midge dry flies that kill at home (that I did not tie). I asked permission from Eduardo to use them and he granted it…provided they were really small. But the hatch was on and my Winston Boron 2 6 weight was still in the tube. If you are a fly fisherman you know this feeling: you hurry because the hatch is on and you make mistakes. And that is exactly what I did. I made a mistake that took me 3 hours to figure out. I looped the line around the last two eyelets of the rod.
It took forever to get rigged which included having to put on a brand new 5x leader. Sure enough by the time I was ready the hatch was over. I made 3 or 4 casts (that were really awkward and hit the water hard because of the looped line) and got nothin’. Eduardo told me to switch to nymphing and my heart sunk. Then he told me to use an indicator and I was heartbroken. There’s no grasshoppers in the Andes at 12K feet so using a Huck Hopper would have been silly…I think… I kinda’ wanted to try. So, I whined about throwing a bobber and searched for an indicator in my bag. I haven’t fished an indicator in so long it took me a while to find one and it was way too big for the water I was throwing at.

just another big rainbow caught and released at Campuchoca.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, I switched my whiny attitude to a positive: “I’ll tie on two of my own “go to” flies to prove they work anywhere”, I said to myself: a size 18 Huck-Midge Cripple dropped by a size 18 huck-green caddis nymph cripple. My first cast with the bobber went nowhere. I hadn’t noticed the loop in the line and the friction it caused. So, I fired one harder and this time the line shot out of the rod without too much friction straight into a tree on the other side of the river. I lost both flies. Sigh. I went to a single huck midge cripple and didn’t get any takes. That is when Eduardo came at me with a really well tied flashy size 6 streamer in rainbow trout colors. Sure enough I got a viscous strike (that is what wild fish do) on it quickly and I battled a nice 18” female rainbow that jumped a number of times. After “Freddie” (Eduardo’s helper) released the fish Eduardo said, “Well, that took a while.”, with a smile on his face. I thought to myself, yea, I guess that was about 30 minutes before the first take so I said my usual, “Yea, we earned that one.”. We fished streamers the rest of the day.
The morning session before lunch was about the best river streamer fishing I had ever had. And all the rainbows were above 14” in that morning session. I did catch one special fish in that morning session: a huge male rainbow way north of 20” that battled me though numerous jumps. It had a red band so prominent it almost looked like a spawning fish. But, the rainbows in the Andes only spawn once a year in May. It just was a huge beautiful wild rainbow trout.

My favorite part of this big beautiful rainbow is the fishing dogs that served as my audience on both sides of the river while I battled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the water in the lower section is clear so Eduardo typically moves up stream of me a hundred feet or so and spots fish for me. It’s totally fun team fishing. He gets super excited when he sees big fish and now that we are buddies shows intense disappointment with me when I don’t fool them. 😊
Around noon we got back in the truck and headed back up to the lodge for a couple tuna sandwiches (pronounced “ahh-toon” in Spanish), water and a beer. Then we headed up the mountain for the 2nd session in the natural section of the river (which by the way is fed by numerous beautiful waterfalls.

It’s hard not to look up when fishing at Campuchoca. There are waterfalls and animals everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The water in the natural section was not clear. At least it was not this day so we couldn’t do any spotting. There were some slow points, but also some crazy good points of action. At one point I switched out the streamer I was using for a size 10 black marabou beadhead tied with a rabbit strip that I tied. It killed.

Almost like the red-band rainbows of Oregon many of these Andean trout have a well defined red stripe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a point where I was casting 40 feet to an inlet and getting strikes on every cast. It was like 100 fish were lined up at that inlet. The funny thing is I didn’t even notice it. That is another one of the best things about fishing with Eduardo. He tells you where to throw. There’s so much water you could spend the entire day trying to find fish without him. He knows where they are. He is the trout whisperer of the Andes.
All in all, I landed over 20 rainbows over the day. I’m not a counter; that is what Eduardo told me I did. That felt about right. Since I was streamer fishing I bet I had 40 takes where I didn’t hook the trout. That ratio (one landed for every 2 misses) is also about right, especially if you are using barbless hooks like I was.

the fireplace at Campochoca Lodge in the living room. many a crying funny story has been told here with cocktails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you find yourself in Quito and want to fly fish (whether you are a total beginner-Eduardo will teach you or an expert) you really do owe yourself a visit to Eduardo at Campuchoca. To top it off it’s inexpensive; especially if you compare the equivalent to fishing guided at a lodge in Montana. Actually, Campuchoca is ridiculously cost effective; like a fraction of the cost when compared to Montana.

Eduardo will custom tailor a visit for you that can include any or all of the following:
• Full or ½ guided days of fly fishing for wild rainbows in the Andes that not only includes an expert guide like Eduardo, but a “boy” who pulls your flies out of the trees and releases the fish for you. It’s such “spoiled” fly fishing. This in itself is a bucket lister for any fly fisherman. But it gets better:
• Custom cooked, arguably gourmet meals, in any combo of breakfasts, lunches and dinners. We enjoyed the back strap of a white tail that Eduardo harvested himself for dinner on this night. Any hunter knows how special that is. It was so good, I actually thought it was a filet mignon (cow) before Eduardo straightened me out.
• Fine wines, beer and custom cocktails like Eduardo’s “signature cocktail”, the “Sole Sombra”, which served “up”, ½ pinchon (kind of like the Ecuadorian version of absinthe) and brandy. They are so good I bought a bottle of Pinchon in duty free so that I can make them for Kelly and me.
• Nights in 1 or 2 bedroom suites in the lodge. The lodge is not a cabin. These are super nice, 5 star level suites with all the appointments. Some of the rooms have stunning views of the Andes.
• Plenty of options that are not fly fishing like horse back riding, bird hunting, target shooting, hiking, trail running, bird watching, and, of course, visits to the national park. So, although I haven’t done it yet, having my wife Kelly join me at Campuchoca for a long weekend is definitely going to happen and would be a great weekend for any couple.
• Pick up and drop off from your hotel in Quito or the Quito airport.

the bar at Campochoca Lodge where Eduardo makes his infamous Sole Sombras

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since writing that first post on Campuchoca in 2016 I have been contacted by numerous people on how to plan this. The number one complaint I get (actually only from Americans) is how much difficulty they have in making contact with Eduardo. This has everything to do with that fact that Americans not only do not use Whatsapp, but most don’t even know what it is.

The rooms in the lodge are beautiful, 5 star level suites with all the appointments. Some of the rooms have stunning views of the Andes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, here is your guidance to arrange a trip to Campuchoca easy:
How to fly fish Ecuador when in the Quito area at Campuchoca Lodge:
You need to contact Eduardo in one of 3 ways starting from the most effective to the least effective:
1. Whatsapp – It’s an app that runs on your phone or computer that is the dominant way of communication in Latin America. Install it. Add Eduardo to your contacts in Whatsapp by his phone number: +593 99 973 6205
2. SMS – text Eduardo by his phone number: +593 99 973 6205
3. Email – send Eduardo an email at: EduardoCampuzano767@gmail.com
4. Call him on his mobile phone: +593 99 973 6205

Eduardo does not live at the Campuchoca lodge. He lives in Quito so once you make contact with him he is very responsive.  And yes, he speaks beautiful English.

I should not have to say this, but there is no cell signal at Campuchoca so when he’s there he will be out of contact on his phone. And even if they did stick a big ‘ol ugly cell tower on that mountain it would not work. The cellular band ceases to exist at about 12K feet. But, he is very good about getting right back to you if you leave him a message.

Here’s a great video of Campuchoca from a drone on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=261&v=Qnl9h5M4jro

Campuchoca has a web site: http://www.campucocha.com

Have fun at Campuchoca. Email me a full report.

Campuchoca Lodge, near Quito, Ecuador

December 4th & 5th, 2016

The Rise of the Andean Rainbow Trout

The Rise of the Andean Rainbow Trout

Check off another bucket-lister: The Andean Rainbow Trout.  My fly fishing adventure above 13K feet in the Andes Mountains outside Quito, Ecuador has to be one of the top ten most interesting, physically challenging and adventurous I have ever done.  And those who know me, know that is a bold statement.

Eduardo Campuzano, leading me to a spot at Campuchoca

Eduardo Campuzano, leading me to a spot at Campuchoca

Through an internet search I found the Campuchoca Lodge and I now have a friend for life in its owner, Eduardo Campuzano.  Eduardo is a super smart, 69 year old stud; almost retired civil engineer with a water resources specialty from Quito.   And he is a genuinely great guy.  And he has built quite a lodge and trout ecosystem for C&R fly fishing in the mountains above Quito.  The Andean Trout is not native to Ecuador.  It was brought in some 100+ years ago and thrived in the cold mountain rivers.  Since there is no fish above 10k in South American rivers there is no significant environmental impact, if any, to having trout there.  And thrive they have – these fish fight like hell; they are wild and they jump…a lot.

Campuchoca Rainbow Trout are jumpers when hooked

Campuchoca Rainbow Trout are jumpers when hooked

I have to tell you I had an absolute blast in the 2 full days I got to stay at Campuchoca.  And it wasn’t all about the spectacular fly fishing.  The food is awesome and the lodge is shockingly nice; certainly much nicer than my hotel in Quito.   The late night discussions of politics, religion and sports with Eduardo were so fun.  But, what is so fantastic about Campuchoca is the miles and miles of private wilderness and trout water.  And the specular scenery of the Andes above 12 thousand feet.

Eduardo Campuzano behind his bar at the Campuchoca Lodge

Eduardo Campuzano behind his bar at the Campuchoca Lodge

Eduardo and I talked a number of times in email and Whatsapp before I arrived in Quito, Ecuador where he picked me up at the airport.  With only 4 hours of sleep I was in a daze as we drove out of Quito up into the mountains where Campuchocha is located.  Once on property it’s a series of rain torn dirt roads on Eduardo’s expansive property, going at least 10 square miles in my estimate.  There are waterfalls in all directions. Eduardo’s biggest and most prolific problem is the poachers that sneak on to his property at night to bait fish, kill and sell the trout to local shops.

There are hundreds of waterfalls, large and small, at Campuchoca

There are hundreds of waterfalls, large and small, at Campuchoca

Some of my fly fishing was done in Cayambe-Coca National Park, only 30-40 or so miles outside of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador.  Some of Eduardo’s property lies in the national park.  Cayambe-Coca National Park is an Ecological Reserve / nature reserve in Ecuador located along the Equator.   When the clouds clear, the world famous, snow-topped Cayambe volcano is within view.

Cayambe-Coca National Park, some of which is on Eduardo's Campuchoca Property

Cayambe-Coca National Park, some of which is on Eduardo’s Campuchoca Property

After a great handmade breakfast at the lodge, my fishing day started out in the lower streams on his property.  Eduardo warned me it would be a poor fishing day.  He uses an app on his phone to predict the fishing success based on the solunar tables and the barometer, etc.  Well, within 10 casts I hooked up 3 times and landed a nice trout.  That is how Eduardo defines poor fishing: You don’t catch a trout on a dry every cast.

Another football sized Andean Rainbow caught at Campuchoca

Another football sized Andean Rainbow caught at Campuchoca

That first day, even though I was on 4 hours sleep and at 12.5K I was excited and doing well.  But, man could I feel that altitude.  As we hiked I was having trouble keeping up and getting my ass kicked by a 69-year-old.  Eduardo knows his rivers and lakes.  He told me where to throw it and how to fish in every spot.  And he was always right.  BTW, I did not fish with an indicator the entire time.  Eduardo would have nothing to do with that.  Most of the time I nymphed the traditional way without an indicator: on a dead drift in the current or little strips in the frog water.  I need to do that a lot more often; if not always.

Lunch time was a tuna sandwich, coffee and water.  There were a couple beers available, but I felt so horrible because of the altitude I just couldn’t do it.  I know, I know…. So not like me.

Eduardo Campuzano, owner of Campuchoca Lodge showing off one of the Andean Rainbows i caught

Eduardo Campuzano, owner of Campuchoca Lodge showing off one of the Andean Rainbows i caught

We saw sporadic rises throughout that first day, but not enough for Eduardo to command the switch.  But, at the end of the day the rises picked up and I picked up a few Andean Rainbows on the dry.  What a great first day!  We sundered back to the lodge at dusk to watch the hundreds of hummingbirds do their thing.  And it got cold quickly at 12,500 feet.

The Long-tailed sylph, a huge hummingbird with a hugely long tail. tons of these bad boys and more hummers hang out at Campuchocan

The Long-tailed sylph, a huge hummingbird with a hugely long tail. tons of these bad boys and more hummers hang out at Campuchocan

Dinner at the lodge that night started with a light soup that you put popcorn into.  I guess that is common in Ecuador.  It hit the spot. After dinner Eduardo made a cocktail I now have to try at home.  I have forgot the name and can’t find it on the internet, but it’s equal parts of fine Spanish Brandy and Absinthe.  As you’d imagine there was a lot of “Trump talk” after that cocktail.

Eduardo with the Campuchoca Lodge in the background

Eduardo with the Campuchoca Lodge in the background

The Campuchoco lodge is really nice.  The bed was awesome and it had electric blankets.  Yes, two of them.  And my god it was cold that night.  just getting up to pee in the middle of the night sent my body into shivers.

Day 2:

On day two Eduardo and the young guides (that had showed up to take another couple from Melbourne fishing) told me it was going to be a lot tougher fishing.  We were to fish higher locations and they said you have to work harder for hook ups up there.  They were right.  It’s not like I wasn’t catching fish, but I sure was working really hard for not a lot in the first part of the day.  And unlike the first day we saw no rises at all.  I wasn’t getting frustrated; the altitude was sucking the life out of me and I was getting my ass kicked by a 69 yr old again.

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One of the many lakes above 13k feet at Campuchoca where Eduardo has stocked rainbow trout fry and they have reproduced and thrived.

After another quick tuna sandwich lunch Eduardo made the call: “We are going up to the lakes.”.   This was not part of the plan; we did this because the fishing was slow.  I really didn’t know what I was in for at the time, but this was one of the adventures of the trip I will always remember.  My guess is it took 45 minutes to climb another 1000 feet on the washed out / crazy ass dirt roads up to 13,500 feet where the lake was that eduardo was targeting.  I learned later that Eduardo and his ~26 year old friend Daniel (“like a son to me.”) stocked that lake with rainbow trout fry they actually caught with fly rods on size 22 nymphs!  Then, with an aerator and a cooler full of cold Andes Mountain water they transported the baby trout to the lakes…where they thrived.

Looking down from 13,500 feet into the valley and the Campuchoca Lodge

Looking down from 13,500 feet into the many lakes and rivers in valley and the Campuchoca Lodge

Well the small lake was overgrown with chaparral and steep on all sides and the wind was blowing.  I only had my 4wt (my “Tommy”; a custom made TFO BVK made for me by my buddy Tom Young in Colorado Springs) with a floating line with me; I really needed a 6 with an intermediate sink.  And I was giving it all I had trying to double haul into the wind and casting over the wrong shoulder to avoid my weighted black wollly bugger from hitting me in the head.  After 20 or 25 casts and strips back, which included 2 or 3 fouled casts stuck in the chaparral behind me, Eduardo said, “You need more weight to get down.”.  I had become accustomed to Eduardo always being right, I just knew I had to make a change to pull it off.  Prior in the day I had lengthened my leader with 5x to 10 feet so I knew I couldn’t add weight and still cast.  Since I was just streamer fishing I decided to cut off that extra 7 feet and go with a stout 3 foot leader.  That was a godsend for casting.  And sure enough boom!  I got struck hard by a big fish.  I strip set on him and he jumped high.  I knew I didn’t have to dainty him so I muscled him 10 yards or so with him jumping like crazy to a place on the lake I could land him.  After the trophy shot, I said to Eduardo with a smile on my face, “We earned that one.”  He shot back with a smile on his face, “I told you, you needed more weight.”   I was really pleased.solely to make Eduardo pleased.  I’ve caught a lot of big trout in my time, but some of them are special.  That one was special.

the burly little left hander at 13.5k feet with a big football sized Andean Rainbow

the burly little left hander at 13.5k feet with a big football sized Andean Rainbow

We ended the day in some really small lakes right by the lodge I had not fished yet.  I hooked and landed a few before the late afternoon rain set in (just like the rockies) and we retired to the lodge for an awesome dinner of wild deer killed and caught by Eduardo on his property.  Yes, they have deer, cougars, bears, wild dogs, rabbits; everything but moose.

Another big Andean Rainbow Trout caught and released

Another big Andean Rainbow Trout caught and released

If you are a C&R trout fisherman and find yourself in the Quito, Ecuador area I strongly recommend the Campuchoco lodge.  It’s only 45 minutes from the Quito Airport.  Eduardo will take care of you.  Contact him at:  ecampuzano@andinanet.net