Anglers dream of ideal trout-fishing: a luxurious setting with handsomely proportioned trout dimpling the surface of every nearby water, a fine meal to greet the end of a day of catch-and-release fly-fishing, a worn and comfortable seat next to an even warmer fireplace, and a pillow-soft bed to recharge for the next day.
These pleasant images don’t have to remain mere dreams. Such places actually exist and, all amenities aside, the fishing couldn’t be better! Next time you’re hunting for a vacation spot to unwind, these are a few of the places your spouse wouldn’t mind unwinding with you.
Swan Valley, Idaho
The South Fork begins at the discharge below Palisades Dam and wends its way through breathtaking Western scenery. Guests cast to three species of trout along 65 river miles of world-class fishing.
Regulations require the release of all cutthroat trout 8 to 16 inches in length. Browns from 4 to 10 pounds are numerous in the South Fork, which recently produced the 32-pound state record. Cuttbow hybrids, shaped like footballs and with the tenacity of NFL linebackers, are more than willing to take flies.
Early-season fishing in a normal water year means tossing streamers, Super-Xs, and stonefly nymphs in mid-June. Stoneflies signal the arrival of summer fishing by late June. July brings warmer temperatures and the arrival of one of the South Fork’s most spectacular hatches, the salmonfly. But you’d better hurry: The visit of this 1-1/2- to 2-inch insect is short, lasting a mere two weeks or so, and trout feed on them ravenously.
Large golden stoneflies are brownish/yellow and can also be on the water in July, although they don’t appear in large concentrations. Match their pattern to fool trout that are wise to salmonfly imitations. Another stonefly – possibly a mutant golden stone or a reproducing species; we’re not quite sure – appears on the South Fork from mid-August to late September and is best matched with the Chernobyl Ant. You’ll find the usual array of caddis and pale morning duns throughout summer, and grasshoppers late in the season.
South Fork Lodge contains a full-service fly shop where guests may rent equipment or purchase rods, waders, flies, leaders, fly lines or other gear. Experienced guides instruct fishers of all ability, with an emphasis on providing the type of instruction the customer desires.
Hiking and nature photography are popular pastimes for those who simply want to relax. The energetic can ride horses or mountain bikes, or golf in nearby Jackson Hole. Winter visitors enjoy the lodge’s 40-km Nordic ski center and snowshoe excursions.
South Fork Lodge was built because of Mark Rockefeller’s love of the Swan Valley. The lodge’s exterior design resembles the architectural landscape along the river where farmhouses, barns, elongated storage sheds and grain silos are common. The lodge is constructed of cedar and logs with silo-like forms enclosing the living and dining rooms. Interior materials include cedar ceilings and wainscots, knotty alder doors and trim, and wide-plank fir floors. The central gallery is framed with lodgepole pine and large, rough-sawn beams.
Eighteen elegant rooms have views of the river. Eight main lodge rooms feature private terraces, and two rustic log cabins contain five rooms each. The cabin rooms offer fireplaces, kitchenettes, luxurious bathrooms and private decks or balconies. Some rooms connect to accommodate larger groups.
After a day on the water, guests return to sample exquisite cuisine in the lodge. An international chef performs from a menu that offers such variety as pan-seared scallops with foie gras and citrus zest or pheasant-stuffed Carolina quail with baby greens for appetizers. Typical entrees include Canadian walleye in pecan meal with orange buerre rouge and fingerling potatoes, or pan-seared Alaskan halibut, grilled pacific tuna, double-cut pork chops, upland duck breasts, and tournedos of Kansas beef.
Fishing opportunities are diverse and numerous. Guests can cast to trout on uncrowded freestone rivers and streams flowing from the Uinta Mountains, fish the lodge’s private ponds, or arrange a float trip on Utah’s fabled Green River.
The freestone flows all originate from the south face of the Uintas, and include Rock Creek, the Yellowstone River, Lake Fork River, Strawberry River, the Duchesne River, among others. The trout inhabiting these waters are as diverse as the streams themselves. Rainbow, brown, cutthroat and brook trout are found here.
Interested only in trophy fishing? The larger trout, logically, are located in the lower sections of these flows; smaller but more plentiful trout reside in the upper reaches.
Fishing success is so exceptional that Falcon’s Ledge offers a money-back guarantee to any guest who doesn’t find a trout on the end of his or her line. (For over 10 years of operations no guests have requested a refund.)
Typical hatches on these freestone streams include stoneflies, mayflies and caddis. Terrestrial fishing can be very rewarding as summer progresses and is especially eventful from July and extending into September, pending the onset of fall temperatures.
The stillwaters of Falcon’s Ledge are typically approached from the vantage point of a float tube. Rainbow, brown, brook and cutthroat trout join the trophy-sized Donaldson steelhead in these waters. Callibaetis and damselflies are abundant in these waters and provide superb dry-fly action. Fishing season begins April 1 and extends until Nov. 15.
Guides are well trained and capable of accommodating anglers from novice to expert in ability. A full assortment of equipment is provided for guests who need it, and a fly shop offers anything a visiting angler might need to purchase. Flies and leaders are provided as part of the package; lunches are also included.
Falcon’s Ledge Lodge contains eight luxury rooms and one family/staff room designed to accommodate a family or small business group. Rooms vary from containing one queen-sized extra-long bed to queen-sized and extra-long single bunks; extra beds are available. Televisions and video players are not inclusive but may be provided. An outdoor deck and hot tub are also
part of the accommodations.
Falcon’s Ledge offers fine dining with appetizers, fresh salads and homemade soups and breads. Entrees are of prime cuts of beef and fresh fish and fowl.
Falcon’s Ledge is a fly-fishing lodge that caters to the individual’s desires. Other activities include golf, hiking, gold panning, bird watching and visits to nearby Dinosaur National Monument. As fall arrives, wing shooting for pheasants and chukars on 3,000 acres of private land becomes an additional option (September through March), as well as does falconry (September through February). Winter activities include snowshoe and snowmobile touring.
Keen on the minds of trout anglers is that Brush Creek is an Orvis-endorsed lodge that offers fishing opportunities for those who like to walk, wade or float.
Fly-fishing begins just outside the ranch house door, with three miles of private water on Brush Creek. Fishing adventures on the North Platte and the Encampment rivers offer even more variety. Horseback or hiking excursions are also available for adventuresome anglers. Guides will lead Brush Creek guests to excellent fishing for brown, rainbow, brook, cutthroat and cuttbow trout.
Averaging 8 to 10 feet in width, Brush Creek is pocked with occasional deep holes. Trout from 8 to 22 inches are taken; larger trout inhabit the deepest parts of the pools. Fishing begins prior to spring run-off with midges and nymphs producing most of the early-season action. As waters subside after run-off, early action begins with Woolly Buggers and caddis imitations.
The North Platte allows for access to 137 river miles of fishing. Anglers cast to over 4,000 fish per mile on this Blue Ribbon trout river.
Hatches are varied and abundant. As run-off subsides, anglers find early activity by casting into mouths of tributaries where trout stack up to escape the cloudy waters of the main river. Summer hatches include salmonflies, caddis, yellow sallies, golden stones, brown stones, green drakes, gray drakes, sulfur duns, tricos, pale morning duns and Baetis. Anglers should expect ‘hopper action during late summer and aggressive brown trout during the fall.
A small river, the Encampment heads in Colorado then flows onto private property in Wyoming, where Brush Creek Lodge has a trespass agreement for its guests. Hatches begin with green drakes and caddis, followed by pale morning duns, sulfur duns, tricos and Baetis. Grasshoppers appear about the third week of July. Browns, rainbows, cuttbows, cutthroats and a few brookies inhabit the Encampment.
Looking for a slightly different excursion for a day or an overnight trip? Hop on a horse or hike into secluded, high-elevation areas to fish for brook, brown and rainbow trout. There’s even one lake that contains the beautiful golden trout.
Casting instruction is available for guests of all ages and abilities. Equipment is much more than adequate and addresses any possible needs of visiting anglers. Fishermen who wish to bring their own equipment should pack 4- to 6-weight rods for the North Platte and 4-weight or smaller rods for Brush Creek and other small waters.
Accommodations feature a transformed turn-of-the-century building. Six guests are housed in the main lodge’s rustic comfort; it contains a sitting room, fireplace, library, recreation room and dining room. A veranda extends the length of the second floor. Two cabins with five separate bedrooms accommodate additional guests. The rooms, of varying sizes and decor, have space for extra beds as needed. Typical occupancy runs from 18 to 22 people at peak times.
Three meals each day are provided. Breakfast is served in the lodge and also on a breakfast ride. Dinners range from prime rib to chicken and are served inside the lodge or outdoors, with offerings from the barbecue. Overnight pack trips (with meals) are also available; horseback rides are offered twice a day.
Kalispell is 60 miles away, so a skyline devoid of anything except mountains, breathtaking scenery, and beautiful sunrises and sunsets will greet you. Anglers cast in waters that contain wild West Slope cutthroat trout. You’ll catch 20 to 30 cutts a day with ample time for relaxation.
The season begins in mid-July as spring run-off subsides and culminates in mid-September when temperatures drop. Early season is typified by the use of nymph patterns such as Hare’s Ear, Prince, stonefly and streamer patterns. Dry-fly patterns are also basic: Elk Hair caddis, Stimulators, Adams, Parachute Adams, Trudes and terrestrials.
Because West Slope cutts willingly come to the surface for flies, nymphs and streamers are necessary only on those rare occasions when the water is high or off color during the early season. In short, from July to the end of the season the entire summer is occupied by dry-fly fishing.
Most of the fishing takes place on the South Fork of the Flathead River and its tributaries, with some excursions to mountain lakes. Cutthroat up to 18 inches abound in these waters mainly because they don’t share space with non-native species. The Hungry Horse Dam (downstream) prevents rainbows, browns and other non-natives from invading this pristine river system. Bull trout are another native species in the Flathead but are protected and may not be targeted by anglers.
All ventures from the lodge are excursions into the surrounding beauty of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Owner Kirk Gentry and office manager Fred Haney oversee operations at this Orvis-endorsed lodge. Popular trips include a five-day excursion into the wilderness. Guests ride into the area for two days and then spend three days floating downstream in 14-foot inflatable rafts equipped with rowing frames. Other options include a five-day, four-night excursion and a new six-day, eight-night offering (initiated at the requests of repeat clients).
Permits are limited for this type of service. Horses must be used to pack in the rafts, frames, oars, food and all supplies to meet the requirements of the permits and to make the trip a pleasant experience for guests.
Guest activities also include horseback riding, river rafting, swimming, hiking and relaxing. Rates depend upon the activities undertaken. The horseback riding consists of Western trail riding through forest to scenic overlooks and is not stressful.
The lodge, the only one in this wilderness area, is poised on a bluff overlooking the Flathead River’s South Fork and is the essence of wilderness luxury. The trophy room features a sun
ken conversation area surrounding a huge log fire pit with club chairs. Four solid and modernized two-bedroom log cabins appear rustic on the outside but are cozy within. They are equipped with toilets, showers, carpeted floors, central heat, wood-burning fireplaces and daily maid service.
Spotted Bear Lodge contains a fly-fishing shop with all the necessary equipment. The guides are capable of providing instruction for anglers of all age groups and abilities.
Fly-fishing packages are for stays of three nights or longer. Rates for four nights lodging, three days of guided fishing and all meals for two people sharing the same accommodation start at $2,670 for a lodge room in the spring and range up to $4,035 for a cabin suite during the surnmer. (Taxes and gratuities are additional.) Accommodations for singles can be made.
Falcon’s Ledge Lodge - P.O. Box 67, Altamont, UT 84001; (435) 454-3737 or toll-free 877-879-3737; fax (435) 454-3392; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; online www.falconsledgelodge.com.
Rates run about $400 per day for the fly-fishing package. Non-fishers pay about $195 per day.
Brush Creek Ranch - Star Route, Box 10, Saratoga, WY 8233 1; 800726-2499; online www.brushcreekranch.com.
Weekly rates for adults range from $1,075 to $1,275, depending on the season, a per-person group rates range from $500 to $1,025.
Spotted Bear Ranch - 115 Lake Blaine Dr., Kalispell, MT 59901; 800-223-4333 or (406) 755-7337; online www.spottedbear.com.
Rates vary by package and guest activities: Lodge-based activities and accommodations for a stay of five days/six nights is $2,195 (Sunday evening through Saturday morning); three days/three nights is $1,395 (Sunday evening through Wednesday evening, or Thursday morning through Sunday morning); and Spotted Bear’s wilderness pack and float trips (late June through August) include five days and four nights for $2,695 (usually Saturday morning through Wednesday evening). Six guests per float trip; arrangements can be made for eight guests on exclusive trips.
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