By: Malcolm Mayhew
There’s something captivating in the rhythmic casting of a fly line over crystal-clear water and something intimidating in the complexities of a well-organized box of flies. For some, to watch a river flow is to read the riffles and the seams where trout feed, while others merely see irregularities in the texture of the water’s surface. Many find fly fishing to be a lifelong study in patience and technique, while others believe it to be an overly complex riddle. But from both perspectives, the art of fly fishing spawns wonder and a yearning to know more.
It is for both of these perspectives that great fly-fishing resorts exist — not exclusively for the skillful angler who looks the part in all the finest gear, but for all anglers, even beginners, drawn together by a single commonality — curiosity. Still, not all fly-fishing resorts are the same. The world-class fly-fishing resorts begin with fabled waters set against remarkable landscapes to which they add passionate, skilled guides who know how to transform even the most inexperienced into competent and successful anglers.
The following resorts, the finest of their kind, have discovered just the right combination of water and scenery in different corners of the continent and added their own team of skilled guides alongside a unique arrangement of personal hospitality and luxury. In fact, many of these resorts possess an Orvis endorsement for meeting the kind of rigorous quality standards the company expects from a great fly-fishing lodge, including world-class fishing and exceptional service.
Best of all, no experience is necessary at any of these resorts since each one comes standard with on-stream instruction from veteran anglers who know their home waters from top to bottom and understand precisely how to fish them. From the fundamentals of casting to reading water and determining what is hatching, the goal is for all guests to experience the reel-sizzling runs and acrobatic leaps that accompany landing a fish on the fly. So grab your lucky fishing hat, and slip into a comfy pair of waders because this month we are casting flies and kicking back.
Blackberry Farm Tennessee. Photo by beall + thomas photography
THREE RIVERS RANCH
Warm River, Idaho
This fourth-generation, family-owned fly-fishing lodge in Southeastern Idaho guides guests’ float and wading trips on 27 miles of blue ribbon water, including the Madison and Yellowstone Rivers, as well as the Henry’s Fork and South Fork of the Snake River, where wild cutthroat trout average 14-16 inches. Accommodations at Three Rivers are secluded creek-side cabins, while dining, served in the historic lodge, is always gourmet with a western flare. Best of all, guests can set out on an overnight float trip on the South Fork, where a day of fishing is capped off by hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and a fireside steak dinner.
West Yellowstone, Montana
In addition to the Madison, Yellowstone and Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, the shortlist of legendary trout waters accessible to guides and guests of Firehole Ranch includes the Gallatin, Firehole and Lamar Rivers, offering an array of rich Rocky Mountain fisheries. Originally established in the 1860s, the ranch maintains its historic charm in the buildings and untouched landscapes, paying homage to the generations of fishermen who have come before. Overlooking the sapphire-blue waters of Hebgen Lake and surrounded by an endless spread of Montana wilderness, the Firehole experience extends from the rivers to the minute details of each luxury cabin.
Tucked away in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado, near the small mining town of Creede, 4UR Ranch, home to part of the mighty Rio Grande River, is one of the state’s best-kept secrets and a long-cherished fly-fishing getaway. The ranch has six miles of private tailwater, trophy ponds and wilderness lakes. With the best guides in the state, 4UR guests can begin the day with casting lessons on the lawn and be landing 18-to-20-inch trout by the evening hatch. Unique to 4UR is the ranch’s historic hot spring spa, a perfect transition from fishing to an unforgettable evening performance at the world-renowned Creede Repertory Theatre.
Port McNeill, British Columbia
This remote resort, accessible only by helicopter or floatplane, rests quietly in the old growth forest of the Great Bear Rainforest, amid a landscape of granite mountains, peaceful fjords and endless rivers. In fact, heli-fly fishing adventures at Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort access 50,000 square miles of terrain wherein more than 50 remote rivers, streams and backcountry waters teem with wild Pacific salmon, steelhead, Dolly Varden, and cutthroat and rainbow trout. Other wilderness adventures at Nimmo Bay include heli-hiking, glacier tours, bear- and whale-watching tours as well as saltwater fishing for salmon and halibut — all accompanied by a personalized gourmet picnic.
Thorne Bay, Alaska
Christened “King of Alaska Fishing Lodges,” Boardwalk Lodge in the lush, breathtaking rainforest of Prince of Wales Island is a first-class oceanfront resort on the tidal inlet of Thorne Bay. Outfitted with the finest Orvis fly-fishing equipment, guests will set out to any of the 23 lakes, rivers and streams in search of cutthroat trout, wild Pacific steelhead and a variety of trophy salmon species. Due to the remoteness of Boardwalk’s fisheries, it’s not uncommon for guests to find complete solitude as well as fish that have never seen an artificial fly. Boardwalk also hosts saltwater-fishing excursions alongside an extensive list of non-fishing outings.
LIBBY SPORTING CAMPS
Within a 20-mile radius of Libby Sporting Camps’ main lodge in the expansive North Maine Woods region lie 10 lakeside, outpost cabins and 80 canoes and boats on 30 different fisheries, including the Allagash, Penobscot, and Aroostook Rivers — three of the best brook trout rivers in the Northeast. Guests reach these remote waters in Cessna seaplanes; fish all day for trout, landlocked salmon and bass; and return in time for a home-cooked meal in rustic but luxurious accommodations. While fly fishing is their specialty, Libby Camps is a renowned bird and big game hunting lodge. In fact, it’s the only lodge in the East to be Orvis-endorsed for both fly fishing and wingshooting.
WEST BRANCH ANGLER RESORT
Hancock, New York
For technical dry fly fishing east of the Rocky Mountains, few places beat the Delaware River system where the tailwaters of the East and West Branches converge to create more than 70 miles of first-class wild trout habitat. Hatches here begin in April and don’t end until the fall, so it’s almost always fishing season at West Branch. When the trout aren’t rising, nymphs, wet flies and streamers work well, while casting poppers for smallmouth bass offers anglers an opportunity to try a variation of techniques. And taking a break from landing trophy trout allows guests to visit the five-stand shooting fields before enjoying the resort’s elegant River Run Restaurant.
WILSON’S SPORTING CAMPS
McNamee, New Brunswick
Located in the Miramichi River valley of New Brunswick, Wilson’s Sporting Camps is the prime outfitter for Atlantic salmon fly fishing. Because the camps own and lease more private water on the Miramichi — including 16 of the river’s best pools — Wilson’s guests can afford to dream big. And because Wilson’s only fishes 10 rods a day, fisheries are not crowded and overfished. May and June offer fantastic brook trout runs, while June marks the shad run and the first of the salmon runs, which last until August. During these warmer, low-water months, guests can navigate the pools in canoes. The best days at Wilson’s end with evening shore lunches serving up fresh salmon grilled over an open fire.
As if fly fishing in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains were not perfect enough already, Blackberry Farm has managed to raise the bar on luxury fishing. From casting lessons on Walland Pond to reading the riffles on Hesse Creek and even practicing the art of fly tying at the Grey Drake fishing cabin, guests here are fully immersed in the tranquil life of the fly fisher. Float trips on the nearby Clinch and Holston Rivers drift through farmlands and rolling hills and offer the most scenic opportunities to bag trophy trout, while nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park adds to the experience with over 700 miles of creeks and streams.
DEEP WATER CAY
The 250 square miles of flats off the east end of Grand Bahama are home to massive hard-fighting bonefish, permit and pompano, as well as a legendary saltwater fly-fishing resort known as Deep Water Cay. Beginning with well-seasoned guides, Bahamian hospitality extends to the details of each private beachfront guest cottage and the mouth-watering meals served at Blue Hole Bar and Grille. Fully evolved from its long-established fishing roots, Deep Water also boasts a wealth of non-fishing activities including guided snorkeling, sea kayaking, reef fishing for snapper and barracuda, and deep-sea fishing for wahoo, mahi mahi and more.
By: Malcolm Mayhew