A Great Place to Hang Your Waders

The best trout, salmon, and steelhead lodges in North America.

Field & Stream Online Editors

The way you've lived your life may not get you into heaven, but you can still go to a first-rate fishing lodge, which is the next best thing. Imagine a place where you have gorgeous scenery, great food, and excellent accommodations and you catch fish! Forget that stuff about being here last week, or next week. A first-rate lodge cannot stay in business if you go away disappointed, so they make good and sure that the fish are there, and that you get into them.

And for once in your wretched life, you don't do the grunt work. Your hernia-inducing duffel bag is carried for you. Someone else does the cooking (and they will be very good at it) and the dishes. You do not clean the fish you keep, and if you choose, you do not even untangle your tippets. You can get used to this kind of living pretty damn quick.

Here are seven top lodges for trout, salmon, and steelhead. They will show you not just a good time, but a memorable time. If you talk with their guests, you'll find that many of them come back year after year after year. And there is good reason for that. What places like these offer is the very best of angling.

Broadacres Ranch Creede, Colorado
When Charles Nearburg, a geological engineer, first visited this ranch in south-central Colorado, it wasn't for sale. But after he walked its 900 acres, he approached the owner with an offer. "It was a jewel," Nearburg says. "The three kinds of water on it really got me going-big, hard-flowing water on the Rio Grande, intimate freestone water in Shallow Creek, and 11 acres of lakes." Plus, Broadacres was rich in history. First homesteaded in 1891 by a Scottish family, the ice from its lakes was sold to the nearby Watrous Saloon in the days of Doc Holliday and Calamity Jane.

Nearburg bought the ranch in 1998 and spent almost three years improving its trout habitat, constructing a new main lodge, and restoring its original log buildings, some of which date back to the 19th century. He hired fisheries biologists and hydrologists to stabilize the banks and create spawning beds and good wintering habitat. Then he established a beat system and instituted catch-and-release and flyfishing-only policies. The resulting populations of wild browns, cutbows, rainbows, and cutthroats are so robust that there's no need for stocking. A roster of full-time guides puts anglers of all abilities onto these wild fish that reach 24 inches in the Rio Grande and average 15 to 18 inches throughout the property.

Nearburg and his family focus on making visitors feel welcome and limit the number of anglers to 10 at any time. "We want people to feel like they're on their own ranch," he says. **

THE DETAILS:** $240 per person per day includes meals; guide fee, $225: 719-658-2291; broadacresranch.com [NEXT "STORY CONTINUED"]

Ruby Springs Lodge Alder, Montana
"This is not a kid's lodge, and it's not a dude ranch. This is where adults come to play," says owner John Sampson, who with his fellow flyfishing guide and college buddy Paul Moseley opened southwestern Montana's Ruby Springs Lodge in 1995. With 10 miles of private waters, a staff of nine full-time guides, a main lodge on the Ruby River and seven private cabins perched on its banks, guests are never far from wild trout. "You can wander out of your cabin and wet a line at any time," Sampson says.

A day at Ruby Springs kicks off in the main lodge's River Room, where guests eat breakfast beside massive picture windows and watch trout rise just outside. Soon anglers and guides head out for one of the lodge's private waters or to blue-ribbon trout rivers such as the Madison, Big Hole, Beaverhead, and Jefferson. An all-inclusive fishing package covers everything from your waders to your evening cocktail, which, along with hors d'oeuvres and dinner, will be waiting for you at the end of every day.

THE DETAILS: $2,025 p person for three nights and two days, inclusive: 800-278-7829; rubyspringslodge.com

**Henry's Fork Lodge Island Park, Idaho **
The Henry's Fork may be the most diverse trout water in the West, cutting through narrow canyons, sprawling between wide banks, and in some places presenting all the challenges of a spring creek. After decades of casting into every section of this eastern Idaho river, Nelson Ishiyama decided to build a flyfishing facility worthy of its legendary reputation, and in 1991 he welcomed his first guests to the Henry's Fork Lodge. "This is a rustic lodge on a big scale, because this is big country," he says.

Designed for flyfishermen by an award-winning architect (an avid angler himself), the main lodge's wide porches open onto the Henry's Fork. There are six elegant guest rooms, eight cottage suites, a library, and gourmet meals, but guests are likely to spend most of their time on the water. "There are so many places to fish, you couldn't hit them all in a lifetime of trips," Ishiyama says. Guides from a variety of nearby outfits take guests out to chase wild rainbows on the Henry's Fork, and outings to other big-name rivers like the Madison, the Firehole, and the Snake can be arranged.

**THE DETAILS: **$960 per person for three nights includes meals; guide fee, $430: 208-558-7953; henrysforklodge.com

[NEXT "STORY CONTINUED"] Riverside on Fall River Burney, California
Teeming with big rainbows and browns, the Fall River cuts through northern California's Thousand Springs area and then flows into a broad valley of grassland and pine where the Riverside lodge sits along a mile of river frontage. But this do-it-yourself facility has no lobby, no maid service, and no staff to help carry your gear. What it does offer is a great opportunity for a group of anglers to rent a private flyfishing getaway.

Riverside, which opened in 1978, is one of eight private lodges owned by the Fly Shop, a specialty flyfishing retailer and guide service. Those who book a week here will find a fully equipped kitchen, four big bedrooms, and a broad deck overlooking the Fall River, where three fishing boats are tethered to the private dock. Most groups hire a caterer to do all the cooking, but some choose to rotate duties as chef du jour. Guides from the Fly Shop staff are available all season. Pale morning duns open the fishing in April, Hexagenia come off in mid-June, and Baetis bring the season to its November close.

THE DETAILS: $525 per day for up to six anglers: 800-669-3474; adventuresinflyfishing.com/riverside.htm

Camp Bonaventure Paspebiac, Quebec
For 15 years, Glen LeGrand ran a guide service on the Bonaventure River, working with clients who stayed in local hotels for the unique opportunity to sight-cast to Atlantic salmon. So it made sense when, in 1995, LeGrand opened a stunning lodge with soaring views on the banks of the Bonaventure, one of the Gasp¿¿ Peninsula's great salmon rivers. Now, after a day of floating or wading in the gin-clear Bonaventure with one of the seven full-time guides (who also take guests to the nearby Grand and Petit Cascap¿¿dia Rivers), LeGrand's clients enjoy lemonade and cold beer in the rod room and rest up in one of the lodge's four luxury bedrooms or the guesthouse. Is there a downside to operating a flyfishing paradise? "I don't get to fish as much," says LeGrand, who starts his day at 5 a.m. and by evening is preparing for his guests' return from the water, when they sit down to a five-course meal, followed by port and cheese served in front of a soaring stone fireplace.

THE DETAILS: $600 per person per day, inclusive: 418-534-3678; campbonaventure.com

[NEXT "STORY CONTINUED"] **Rainbow River Lodge Southwest Alaska **
Nestled into the spruce-lined shores of the Copper River and accessible only by floatplane, the Rainbow River Lodge provides a true wilderness experience. But there are more incentives than the lodge's remoteness and proximity to nearby Lake Iliamna and Katmai National Park that entice anglers to this corner of Alaska. "This is the only place where you can combine the best salmon fishing with the best rainbow fishing in the state," says lodge manager Chad Hewitt. Rainbows on the Copper are caught from June through September during prolific caddis, mayfly, and stonefly hatches. Millions of sockeyes-one of five species of salmon in these waters-return each July. To get to the action, guests are flown to the best spots in one of the lodge's two de Havilland Beavers.

Under new ownership and fully renovated in 2004, the lodge now matches the caliber of the waters its guests have come to fish. "Being pampered in the middle of the rugged wilderness of Alaska is pretty unique," says Hewitt. But Rainbow River pulls it off with five new guest cabins that feature slate and maple floors, vaulted ceilings, and handmade aspen log furniture. The main lodge has 35-foot ceilings and windows that open onto Pike Lake, where the floatplanes take off and land. Guides and guests share gourmet dinners-but in the land of the midnight sun, the day doesn't have to end there. Dessert is often followed by a session of late-night pike fishing right in front of the lodge.

** THE DETAILS: **$5,900 per person for six days, inclusive: 503-429-0511; alaskarainbowriverlodge.com

Silver Hilton Lodge Northern British Columbia
September is prime time for diehard steelheaders to grab their 9-weight rods and venture deep into British Columbia where the town of Smithers is the jumping-off point for the 40-minute helicopter ride to the Silver Hilton Lodge on the Babine River. This area offers one of the best opportunities in North America to hook a 20-pound steelhead. The guides rotate guests through all the best sections of the river, where anglers throw Bombers or Blue Charms for the hefty sea-run rainbows that blast upstream every fall. The main camp consists of four private cabins and a lodge. Another camp for four anglers is located 7 miles upstream. **

THE DETAILS: **$4,000 to $5,500 per person per week, inclusive: 415-897-4997 , the Rainbow River Lodge provides a true wilderness experience. But there are more incentives than the lodge's remoteness and proximity to nearby Lake Iliamna and Katmai National Park that entice anglers to this corner of Alaska. "This is the only place where you can combine the best salmon fishing with the best rainbow fishing in the state," says lodge manager Chad Hewitt. Rainbows on the Copper are caught from June through September during prolific caddis, mayfly, and stonefly hatches. Millions of sockeyes-one of five species of salmon in these waters-return each July. To get to the action, guests are flown to the best spots in one of the lodge's two de Havilland Beavers.

Under new ownership and fully renovated in 2004, the lodge now matches the caliber of the waters its guests have come to fish. "Being pampered in the middle of the rugged wilderness of Alaska is pretty unique," says Hewitt. But Rainbow River pulls it off with five new guest cabins that feature slate and maple floors, vaulted ceilings, and handmade aspen log furniture. The main lodge has 35-foot ceilings and windows that open onto Pike Lake, where the floatplanes take off and land. Guides and guests share gourmet dinners-but in the land of the midnight sun, the day doesn't have to end there. Dessert is often followed by a session of late-night pike fishing right in front of the lodge.

** THE DETAILS: **$5,900 per person for six days, inclusive: 503-429-0511; alaskarainbowriverlodge.com

Silver Hilton Lodge Northern British Columbia
September is prime time for diehard steelheaders to grab their 9-weight rods and venture deep into British Columbia where the town of Smithers is the jumping-off point for the 40-minute helicopter ride to the Silver Hilton Lodge on the Babine River. This area offers one of the best opportunities in North America to hook a 20-pound steelhead. The guides rotate guests through all the best sections of the river, where anglers throw Bombers or Blue Charms for the hefty sea-run rainbows that blast upstream every fall. The main camp consists of four private cabins and a lodge. Another camp for four anglers is located 7 miles upstream. **

THE DETAILS: **$4,000 to $5,500 per person per week, inclusive: 415-897-4997