Fly-Fishing Paradise (Idaho-Style)

We pulled onto the gravel road of the Lodge at around 2:30 p.m. After a brief chat with the manager, Stan Klassen, who met us at the huge golden willow tree outside the main building, Julie dropped me off at my cabin, the "Cottonwood." Stan had been thoughtful enough to send some lunch over for me, since I hadn't eaten on the plane, and mentioned there was a bottle of Chardonnay in the refrigerator. I set up my portable iPod speaker on the desk near the window, poured a glass of wine and decided the weekend was definitely off to a good start.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Feeling refreshed, I met Stan for a tour of the complex. The Lodge at Palisades Creek, owned by Marshall and Patricia Geller and opened in 1989, is named for a sparkling tributary that joins the Snake at the edge of the 22-acre property, about 25 yards from the Cottonwood's river-view porch. There are nine log cabins, set comfortably far apart, which are rustic only in the most generous sense of the word. The tenth cabin is a two-story, two-bedroom A-frame perched at the river's edge. Its wraparound deck offers spectacular views (above). There's also an Orvis tackle shop on the grounds, which serves as a base for the Orvis-endorsed guides used exclusively by the Lodge's guests. In the same building as the shop is an after-dinner lounge with a well-stocked bar and library, a pool table and the only television on the premises. I made a second mental note to return there during the course of the weekend to shoot some pool with my husband, Skip, who was due to arrive via Jackson at around 11:30 p.m.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Back in my cabin, I took a nap, during which an intense thunderstorm blew through. By the time I had showered and gotten ready for dinner, the sun had reappeared, leaving the pine furnishings on the deck of the main lodge glistening in the late-afternoon summer light.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Inside, Bernadette, an Austrian girl working at the lodge for the summer, was on duty at the bar, and a group had begun to gather in front of the fireplace for martinis and single-malts. Doug and John, both from California, had flown in the day before in Doug's Cessna (there's a private airstrip in Driggs, about 30 minutes away) to meet their friends Don and Bill, from Texas. A family of four from Atlanta were also staying at the lodge and were expected for dinner, but had called to say they were still on the river and would be late. Stan was the perfect host. An elegant, soft-spoken man, he used to work for the Gellers at their other property, the Fire Hole Ranch in Montana (which they no longer own), and has been at Palisades Creek for six years. He runs it like a European boutique hotel, catering to everyone's needs with precision and charm. After drinks we moved into the small, country-style dining room, with its mounted moose head surveying the scene. The chef, Peter Berglund, was offering a choice of rainbow trout or rack of lamb. Everything was delicious. Doug asked if he could get some potatoes instead of the curried rice, and Shayna, our server, said she'd have to check. We all got a chuckle out of that one. I mean, this is Idaho, right?Outdoor Life Online Editor
Overnight the temperature dropped about 30 degrees, and when I woke up at 7 a.m. the wind sock outside the cabin was doing flips, the sky was dark and the river seemed high and fast. All I could think was, I really don't want to do this. I'm not an outdoors person. I'm not a fisherman. The hook's going to end up in my face instead of in a fish. Did I mention that my husband and I are almost total novices at this? I'd been on a stream a couple of times with OL's Fishing Editor, Jerry Gibbs, but more to learn how to cast than to actually fish, and about five years ago Skip and I took a weekend course at Joan Wulff's school in the Catskills. But that's about it. Thankfully, however, the weather started to brighten, the wind died down and my anxiety subsided. I put on my brand new Orvis flyfishing shirt, impregnated with SPF 30, grabbed my Buzz Off hat and headed up the drive for breakfast.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Breakfast at Palisades Creek is served in what used to be a roadside diner, built in the 1940s and refurbished to match the rest of the Lodge's interior. There's no menu. You just order whatever you'd like""eggs, sausage, pancakes, an omelet, you name it. That's Skip at the counter. Behind the counter is Camille (someone else named Camille!), who works at the Lodge several months a year and then goes with her husband to spend the rest of the year in Mexico. Nice.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Our guide on Saturday was Jaason Pruett, who migrated to Idaho via Southern California and actually went to grade school in Scotland, where part of his family is from. Jaason's been guiding for 11 years""a "lifer," as he puts it, and his dashboard bears testament to his passion. We piled in his supersized Ford pickup (I needed to step on a cooler to get in) and drove almost an hour to the put-in spot, along a beat-up road that's a chiropractor's dream. At one point I actually couldn't help asking, "Are we there yet?"Outdoor Life Online Editor
Jaason took us to Section 3 of the Lower Canyon of the South Fork of the Snake. As we launched the Clakacraft drift boat. I took the front seat and Skip took the rear. The river was beautiful, the temperature was perfect, and with a little coaching, our casting was, well, adequate. Most of the morning we fished stonefly imitations and we did actually hook some fish. Playing them was really fun and we started to get the hang of it. My first decent-sized trout, a cutthroat that I caught on a sparkle dun, escaped from the net before we could get a photo. Jaason felt pretty bad about that and redoubled his efforts to get a good fish in my hands.Outdoor Life Online Editor
We stopped for lunch at around 1:30. The Lodge packs a generous lunch and plenty of drinks for guests and their guides; you just pull onto a gravel bar or drop anchor when you're ready to take a break. Jaason is chewing on some jerky here and showing us a goldenstone husk still attached to a rock. He was a great teacher. I liked the way he'd talk us through each cast, telling us to "let that drift" or "try that again." Sometimes he'd coach the fish, too, saying, "EAT that!" or "WHACK that!" Of course, the fish didn't listen as well as we did.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Here's a sampling of the incredible scenery that was around every bend. We did 15 miles that first day and sometimes it was hard to concentrate on the fishing, the view was so spectacular. Much of the rock cliffs along the river are volcanic, from the Yellowstone System, and the trees include cottonwoods, lodge-pole pines and cedars. Needless to say, it was a pretty far cry from the streets of Manhattan.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Finally, a photo-worthy fish that didn't escape the net, although it did jump out of my hands after we got this one shot. Another cutthroat, it ate a Copper John on a hopper-dropper rig that I slid down the riffle. Jaason's specialty is a three-fly rig he calls a "hopper dropper dropper," and from what I understand, it's pretty unique. He starts with a dry stonefly. About 12 to 16 inches below that he ties a heavy dropper. Then, about 6 to 8 inches below that, he ties a light nymph. The nymph floats up into the middle of the water column, where the fish are eating. "A lot of people can't get a delicate fly in the middle column, and this pattern solves the problem," Jaason explained. (Check out his Web site at blackdogoutfitters.com.)Outdoor Life Online Editor
Skip caught about six trout and two rocky mountain whites that first day, of varying sizes. Here's a nice cutthroat he caught on a standard nymph rig. Neither of us was too good at handling fish, but talk about service. These guides do it all for you, including holding up your fish for the camera. Now, I want you to help me solve a little domestic dispute. I say Skip's fish is bigger and he's says mine is bigger. Ha! Not what you were expecting, I bet, but that's why we get alongÂ…Outdoor Life Online Editor
Honestly, I could get used to this. One of the men at dinner on Friday night, when I said I wanted to wade, told me that once I'd flyfished from a drift boat, I'd never want to wade again. (As if I'd waded so many times.) But he was right. Something about moving along with the current, rocking gently and seeing new scenery every few minutes was incredibly relaxing and enjoyable.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Okay, we're on to day two (and yes, Skip and I did get a few games of pool in on Saturday night, after another great dinner at the Lodge). Our guide on Sunday was Larry Larson, a roommate of Jaason's during flyfishing season and an Idaho native. Larry took us to Section 1 of the Upper Canyon, which was a lot closer to the Lodge, so we didn't have to drive as far and got an earlier start. He explained that there are 85 miles of fishable water along the Snake in this part of Idaho; his plan was to introduce us to another 15 of them. Near the start we passed the Lodge's A-frame cabin and got this from-the-water view of it.Outdoor Life Online Editor
After about an hour of casting and not much luck, it was time to get serious, and Larry started digging through his tackle box for the perfect fly. He said the lack of action might be because of the cooler temperature, or the fact that it was earlier in the day, or that there was a stronger wind, but I knew the real reason: Before leaving shore, Larry and I had talked about Pat McManus""just talked about him""and that apparently was enough to send any fish in the vicinity packing. I told Larry my theory and he burst out laughing; he's been a fan of Pat's Last Laugh column for years and knows all about Pat's A-bomb effect.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Anyway, Larry, being an optimist, pulled out the ultimate weapon, a fly he tied himself that he called the "eclectic stone." (You can see some of Larry's fly-tying patterns on snakeriverflyco.com.) I could tell it was one of his favorites as he described in detail what it was made of""silicone bristles from a surgical sponge, closed-cell foam, macrame yarn from his mother's old crafts shop, etc., etc. He tied it on my line and I went to work. On my very first cast, I hung it up on a low-hanging branch and lost it.Outdoor Life Online Editor
But wait, there's an after story: Larry e-mailed me to say that he went back two days later and found the fly! And he said a couple of good fish were caught with it, including this one by Larry. Then he lost it again, but at least my conscience was clearer. Skip and I did in fact catch some fish on Sunday, but mine were all pretty small. Skip's best was a 17-inch cutthroat that he caught in Bitton's Channel shortly before we called it quits.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Larry told us a story about how he'd been out with a couple of clients the day before and saw a moose running straight toward the edge of the bank smack in their direction. He thought to himself, this moose is never going to run right off the bank, but sure enough, she did, landing in the water just six feet in front of their boat, all 2,000 pounds of her. Apparently the clients, who had been pretty blasé about fishing (they had won the trip in some charity event), went wild and started snapping photos like crazy. Probably just ecstatic to be alive. Another story making the rounds that weekend was that earlier in the week Dick Cheney had been on the same stretch of the river with some of the Orvis guides and one of his secret servicemen's boats was almost capsized by a swimming moose. (The moose is now in detention at Guantanamo.) Larry claims the moose in this photo is the very one that ran off the bank, though when we saw her she was in a much more mellow mood.Outdoor Life Online Editor
We left the river a little early on Sunday and took a ride to Jackson, Wyoming, a little over an hour away. I took this photo from the car. As we drove over the Teton Pass and I saw the Grand Tetons in the distance, I was blown away. I remembered a college friend telling me years ago how amazing it was to see them for the first time, and I had to agree.Outdoor Life Online Editor
You can't go to Jackson and not go to the Cowboy Bar, where the bar stools are saddles and the Harley crowd provides the live entertainment. We had a drink there and then walked to the Snake River Grill for dinner. It was a great evening, and a great weekend, and a couple of New Yorkers were now flyfishing converts.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Here's a bonus shot from Keith Caffery Effler, who works at the Lodge at Palisades Creek and is a budding photographer. Thanks, Keith, and thanks to everyone on the staff for a fantastic time. We'll be back!Outdoor Life Online Editor
Here's a bonus shot from Keith Caffery Effler, who works at the Lodge at Palisades Creek and is a budding photographer. Thanks, Keith, and thanks to everyone on the staff for a fantastic time. We'll be back!Outdoor Life Online Editor

OL's Managing Editor, Camille Rankin, was invited to fish the legendary Snake River and stay at the plush Lodge at Palisades Creek. Check out the photos and read her trip journal.