There are fly fishing lodges and then there are hotels with a connection to fly fishing – enter Troutbeck, NY.
Don’t get me wrong – fly fishing lodges are fantastic. You get to travel to amazing places to get to do what you love – fly fishing. Yet, many of them are in places so remote that the focus is purely on catching fish.
But there is also a species of hotels that are not entirely dedicated to fly fishing, yet offer the chance to grab a rod and reel and pursue your passion. I think of places like Hotel Endsleigh in England which has the river Tammar running through its grounds with the possibility of catching a salmon or sea trout. Or Aurland 292, a beautifully renovated farm house in the stunning valley of Aurland, Norway enabling you to cast your fly at mighty Atlantic Salmon and big Norwegian sea trout during long summer days and short summer nights. Another such hotel that we recently discovered is the historic Troutbeck in upstate NY.
As is often the case in fly fishing, I came across this place by coincidence. The owners of Troutbeck, Anthony Champalimaud and his wife Charlie S. Champalimaud, are friends of a friend. Since Anthony, who went to art school in Chicago and had originally planned on becoming an artist, is an avid fly fisherman himself, the common ground was quickly found.
In June, I finally got to travel to Troutbeck with my photographer friend Christian Anwander, to experience the place and explore the fly fishing options of the region. We arrived at the hotel on a warm summer evening when the sun and clouds where bringing out the entire beauty of the 250 acre estate in the Hudson Valley.
37 rooms are spread between the old house and new additions/renovations such as Benton House. Because of its heavy stone walls, seasoned fireplaces and cozy salons, Troutbeck still feels small and intimate.
The blend of old structures and new additions like the Barn (that houses a sauna, gym and meditation room) works beautifully and creates an interesting tension. Large parts of the property are meadows and woods that are left untouched and are only broken up by picknick spots and hammocks to create intimate spaces scattered across the vast grounds.
We dived right into the full experience with a dinner in the hotel’s restaurant run by Executive Chef Gabe McMackin. Products are sourced from local farmers and served in the hotel’s dining room that has the feel of a members club. A dry martini at the bar rounded-off a cozy night in a place whose tradition and history (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and John Burroughs were regular visitors) can be felt in every corner of every room.
The next morning I woke up to the comforting sound of big rain drops falling on the roof’s heavy stone tiles. This gave me some hope that the drift boat trip on the Housatonic river we had planned initially might still be a possibility. But soon after breakfast it turned out that the night’s rainfalls had not been substantial enough to increase water levels in the area significantly. But our guide Tristan from Housatonic River Outfitters had adapted the plans accordingly and after quick stop to get some lunch, we were off to fish the Housatonic river just across the boarder in Connecticut.
Since it was late morning already, Tristan set us up with nymph rigs to fish a deep run that he knew was holding good fish. It didn’t take long for us to hook the first fish and the Housatonic proved why it’s a popular river with Tristan catching a rainbow, Christian hooking a brown trout and myself catching a small bass that was holding next to the stronger current that formed a deeper pool.
Since the water temperatures were quite high considering the time of year, partly because of the low water levels, it became more difficult as the morning session progressed to find stretches that had a good flow with deeper runs that produced oxygen. As it was our only day at the river, Tristan made sure we stayed on the move and showed us different corners of the river he knows very well.
The overcast sky made it easier for us to convince fish to take our flies and we had already caught a good amount of rainbows, brownies and bass when we decided to sit down for lunch along a scenic stretch of the river. Over some excellent sandwiches Tristan told us a bit of the fly fishing history on the Housatonic and how conservation efforts in recent years have secured a good stock of all three species that we caught.
Due to a rich insect life especially during the early summer months, fish can grow to serious sizes with big browns over 20″ being caught every season. Before we had to take off to our next stop on the East Branch of the Delaware river, Tristan had planned a little special ops session for us, targeting small wild browns in a tiny creek that one could have easily overlooked.
Although we didn’t manage to catch one of the spooky trout it was a fun way to end our trip to the Housatonic. If you’re headed for a weekend getaway to Troutbeck and want to get some fishing in, you can’t go wrong with reaching out to Housatonic River Outfitters for a day on the water.