April 1 is the opening day of trout season, so why not go fly fishing with your dog? At petswelcome, we’ve been tying flies all winter in anticipation of getting out on the river and making that first cast. And bringing our dogs along makes it even more special. Floating on a drift boat with your favorite animal, or being waist-deep in the water while your dog, if you’re lucky, points out a few trout to you, is a very special and bonding experience, one we highly recommend. However, as with any outing involving a pet, planning is everything. Here’s some things to consider before you head out:
1. Be honest: Is your pup temperamentally suited to either sitting in a drift boat for hours on end or you standing in a river doing something other than paying attention to him?
2. Is your pooch a barker? If your canine is going to bark at absolutely everything, that’s problematic on two counts: one, you are not the only folks on the river. Be considerate of others—this is their vacation too. Two, lots of commotion is going to make fishing difficult, and god knows enticing trout out of their hidey holes is challenging enough.
3. Keep him warm: If you are drifting and the temperature is still on the low side, bring a blanket for your buddy. Sitting in that boat for hours and not able to run around, he’s going to get cold.
4. Keep him hydrated: Again, if you’re drifting, bring water and a dog bowl to keep your dog hydrated.
5. Keep him safe: Whether you’re drifting or wading, make sure your dog is wearing a life jacket. I learned this lesson in what could have been (and thankfully wasn’t) a tragic way. I took my dog Smudge with me on my annual weeklong fishing trip on the Delaware. He was having a fantastic time, running around but staying close as I fished, and then periodically swimming out, doing a lap around me, and then heading back to shore. On one of his forays out, he got caught in a fast-moving eddy that pulled him away from me and started rotating him around—I could see the confusion and panic in his eyes. Fortunately, my friend Peter was nearby and able to lean over, grab Smudge by the collar, and bring him to shore. See Best Life Jackets for Dogs for details on selecting and buying one.
6. Know where he is: When you’re casting, the very last thing in the world you want to do is snag your dog with a hook.
Favorite Pet Friendly Fishing Lodges
Here is a selection of dog-friendly lodgings for the fly fisherperson.
Smith’s Colonial Motel is my destination every May. It’s located in Hancock, N.Y., where the east and west branches of the Delaware River meet. The Colonial isn’t fancy by any stretch of the imagination but the folks who run it are friendly and incredibly accommodating. Plus it is sited on a bluff above the East Branch, with an eagle’s nest in a nearby tree that makes for some amazing nature watching as you sip your morning coffee.
If you’re looking for something more indulgent in the Catskills, try the Emerson Resort & Spa in Mt. Tremper. You can practically walk outside and right into the Esopus River. In addition to spoiling yourself, you can spoil your pooch (or rather let the Emerson do it) by getting a PupGrade, which will entitle your dog to a welcome basket that includes a toy, bowl, placemat, and treats. Or take him to the onsite Woodnotes Grille and order from the Pup Fare menu, where he can choose between chicken breast, a grass-fed burger patty, or New York strip steak. Maybe he might even share some with you.
The Adirondacks are also a source of opportunities for top-flight fly fishing, the West Branch of the Ausable River ranking high on the list. Stocked with large rainbow and brown trout, the West Branch is a quick drive from Lake Placid, one of our favorite towns in all of New York State. We love to stay at the pet friendly Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort. It is located right on the shore of beautiful Mirror Lake, and one of only six hotels in the U.S. to receive Audubon International’s Platinum Eco Rating for Hotels. Even better, the Golden Arrow understands how wonderful it is to share an Adirondack vacation with your furry companion. For each pet that visits the Golden Arrow, 10% of the pet fees collected are donated annually to the local Humane Society or a pet charity chosen by one their favorite guests each year that traveled with an animal. This amounts to thousands of dollars a year directly benefitting animals in local shelters.
There is lots of wonderful trout fishing throughout Pennsylvania but one of our favorite places to stay, where we can relax in beautiful surroundings and enjoy fishing on a private stretch of water, is pet friendly The Lodge at Glendorn in Bradford. The lodge is endorsed by Orvis and is set in the midst of 1,500 pristine acres in Northwest Pennsylvania. Fishing options include three miles on Fuller Brook, filled with native brook trout on the Robbers Nest and Jill Lake branches, and a mix of rainbows, browns, and rookies on the main stem, as well as a mile and a half of the West Branch of the Tunagawant Creek and three trophy trout ponds. You can either stay in the lodge (which was built as a retreat in 1929) or opt for greater privacy in one of the cabins, some of which are set right on Fuller Brook and have wood-burning fireplaces. Honestly, what could be be better than a day of fishing with your best buddy, followed by snooze in front of the fire?
West Yellowstone gives you a double shot of fly fishing, offering up both the Gallatin and Madison rivers. A wonderful basecamp is Bar N Ranch, set just six miles outside of Yellowstone National Park. There you can bask in the amenities and ambience of the timbered lodge, or seek greater privacy in one of the seven cabins that are within walking distance of the lodge, all of them luxuriously kitted out, complete with wood-burning fireplaces. The lodge has guides available for full or half-day fishing trips.
Like West Yellowstone, Sun Valley in Idaho presents a multitude of fly fishing opportunities: Salmon River (native Chinook, steelhead, and bull trout), Silver Creek (browns), Big Wood River (rainbows), Lost River (cutthroats). For accommodations, we recommend pet friendly Tamarack Lodge, located in the heart of downtown Ketchum. It gives you the best of both worlds; you’re just a short car ride away from phenomenal fishing and when you’re ready to call it a day (or during the day, before you do an evening drift), you can enjoy the shops, galleries, and restaurants of beautiful Ketchum.
Vail offers a trifecta of “Gold Medal” water—Blue River (brookies and rainbows), Gore Creek (browns, rainbows, brookies, and cutthroats), and Colorado River (browns). What is “Gold Medal” water? Waters containing 60 pounds of trout and at least twelve 14-inch or larger trout per acre. Our choice for lodging is pet friendly Vail Mountain Lodge, which is located right on Gore Creek. They will pamper you and your pet, and have an onsite restaurant and spa.