Made in Montana A Look at Cody Meine’s Crane Meadow Lodge
By Charles Gehr
Fly Water’s Charles Gehr and guide Tyler Barrus hatching a plan on a secret stream. Photo: Ken Morrish
MADE IN MONTANA
hen it comes to understanding the local waters, 130 years of All the Options family experience helps. Cody Meine, longtime front man for The amount of water available to fish out of Crane Meadow Lodge cannot Crane Meadow Lodge, has that and many other things going be overstated. Cody and I have looked at a map of the surrounding area and for him. In addition to being one of the most affable, homegrown characters estimated that it would take a single angler 90 days to fish all the water that you will ever meet, it won’t take much time talking fishing with Crane Meadow guides. In addition to the ranch’s 20 miles him to realize that generations of highly pertinent informaof private access to the Ruby River, Leonard Spring Creek tion influence every single fishing based decision he makes. and Mill Creek, Crane Meadow has exclusive leases with On any given day in a 50 mile radius of his lodge he will more than a dozen local landowners, enabling access to seldom know which way the wind will be blowing, where the fished reaches of the Beaverhead, upper Ruby and countless water will be clearest and exactly where and when the bugs will other sneaky spots. Additionally, the lodge’s unmatched public Morrish Hopper be flying. Add to that the fact that every old-time rancher in the water program allows anglers to float the Jefferson, Big Hole, region loves the guy and is more than willing to negotiate special access to Beaverhead and Madison rivers or wade fish Proposal and Poindexter sloughs. their rivers, streams and ponds, and you will start to understand why Crane Many anglers visiting Crane Meadow will elect to float one of the nearby Meadow offers the greatest trout fishing experience Montana has to offer. rivers for the first half of the day and wade fish the ranch’s private water in the afternoon or evening. There is so much water to fish that it almost seems Home Court Advantage a shame to spend an entire day on any single fishery. For kicks, a recent guest In the 1870s the Meine’s settled near Dillon in southwest Montana and today returning for his 13th trip fished new water four out of his five fishing days! Cody, his father and his uncle all still live on Meine Road. But for the last 22 The cornerstone of Crane Meadow’s public water is the trio of rivers years Cody has spent the majority of his time on the sprawling 20,000 acre that form the Jefferson River: the Beaverhead River, the Big Hole River and Kennedy Ranch, located a few miles past the R.L. Winston rod factory just the Ruby River. outside the trout fishing town of Twin Bridges. The ranch is a resource beyond The Beaverhead River is a unique tailwater flowing from Clark Canyon compare with miles of the Ruby River, countless private ponds with huge, Reservoir through Twin Bridges. All sections of the Beaverhead can be accessed uneducated rainbows, three little spring creeks and Serengeti type densities in less than an hours drive from Crane Meadow Lodge. The Beaverhead is of wildlife. Spend half a day cruising and fishing this private preserve and a picture-perfect Montana trout stream that is floated in its upper reaches you will likely see sandhill cranes, abundant waterfowl, pheasant, whitetail and wade fished through private access on its lower reaches. A narrow river deer, moose, rabbits and an array of raptors. With countless opportunities to with willow-lined banks, the Beaverhead often produces some of the largest sight fish for big, cruising rainbows on their private ponds some early season stream born trout in Montana. anglers are hard pressed to ever leave the property and sample the myriad of The Big Hole River offers over 100 miles of some of Montana’s most options outside the gates. classic trout water. Dry fly fishing on the Big Hole generally starts with
“On any given day in a 50 mile radius of his lodge he will know which way the wind will be blowing, where the water will be clearest and exactly where and when the bugs will be flying” PAGE 57
Left to right, top to bottom: A beautiful Montana brown; the lower Ruby River; the lodge; a crisp September morning in Southwest Montana; Tyler Barrus with a few of his favorite flies; PAGE our58 main man Cody Meine. Photos: Ken Morrish
MADE IN MONTANA skwalas and the Mother’s Day caddis hatch in May followed by giant stoneflies in June. This free-flowing river is stunningly beautiful and incredibly productive. Depending on the section fished an angler might encounter grayling, cutthroats, rainbow trout or brown trout. This is a classic Montana river not to be missed. The Ruby River is Crane Meadow’s home river. In its lower and middle reaches it meanders through farm lands with endless grassy cut banks. Many guests consider fishing a hopper in the ranch section of the Ruby River the highlight of their trip. In its upper reaches the Ruby is a willow-lined mountain freestone stream where anglers enjoy high catch rates of rainbows and cutthroats up to 16 inches while the larger browns are often encountered on the ranch’s lower 15 miles of river.
Seasons Because of the number of fisheries available, Crane Meadow Lodge enjoys a six-month long fishing season. Starting in late April and extending through June Crane Meadow takes smaller groups of four to six anglers in order to ensure Kiwi everyone has great water to fish. The pre-runoff season is coveted by anglers in the know who enjoy uncrowded waters, thick hatches of smaller bugs and trout that haven’t seen an artificial fly for months. Anglers at this time of year often limit their trips to three or four days. Most years runoff subsides by early July and the summer fishing season goes into full swing. Regular hatches of mayflies and caddis lead right into August terrestrial season. Hoppers and ants dominate the dry fly opportunities through mid-September. The remainder of the season focuses on tricos, blue winged olives and streamers. The late season is big brown trout time and anglers that have not experienced a 20-inch fish chasing their streamer with abandon through low, clear water need to add it to their bucket list. We often receive requests from anglers that just want to experience great Montana trout fishing. They’ve heard that Montana has fabulous fly fishing but
every person they’ve spoken to has suggested a different area. Crane Meadow Lodge is the only destination I know of where a guest can arrive and state the type of fishing, species or setting that they most desire and have that delivered. In most cases they will even have multiple options in the categories they are most interested in. Crane Meadow Lodge simply has that much water available, making it the ultimate Montana destination.
Making the Grade It is not a simple process to land a job guiding for Cody Meine. Cody’s rookie guides typically have five years of guiding experience, having cut their teeth on the local fisheries with other outfits and proven that they can think outside the box and consistently catch fish under all conditions. In Cody’s words, “my guides don’t look like they just stepped out of a fly fishing catalog, but they work hard and they know how to catch fish when everyone else is scratching their heads and wondering if they picked the right beat today.” In fact, other outfitters have joked with Cody that Crane’s newest guides have outshined their entire guide pool when helpMu d d l e r ing them cover the odd day here and there. As Cody says, “if on any given day a prospective guide can’t figure out that the fish are suspended mid-river as opposed to hugging the bottom, as most guides assume, they will never make the grade here.”
The Lodge Crane Meadow Lodge caters to 10 anglers in four tasteful private cabins with queen beds, separate reading area, full bathrooms and screened porches for gear storage. In the spirit of getting away from daily life the cabins do not have televisions or phones. Essentially everything you need to be comfortable, no more, no less. The main lodge, just steps away from the Ruby River, sports a relaxing western atmosphere with a comfortable living area, fireplace and a spacious dining room. Having cocktails on the lodge’s deck affords guests views of the
“Crane Meadow Lodge is the only destination I know of where a guest can arrive and state the type of fishing, species or setting that they most desire and have that delivered.” PAGE 59
MADE IN MONTANA Ruby River and is a great place to view the ranch’s resident wildlife. Meals at Crane Meadow can be best described as ranch gourmet. True to his style, Cody’s only request of the chef is that, “he not serve anything that I can’t spell.” The quality and creativity of the meals is not diminished at all by Cody’s edict. Rather, dishes like steak au poivre with a wine reduction are presented as peppered steak with sauce. Whatever you want to call it, the meals are delicious and hearty.
Non-Angling Non-angling guests have plenty of activities to fill a vacation agenda with historic places to visit like the old ghost towns of Virginia City and Nevada City and family attractions such as Bannack State Park and the Lewis and
Travel: Anglers will fly into Bozeman or Butte, MT and rent a car for the 1.5 hour drive to the lodge.
Clark Caverns State Park. Yellowstone National Park is 1.5 hours from the lodge and worth a side trip. Watching wildlife and bird viewing on the ranch is another popular activity. If you’re interested in seeing all that Montana has to offer there is no better destination than Crane Meadow Lodge. This down-home operation has it all: long, productive days on the water, hard-charging guides and the most easygoing, affable lodge manager you’re likely to meet. The lodge is comfortable, well cared for and designed to soothe the serious angler after a day spent sampling some of Montana’s finest trout fishing venues. When you’re sitting in front of a scrumptious meal steps away from the Ruby River and reflecting on the myriad of Montana fisheries you’ve experienced, we think you’ll agree that this “Made in Montana” experience is as good as it gets.
Essential Tackle: 4 to 6-weight rod with a weight forward floating line
Season: April–October. All months have their special merits.
Top Flies: Morrish hopper, olive kiwi muddler, prince nymph, dirty bird
Capacity: 10 anglers
2015 Rate: $3,015 per person for a 5 night/4 day package
Left to right, top to bottom: Hooking a big one on the â€œditchâ€?; dinner in the dining room; fishing private water on the lower Beaverhead; a low water float on the Big Hole; a handsome lake PAGE 61 run rainbow; sunset at the tackle cabin. Photos: Ken Morrish
A look at Cody Meine's Crane Meadow Lodge