Far from any paved road, down a meandering dirt path that winds parallel to the North Platte River, lies a quaint sportsmen’s paradise that boasts experiences unparalleled by any other establishment in the West. Nestled along the perimeter of Saratoga, French Creek Sportman’s Club exists within a quiet river valley, teaming with small trout streams running through dogwood groves and valleys of sagebrush, and canarygrass, waiting for the next traveler to discover new experiences within its bounds.
As part of the Brush Creek Ranch Collection, French Creek Sportsmen’s Club sits on 15,000 acres of sporting paradise on the legendary Sanger Ranch property. Whether solo or with a group, at any given time, a maximum of 12 guests will have exclusive access to the ultra-secluded Sportsmen’s Club with four private luxury log cabins, a luxury yurt, as well as a Clubhouse and dining room perched on French Creek, enjoying access to its breathtaking environment and to the notable experiences it affords in the American West. Last month, the Flylords team had a chance to make their return to the campus, after having visited sometime in 2019. There, we were met with familiar faces and a plethora of new experiences.
Upon arrival, our team was divided into 3 different groups. Two of which consisted of a singular member being escorted to their own private quarters, each complete with a full bed and bath. Our own group, consisting of the final 3 members of our party, found ourselves within the canvas walls of a large and luxuriously decorated yurt. The yurt, complete with a king bed, trundle, cot, wood-burning stove, and several other couches and seating areas, was a pleasant departure from your typical lodge experience. Although constructed with sound wooden framing, and a skylight to tie the room together, the yurt presented an outdoorsy feel, delivering a hint of cool, Wyoming desert air during the night, as well as the soothing sound of rain pattering across the canvas exterior, as we waited out midday thunderstorms.
Once we were settled, there wasn’t much time to waste. Immediately, we were escorted to the shooting range with the mission of turning a few clay pigeons to dust.
The Shooting Range:
While most of us had a bit of experience behind the barrel of a 12/ 20 gauge over under, the range was a friendly place for any skill level and offered a safe and enjoyable opportunity for someone to learn more about sporting clays and operating a firearm.
Equipped with the ranch’s vast selection of premium Italian shotguns (Purdey’s and Beretta’s, mostly – the ones that occupy the dreams of all wing shooters and gun lovers), we participated in a few rounds of skeet shooting, which quickly turned into an emotionally charged match of Annie Oakly, resulting in many broken clays and a few broken hearts.
After spending a few dozen shells each, we laid down our arms and focused in on the pistol range, trying our hand on a series of 9mm Berettas, .357 revolvers, and a silenced .22 (or, what felt like a pellet gun). There, painted metal was turned silver, and a few impulse buys, which occurred later on in the month, were inspired.
The French Creek Clubhouse:
After a long day of travel and an evening spent indulging in shoulder-battering fun, we made our way to the Ranch’s luxury clubhouse to unwind before dinner. There, we were met with an endless selection of scotch, whiskey, and other spirits which could be consumed to the heart’s content while running through a couple of games of billiards. As the balls disappeared from the felt table, a platter of goat cheese, which was pasteurized and formed within the confines of the Brush Creek Ranch campus, was quick to disappear as well, filling the bellies and hearts of our party complementing the ambiance that the gently smoldering flames within the stone fireplace provided.
The Dining Room:
As the evening faded to black, it was time for a late dinner just next door. As we piled into the dining room, we were met with a hypnotizing aroma of the marvelous feast that was to come. Without hesitation, bottles of red wine were being uncorked and poured with consideration into each of our glasses.
The dining room’s walls were a thick hard word, fastened together like a log cabin, all surrounding a cobblestone fireplace, and decorated by various mounts of game ranging from American Bison to Ring Neck Pheasant. Illuminated by little besides a chandelier, the chef’s lights, and candlelight, we were presented several courses of delicious culinary extravagance, from hand-prepared mushroom risotto and pan-seared duck, to a steak greens combo that could put any Brazilian steak house out of business. However, as we all know, the real proof is in the pudding – or as we had it, perfectly prepared Crème brûlée.
As the nights went on, the meals changed but the quality of the product remained consistent. From breakfast to dinner, we ended each sitting with an encumbered schlep back to our quarters.
While there is a diverse selection of things to do at French Creek Sportsmen’s Lodge, and an even greater array available at Brush Creek Ranch, we had the privilege of inserting ourselves into a meriad of fly-fishing opportunities, as well as an upland hunt, an on-site whiskey tasting, as well as a trip up a few trails less traveled via horseback.
Fly-Fishing at French Creek Sportsman’s Lodge:
Considering you’re visiting Flyordsmag.com, this is probably the section you came here for. Thanks for bearing with us thus far…
The Fly-fishing experience at French Creek, as well as Brush Creek, is second to none. Having access to multiple private stretches along the Platte River, as well as full access to a lightly trafficked French Creek, located just outside the door of the Clubhouse, one can finally find understanding in those old stories their grandfather used to tell them about, “before the world got so crowded”.
Prime seasons are within the months of June and July, however, the elbow seasons, such as August or September can be just as productive when the conditions are right. Back in 2019, a few members of the Flylords team had the chance to visit the ranch, and ended up landing one of the largest trout, still, that has ever been pulled from the creek.
Now, almost 3 years later, our new team had come with high hopes and large expectations; and while we didn’t land any record breakers, the fishing proved to live up to all the hype.
On day 1, we headed to fish the side channels, which were offshoots of the North Platte, ins search of rising trout, eager to take little trico flies. As the morning, August heat began to roll in, noses began to become less frequent, and we traded out our size .24 trico flies for some larger tackle in the shape of the resident terrestrials: hoppers. With calculated moves made on selected holes, a few of us were able to entice some healthy trout to take what we were offering. As we worked our way, slowly, up the side of overarching cut-banks, each angler had their chance at sizable fish, some of which were brought to net, some of which were sent back to the depths with a new piece of jewelry.
On our second day of fishing, we split our time between some lower sections of the Platte, and French Creek. Amidst a Trico hatch that resembled a summertime blizzard on the Platte, Jared, was able to land a healthy rainbow trout after an arduous and calculated hunt, ending in much celebration and a few early morning cocktails enjoyed.
Upon arriving back at French Creek, we piled into 4-wheelers and began the trek to the upper stretch of the creek. There, we scoured the small flowing body of water, delivering carefully placed dry flies to any seam, riffle, or pocket that looked like it could hold fish. It didn’t take long until rods were bent and joyous exchanges filled the air, as we netted fish after fish, each more beautiful than the last. Carefully, we worked our way towards the top of the creek, surrounded by nothing but walls of thriving fauna and the sound of thunder in the distance. Eventually, an oncoming afternoon storm pushed us from the creek, back to the comforts of our cabins, leaving us fatigued and fulfilled of a full day of the best fly-fishing many of us had seen in a while.
BCR’s Spirit Tasting:
After a day of fishing, there are few things that can compliment the experience like a fine glass of rye whiskey. Nonetheless, 6-7 glasses of assorted pours will do the job of settling excited hands with equal efficacy.
On the first afternoon, we were given the chance to taste a select grouping of some of Brush Creek’s finest spirits, all distilled at Brush Creek Distillery. Ranging from clear liquors, making our way to the finest selection of BCR’s barrel-aged whiskeys, we were brought on a sensory rollercoaster, as flavor profiles, which we would have failed to sniff out ourselves, were laid out for us by the in-house sommelier.
During our session, we enjoyed a glass of Vodka as smooth as water, a shot of Gin that would have your Grandmothers liquor cabinet sent to the bottom of the nearest body of water, and groupings of Bourbons and American Whiskeys that boasted such intense flavor profiles that we had to try some of them twice. Needless to say, this was the end of all of our days, and led to an early, and needed, bedtime for all who participated.
Upland Hunting at Brush Creek Ranch:
There are few experiences that compare to watching a well-trained dog work a field of switchgrass and sage. That is unless, you compare it to watching a ring-neck rooster flush from its hiding spot, only to be met with a mixture of steel and fervor from a well-timed swing of a shotgun.
However, as any hunter worth their salt can attest to, the pleasure of the game is not derived from the act of taking life, but from watching a culmination of efforts all come together in one perfectly placed demonstration of discipline and determination. While there are several tiers to hunting, and not all of them meet the level of dedication that is required for a pursuit such as Western big game, the sense of primal connectivity remains the same. The satisfaction of hunting can be described as a reversion to our original programming, and when done right, results in a respect for the harvested animal, which many non-hunters may never know. The feeling of shooting your first bird is one few forget, and considering it was 3/5 of our team’s first time toting an over-under in the field, these feelings were abundant.
On our second day at the Ranch, we joined two guides and their collection of well-trained short hairs to embark on a morning Pheasant hunt. It was not long before the safety briefing was over, and guns were loaded. As we marched, side-by-side, through the fields of tall grass, the dogs weaved back and forth, noses vibrating, attempting to pick up the scent of a tucked-away bird.
It was not long before the first flap of wings could be heard, and a bird was in the air – until it wasn’t. As we continued to move, we encountered a flush every 10 or so minutes, resulting in some downed birds, and a few left to fly another day. As the day progressed, hunters exchanged guns for cameras, so that everyone could get a shot, limiting the party to 2 shooters, so as to not turn the birds to mince meat.
Nearing the end of the day, we made our way around a corner into a shady grove, where we came upon an unsuspecting covey of Chukar. With a flutter of wings, shots rang out, and with practiced focus, a few made their way into the pouches of our waist packs, and eventually, with the pheasant, into the freezer back in Colorado.
Horseback Riding at Brush Creek Ranch:
After our team’s time in the field, we were escorted to the activities center at Brush Creek’s main campus, where we read over the long list of available opportunities presented at the Ranch. From there, a vehicle towing a seated trailer hauled us down to the stables, where a group of wranglers who, waiting for our arrival, prepared horses and tack underneath approaching black clouds.
After saddling up and adjusting stirrups, a group of 3 wranglers escorted us from the stables to the grassy meadow, in pursuit of the rocky desert hills in the distance. As we rode, names were exchanged and stories began to flow. Before we knew it, the grass faded to the riverbed, and the riverbed transitioned to dry rocky earth occupied by succulents and sagebrush. Further and further we went, quickly finding rhythm with our horses, as we looked onward in awe of the breathtaking landscapes that define the beautiful state of Wyoming.
The horses careful but strong were acutely tuned into the respect we, as their riders, had for them, and subsequently returned it as we made our way from the forged trails onto the rocky outcrops of the arid landscape. As we rode on, thunderclouds darkened the horizon, promising torrents of rain and lighting to come. Eventually, we began our descent down the mountain of sandstone and back onto the grassy trail, eager to return back to French Creek for the feast and festivities to come. As we dismounted our horses and made our way back to the Chevrolet waiting for us, a team of wranglers snapped their reigns and began driving their herd back into their respective pastures where they would spend their night. The thunder of hooves and clouds of dust concocted a romantic parallel to the oncoming weather, and with one last tip of our hats, we parted ways with Brush Creek Ranch.
Our stay at French Creek Sportsmen’s Club and Brush Creek Ranch is not one we will soon forget. There are not many places left in this world where an angler or sportsman can experience such an authentic and isolated experience.
Offering something for everyone, French Creek Sportsmen’s Club is a place where people can enjoy honeing in their love for outdoor sport, or discovering all new passions whether it be in the field or on the water. By offering a peaceful and all-encompassing experience, FCSC offers a place where the busy mind can rest, and the true outdoor enthusiast in you can thrive.
To learn more…
To learn more about booking a stay at French Creek Sportsmen’s Club, you can visit their website, HERE. Or, if you’re interested in experiencing all Brush Creek Ranch has to offer, Check out their Website, HERE.
Thank you to Brush Creek Ranch for having our team. We hope to see the friends we made there, very soon.