THE LAST CAST
The exodus of guides, clients, bewildered DIY sports, game officers, and a few locals proceeds forth from the cracked blacktop of a country boat launch.
The day softens; yellows turn to amber, ambers turn ochre and life begins to stir. Grasshoppers waiting out the afternoon breeze take a day's last flight, clicking heels against the waning heat. Mule deer slip between cottonwoods, drinking sweet snowmelt after a shaded slumber. Mourning dove post up on wires and dead branches, awaiting their turn at the saloon.
As evening on the American Serengeti awakens, the march of driftboats and rubber craft exit onto a darkening highway, tail lights tracing their paths into the distance. More deer slide up on the bar as the dove slam their drinks and hit the road, searching for roost.
The first one appears like a tiny chimera, rolling, dropping and fluttering in the dusk. Then two, three, five dozen more. Brachycentrus streaming from below and gently rustling the evening air. Caddisflies represent a calming at the day’s end, an exhale of anxiety and heat as the crowds drift away to campgrounds, taverns and cabins.
Upstream from the launch, not more than 800 yards, lays another universe. A tributary the width of a small garage softly empties into the mainstem and the cutties, rainbows and occasional brown trout have begun their late happy hour celebration. Quiet slurps punctuate the gurgling outflow. A couple gentle flicks of the five weight tipped with an elk hair appetizer brings a stunning wild rainbow to hand, iridescent and fat with late summer fortune.
A few more casts into the caddis fog and a foot-and-half long cutthroat with a deep emerald back and gilded gill marks is quietly slipped back into the stream. The fish keep coming until the fly, the rise and the water become indiscernible in the falling light.
A short walk further upstream reveals an undercut bank bordered with a downed pine stump, as if the fishing gods had conspired to create a showroom three-bedroom-two bath for brown trout. A headlamp, leader change and small mammal pattern are in order. Timing is critical; the light is still strong enough to make out the stump and the water flowing beside it. A couple false casts, just enough to get the line out.
A watery plop, louder than the combined cacophony of crickets, frogs and owls.
A wet detonation; a predatorial take down. The fish turns and sprints, lunging for rootball tentacles. A resolute bend of the rod turns the big brown, pushing her to another run downstream towards the tributary.
Into the water, following; trying to exact an impossible nocturnal freestone ballet: stumbling, recovering, reeling.
A luminous mostly full moon peers over the distant crags. The light spills onto this beautiful creature and her orange and golden telltale spots. At least twenty inches, but the phone camera stays pocketed. It would only detract from this moment; sucking away an energy that is best recalled rather than uploaded.
She tails away. The summer night cools and you are alone.
WORDS BY: JEFF GALBRAITH
Ambassador | STREAMER
If you hear the word streamers, you instantly have thoughts of buck nasty Browns and big articulated furry flies. Throwing big streamers to aggressive fish is one of the funnest and most intense strategies that a trout angler can have. The 790 Method is my go to stick when the flies start to get big and heavy. This rod will allow you to turn over big flies and heavy sinking line as well as punch through heavy winds like a hot knife through butter.
Tech Services | DRY FLY
Having cut my teeth on trout fishing the Upper Delaware system of New York, it became quickly apparent that accurate and delicate presentations are key when dry fly fishing any technical trout stream. The MOD excels at just that. The moderate action allows for extremely subtle presentations, as well as unmatched sensitivity and the ability to protect lighter tippet.
Sage Repair Center | SMALL WATER
I grew up fishing the remote mountain streams that drain the mighty Sierra Nevada and I still enjoy doing this many times a year. I can use my 8'2" Little ONEs in some of the tightest places I've ever fished because their roll casting and single-handed Spey casting prowess is absolutely unmatched when paired with the proper line.
At Sage, we are anglers and we are craftsman. We are not just a brand, we are workplace, on an island, in Puget Sound. In an era when mass production and mass marketing has infiltrated our lives and our passions, we view our craft and our calling differently. We build the world’s best rods and reels, one at a time, using our hands and hearts. Each rod we make is constructed in our factory with proprietary materials, custom componentry, Made-in-the-USA carbon and a precise process that passes each fly rod through 23 sets of hands and hundreds of steps on its journey. We make things in the same spot where we’ve built up our business during the past four decades. It’s a great place with good fishing. It’s where we call home and where your rod or reel was born.
Words & Photography
Editor / Writer Jeff Galbraith is the founder and president of Funny Feelings LLC, a publisher of three stunning print titles including The Flyfish Journal. A former Snowboarder Magazine editor, his thoughtful writing has also been featured in titles including Rolling Stone, Outside, Time and Surfer. Centered in Bellingham, WA with his wife and daughter, his passion for all things flyfish includes everything from trout fishing North Cascade mountain creeks and searching valiantly for Puget Sound sea-runs to an annual bonefishing bacchanalia in the Bahamas. If he’s not at work, he’s most likely out of reach with a fly rod in hand. More than once, he’s landed fish at a friend’s wedding—and been back in time for the toast.
Photographer Chris Figenshau is respected as one of the best high-angle photographers in the world—yet he’d be the last to tell you. A former hotshot in Alaska and longtime Exum mountain guide in the Tetons, Figs has used a rare mix of grit and skill to capture stunning images of mountain athletes from Jimmy Chin to Jeremy Jones in locations from Greenland to the Andes to Alaska to the Himalayas. Between trips, his favorite off-the-clock pastime is fly fishing the iconic trout waters surrounding his home in Jackson, WY. Even though he lays claim to an understated nature, he remains tight-lipped about the exact location of his favorite stream.