THE DAY BEGINS THE NIGHT BEFORE

    Your day begins the night before. Timeless questions consume the trout angler before morning’s departure and fall into three categories. The natural: Where to go? The psychological: When to begin? And the supernatural: How to prepare?

    Some anglers include all categories in their analysis, with simplifications and elaborations. Others rely solely on the oft-referenced and ever-opaque “gut feeling.” Eventually, decisions are made—sometimes casually, sometimes in excruciating fashion.

    Today, it is the latter. Drift boat in tow, the driver approaches a turn that signifies the decision between floating one of two rivers. Conversation stops. Everyone squirms in their seats and looks at each other, head-scratching compulsively. When it seems too late to make the turn, the driver jumps on the brakes. Then, muttering unintelligibly, hits the gas again.

    At the put-in, a quandary arises: the start of the float downstream determines when you’ll reach certain points on the float. You want high sun for the long, grassy bank full of hoppers, but afternoon shade for the riffles where the caddis pop. Reaching the take-out before pitch-dark is always nice. Do you kill time or rush to the water? No one knows or can decide, and the boat is made ready in a mix of a throw-it-all-in, hurry-up-and-wait, tire-kicking pace.

    You make your final preparations. Tend to rituals and superstitions. Which beat-up, faded fishing hat will you wear today? Grab your raincoat so it doesn’t rain. Do you bring the extra rod, the favorite and oldest one, the one reserved for small dry flies that hasn’t yet been needed this summer?

    The boat drifts away from the put-in and indecision. No more planning or pondering. Now it’s recognition and reaction. The fish are here, and they will eat, provided you give them what they want and how they want it. The perfect dry fly, if dragging, is about as appetizing as a bacon jalapeno cheeseburger served atop a stinking garbage can lid.

    Trout Season 2020 quote two

    The perfect dry fly, if dragging, is about as appetizing as a bacon jalapeno cheeseburger served atop a stinking garbage can lid.

    Sometimes the angles appear plain as day: a mayfly hatches, floats downstream, and is eaten; a fish in the seam, spotted from the high bank, paper-white mouth opening and closing; bank-side brush crawling with stoneflies. Other times the formula is more cryptic: a quintessential pool, but no bugs, fish, nor even a breeze; a hatch as thick as smoke, yet not a fish to be seen.

    Floating downstream, you make note of what you can, take your best guess and test a theory. The presentation is made—a specific fly, in a specific way—and feedback is immediate. Is it a sign of what’s to come, or a hex? A fine line exists between the first fish being too easy or coming too soon and the start of a banner day. The potential for a jinx isn’t discussed and thus appears to be avoided.

    Spirits soar as the sun reaches its height. A shaded bank awaits, the ideal viewpoint to watch the water while a river feast is prepared. Cold drinks for everyone, passed around the horn person to person; a potluck of homemade selections curated through years of riverside feeds, each item perfectly balancing taste, share-ability and cooler space. Full bellies and the early-morning departure catch up to everyone. You pull down the brim of whatever hat you chose that morning and your eyelids become heavy.

    Leaves rustle in the afternoon breeze, sending beams of sunlight onto your face in siesta. You stir, half-asleep. Suddenly, a distinctive sound snaps you awake: fly line ripped off the water, setting the hook.

    Trout Season 2020 quote

    Suddenly, a distinctive sound snaps you awake: fly line ripped off the water, setting the hook.

    “Yewww!”

    Nap time is over. Everybody back in the boat.

    Afternoon turns toward evening, and the catching follows the sun’s declining course. Thunderheads stage in the mountains, ready to color a sunset to match the hues along the gill plates of the day’s trout. Conditions change—temperature, pressure, wind direction—and it’s unclear who will make it to the take-out first: the brewing storm or the boat.

    Acknowledging the failing light, more than a day’s share of fish, and the approaching weather, the angler in the bow sits down and reels in—the most definitive indication that the fishing day is done. The rower stops pulling on the oars and the vessel quietly assumes the speed of the current. You make a few nonchalant, target-less casts from the stern, more on principle than desire.

    With the take-out in sight, it appears you’ve avoided a drenching after all. But pushing toward the ramp, all eyes zero in on a rise downstream. The rower softly slows the boat. Everyone thinks the same thing: Come up again.

    The trout obliges with a confident rise, nose breaking the surface, followed by the dorsal and finally a large tail. The whole process takes four full seconds. It’s a good one.

    “One more time,” someone says. “I dare you.”

    A lingering minute passes. Thunder growls in the distance and a flash lights the mountainside.

    “Do it.”

    Gulp.

    “Thank you.”

    The rower eases the boat into position and lowers the anchor inaudibly.

    “You’re up.”

    From a previously unseen box, they produce a fly.

    “You want to tie it on?”

    The trout rises again, and you show your shaking hands. They rig your favorite dry fly rod—the one you almost didn’t bring. Knot cinched, you take the fly. It is clearly a custom tie, saved for this exact time and place. The moment has materialized, a function of all the variables analyzed and over-analyzed. Here, now, and with good fortune. Another rise.

    You cast. When you have the distance, you make one more false cast to ensure placement and let it drop. All eyes watch it fall. All eyes see it land six feet upstream of the fish, right in its lane.

    You throw a mend and feed line. The fly is drifting right over its head.

    It’s the end of a day that began the night before, and everyone freezes.

    WORDS BY: Jesse Robbins

    ON THE WATER

    Kurt Kruger demonstrates one of the many alternate uses of a landing net as he and Sage Community Coordinator Alex Blouin look for their next target.

    Foam? Check. Rubber Legs? Check. High grassy banks with a light breeze? Check. All systems go; you’re clear for take-off.

    A heaping handful of buttery brown goodness.

    “And then I said: ‘Rectum? Damn near killed him!’”

    Artist Casey Underwood is all smiles as he navigates an entomological obstacle course on the way to the river.

    VIDEO

    In Northern Michigan, in the heat of the summer, every river essentially becomes two. There is the river of the midday sun - and there is the river of the night. Up here, the river sleeps during the day. And so should you. It's only after the sun sets that the water comes alive.

    TROUT TOOLS

    From dry fly sipping fish in the calm of the AM, big hoppers in the afternoons, to nymphing through a hatchless sunny day, our Multi-Application / Fast Action rods give you the ability to do it all. Our specialty application rods provide dialed in performance for specific fishing demands.

    Multi-Application

    Streamer / Dry Fly / Nymphing

    Fast action allows us to build rods that perform a multitude of tasks extremely well. Dating back to the original RP in 1982, chief rod designer Don Green wanted to allow casters to be able to delicately present casts off the tip while simultaneously having access to the reserve of power in the lower sections of the rod. This simple "fast action" design helped open up a rods ability to fish a variety of angling applications. The X rod’s fast action taper built with our KonneticHD Technology delivers greater blank recovery and a crisper tip stop - creating tighter, more efficient loops throughout all ranges of casting styles. This taper allows you to dig deeper into the rod and access the lower sections, shifting power closer to the angler. Decreased lateral and medial movement and vibrations in the blank result in a more accurate and efficient presentation, resulting in a performance driven, forgiving fast action blank - refining the synergy between angler, rod, line, and fly.

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    DRY FLY SPECIFIC

    Soft Presentations / Light Tippet

    With a delicate touch and medium action, the Trout LL family has been designed with the trout angler and dry flies in mind. Through blank taper optimization and specialized length offerings, the TROUT LL is perfected for wade fishing, closer casts, small flies, and light tippets. A relatively supple tip maximizes light tippet protection and gives way to a smooth easy-loading mid-section that increases feel and feedback throughout the casting stroke. When the rises start popping up, kick your summer off right with the TROUT LL. With delicacy, finesse, and a whole ton of feel, the TROUT LL is the perfect dry fly rod for presenting hoppers tightly against the bank or scaling down to micro bugs and feeding those picky eaters. When the hatch is on, the TROUT LL is an angler’s best friend.

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    EURO NYMPHING

    Tight Line Nymphing Specific

    While summer fishing is defined by dry flies and the hatch, oftentimes the bugs are simply not up on the water. When this is the case and I want make the most of my day out, I grab the ESN. This unique style of European Nymphing allows for unmatched strike detection and precision presentations when fishing subsurface. My perfect setup pairs the 3106-4 ESN with the ESN Reel and the RIO Euro Nymph Line along with a hand tied leader and a pair of barbless flies. These finely tuned rods fish best with an ultra-thin diameter fly line to reduce sag in the line when tight line nymphing at distance. When the fish eats, you feel the take down the blank and right into the cork as you don't have slack line like in an indicator rig. Instead, you are tight to your flies, just like a swung fly take or streamer eat. From picking apart pockets in small streams to the big mixing currents of the Colorado River, using an ESN, I can be effective on the water regardless of what is happening on the surface.

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    TROUT SPEY

    Swinging Flies For Trout

    Initially popular as a way for serious steelhead anglers to practice in the "off season", trout spey has become widely recognized as a fun and productive way of pursuing trout in a variety of fisheries. Having brought to market some of the first true trout spey rods with 2 and 3wt ONE rods in 2016, now we’ve improved upon this application with a full range of TROUT SPEY HD rod options. The TROUT SPEY HD action improves upon the application with a more stable tip (a balance between stability and tippet protection) and a power adjustment to better handle Trout Spey specific lines currently on the market and the trend toward heavier lines. The added models in the series will give anglers more options to select appropriate sizes for their fishery (fly size, fish size, and environment), with a smaller 10'3" 3wt model designed to work well with the shorter spey heads that are extremely popular today.

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    MADE IN THE USA

    GUIDE WRAPPING

    At Sage, we cannot talk about craftsmanship without talking about our people. We’re not a big factory full of anonymous faces, but rather a workshop of craftspeople who design and build the world’s best fly rods using our hearts through our hands. Nowhere is that more apparent than in our guide wrapping, where each double footed guide wrap and decorative silkscreen wrap is individually tied by hand. On average, that’s 41 hand-wrapped tie offs and over an hour of work per individual rod. While there are easier ways to attach guides, nothing can replace the detail of a hand-tied wrap. It’s how we built our first rod in 1980 and why we continue the tradition today.

    Writing / Photography / Video

    Jesse Robbins

    Writer Jesse L. Robbins hails from Maine, as do his interests in angling and writing. His stories on “fishing” have appeared in The Drake Magazine and The Flyfish Journal, and he has been a reader on the Writers on the Fly Cascadia Tour. Jesse has spent the last decade out west, currently working at Fly Water Travel based in Ashland, Oregon. He is also an Ordained Dudeist Priest.

    Andrew Miller

    Photographer Andrew Miller is a multidisciplinary photographer with a niche in the outdoor industry space. His work has taken him all over the country shooting in often remote locations capturing moments overlooked by the average eye. His imagery has been featured in reputable publications such as The Fly Fish Journal as well as commercially with several notable brands in the outdoor industry.

    RC Cone

    Videographer RC moved from the flatlands to the big sky country when he was 18. Graduating from the University of Montana with a degree in Environmental Studies and a concentration in Photojournalism profoundly shaped his worldview and sense of aesthetic. Working with amazing companies such as Patagonia, Sage, and Howler Bros on a collection of adventure documentaries cemented RC’s love for outdoor cinema and the connections it creates. He and his camera have traveled around four continents and dream everyday of new adventures.