The Other Side of the River

Sage Fly Fishing - Leah Ricketts - River Snorkeling

(Photo: Leah Ricketts via Outside Online)

Ever have the urge to just dive into that perfect pool and see what you are missing? Ya, us too. So why not not throw on a snorkel and explore every place you wish you could put a fly? Russ Ricketts and his wife Leah have made it a habit in Leavenworth, Washington. In a recent Outside Online article, Russ explains whats its like on the other side of the river, and surprisingly how much you can find.

FISHING TACKLE: I’m a fisherman, but I had no idea how terrible of a fisherman I was until I realized just how many fish there are down there. They are kept company by every lure and lead weight lost or abandoned by hopeful fishermen. Monofilament line can snare waterfowl and fish, so it should be removed whenever possible. Luckily, it generally comes packaged with other fish gear that holds some value. Matt and I picked up 52 pounds of lead in a two-hour swim. A 10-ounce sinker sells for $2.59. Do the math.

GOLF BALLS: What is it with hitting golf balls into water? Negatively buoyant, golf balls sink. Picking them up is fun and can be an easy way to pay for that sexy wetsuit (or golf lessons). Don’t worry, there’s plenty for everyone.

Not only can snorkeling improve your knowledge of how the river works and where to find more fish, but it can also improve the health of the river by finding and removing trash. Surely a day snorkeling the river may be a tad more wet and cold than fishing in the comfort of your waders, but not by much (especially by our northwest standards).

Read Outside Online’s full post here.

Astonishing Numbers for Bristol Bay

Sage Fly Fishing - Save Bristol Bay

The country has spoken. 200,000 people took the time to submit comments on the EPA’s Watershed Assessment on Bristol Bay, AK. More impressively, 98% of them agreed with the EPA’s findings in opposing Pebble Mine.

The Assessment concludes that Bristol Bay’s wild salmon fishery and other natural resources provide at least 14,000 full and part-time jobs and is valued at about $480 million annually. The EPA also found that even at its minimum size, mining the Pebble deposit would eliminate or block 55 to 87 miles of salmon streams and at least 2500 acres of wetlands – key habitat for sockeye salmon and other fishes. Are you concerned yet?

It appears that the country is in fact concerned, yet the result is now out of our hands. The Obama administration, with help from the EPA, must now move forward on implementing a 404C to firmly protect the region. Are 200,000 voices enough to be heard? We must wait and see.

To see some more amazing numbers and the latest news, visit

Sage Reinvents the Travel Rod Tube

Sage New Award Winning Technical Travel Rod Tube

July 25, 2012 (Bainbridge Island, Wash.) – Sage Manufacturing, fly-fishing industry leader, announces the release of the most innovative rod tube design in over 50 years. Sage’s new design transforms the traditional travel rod tube to set the new standard in fly rod protection.
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Tune Your TV: Alaska Gold

Sage Fly Fishing - PBS/FRONTLINE - Alaska Gold

Your schedule for tomorrow night should be cleared. Across the country FRONTLINE, PBS’s acclaimed documentary series, will be airing an hour long special titled Alaska Gold. FRONTLINE which is praised for being “the last best hope for broadcast documentaries” is not afraid to tackle the complex and tough issues. Bristol Bay and the looming Pebble Mine certainly fall into that category and we hope that FRONTLINE is not too late to the game. Click here to watch the trailer.

With the EPA’s comment period deadline ending tonight at midnight eastern time, FRONTLINE may not be in front of the issue but Alaska Gold will certainly draw some deserved attention. Check out this link to get informed and excited before tomorrow’s screening.

In return for copper and gold worth an estimated half a trillion dollars, state and federal regulators risk poisoning what scientists describe as the last best place on earth for millions of wild salmon – and the risk from toxic mine waste would last forever.

For those Felt Soul Media fans out there, Alaska Gold is a refreshed edition of their popular documentary Red Gold. With only a handful of hours left, use this link to take action and save Bristol Bay and be sure to tune your TV to PBS tomorrow night!

Florida Bass Fishing with Jon Cave

Sage Fly Fishing - Jon Cave - Florida Bass

When it comes to fly-fishing for largemouth bass, Florida can’t be beat. The state is loaded with countless small ponds, marshes, lakes, streams, and other freshwater environments that are prime habitat for bass and it’s virtually impossible to drive very far without passing productive water. The vast majority of locations are shallow and, therefore, ideal for fly-fishing with a floating line. Although populations vary from one aquatic setting to another, largemouth bass are abundant in most bodies of water and a proficient flyfisher with reasonable knowledge of the fish’s behavior should have no trouble in finding plenty of action.

Largemouth bass in Florida (Micropterus salmoides floridanus) are a subspecies of the more widespread variety (Micropterus salmoides salmoides) to the north. At first glance, both fish appear to be identical, but a more detailed study reveals subtle differences. The main distinguishing characteristics of the Florida version are the scale counts at different anatomical locations and, more importantly to anglers, its larger average size. Trophy-sized fish weighing 8 pounds are relatively common and the largest specimens can exceed 20 pounds in rare instances. Although the Florida subspecies is native to Florida and the southernmost extremes of adjacent states, it has been successfully introduced into other areas of the U.S. as well as many international locations. They also commonly breed with their northern cousins in watersheds that overlap the ranges of both fish. Despite their minor physical differences, both bass have the same feeding habits and show a marked preference for habitat in the littoral zone.

The Littoral Zone
The littoral zone of a body of water is that portion where a sufficient amount of sunlight can penetrate below the surface for photosynthesis to take place and thereby promote the growth of various aquatic plants. The vast majority of Florida’s freshwaters are shallow with a large littoral zone that supports a complex food web. These fertile areas are the quintessential bass habitat; a mixture of emergent, floating, and submerged vegetation where large populations of crustaceans, worms, amphibians, insect larvae, small finfish, and other aquatic creatures provide an abundant forage base. To be consistently successful in these areas means keeping a fly “in the zone”, but fly-fishing in these salad bowl is not without its unique challenges.

Stout 7- or 8-weight gear matched to a bass taper line is standard for casting large flies and pulling big Florida bass out of the thickest cover. The Sage Bass II Largemouth model was engineered specifically with those conditions in mind and it’s my “go-to” rod for trophy-sized bass in the littoral zone. Where vegetation is relatively sparse and the situation calls for small- to moderate-sized flies, the Sage Bass II Smallmouth rod/line is a perfect match and even an outfit as light as a six-weight can be used effectively.

I prefer to use 4-1/0 topwater patterns in the littoral zone because of the visual excitement that comes from watching an explosive surface strike; but, large 1-1/0 subsurface patterns such as eel/worm streamers often attract the biggest fish, especially around floating leaf plants such as lily pads and spatterdock. Regardless of the pattern, mono and wire weed guards will significantly reduce hang-ups. Sturdy leaders, with a tippet size of 0X or larger, are necessary to turn over typically large bass flies. Since vegetation accumulates around the knots of hand-tied leaders, knotless versions are recommended instead. Regardless of whether a pattern is fished above or below the surface, a slow retrieve will usually draw the most strikes around plant cover.

Sage Fly Fishing - Jon Cave - Florida Bass
School Bass
Of course, there are notable exceptions to largemouth bass feeding outside the littoral zone. In Florida, one of the most electrifying occurrences, and my favorite, is when they gather in schools to attack pods of bait swimming near the surface. The water boils with excitement as baitfish scatter in every direction to avoid the voracious bass. When concentrations of fish are feeding indiscriminately in open water, almost any fly is productive as long as it lands in the middle of the fracas; however, the bass may become increasingly selective as they continue to feed during the course of several hours. In those instances, a match-the-hatch approach becomes necessary. Popping bugs and Clouser minnows in sizes 2-1/0 are deadly on school bass, even the choosy ones.

These melees generally last only a few seconds, after which another attack may take place in a different location, usually within close proximity of the previous one. Unless the fly is delivered during the feeding frenzy, the chances of a hook-up drop significantly. Consequently, a quick presentation is critical to success in these situations.

The combination of a Bass II rod, either largemouth or smallmouth edition, and the accompanying specialty line provide an enormous advantage over standard fly gear tackle for quick casts to schooling bass. I generally opt for the lighter smallmouth model when targeting schools because the fish are easier to play in open water than they are in thick vegetation and the smaller flies are easier to cast as well. Nevertheless, both these outfits significantly reduce false casting and in many instances a single backcast is all that’s necessary to make a presentation. A saltwater speed-cast can hasten the delivery as well.

Florida has a lot going for it in regard to fly-fishing opportunities. In saltwater, bonefish, redfish, tarpon, seatrout, permit, snook, sailfish, and a host of other species all vie for the title of “top dog” among flyfishers; however, when it comes to freshwater fish, largemouth bass are the unquestionable favorite. That popularity can be attributed to their statewide distribution as well as their penchant to readily strike flies. The fact that Florida bass can grow to large proportions only adds to that popularity and there’s always the remote possibility that the next bass to strike your fly will surpass the legendary world record 22-pound 4-ounce behemoth.

For more from our friend Jon Cave, please visit

“It Takes a Lot of Country”

Sage Fly Fishing - Mark Rutherford - Bristol Bay

Photo credit: (Mark Rutherford via Atlantic Magazine)

Paul Greenberg, author of the New York Times best seller Four Fish and writer for the renowned Atlantic magazine, spent the last few weeks writing an article via satellite from Bristol Bay, Alaska. While Greenberg’s article is undeniably pertinent with the EPA’s comment period closing on July 23rd, the article seems to explore a larger relationship between the web of man-made infrastructure and the health of our rivers.

People who would seek to tame Alaska say that the place lacks infrastructure. That it needs the trappings of modern life to become civilized. But for the people who depend on salmon and relish the region’s wildness, no better infrastructure need be created. For them the best infrastructure of all is unbounded, salmon-choked rivers.

Bristol Bay is an incredibly vibrant system of bio diversity and production above ground, yet its true mystique lies in the unground labyrinth of water and nutrients. The vast subsurface waterway emerges from time to time creating lakes, which Greenberg refers to as “pockmarks” or “pimples” popping up throughout the Alaskan tundra. Supporters of Pebble Mine claim that pollution from the mine will not escape into this underground system or damage the fishery, yet to every onlooker (including the EPA) that result seems inevitable.

With just a handful of days between now and the EPA’s July 23rd deadline, take a moment to read Greenberg’s thoughtful piece and take action at

Greenberg writes “it takes a lot of country to grow a lot of salmon.” Be apart of ensuring the salmon keep what little country they have left, and keep in mind what type of country we’d like to live in ourselves.