Pre-Runoff Windows // by Boots Allen

April Hookup
The early season!  That glorious “under-the-radar” months on my home river.  While so many fly fishers focus on tailwaters further south in Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, the lucky few that know of this time on the Snake River in Wyoming understand how special it is.  Sure, the weather is variable, with cold rains or event snowstorms that dump a few inches on the valley floor not necessarily uncommon.  But the Snake offers dry fly action that rivals what we get in the more popular months of late summer and through autumn.

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Midges, winter stones, and blue-winged olives ring in the new first couple of weeks of April.  The second half of the month brings about a skwala hatch that is matched by only a few other streams in the Rocky Mountain West.  It hits its stride in the last few days of April and then gains strength in the first week of May before finally dwindling to a fizzle.  It might as well – May is when our runoff is in full swing, and the Snake can be thick and muddy enough to almost plow.

But things are changing on the Snake as much as they are changing everywhere in the World of fly fishing.  Climate change deniers are going to be offended by my take regarding what is going on.  The simple fact of the matter is that all the indicators we look at suggest a runoff that is starting earlier with each passing few years.  There are 20 fewer frost-free days now than there were 30 years ago.  The number of mid-winter overnight lows that are below -30 have dwindled to the point that we are shocked and surprised to see one occur, let alone several days in a row.  And the biggest change of all – the rate at which our runoff starts earlier every year.

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My father guided on our area rivers from 1959 until his death in 2003.  He used to say that “the runoff starts on May 10th every year.  And if it hasn’t started on May 10th, it will start on the 11th.”  A lot of those older, long tenured guys said that when I started guiding back in the early 1990s.  And really, that is kind of the way it actually was.

Today, it is a something really special to see the runoff start in the first week of May.  It happens every now and then, but for the most part, it begins sometime in the last week of April.  Last year, it started on April 21st.  This year, we began to see our first signs of it on April 19th.

If global warming is not happening, there is no doubt that “local” warming sure as hell is.  At least it is in my part of the World.

Now there are upsides to all of this?  Yes.  Temps are warmer than ever in early April, and that means even more intense dry fly fishing with #14 to #20 midges and BWOs than my father every really experienced with any consistency.  And March has been lights out with streamers and dries and nymphs.  In fact, March is becoming what April was.  And the runoff is ending earlier on average, meaning that we can fish those late June hatches that were not in the cards 30-plus years ago except on rare occasions.

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When the Snake is in full runoff, guides are not starving.  The upper Green is less than an hour away.  So is the South Fork if the Snake in Idaho, a storied dry fly tailwater.  The lakes of Yellowstone National Park are a bit of a longer drive, and they can be epic when they open in Memorial Day Weekend.

Nonetheless, I miss what we used to have on the Snake before runoff each April and May.  There was something special about tossing #8 to #10 skwala imitations for seven hours straight and getting eats over and over and over again.

And every little now and then, when winter lasts a little longer and spring is a little cooler, those days are in the cards.  I just want a lot more of them.


Boots Allen is from Jackson Hole, WY and is a part of our Sage Elite Team.

On The Water Tour // Sandy River Report

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Sandy River Spey Clave

Stop number two of the On The Water Tour landed the Vanagon at the 16th annual Sandy River Spey Clave, hosted by our good friends at The Fly Fishing Shop in Welches, Oregon.  Our Westfalia fit right in at this festival of claves, with camping on-site and enthusiastic camaraderie all around.  Mother Nature brought quite a varied showing of weather with scorching sun on Friday, shifting into an all too familiar chilled drizzle for the remainder of the weekend.  Weather aside, we came well equipped this year with every two handed rod we make on hand, rigged up, and ready to hit the water.

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Amidst Friday’s heat, over a hundred anglers and twenty instructors joined together over several miles of river to take part in one of the largest two handed casting clinics ever held.  For three hours, it was certainly a spectacle to see, and a true representation of the passionate culture surrounding Spey.  Folks were able to simultaneously combine advanced instruction, techniques, and tools to open up new doors that will greatly improve their overall experience on the water.

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Bringing keen, modern perspectives on traditional techniques, casting wizards including Scott O’Donnell, George Cook, Simon Gawesworth, Jon Hazlett, Jason Hartwick, and Dax Messet, educated and entertained an avid crew of anglers with an assortment of demonstrations over the course of the weekend.  The show continued in the evenings with Wild Steelheaders United and the Deschutes River Alliance giving unique presentations that further fueled the fire for wild and native fish conservation, protection, and restoration.

All in all, this year’s event was a great showing of the strong spirit that surrounds casting with a Spey rod.  The passion once driven solely by a fish-catching mindset is now growing towards an era of respect and understanding of our impact on fish, rivers, and ecosystems, in addition to greater interest in the technical intricacies within the art of Spey casting.  The bond between man, fish, water, and tool evolves and grows stronger with each passing year, and this gathering was certainly no exception.

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Glad we saw so many of you on the water.

 

On The Water Tour // The Missouri River

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Craig Caddis Fest / May 20th-21st

The Missouri River needs no introduction. You go there to experience some of the best fishing in the West, it’s typically not for the nightlife. Although, with the Craig Caddis Fest happening on Saturday town will be as hopping as you have ever seen it. Everything ought to be in perfect shape to enjoy some great dry fly fishing. We are very excited to be able to take part in the festivities, serve up some killer BBQ, and share in some great fishing. Continue reading

On The Water Tour // Sandy River

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The Sandy River Spey Clave / May 13th-15th

 

The Sandy River Spey Clave can be referred to as the Woodstock of claves. With camping on-site this is a spey festival that is worth attending. Between on the water presentations, hundreds of Sage spey rods on hand and lines to match to create perfect setups, and all of the top PNW spey anglers in one place, you have to look hard for excuses not to attend. We are stoked to be parking the van at this event to be a part of this unique culture and learning experience. Continue reading

PERFORMANCE FLY CASTING // THE STANCE

Perf Casting Tips - The Stance
There are three basic fly-fishing stances:  square, open, and closed.  As a rather practical individual, I’m not an advocate for using any single stance in all situations and instead recommend that flyfishers learn to rely on all three positions from time to time because each can be used to advantage under different circumstances.  The following descriptions of the 3 basic stances also includes a few benefits to using them: Continue reading

Sage Build a Rod // Stage 7

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Every Sage blank gets sanded to remove the ridges imprinted from the cello and baking processes.  Our precision machinery allows us to accurately remove the resin edge without touching the graphite.  Every part we sand has a particular setting on the machine, insuring precision every time. Continue reading