A FEW PAGES ON THE CALENDAR

    Contrary to what the Insta-masses would have you believe, trout season does not begin with midge clusters, or a stunningly decorated rainbow trout Czech-nymphed from an ink-dark pool then held up and hash-tagged against a snow bank, or even a denizen of a Loch Leven, a lifetime brown, duped in its late winter lie by a crassly named articulated streamer swung with unimpeachable patience through a tail-out on the lower reach of a river you’d best not name, if you value privacy, if you value the sidewalls of your tires. Play it safe and blur the background. Call it Coyhaique or Bariloche. It’s a preseason fish, anyway.

    The games of record commence when the greening earth can be both seen and scented. When tacky cottonwood buds release their pungent musk, when wildflowers sprout bright yellow petals and, photo-chromatically synchronized, the stone-, may-, and caddis-flies sprout wrinkled gray wings. This first wave of late spring hatches conjoins trout and angler, too, the former trading the safety of deadfall or undercut for bubble-line, the latter swapping work desk or cubicle for riverbank.

    On such a bank atop a downed cedar you sit one evening, studying the rise-form a sizable brown trout makes each time it takes, per your assessment, a crippled dun. Beside you smoking a Swisher to fend off mosquitos sits an old friend who insists that the fish dimpling the back-eddy is eating spinners. Both stages of the mayfly pepper the surface film you examine at close range. He rigs with something spent, you with something that trails a shuck, and the game of nods begins. Ro-sham-beau for first shot. Three casts, no eats, take a seat.

    As evening draws on the lantern-jawed buck looks lengthier, stouter, in the waning light. Though it feeds with increasing confidence, the fish ignores your most sophisticated presentations: your reach- and steeple-casts, your slack-lines and curve-mends, your lengthened leaders and downsized tippets. Befuddled, you hook each snubbed and nipped-off fly in the bark of the sitting log—clipped-hackles, CDCs, quill-bodies, thread-bodies—a feral scorecard, record of the fish’s superior instincts. One of you says, let’s skate a gurgler. The other says, It ain’t the arrow, it’s the archer. Finally just before dark a beaver swims across the run and slaps its tail, putting the fish down for good, rescuing you both from further embarrassment.

    2019 Trout Season Quote

    Finally just before dark a beaver swims across the run and slaps its tail, putting the fish down for good, rescuing you both from further embarrassment.

    A few years pass. You’re guiding sports in Dillon; your friend managing trout populations for Game and Fish in Pinedale. Blame grad-schools, significant others, internships or long hours on the oars, but you don’t talk enough. Out of the blue one night your phone rings and he says, Hey, you got a day off this weekend? Saturday, you respond. Good, he says, because today I caught myself thinking about the big brown that kicked our asses at High Bank, the dozen flies we left in the log, remember? In-goddamn-delibly, you answer, opening your gazetteer to find an equidistant meeting point. Smack dab: Island Park. The Henry’s Fork it is. Neither one of you owns a cellphone—this is 1998 or ’99—so it’s ten-thirty at Osborne Bridge. Sharp. Last one to show rows first.

    The rising fish in the lower reach of the Ranch are aloof as a French waiter whose American patron has mispronounced escargot. For a while you play the far-and-fine game—this is after all the Western river on which that game was refined—building a sixteen-foot leader to which you knot a #20 designed by Lawson or Harrop. A rectangular rainbow bulges the surface and takes. You slosh downstream and your friend slips the net under the fish just before it burrows in a swaying bed of weeds, both whooping louder than you should as you admire the bulging mesh, drawing headshakes from the Stetson-ed guide parked across the river from you, whose client has snagged the grass. Sorry, you say; you ought know better.

    Going deep into his bag, your buddy employs a down-winged cinnamon ant, which fools more fish of refined pedigree than it should, but before long he has had it with the technical. I just came from a river, he says, where the female stoneflies skittering across the surface were dragging egg-sacks the size of huckleberries. He clips his leader in half, tucks the remnants in his shirt pocket and to the brand-new business end ties a small, home-spun, glitzy black streamer with yellow lead eyes and sparse marabou tail. I’ll bet you the shuttle, he says, that they haven’t heard this pickup line before.

    Indeed they have not, and as you enter the faster paced beat above Pine Haven the ’Lectric Leech bewitches the fish to the point of embarrassment. From all water types the upper echelon rainbows careen, bang heads to put this fly in their mouths. The guide boats that had been jockeying to pass soon anchor up and you lose them in your rearview. The next fish pushing four pounds demands a photo but you break the 5-weight while scrambling through the dry bag for the camera. Skip the picture. Worse could happen. You lash the ’Lectric Leech to your dry fly rig—blasphemy!—an 8’9” 3-weight LL otherwise known as the divining stick, and keep coveted rod bent all the way to the ramp.

    Late that afternoon you and your friend drive out of the parking lot in opposite directions, but in unified states of elation. Years will pass before you manage to meet on the river again—weddings, funerals, career moves—but today will tide you over as only a singular day in trout season can. “A season,” we say; a few calendar pages, a span of time whose opening we anticipate and closure we mourn, a finite window that reminds us to number not our fish but our days—the seemingly ordinary, the folly-filled, and the rarest ones that brim with dumbstruck luck.

    WORDS BY: CHRIS DOMBROWSKI

    ON THE WATER

    Back in the riverside lab, wrapping up a few offerings to test out later in the evening.

    Spinner fall detail.

    Taking a look from ringside before jumping into the action.

    The eternal question: why do trout like these things so much?

    Weight and weightlessness.

    Just buy a one way ticket: you won’t want to make the return trip.

    Eight ball, combo, off the rail, corner pocket.

    A song for summer.

    Success or failure? Sometimes the difference between the two is thin as 7x.

    BEHIND THE LENS

    Returning to his roots in the Rockies, Bryan Gregson mastered photography & cinematography in the winter action sports industry under the tutelage of some of the top mountain shooters. After a series of injuries, and with unique help of the Henry's Fork community, he then turned the lens to capturing fly fishing and adventure around the globe. This is the story of Bryan's journey and the cast of misfit saviors that helped to keep the dream 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

    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.

    — Team Sage,
    Rod:
    X 590-4
    Reel:
    CLICK 3/4/5
    Line:
    RIO PRECEPTION WF5F


    Coming July 1st, 2019

    DRY FLY SPECIFIC

    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 hatch is on, the TROUT LL is an angler’s best friend.

    — Team Sage,
    Rod:
    TROUT LL 486-4
    Reel:
    CLICK 2/3/4
    Line:
    RIO GOLD WF4F


    Coming July 1st, 2019

    TROUT SPEY

    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 in 2019 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.

    — Team Sage,
    Rod:
    TROUT SPEY HD 3110-4
    Reel:
    TROUT SPEY 3/4/5
    Line:
    RIO INTOUCH TROUT SPEY


    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.

    Chris Dombrowski

    Writer Chris Dombrowski is the author three books of poems, and the memoir Body of Water: A Sage, a Seeker, and the World's Most Alluring Fish, which was named a Bloomberg News Book of the Year in 2016. He lives with his feral family in Missoula, MT, and is entering his twentieth summer as a fishing guide.

    Bryan Gregson

    Photographer After returning to his roots in the Rockies, Bryan mastered photography & cinematography in the winter action sports industry under the tutelage of some of the top mountain shooters. From there, he turned the lens to capturing fly fishing and adventure around the globe. Along with his dedication to craft, Bryan has followed in the footsteps of fierce western conservationists, acting as a key organizer for what is now known as the Utah Stream Access Coalition, a group that seeks to ensure fair public access to streams.

    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.