I was grateful to work with a fantastic team to make this project a reality. Many thanks to Bryan Gregson, Bobby Foster and Drew Stoecklein for logging crazy hours through all kinds of weather and bringing the vision to life.
I'm not a huge fan of product videos, so I really wanted to disguise this one as great story telling. When I asked Jerry about the rod, he started talking about why he loves designing trout rods and his time guiding on the Henry's Fork. The line we'd take was pretty obvious.
So many product vids lose you right out of the gate if you're not in the market for whatever it is they're selling, but I feel as though there's something here for everyone. If you're just getting into fishing, you learn a lot about technique and some very storied water. If you know about Sage, maybe you learn about how our chief rod designer got his start. If you know you want the latest rod, but just need a reason to buy it, that's there too. And, if all you're looking for is some fish porn, we've got you covered.
We were planning to leave at 6am, so “convenience” justified the sleepover. Despite the early start, I was expecting more than a cuddle, but he made no advances. Something about conserving our energy. I fell asleep with a patronizing kiss on my forehead and promises of debts repaid whispered in my ear. “Better be worth it,” I mumbled into my pillow.
Secretly grateful that he had the foresight to shut me down, I pull on a hoody to fend off the morning chill as we shove off. I’m feeling on my game. “Let ‘er rip,” he says as he takes the oars, making for the middle of the river. “Where?” With a toss of his chin, he indicates a ripple halfway between our boat and the bank. “See where the water changes – there?” I nod. “Cast just above it.”
I pull back, find my rhythm, and place the fly at the top of the seam. We float along and I mend, awkwardly at first, but muscle memory overpowers my performance anxiety and soon I lift my line with a deft flick of the wrist. Without turning my gaze from the water, I catch his grin out of the corner of my eye. I guess I’m doing okay.
Only halfway through my coffee but feeling twitchy, I see the indicator jerk and instinctively pull up. When I meet resistance, I’m sure it’s a weed. Damn, this fishing trip might’ve been more premature than the sleepover. “That’s a fish!” he exclaims. But I know it’s bottom, until I feel my line go slack and then tight again, and realize that I have, in fact, hooked a fish. “Just a little guy,” I concede as I work the fish toward the boat. “No, that’s a nice fish!” I look at him with genuine surprise, as much at his excitement as my success. We release the brown and swing back toward the middle of the river.
“Away from those fuckos,” he grins and rows us farther from the line of boats sliding into the water behind us.
“Aren’t you glad we got an early start?” he asks with a wink.
I hide my amusement and steady myself in the leg locks. “If we can sustain this pace, maybe.” Picking up my rod, I kick one hip out a few inches more than is really necessary for balance and hear him chuckle. Debts repaid, indeed.
“Bucket. Right side.”
My aim is good and I feel a tug on my line almost immediately. Another brown. This day is shaping up to be far more exciting than the previous night, with cast after cast bringing trout into the net. Note to self: reevaluate priorities around sex and fishing.
On a Friday night a few weeks later, he suggests a trip to the upper upper Madison.
“Oh, that’s a trek.” I check my watch, eyes widening in feigned alarm. “And it’s already 10:30.” I shake my head.
He climbs into bed, looking slightly confused.
Pulling the covers up to my neck, I throw him a quick wink before closing my eyes, snuggling deeper into the blankets.
“We’d better get some sleep,” I whisper.
A guest post for the Patagonia Flyfish Blog
Winter had taken hold. The temps were firmly entrenched in the single digits and I didn’t check the weather anymore; I just stopped on the bridge to watch the dark blue water sneaking past the ice, a fugitive from the floes. When the mercury bottomed out at -30, the river smoked its way up the valley like a prescribed burn. I ordered a case of rye whiskey from the liquor store in town and didn’t stop on the bridge again until March.
When the ice began to melt, I watched. When the runoff came, I waited. When the water cleared, I went. This would be the season.
I fished every day–screwed up a lot–but rapidly learned to tie solid knots, figured out what bugs to use and developed a personal code of ethics on the river. I remember the first time I forgot to press a barb. I remember the first fish that went belly up. I remember every mistake I made and every so-called victory. But every day, I went. I fished. I learned.
One night, curiosity led me to an access on my way home from work. I’d had a long day. I didn’t know the holes here. I caught a tree on every cast. But the river just went about it’s business. Efficient. Secretive. Selfish. Despite my efforts to work this stretch as I would the section that flows near my house, I caught nothing.
Part of me wished I’d just gone home, that I hadn’t wasted my time where I didn’t know the water, but I kept at it - working the bottom of a hole below a large tree. Finally, a strike. I set the hook and that fish bent my rod end to end as it took off into the middle of the river. I struggled to stay with him, but lost my footing and the tension on my line. A flash of belly and he was gone. My white whale.
I made a few dejected casts before moving upriver. I caught small fish here and there, but my heart wasn’t in it. The river would keep her secrets. I decided to head out with time for one last try at the hole by the tree.
I tentatively tossed my line into the gathering dusk. Even if I didn’t catch him, I knew he was in there and maybe that was enough.
As the river pushed against my legs, my indicator dipped and I felt the tug. The set was instinctive. I stripped and my rod tip curved - we moved together this time. I kept tension downstream toward the shallows until I could grab the line.
This part I knew. With one hand on the leader, I tucked my rod under my elbow and brought the fish to the surface. I removed the hook easily and kept my fingers light under his belly as he regained strength. To my surprise - and, by the look on his face, his as well - my white whale turned out to be a whitefish. But that was fine.
He finned in my hand for a moment, translucent and nearly invisible in the water, then slowly swam back into the current. I made my way to the car, sat on the tailgate to break down my rod and fished a warm can of beer from my backpack.
It was a nice change from whiskey.
A fun project I helped put together for Mystery Ranch backpacks while I was working as their Brand Manager. The Built for the Mission campaign embodies the innovation of our years of building specialty packs for the military, and how that development has informed all of our consumer products, from hunting and fire to backpacking and skiing.