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    Tuesday, December 4, 2012
    New Rhea Is Here

    We just got in a seriously nice batch of rhea and they make great stocking stuffers!
    All of our lengths are guaranteed (each feather is measured to ensure quality standards) and these are sure to be some of the lowest prices around.  Grade A quality feathers make beautiful large profile flies while the B’s are perfect for smaller patterns and “min-truders”.
    Videos on how to use rhea are on the way soon!
    http://flygal.ca/shop/flies to purchase.


    Posted by April Vokey on December 4, 2012
    Saturday, December 1, 2012
    A Step in Time…
    Oh Mr. Dylan, how right you were…  The times they are a changin’.

    In a world of social networking, computer graphic enhancement and online shopping carts, the times have officially found themselves “changed”.  


    It’s a new age, a new generation and a new very distinct dividing line that is being drawn between the ways of the past and the ways of the present.



    This dividing line cuts deep, driving the mavericks and the leaders of this generation to proceed in paving new paths; more specifically to the fishing industry, paths that are being paved quite literally to the river.

    Needless to say, this path is not welcomed openly by all.

    This is always an interesting topic of discussion for me.  
    You see, the truth is that I have listened to many an angler share their story and I have been blessed with the good fortune to meet some incredibly knowledgeable people who have spent the majority of their days of existence on the water.

    From the industry’s old guard of anglers who built the sport’s foundation, to the industry’s “new school” of anglers who continue to add renovated extensions to this existing structure, I am always fascinated by the tales and opinions that I am told.

    As should be expected, varying personalities result in varying opinions and while there are some who view this dividing line as growth, there are others who view it as counter-productive (an “if it ain’t broke then why fix it?” viewpoint).

    Personally, not one to call myself traditional, I admittedly embrace any form of “new” mentality ‘outside the box’, whilst moving forward and onward towards diversity and whatever other innovations I may be privy to exploring within myself as an angler.


    Mike Davidchik photo.


    This can of worms that I am about to open has many related areas of controversy that a 2,000 word column can’t support, so while we could fill half of this post with the changes and debates of “old vs. new” from a media standpoint, I am choosing only to focus on one of the branches of this topic: what is the difference between the flies developed and improved by each of these generations?

    Fly-fishing for steelhead in BC began to gain popularity and momentum in the early 1900’s when legendary writers and anglers like Roderick Haig-Brown began exploring steelhead opportunities on the coasts of Canada and the USA.  A true pioneer of the sport, it is said that Haig-Brown fished like he wrote: with elegance, admiration and respect for the fish that he longed for.



    The Haig-Brown days started an angling revolution of deer and mallard clad flies, silk fly lines and traditional presentations for non-pressured fish.  A myriad of anglers found themselves touched by the poetry of the sport and a romance soon blossomed amidst man and the blushed cheeked beauties we call steelhead.

    Simplicity graced the equipment, the rivers and the anglers themselves.  Conservation mayhem had not yet encompassed entire fisheries and angling pressure simply didn’t exist.  
    Similar to the traditional methods of Atlantic salmon anglers, flies were sparse and delicate, sink tips were virtually unheard of, and long bellied lines were the only method of fly delivery.

    I have always had a soft spot for the classic tiers and steelheaders from before my time.
    To have seen the things that they must have seen, walked the shores that they had walked, unraveled the mystery of the elusive steelhead with the truest of virgin eyes.  As a girl, I would fantasize and toy with the idea that my very steps were falling within the outline of Mr. Haig-Brown and such legends.  A walk to a river that may well have once been the first of a fly-fisher set out on a mission to find a traveled steelhead.  




    A river never touched by a line, crossed by a wader-clad human being or disrupted by a stripped streamer; I was enamoured by the possibility that I may well have been experiencing the exact moments of anticipation that those before me had felt.  Fishing seemed simple then.  

    It was inevitable that the techniques of the early 1900’s would transition and begin to take the form of alternate methods.

    In the early 1990’s, a small group of anglers on the West Coast of the USA, including the likes of Ed Ward, Mike Kinney, Mike McCune, and Scott O’Donnell, developed a fly line known as the “Skagit” line.  More similar to that of a 26 foot long, condensed grain shooting head ideal for double-handed fly rods, these lines enabled anglers to turn over larger profiled/weighted flies, as well as heavy sink tips in various lengths.


    Adam Tavender Photo.


    These adaptations were a relief, as more anglers were able to effectively fish entirely new depths in the water column, thus enabling them to present more obnoxious flies to less active winter steelhead that often needed extra “assistance” with their aggression.


    With the ability to cast heavier flies, came an explosion of articulated bunny leeches and elongated streamer patterns.  Bright colors and creative materials made their way to the river as steelheaders from around the world sought tying therapy by delving into their creative energies at tying desks in an attempt to craft an ultra-effective steelhead fly.



    With shorter lines, easier casts, interchangeable sink tips and “no need to follow the recipe” flies, steelhead fishing has become appealing to even the most inexperienced of fly anglers.
    Fishing is “simple” now.

    There are some traditional anglers who scoff at the flies and technique born of this revolution.  


    Justifiably, such naysayers are soon met by an explanation that an influx of angling pressure combined with the misfortune of fewer fish, has forced anglers to think a little differently.
    The reality of it all is that both traditions, old and new, have proven to be astonishingly effective.

    One of the major hang-ups that I have encountered as a fly-tier is the perceived drastic difference in patterns stemming from the old and new ways.  It had always been my impression that the older style of flies seemed to be tied with more neutral colors and a smaller profile.  In stark contrast, I have found that many of the more modern steelhead flies tend to be brighter and larger in both length and profile.


    While I understand that the majority of these more recent flies are designed to be swung through the current, many of the flies of “yesterday” were also designed for such a presentation as well.

    It was inevitable that I would finally reach out to the men that I have followed and learned from, to ask them myself:  “What is your favorite winter steelhead fly pattern?”

    I reached out to eight different tiers, each of them renowned as fly-fishermen and dedicated long-time steelheaders.  I put serious thought into each before I contacted them, and set out to find one expert from each of the listed categories.

    Traditional:
    Canada West Coast, Canada East Coast, USA West Coast, USA East Coast.

    Modern:
    Canada West Coast, Canada East Coast, USA West Coast, USA East Coast.

    I didn’t really know what to expect.
    Would these flies be ultra-traditional, complete with gut eyes and tented wings, or would they have adopted some of the more recent characteristics of stinger hooks and other tricks?



    I didn’t have to wonder long as their photos and flies poured in and I was able to come to a conclusion myself…

    The end result being that I was astounded by the similarities between patterns.  From the West to the East, and from then to now, despite distinct differences, there were equally as many similarities.

    Each fly had related characteristics.  While the more seasoned tiers tended to down-size their flies, most of them let me know that they also tied and fished their trusted patterns with an articulated and extended trailing hook.  This method not only allows the angler to replace dull or bent out hooks with new ones, but it also allows for an extra amount of security while fighting fish.

    The use of a trailing hook was not the only major characteristic these flies shared.  Their profiles and colors shared definite likenesses as well.  

    Each fly was designed for classic swinging water and each fly was tied to maintain a profile as it danced and flickered through the current.

    The differences that I noted were surprisingly few, but all of the differences that I observed came in the form of either size, weight, or use of flash.The newer flies seemed to hold more size, often included weighted eyes, and had an abundance of flash or tinsel.  Bigger, bolder, brighter… like a steroid infused traditional pattern, the newer flies simply demanded the attention of any finned passer-by’s.



    There are reasons and stories behind every innovation.
    The men before us once sparked creation from their inspirations:  a ribboning leech through an early morning pond, a Coho Blue pattern found on a coastal stream bank, an idea sparked from a late-night tying session with the guys…

    Just as they have built from theirs, our new generation seeks inspiration and creates as well: an injured bait fish gasping in the shallows, a photo of a Combs’ classic or perhaps a pattern in the bin of a fly shop…

    Both “old” and “new” walk the same line of creation and artistry.  
    So while it is true, the times are changing, it is the perceived dividing line that finds itself reshaped and morphed into a full circle.  One where the “new” comes back to the old, and the old revisits the “new”.

    They both meet in the middle and they both evolve as one; dependent on one another to move ahead.

    Traditional:
    Canada West Coast- Art Lingren


    Canada East Coast- Larry Mellors


    USA West Coast- Trey Combs


    USA East Coast- Ray Schmidt


    Modern:
    Canada West Coast- Sky Richard


    Canada East Coast- Paul Castellano


    USA West Coast- Scott Howell


    USA East Coast- Kevin Feenstra


    Posted by April Vokey on December 1, 2012
    Wednesday, November 28, 2012
    Some Q & A With the Washington Herald

    Nice to not have to answer questions about makeup.  😉

    http://m.heraldnet.com/heraldnet/db_/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=3aPzyqzW&full=true#display

    Posted by April Vokey on November 28, 2012
    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    I have just price slashed like never before in order to make room for new stock!  Save close to 50% off most items and remember that everything must go!  Christmas orders must be placed no later than December 10th to ensure timely delivery… place your order now and get that shopping over with!

    There are gifts for both men & women to be found.

    http://flygal.ca/shop/

    Orders over $99 get free shipping (difficulties with the coupon code) but I will refund your shipping costs upon purchase.)

    Merry (soon to be) Christmas!
    April.

    In house Vokey tubes!

    New!

    New!

    New Kids!

    Posted by April Vokey on November 25, 2012
    Saturday, November 24, 2012
    Fly Gal Now Offering Tube Fly Classes

    Curious what all of the fuss is about?  Well, we’re here to help answer your questions about the tube fly and its advantages…
    Fly gal is proud to now add tube fly classes to our list of schools and will likely be in your area soon.
    Need an individual lesson?  We can do that too… http://www.flygal.ca/workshops
    Email info@flygal.ca to book.

    Posted by April Vokey on November 24, 2012
    Friday, November 16, 2012
    A Day in the Life…
    My schedule is one that always rouses up questions from people who can’t quite comprehend a life on the road.  “How do you do it?”, they ask.
    “With a smile,” I truthfully reply.

    I love being busy, I love new adventure, I love running to a tight flight and I love never knowing what to expect when my feet touch down in a new country.
    My heart belongs amidst the vastness of BC and within 3 weeks of being away from her, admittedly the glow in my eyes begins to dull and the edges of my smile are just slightly less curved.
    Like a drug to a user, BC is my fix but between sessions I am a girl who needs to run.

    Over the years I have noticed a curiosity amongst those who read my work and I figured that an update and brief outline of a “Day in the Life of…” might be appropriate.  Without further adieu, here is a glimpse of my life and where I have been this October.

    Upon leaving the Dean, it would have been wrong for me to not pay the Skeena region a visit.  With a continued desire to wake the foam poppers (see post below), I opted to catch fewer fish but more excitement and I held true to my word by leaving my sink tips at home.  Colby and I hit the freeway.

    Naturally those who swung behind me were rewarded with any fish I had missed and everyone was happy.

    A few weeks later, with bright eyes and a very curved smile (courtesy of the Skeena), I headed to Seattle’s Evergreen Fly Fishing Club where I was fortunate enough to meet some fabulous people and share the secret behind my glowing face with them.
    The next morning, with a coffee in one hand and a history book in the other (I am currently completing my business degree via correspondence and am most focused during flights), I sat next to the Seattle airport window stretching and enjoying an unexpected rainbow that arced over the terminal.  This was going to be a good trip… I could feel it.  The warmth of my Starbucks touched my lips, the hustle of the airport behind me faded while the whole world just seemed to slow in perfect harmony.
    I was on my way to New Brunswick where I was set to team up with Fredericton Outfitters for several schools with Atlantic Salmon enthusiasts.  The shop was beautiful and the Munns (Chris and Caitlyn who own the shop) were instant friends as they met me at the airport.  Caitlyn, 8.5 months pregnant extended her hand past her belly and her ‘to the point’ conversation made her an instant friend of mine…  They welcomed me into their home and began to explain the week we had planned.

    Our first stop was at the infamous Wilson’s Salmon camp on the Miramichi where I would teach 8 students the basics of casting and the specifics of the double haul.
    The day was great fun and after taking a good hard fall on my ass in front of the class (leave it to Vibram soles), the mood was light and everyone was in high spirits.

    The next day brought us to The Ledges where we repeated the days events from yesterday (minus the clumsiness) with new students.
    After the class, the Miramichi was low but Chris and I had to give her a try.  We met up with some of his friends at his cabin and after a hot toddy and some fresh duck, the lot of us headed out to try our luck at an Atlantic.
     

    I swung and slowed my fly, applying steelhead tactics to my swing.  Chris swung his fly fast through the current and picked up a jumping beauty behind me.  With a squeal, laugh and curse, I made my way upstream to try again… downstream mend and all.
    The bush crashed behind us and I turned petrified to peer into the yellow leaves.  Please be a bear, please be a bear... bears, I know what to do with.  
    Chris and I both stood turned to the disruption behind us and I wondered just how limber moose were in the water.  Soon, silence was all that shook the leaves and my heart rate lowered in time with my slight disappointment at the diversion of danger.
    The next day was a repeat only without the salmon.  This time, a large truck of filthy men carried in a hunted moose.  New Brunswick has a three day hunting season for moose and there were hunters everywhere throughout the province.
    Was that you making all of that commotion behind me?

     The guys taught me how to call and howled as I put both hands in the air, swaying back and forth with a stupid face as I attempted to call in a mate.

    Back at the home-front and accompanied by my new homegirl Caitlyn, we dove into a feast of lobster, mussels, potatoes and butter…  New Brunswick style.
    Damn, I love the maritime life!

    I cooked alongside artist Catherine Munn, still flushed from the beautiful painting she kindly handed me upon our introduction.  With paint still fresh, she glowed as she placed the artwork in my hands.  Jaw dropped, slight blush, moist eyes and absolutely zero words to explain how I was feeling, she knew I was a collector and she added her talent to my collection.
    Katy (her niece and a student from one of the classes earlier) had shown me one of her pieces upon arriving at the river and I had purchased it immediately as my eyes drowned in its melancholy.  It had been painted at a jazz festival and the energy poured through the canvas and into me.

    The following day, I had a date with some of the kids at a local elementary school.  A banner hung from the entrance wall and my stomach did a flip as I read my name on the large display.  
    I began with an introduction and explained what steelhead are.
    Soon it was time for us all to tie flies.  The kids (who have quite possibly the best teachers in the world) were all supplied tying equipment and together, as a class, we all tied a marabou leech.  It was hilarity and sheer chaos but the result was some beautiful flies, a sore face from laughing and enough feathers on the floor to dress an entire show of Vegas girls.
    Alright!  Let’s swim these!

    Nice work everyone!
    A short week later, it was off to Toronto to meet with caster Rick Whorwood of http://www.flycastingschool.com/ where he and G. Loomis had arranged a couple of tying classes, a couple of casting classes and an on the water school where each of us would drift 2 anglers down the Grand while helping them to understand efficient steelheading techniques.  
    First stop was First Cast Fly Shop in Guelph.  I have worked with Ray and his shop in the past and can honestly tell you that if you live in the Toronto region, you simply must check them out.  Integrity, professionalism and patience… this shop takes their relationships seriously.
    I was later emailed by the young gent through the swim tank about his success with the fly that he tied in the class… check this out!  Good for you Mike.
    “Hey April, Just wanted to thank you again for teaching me the great intruder patterns, they are working great! We had a blast on Sunday and I had some great takes swinging.  The second pic is actually the fly I tied at the class!

    Good Luck with the classes/seminars this fall.
    Mike”    

    Next, it was off to Rick’s place for a ladies casting workshop.  We pulled an “underground” and met up in Rick’s garage close to a nearby park.

    7 of the 8 ladies drove in from Quebec and a translator helped to remove the language barrier, Ashley (the 8th of the 8) and I both sat in sheer silence at times, lost in the french language and comedy of the group.  
    What I didn’t need a translator for was the ridiculous amount of laughing, sass and passion for the sport that each of these gals held.  Ranging from 11 years old to their early 20’s, these french gals were good, damn good…  I can tell you with confidence that this fishing industry is about to be struck with some serious talent.
    I remember 10 years ago when another gal on the river was a “hallelujah” moment… I am so proud to look forward now and see just how far all of this pushing has gotten us.  

    The following day, Rick had the boats set up for our on the water school.
    I took the raft while he took the drift and together we rowed our crew down the Grand in pursuit of steelhead.

    The water was low but we pushed onward.
    Using swinging techniques from home, we called in a bass or two.
    And of course, we managed a few steelhead (whew.)
    The day was fun and productive and almost everyone in the group landed a fresh fish.
    Again, it was off to the airport and I prepared to say goodbye to Canada for a few more weeks.
    Germany came with a day of lost time and Alex Siems of ADH Fly Fishing in Peine, Germany picked me up from a very foreign airport (this was my first visit here).
    ADH holds an annual fair and they had brought me in to teach, speak, tie and drink beer (it was Oktoberfest).
    My room had a glorious view and the small farm town reminded me just how much I like ‘simple’.
    Diana and Alex hosted me in their home and together we tried to get through several of the largest beer mugs I have ever seen.  
    Cheers!
    The next morning was one of casting.  Working together on the double haul…

    Class didn’t start until 10:00am so I awoke for the crack of dawn and headed to the river for a shot at a pike with one of the ADH guys.  Cast, strip vigorously, cast, strip, repeat… I waited for my line to tug from my hand.  A bolt of smeared grey stained the water and I watched in disbelief as a huge pike hit my leader from the side.  Missing the wire altogether and nicking the thick mono instead, my fly and the pike were both gone in a flash (literally).  The words exchanged from here shall remain censored but needless to say, I was nothing short of unimpressed.
    Regardless, I picked up this little beauty and then proceeded to head back to the shop for my class.
    The next day was the day of the event.  I set up to tie for onlookers in the shop and tried to learn some of the German language.
    Before I knew it, it was presentation time and I squirmed and struggled trying to beat my enthusiasm into the crowd.  The language barrier and polite tone of the Germans made it interesting but the result was efficient and I was able to spend a fair bit of time working individually with local anglers.
    Plus, does it get any better than German sausage?  They even have their own Ketchup that simply puts ours to shame.

    The week sadly came to an end and I prepared to leave Alex, Diana and the ADH crew.  Late night casting comps, fine rum, European techniques and a ton of great new people… I hope to be back soon.
    Alas, all good things must ‘finito’ and I was determined to take a personal vacation to Florence Italy for some good wine, food, gelato, art, history, and did I mention food?

    The Cathedral… my hotel was perfectly placed.

    Off to the opera!  One more dream crossed off the list…

    With a full stomach, a satisfied heart, a newfound passion for the Italian language, several hours of conversation with the two ladies sitting next to me (turns out even the most conservative women have an interest in outdoor excitement) and a suitcase packed with as many truffles, limoncello, biscotti and oils that I could fit, I headed home to a wagging tail, a wet cheek kiss from Mom and a bellowing hello from my Dad.  I always love this part.
    The visit was short lived… and 20 hours later Colby and I were packed and back on a 14 hour commute through wretched road conditions to visit my beloved steelhead.
    Yup, this was not a fun one.
    Lol!  Colby’s a boss… 

    A roadside stop for some chilly teeth brushing and Colby exercise.
    Instant relaxation… it feels good to be back.
    The stare down as Colby unleashes in a furious, frothing rage from the backseat of the truck.

    Hello lover.
    Moose and I get along better when I’m safe in the truck… those feet are not something I would like to find myself under.

    Exactly…. look at the size of those things!!!  Jeremy Koreski photo.
    We scout the Kispiox and Mr. High Maintenance gets his hair did.
    We were set to meet with photographer Jeremy Koreski who would be trying to capture some photo moments for Patagonia.  He was going to fly into Smithers where we would spend a day on the Kispiox before making our way to Terrace (photos to come later).
    The weather had taken a recent plummet and every 2nd cast demanded that we crunch our ice off our running lines with our teeth.  To be quite truthful, it was miserable outside and a recent flu bug (courtesy of a girlfriend’s adorable children) had me mentally glued to my seedy hotel bed.  Sweats and hacking lungs kept my days short but I did what I could to keep up with the other two healthy lads.
    Jeremy Koreski photo.
    Ben and Thompson look outward to laying steelhead.
    Is it the medication or is he laughing at his snotty mom?  Jeremy Koreski photo.

    Jeremy Koreski photo.
    So, there you have it: “a day in the life”.  
    Life is too short to be small.  I’m going to live every second of this thing as though I’m going to die tomorrow; even if it does include flus, moose, ice and long flights… that’s just all part of what makes it so much fun.  
    Close your eyes and jump… I’ll see some of you on the “how do you do it?” schedule soon.
    April.

    Posted by April Vokey on November 16, 2012
    Friday, November 16, 2012

    Waking foam bugs makes for a great day!  Tried and tested on various rivers throughout the coast… Stevie’s foam flies have these fish launching out of the water to annihilate in a top water frenzy.  I only wish I could capture each take on film to share… thankfully for me they are permanently etched into my mind forever.  🙂
    April.

    Posted by April Vokey on November 16, 2012
    Saturday, October 27, 2012
    Dean 2012 Blog
    Wow! What a fantastic year of guiding it has been… warm weather, fresh fish, great company and new friends; I could not have asked for a better season.
    Some highlights of the summer:
    A piece of perfection, safe and ready for release. Steve Morrow photo.
    Colby, Dana, Stevie and I get comfortable in our staff cabins while taking a moment out of each day to thank our magnificent Grantham Falls view.
    Our entertainment in the evenings… the fluttering wings of hummingbirds keep smiles lively and people in awe.
    A small community Canada Day party brings out the truest in us all, eh?
    I almost fell in laughing as Kenny hooks his hat, casts it across the river and then reels it back in. Where’s the video camera when you need it?
    It’s scary how hard so many of us fall in love with this river… she keeps us wrapped tight around her little finger.
    Dana & Stevie’s, Kaleigh, and Colby cuddle into my cozy cabin.
    Before guests arrive, I take the pups for a quick burner up to the snow caves.
    Dangerous? Maybe… but so incredibly worth it.
    High water but fishing is still hot! Steve Morrow photo.
    One of my favorite guests of the season holding a magnificent fish!
    When guests are set, rock statues keep the body moving!
    Need I say more?
    A grizzly encounter several years back leaves a mark for passerby’s.
    Colby and I set off to Bella Coola for the next three months.
    My small guide cabin in the forest.
    Caught while reeling in! I will never forget this one…
    Fall is here.
    Hang to dry… keep it green.
    A gorgeous office.
    Stevie and I take a week or two to fish for ourselves… Colby is useless on the oars.
    A quick and wet release. Steve Morrow photo.
    Cheers to another hot fish on the dry.
    …And yet another.
    Dana and the game warden Mike entertain us for an afternoon lunch.
    Keeping it classy where we can.
    Uh, ok maybe not so classy… two beer wenches secure the cooler and head down to the river.
    Woah!!!! A pig!
    A long season brings a tired April and Colby home.

    Thank you to everyone for a great season!

    April.
    Posted by April Vokey on October 27, 2012
    Wednesday, September 5, 2012
    The Grip and Grin Debate

    Disclaimer:

    It’s another one of those nights; quiet, cold, late and lifeless. 
    Angry rain releases its fury onto the tin roof of my small guide cabin and wind-strewn branches scrape the thin glass window that looks out towards the vast, dense forest bordering the Dean River. 

    To my left, Colby snores heavily into his blanket, his whisker-clad nose and thick furred shoulders twitching furiously as he sleeps through the storm.

    I smile at him; yes, it would appear that these nights have the same effect on us all.
    The welcome flicker of a dancing flame livens up even the most ordinary of glass jars and the yellow glow lights the paper rested on my lap, allowing my eager pen access to the crisp white canvas.

    I gaze at the two inornate objects; both so underestimated yet both so capable. The irony doesn’t make its way past me, and I am reminded again of why at an early age I was drawn to the comfort of such tools.

    As pen meets paper, a literary intimacy begins and both merge as one until the birth of a message unfolds.
    In the past, I have been confined by the simplicity and politics of strict editors and conservative publications.

    “April, perhaps a light-hearted piece is in store? Maybe one on gear, or presentation, or even seasons…? Perhaps you can let the pot settle for a little bit before stirring it again?”
    The plea is fair, for there is many an angler that thrives on such articles, so I succumb to the unpleasant thought of stifled opinion, instead lingering on the edges of boredom while differentiating between dead-drifted glo-bugs and current swung streamers.
    The truth is, there are only so many ways that this twenty-nine year old mind can phrase what has already been so rigorously explored and defined by men nearly three times my age.

    Respectfully, I try to leave the technique jargoned “how-to’s” for the mechanically inclined professionals; those who thrive off the vagaries of weather data, hydrometric charts and the latest and greatest in gear technology.
    I, while relatively versed in the aforementioned, prefer to flourish in the quiet satisfaction of readership contemplation and the occasional bout of reflection.

    In saying this, I have been well behaved in my last two columns and I would like to redeem my “get out of jail free” card before commencing with my next dice roll in the columnist game of editorial monopoly….
    Back to the drawing board. Aaron Goodis photo.

    Game On: Defining the Grip & Grin…

    The eeriness of the night has always been a cruel friend of mine.
    It does to me what it does to Colby, and my entire brain ticks and seizures with overwhelming ideas, thoughts and dreams.
    Armed with only a bedside notepad and pen, I frantically jot down my impulsive flashes and try to guide the ink accordingly across the page in the blindness of the black room.

    It was a night much like this nearly one year ago that was the impetus of this very article.

    I had been lying in bed below the same tin roof, sore and satisfyingly fatigued from a long excursion upriver with fellow guide, Steve Morrow.
    It was the end of our season and the two of us had trekked into a long flow of water in the upper stretches of the fabled Dean River in pursuit of adventure.

    Steve and I had spent the last sixty consecutive days guiding other anglers and assisting them with the stalking, hooking, landing and releasing of hot steelhead that were making their migratory journey to the Dean’s tributaries.
    Through wind, rain, heat and horseflies, together the two of us had tailed more fish than we could count and the mantra of the ‘grip, cradle, lift, smile, click, “give her a drink”, release’, protocol made our personal fishing days all the more at ease when it came time to land our own fish.
    As an unspoken rule, if we were within talking distance we would assist the other with a speedy release but the camera played shy, exposing itself only for the occasional fish whose girth extended our splayed fingers more so than usual.

    That night, as I lay listening to the soothing pattering of rain above, I replayed the day’s events and closed my eyes to envision the green and gold flecks of metallic that shone brightly around the fire in one of the wild hen’s eyes.
    To do her justice, there was simply no need for a camera. I saw her clear and vivid on the inner dark screen of my rested lids; she had made an impression on my mind and her beauty had set itself in the depths of my memory where I could be sure to visit her every time I so inclined. 

    Truthfully, I had always softly lingered on the minor contradiction that posed photography entailed.

    Myself, admittedly no stranger to the participation of a classic “grip & grin” photo, I had the pose down to a science.

    Four of my fingers would lightly cradle her slick, white belly while the other hand closed a firm grip around her sturdy, spotted tail.

    Together both my hands would lift on cue, allowing the light to accentuate her bright silver scales, the water droplets rolling and teetering on her soft edges before plunging back down into the river around my knees.
    The fish, safe in my grasp, awaited the greedy click of the shutter and I turned my face to the camera with a trophy smile, entranced by my jewel.

    The paradox here is one that may not be the most obvious at first.
    You see, for some, in that chaotic instance of camera bag digging, electronic fumbling and verbal communication between photographer and subject, it is inevitable that there is a moment of sheer splendor lost between the angler and his prize.
    In a moment where a mere 30 seconds is the appropriate amount of time shared between both the ‘gripped’ and the ‘grinned’, 28 seconds of that is often spent focused on a completely separate entity than the fish… an entity complete with black dials, glass lenses and extensive light manipulation commonly known as a camera.

    It’s an ironic trade off really; an unconscious sacrificial exchange between the moment of silent mental imagery and the moment of distracted, hectic poses. 

    Both result in a stored image…one in remembrance and one in pixels.

    While I most certainly will not speak for others, for me personally, I eventually found myself dreading the water sloshing footsteps of an encroaching photographer.

    In the short 30 second time allotment that I had to spend with my surrendered beauty, even the smallest of distractions became a hindrance to me, and I longed to be left alone to indulge in the uninterrupted silence where my eyes could be left to etch a permanent picture in my mind.

    This said, it might be wise for me to clarify myself further. Occasionally I wholeheartedly delight in having a remarkable steelhead documented for my photo collection. 
    There are some fish that I quite deliberately photograph for future reflection and gratification; 

    Extra hefty shoulders on an early season buck, the flawless and perfectly slender doe, the dainty down-turned eye above those sharp and unsuspecting little teeth…
    In such instances, whether captured by the shaky lens of my phone or by the calm fingers of a courteously hushed photographer, both respectfully grant my quiet seconds justice as they unobtrusively capture the sweet moments in a non-invasive approach, void of direction, poses or displaced attention.

    The result is ideal- mental imagery paired with captured digital images, both which are romantic, relaxed, true and natural.

    Some of the resulting photographs focus on the most unique characteristics of the moment; the glint in an angler’s eye, the small upturned grin of satisfaction, the blushed cheeks of both exhausted fisher and fish, the caring lift of a surrendered steelhead over a protruding rock, the splashing water from a flailing tail… each a natural marvel caught in time.

    The grip and grin argument is not a new topic in the world of angling. 
    In states such as Washington it is even illegal to fully lift a wild steelhead out of the water before releasing it.

    While the science of such impacts is still relatively controversial, it is an undeniable testament that if given one of two circumstances (in or out of the water), it is the circumstance of leaving the fish in the water that bears the least amount of risk to its health.

    From mishandling, gill hangers, sub-zero weather impacts and the implications of damage to vital organs due to inexperienced, unpracticed handling, the state of Washington justified their legislation in the eyes of many avid steelhead anglers and activists. 
    Whilst I am positive that there were a select few who took offense to such limitations, the argument that a fish is ultimately safer in the confines of the water weighed heavier on the conservation scale, and the law was implemented.

    Whether or not I can tackle the above regulation with any sort of scientific backing is a moot point at this time, but from a purely photographic perspective I find this prohibition of grip and grins quite refreshing.
    The truth of the matter is that some of my favourite streamside photographs are the subtle and organic shots of half submerged lateral lines, downstream turned snouts and healthy flared gills steadied as a conscientious angler prepares for release.

    Regardless, it was one year ago under that tin roof in the middle of the forest that I questioned my integrity and my reasons for striving for that perfectly posed photo. 
    I asked myself with all honesty, was it really for my memory? 
    Surely there were better ways to remember a fish than extended arms and a static smile?

    Was it for a new Facebook profile? Internet marketing? The cover of the next magazine? Why on Earth was I sacrificing my time with this perfect steelhead in a state of vain?
    While my guilt danced alongside the flickering candle, I made a decision that I was determined to keep.

    I’d been blessed enough to have caught plenty of steelhead over the past decade, possessed enough photos in my grip and grin arsenal and certainly had more than enough desktop backgrounds to keep me enthusiastic during the slow seasons.

    So in the dim light of that cabin I made the choice that I was no longer going to personally contribute to the plethora of posed steelhead photos in this very sport where industry standards have secured the glorious grip and grin as the ultimate in fishing memorabilia.
    Of course, my clients would be free to do as they wished. Many of them wait all year to bring home that ‘trip of a lifetime’ photo with an ear to ear smile (and rightfully so…).
    My mission was not to judge others who don’t agree with my reasoning, rather it was a mission to judge myself and put forth a personal commitment to something that I believed in.

    Earlier this June I took the plunge and finally made the announcement about my promise to alter my ways.
    I had more than one reason to prompt me towards such an outburst and I deemed it an appropriate subject to share.

    The response was unlike any that I could have predicted.

    A large majority of responders were supportive, a few were confused, and while I pointed no fingers at anyone other than myself, some were downright offended.
    There were more than a few people who assumed that giving up steelhead “hero shots” meant that I had consequently given up steelhead fishing as a whole. 

    Naturally, this concept made me chuckle as the confusion simply fueled the fire of my point.

    Is that truly what the ultimate goal has become to some anglers? A photograph?
    If I can’t showcase a photo, is it implied that I will no longer be fishing? Are the two truly that amalgamated?

    There were some who were genuinely concerned and even a few who kindly reached out to me to ensure that I was well and that I hadn’t been hurt by someone prior to my post.

    All in all, the conclusion that will ultimately sum up this contentious viewpoint is that of a simple “to each his own” shoulder shrug and a short reflection of one’s personal beliefs.

    For me, I now prefer to keep the majority of my steelhead images stored internally, yet I still thrive off watching my clients glow behind the raised silver gleam of a strong and healthy fish.
    I will continue to grip and grin every permit, tarpon, fifty-plus pound Chinook and twenty-five inch thickly spotted brown trout that I manage to land, and I will do so proudly until I have caught enough of each that I can see them in the same light that I see my beloved steelhead.

    I will be true to my beliefs, a fan of my integrity and a foe of my insincerities, a woman who relishes in the moment, and an angler who sees more than just a fish. 
    Come the day that my experience on the water holds less clout than how impressive my Facebook profile is, I will put away my rods, stow away my reels, whiten my smile and seek the ‘best in show’ award from a hobby more fixated on the brilliance of my teeth.

    I can assure you; it won’t be any time soon.
    April.
    Posted by April Vokey on September 5, 2012
    Saturday, August 4, 2012
    The Symphony Orchestra

    It begins as a small trickle; a pattering of atonal drips and drops, melted glacial water droplets sing together in rhythm as they eventually harmonize into a powerful choir of humming, flowing streams.
    They carry the tune down the steep mountains of coastal British Columbia, a modest adagio at first, simply adding volume to the grace of nearby cascading waterfalls and winding spring creek corners.
    With each hour, the ensemble’s dynamics grow stronger as they merge, eventually sweeping up all who dare interfere, forcefully adding the unwilling into their musical masterpiece.
    Uprooted cedars, crumbled mud banks, decaying leaves, and even the occasional unfortunate home all find themselves together as one; their bass and tremors shake the Earth as they dive into the main stem rivers and all surrounding tributaries.
    A muddy brown anthem of screaming sopranos assault the unsuspecting flows and before long the entire West Coast is reborn as an unfishable, raging torrent of heavy metal and treacherous currents.
    With the dramatic entrance of a Beethoven classic, Mother Nature’s symphony orchestra is a masterpiece and humbling to all who take the time to slow down and watch.
    Here in British Columbia, we call this production freshet.
    Freshet typically occurs in mid-May and runs itself strong until the end of June. Melted snowpack flushes the hillsides and many anglers turn their attention to prolific hatches in nearby lakes.
    For angling enthusiasts more motivated by moving water, freshet halts their season, restlessly persuading them to stock their fly boxes and patch their waders in anticipation of clearer water.
    The month of June passes quickly but is often met with a hot July and August that quickly drains the excess water from the flows, instead replacing them with the all too familiar summer drought.
    The dreaded summer drought is an interesting season for many anglers. Low and clear streams often bear small feeding rainbows, hunkered down bull trout and of course every anglers favourite species; the loud and squirming bikini-clad inner-tubers.
    For many, the busy weekends of BC’s summer rivers are less than desirable and, again, the rods are placed away until September and the arrival of fall steelhead.
    But waiting isn’t for everyone and for some, a little extra adventure and a whole lot of extra work is worth the investment to find the occasional warm-weathered steelhead.
    They’re not easy to find, and they’re certainly not reliable, however, in the heart of several small valleys in the West Coast, there are a select few fisheries that break the traditional steelhead rules.
    Emerald glacier water and (often times) fly-in only access protects a species of steelhead that can only be described as indescribable. They are the true summer-run steelhead and they make their own rules; rules that can defeat even the best players in the game.
    I began fishing such streams, desperate to experience classic summer-run steelhead under a blanket of warm sun and refreshing silence. I had spent the previous years of my steelhead journey chasing migrating fish from the month of September into early May (before the barrage of flooding waters).
    I stood in the torrential downpours and froze in the guide-icing winds, lightly cursing myself for finding humor in the tears that froze to my cheeks as the bow of the boat pierced through winter’s heart.
    I was a steelheader after all…didn’t the term ‘steelhead’ come from being so hard-headed that we didn’t know when to quit?

    Joking aside, I designated countless days to bushwhacking and map marking, paying special attention to gradients and tributaries. 

    Only one or two friends were invited on such excursions and even then, in my paranoid state of treasure hunting I knew that the only fishing “buddy” who could truly stand a chance at keeping a secret was the furry friend I kept close; the one who wagged his tail, walked on four legs and knew no words of betrayal.
    I instigated a “no-camera” rule and together we crept under mossy logs, halted at steep cliff drops, and peered into the depths of boulder-laced runs hoping to catch a glimpse of life.
    The sun shone bright and the yellow undertones of the slick rocks reflected gold back towards the skies. Standing on fallen trees and high embankments, the matte silver of rested steelhead swayed in tune with the current.
    Silver and gold…like miners we handled our jewels carefully, releasing them back into the wild where they could shine their brightest.
    Some steelhead occupied large rivers where vast, blind, swung casts were necessary. Others required time, patience, a good eye, and put quite simply, luck.
    Both rivers, large and small, shared one thing in common: determination.
    In past columns, I have written to the minds and hearts of winter anglers who pursue with such devotion, the winter steelhead; the lock-jawed, finicky, unpredictable, sullen and torturous winter steelhead.
    While it is true that the sun-bathed snouts of the summer steelhead are more likely to rise to a dry fly, and certainly much more likely to participate in a dance with a flirting streamer, it is the discovery of these fish that test the trying angler.
    For as tight-lipped as these fish are not, the anglers who know where to find them are. Hard-pressed to acknowledge their existence, we look in the opposite direction when asked about certain streams and runs.
    Our stomachs drop with sickness when an eager angler loudly states they heard there were fish that once occupied such waters, forcing us to do all we can not to shake them and tell them to watch their mouths.
    Worse yet, it is not the fear of insulting them that stops us from acting in such a profane manner. Rather, it is the fear of admitting to lingering observers that there are in fact fish to be found that saves the naïve and overzealous loud-mouth from a quick smack or lingering glare.
    Secretly, many of us look at ourselves as minor hypocrites: on one hand encouraging new anglers to the sport, whilst on the other knowing full well that the day we run into someone on “our” rivers that we’ll likely slink back into the underbrush, irate at the intruder present in such a special place of solitude.
    We’ll mutter and groan, certain that the river is destined for destruction and our over-dramatic, exaggerative minds will convince us that come this evening the internet forums will be crawling with inquisitions and Google Earth bookmarks.

    To come to my own defense, inevitably it is the discovery of such streams that help to mould us into the anglers that many of us are today. 

    Adventure, passion and drive are what make these summer streams so special. Without such ambition, we would never be able to truly experience the sheer satisfaction that embraces us when our suspicions prove true; that the elusive steelhead do indeed inhabit the water that our “fishy sense” was so sure of.
    It’s this same confidence that follows us from river to river, the same confidence that we dress our flies in while seated at the vise, the same confidence that we hold our breaths to as we swing tight to our streamer or wake our dries.
    This confidence is an invaluable quality that all seasoned anglers possess. It is a quality accompanied solely by experience, independence and conquering; one which most earn by paving their own path.
    Certainly discouragement comes and goes, but it is the memory of the well-deserved confidence that keeps us searching. “I’ve seen it happen before”…
    While it is true that at times we must disclose such locations in the name of conservation efforts, public awareness, and protection, we must equally preserve some secrets in the name of the sport, the art, and the history of secret sharing.
    Rather than following the faded pencil markings of an ‘x’ marks the spot sketched mindlessly on the backside of a tackle shop receipt, the anglers who embrace the voyage and mystery as their own are rewarded with a satisfaction that can only be achieved with internal searching and geographical unearthing.
    Cliché as it might be, there are some rivers that people must work towards…must deserve, or “put their time in” for (Lord knows, I’ve had to deal with that spiel more than once.)
    There are summer month fisheries throughout the world that draw from the restless and silence the unknowing. These fisheries are special, unique, earned and loved.
    While you may need to suffer the sting of rejection and you will likely face the frustration of a wrong turn, remember to capitalize on the sunshine and smile in knowing that you’re exploring the very root of your being; an independent and liberated “hunter” who thrives off the stalk and rejoices in the unveiling.
    Grab your sunscreen, pack your extra water, leave your long John’s behind and go have fun in the heat… September will be here before you know it.
    Posted by April Vokey on August 4, 2012
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