If you aren't competing, be sure to tune into our Instagram Stories during each event and follow along with the competing Sage team, as we will be posting our adventures live from each event.
Words from the folks behind 25 ON THE FLY -
"One day at Anglers All fly shop a chat about angling opportunities during spring runoff season popped off over a few cold ones during happy hour. As the conversation evolved, we started dreaming up the potential for a multi-species fly fishing only tournament. We dreamed of an event that would bring much needed shine to some underrated fish in Colorado such as bass, carp and the lesser known trout species. In a country where Largemouth Bass fishing is king we aim to immortalize fly fishing and show the conventional world that flies can fool bass, as well as other species effectively.
In the Spring of 2016 Anglers All hosted the first species focused fly fishing tournament and every year the event has grown in reach and popularity. Fast forward 5 years and the crew behind the popular Mile High 25 has branched out into a series of events across the country under the alias '25 ON THE FLY.'"
Now, if there's one thing that is for certain a common theme from all of us at Sage, it's that we love a good challenge. Sure, we are always challenging ourselves to build a better fly fishing tool, be it rod, reel, etc... Heck, it's right there in our motto "Perfecting Performance." But that being said, we sure do love a proper on-the-water challenge. You'll predictably find us challenging ourselves to things like intercepting a steelhead on a swung fly, feeding a migratory tarpon in the Keys, or fooling a well-educated rainbow trout on the famed Henry's Fork. That's just it though... it's predictable.
So, when our good friends at Anglers All started up the original "Mile High 25", we knew this was not only something we wanted to join in on for the fun and community aspect, but it was a rad new way to challenge ourselves as anglers, and so we've supported this event since year 1. The big hitters like tarpon, steelhead, and spring creek trout are always a given, but what about the lesser-known and overlooked quarry? I mean, how do you specifically target a catfish on a fly (in case you're wondering, yeah, still no idea on that one...). Surely there are some experts out there that have it dialed in, but not us. Expanding this year to 3 regional events (Red's 25 ON THE FLY, Mile High 25, and The Agua Fresca) and one national level event (The Mayfly Project's 25 ON THE FLY), it's an opportunity for us to "spread our wings" so-to-speak and see what our community could do across a wide variety of arenas.
In case you haven't figured it out, the jist of the tournament is to catch 25 species on a set list (list varies depending on the tournament, and points per species are weighted for fairness) in 2 days. Each of the events are entirely virtual with teams uploading videos of their catch (while following appropriate Keep 'em Wet handling practices) to a third party app for judging. At the end of the two days, points are tallied and a winning team is announced.
So without further ado, let's take a look at the events, the specific species lists, and the Sage teams that will competing in each event. Maybe, if you're lucky, we'll even give you a little insight on our strategy, too.
The event that started it all, The Mile High 25. Known worldwide for it's high concentration of blue ribbon trout streams, Colorado is truly a fly angler's paradise. The Frying Pan, Colorado, S. Platte, you name it. If it has moving water, there's a good chance it has some decent trout fishing. With that, the diversity of trout opportunity varies immensely as well. Browns, Brookies, Rainbows, Cutties... Those are the usual suspects, but what about Splake? Golden Trout? Tiger Trout? Yep, those are all there to be had as well.
Now the coldwater opportunity is pretty obvious, but there's some epic warmwater fishing to be done, too. Freshwater Drum, 3 kinds of Carp, Northern Pike, all provide a completely different approach and technique. If there's one thing we can be sure of, it's that dialing in the warmwater species on the list is always a key to success.
Let's take a look at the species list and the anglers that will be competing as Team Sage for this year's Mile High 25.
Washington. Our home state. We're not sure what's more exciting, getting an excuse to hang with our friends over at Red's Fly Shop, or taking on the challenge of showcasing the diversity of fisheries Washington has to offer. Rainforests and salt water on the west-side to deserts and sagebrush on the east, the variety of angling opportunity here is hard to beat.
We talk often of our Steelhead, Salmon, and Trout fisheries, but what about all of the other in-between stuff? Carp, Bass, Pikeminnow, and even Catfish. With the allure of the Salmonids, we have to admit, we're lacking a bit on the exploration of our warmwater opportunities across the state. This event is just the kick-in-the-pants we needed to expand our knowledge banks. Let's take a look at the species list for this one and the anglers taking them on as Team Sage.
Originally from the Granite State of New Hampshire, our Community Marketing Manager Alex relocated to Washington 6 years ago to join us at Sage, and has been dialing in the scene ever since. He was introduced to fishing through local warmwater ponds back East, and knows a thing or two on how to properly tantalize a 4-6" 'Sunny with a Parachute Adams. Now having been fortunate enough to fish around the globe, from Christmas Island to Yellowstone, he's picked up some unique skills along the way that should really help in tracking down some of these PNW oddballs. Outside of fishing, Alex enjoys spending time with his wife and kid, caring for his bonsai trees, and the sweet sound of a well-played 6 string.
Gray Struznik was born and raised in Forks, WA, and has had fishing running through his veins ever since he can remember. His father, aka "Papa Struz" and a former guide, introduced Gray to the legendary waters of the Olympic Peninsula and the wilds of Bristol Bay, AK. Gray has been spending his summers guiding in Alaska, and winters at home guiding for Winter Steelhead for the better part of two decades. While Gray has tangled with Roosterfish in Baja, King Salmon in Alaska, and even Atlantic Salmon in Norway, he's yet to tangle with America's sweetheart: the Bass. While we don't expect Gray to start offering Bass & Bluegill trips after competing in this event, he is certainly looking forward to expanding his chops and the opportunity to add a few new species to his life list.
THE MAYFLY PROJECT'S 25 ON THE FLY
May 22nd & 23rd, 2021
If you aren't familiar with The Mayfly Project, they are a 501(c)(3) national organization that uses fly fishing as a catalyst to mentor and support children in foster care. The Mission of The Mayfly Project is to support children in foster care through fly fishing and introduce them to their local water ecosystems, with a hope that connecting them to a rewarding hobby will provide an opportunity for foster children to have fun, build confidence, and develop a meaningful connection with the outdoors.
The first event in the series is The Mayfly Project's 25 On The Fly. In addition to benefitting the wonderful programs of The Mayfly Project, this is also the only national level event in the series where you are able to participate from any of the 50 states. The list of 25 species has been strategically implemented and points have been weighted to make it fair no matter where you are competing from. Now, that said, we did use a bit of strategy in choosing our competing team and their location. Before we dive into the team and strategy, let's first take a look at the 25 species list for this event.
• Rainbow Trout - 50 pts • Brown Trout - 50 pts • Brook Trout - 50 pts • Whitefish - 100 pts • Cutthroat & Cutbow - 100 pts • Tiger Trout - 100 pts • Arctic Grayling - 200 pts • Golden Trout - 500pt • Sunfish / Bluegill - 50pts • Perch - 50pts • Crappie - 50pts • Sucker - 50 pts • Lake Trout ( Mackinaw) - 500pts • Largemouth - 50 pts • Smallmouth - 100 pts • White Bass, Wipers - 100 pts • Striped Bass - 200 pts • Catfish - 200 pts • Common Carp - 300pts • Mirror Carp - 500 pts • Grass Carp - 500 pts • Walleye, Saugeye - 200 pts
For this year's Mayfly Project's 25 ON THE FLY, Team Sage is going to be represented by our good pals Jesse Robbins and Jon Zukowski out of the New England territory. Looking at the list of species to target, New England holds a viable chance to target a high concentration of them AND the time of year couldn't be better for this multi-species approach. If you think we were only strategic on where we were competing from, and not who we chose to represent the team, think again. Let's take a look at some of Jesse and Jon's credentials:
Jesse Robbins, Sage’s Regional Sales & Community Manager, hails from Maine. After attending Bates College, where he was a member of the now infamous Bates Fishing Club, Jesse was lured west. He has spent more than a decade working for Sage and has held a number of different roles during his tenure from product development, to marketing and sales. After a decade hiatus away, he recently returned to Maine to put his acquired skills to the test in managing the sales and community for the New England territory. What does this have to do with his fishing accolades, you ask? Well, over this time Jesse has had the opportunity to fish around the globe, from Spey casting and swinging flies on British Columbia's famed Dean River, to pulling on gigantic tarpon in the Everglades, to tricking educated trout on some of Montana's most technical spring creeks. Now back in Maine, he's getting reacquainted with the waters that first inspired him to pursue fly fishing. We're psyched to see him put to the challenge with targeting this diverse list of species on his home waters. In addition, Jesse’s essays on ‘fishing’ have appeared in The Drake, The Flyfish Journal, Swing The Fly, and on sageflyfish.com. Outside of fly fishing, his interests include NBA playoffs, whitewater boating, and good country music.
Jon Zukowski owns and operates Mountain High Fly in Lincoln, New Hampshire, a full service fly shop, outfitter, and Sage dealer. He grew up in the White Mountains region of New Hampshire and learned to fly-fish for trout on the Pemigewasset and Connecticut rivers when he was five years old. As a teen, Jon went on a fishing trip to Valdez, Alaska with his father and caught many species of both fresh and saltwater fish. The experience was unforgettable, and fishing became forever engrained in him thereafter. While Jon cut his teeth as a trout angler, he now enjoys chasing large predatory fish such as pike, muskellunge, bass, bowfin, gar, trophy trout, and striped bass. In addition to his shop, Jon is also a professional fly tyer, whipping up creative bugs for a wide variety of New England fish species. While not tying flies or fishing, Jon enjoys hunting, hiking, travelling, live music, good food, and good drink (especially a good whiskey or craft brew).
WHAT WE'RE FISHING
For a challenge of this nature, time is of the essence. The last thing we want to be doing is spending a bunch of time rigging rods. So, we're taking a simplified approach and utilizing the versatility of our multi-application SONIC rods to do the work for us. Read on for more details on the gear we will be using for this event.
25 On The Fly Light Duty
Dipping into both cold and warmwater species, panfish to trout, we need a setup that can do it all and be extremely versatile for us in order to keep things simple. The fast action of the SONIC gives us the utmost in versatility no matter the conditions, and the 590-4 9' 5 weight is the perfect all-around length and weight to cover us whether we're tossing small caddis to brook trout in a small stream, or throwing panfish poppers to bluegill at a local pond. Paired up with an Elite RIO Gold fly line and SPECTRUM reel, this is the kind of all-around performance we need for success on our lighter duty quarry for this tournament.
— Sage Fly Fish,
Rod: SONIC 590-4
Line: Elite RIO Gold
25 ON THE FLY HEAVY DUTY
Across the United States, big predatory fish fill the hearts and minds of more than just a few anglers. From Striped Bass on the coast, to Largemouth in heavy cover, and even spooky Carp on the flats, many of these species lie within "shooting distance" of one another. For this event series, we once again wanted to keep things simple with one outfit to cover all over our heavier duty needs. Insert the SONIC 890-4. A versatile fast-action gives us flexibility in a diverse set of conditions, and can just as effectively toss a big bass popper over lilly pads as it can gently place small carp bug in front of a feeding fish. Paired with a SPECTRUM 7/8 Reel and RIO's Elite Predator WF8F, this is a versatile setup that caters to the heavy duty needs of the multi-species angler.
— Sage Fly Fish,
Rod: SONIC 890-4
Line: RIO Elite Predator