Though she wasn’t born into a fishing family, April somehow entered this world genetically programmed to fish. She’s been on the water ever since. Today, when she’s not guiding the fabled rivers of British Columbia, teaching fly tying and casting, writing about fishing and appearing in fishing films, April fights to protect wild fish. On her days off, she goes fishing. via Patagonia Ambassador Page
Flylords: I know you are always traveling somewhere cool, so my first question is where are you right now?
April: Currently in Manly, Australia and getting antsy.Flylords: Tell us about the first time you picked up a fly rod… Did this moment change your life?
April: I’d been keen to try fly-fishing when I was a gear-fisher in my teens, but I couldn’t get my hands on any fly equipment. My fishing buddy (a salty dog who was forty years my senior) had an old Shakespeare glass 8wt collecting dust in the corner of his tackle room. As he had no interest in fly-fishing, he gifted it to me.
He also gave me a handful of VHS tapes about single-hand casting and fly-tying. I watched all those tapes on repeat; sitting on the edge of the couch mimicking the cast with my hands, tying flies with my mom’s sewing thread and random materials from around the house. Our VCR didn’t have a remote control, so I spent most of my time getting up and down, pausing the tapes so I could catch up to each step.
Flylords: How would you describe your job title?
April: Busy AF. In all seriousness though, over the years I’ve figured out which roles to sub-contract out or simply get rid of in order to make me more time and money. After ten years of guiding, I gave it up to better maximize my time. Same with television, though that may change in the near future. So I suppose these days I am technically a podcaster, writer, instructor, booking agent, public speaker, etc.
Flylords: Tell us about the last fish you caught!
April: Good question… probably a small tuna. We’ve just now come to the end of the rut here in Australia and I’ve literally spent almost every waking moment stalking deer with a bow in hand.
Flylords: Do you think fly fishing is growing as a whole? What about the number of ladies Vs men?
April: It appears to be. It’s always an interesting topic of conversation for me. While I can’t speak on behalf of license sales, it sure feels like it’s growing. The rivers are busier than I remember them ever being, there are far (FAR) more Spey casters on the water (I’m noticing many gear/bait anglers have picked up fly-fishing over the last seven or eight years), and there are more fisherman and women on social media than I ever could have predicted (in a million years). But to be fair, I’ve also heard that many of these rivers were booming before I was even born. It makes me wonder if a lot of the older anglers (many of whom we have unfortunately lost) have just been replaced by younger, more public ones whose presence on the internet make us assume that there are more people on the water? Maybe there were always this many people, but we just didn’t see them as blatantly…?
I’ve been actively fishing BC’s river since I was sixteen years old (and playing in them for over a decade before that), so I feel confident in my observations over the last twenty to thirty years… but I’d be a whole lot more confident with my answer if I had fifty or sixty years of changes to reflect upon.
As far as women vs men. Absolutely. I remember when there was a handful of us (in BC anyway) and a handful in some states of the US. These were pre-internet days when fly shops and fishing buddies went out of their way to introduce many of us gals to one another.
When I first started guiding in BC, I could count the women who guided before me on one hand. Again, all of this to say “in my opinion, from what I’ve seen”… It really doesn’t mean much without any stats or numbers to prove it one way or the other.Flylords: How do you think social media has influenced the sport?
April: O let me count thy ways… Social media has done some pretty wonderful things, but it obviously has some drawbacks. The main positives are that we can now easily network with like-minded people and drum up action for causes that need public support. On the other hand, we can tend to love a fishery to death by bringing it more attention than it can handle. But that’s me referring to the fisheries….
How does it influence the sport? Well, I suppose it encourages some people to get into it? I’m not sure really. I know that not a single one of my friends who doesn’t fish has been inspired by my social media posts to get into fly-fishing, so it’s hard for me to really stand by the optimistic perspective that it “gets more people into the sport”. I dunno… it gives people a way to offer discount codes in their profiles and weigh out their importance by how many followers they have? Sarcasm aside, for me it gets my podcast into far more ears than I could otherwise access. Many of my guests don’t use the internet, let alone social media, so their stories may otherwise become lost. I admit that it’s pretty special to have a 20-year-old message me for the contact info of a 90-year-old, and then find out later that they met for coffee.
In summary, I honestly don’t know how great it is for the sport apart from helping to sell gear, destinations, and sponsors… it’s a debatable subject depending on personal viewpoints: are fisheries better or worse because of social media? Are fisheries and sport one in the same? It’s all a matter of perspective. Personally, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed almost all of the people I’ve met on Instagram (Facebook is a different beast). They’ve all just been really, truly cool. Plus, as a new mom, Instagram has been an invaluable tool for me to connect with other outdoorsy moms/dads to share our experiences/ideas about spending time with our children outside!
Flylord: I know you have been on some pretty wild adventures, have you had any life-threatening moments out there?
April: You bet. I had some pretty interesting bear run-ins when I used to guide on the Dean, but they weren’t as scary as when I flipped my raft on it. I was coming up on a steep 90-degree bend — one that I’d portaged around the year before. I thought I could run it in my Watermaster, but I started too far mid-stream (I’m embarrassed to admit that I cut a wide berth around my husband who was wisely walking his raft downstream… in retrospect, I was doomed from the start).
I got swept into the mess and, while I made the first drop, the second one was bigger than my boat was and it simply ate me whole. I’d prepped for the worst (kicked the dog off, zipped up my jacket, ran my fingers over where my PFD pulley was (which I found out later was foolish… serious rafters don’t rely on inflatable PFD’s with cartridges), ensured I was in wading pants (I don’t think I would have made it out if I’d been wearing full waders), and told my husband I loved him (he thought I was kidding and being dramatic).
When I flipped, I was tossed around and everything was just instantly murky and eerily quiet. I didn’t know which way was up, but I pulled the life jacket tab and floated to the surface. That was only the first part of it… then I had to manage to get to shore.
My boots felt like concrete and I started to feel the water creep in under my zipped-up vest and jacket. I just remember thinking that I was going to drown ten feet from shore. I could see it — it was so close — but I just could not get to it regardless of how hard I kicked. I just kept trying… dreading the upcoming rapid that was coming up quickly downstream. Foolishly, as soon as I felt the bottom underneath me, I went to stand up (argh, everyone knows not to do that) and was swept out again. There was a bush extending over the riverbank and I was able to grab it. It swung me in and I crawled like hell onto the shore. My nails were literally scraped raw from clawing at rocks to get back on land. Needless to say, I won’t run a rapid like that again without better scoping, a bigger boat and a lifejacket that doesn’t require cartridge activation.
Note, when I called to sign up for an advanced rafting course, they told me that something like only 30% of people actually remember to pull the chord in the moment of panic (assuming they don’t get knocked out).
Flylords: What is your favorite species to target and why?
April: Steelhead. They’re wild, they’re resilient, they’re in some truly gnarly places, and they’re in my blood.
Flylords: I know you recently had your first kid, first off congrats, tell us a little about her? Has it been difficult to keep up with your crazy schedule with a newborn around?
April: I’ve never laughed so much in my life — kiddo is hilarious.
I’m going to sound like such an ass right now, but nothing has changed (except that I need to pay attention to someone else’s appetite). I keep waiting for the exhaustion and “handcuffs”, but they haven’t kicked in yet. She’s been hunting with me since she was three weeks old, has been fishing with me in NZ and AUS, whines less on road trips than my husband does, and is an absolute superstar when it comes to entertaining.
If I had to really nitpick, it’s that I can’t bring her offshore on a boat. I don’t feel it’s responsible taking her marlin fishing (she was born in December as marlin season started). She has a little PFD, but it makes everything awkward trying to hold her, etc. That said, a breast pump and in-laws ensure that I still get plenty of boat time.
So yeah, really not that many changes. I definitely have to stay up later to work at night and I’ve gotten pro at editing/writing with one hand, but I usually just involve her in the process (she’s doing this interview with me right at this very moment). I read my articles to her, and she loves watching the audio clips of my podcast peak and drop… At this rate, she’s going to have one hell of a vocabulary.
Flylords: Tell us a little about the evolution of your podcast, I am assuming it’s one of the biggest out there in the industry. Do you have one interview you can recommend our readers to listen to?
April: It all started when I used to have Shorelines with April Vokey, a WFN exclusive series that I wrote about the parallels between steelhead and Atlantic salmon. The show was made up of a collection of interviews from anglers and biologists from around the country. With each television episode being limited to 24.5 minutes, my hour long interviews were being cut down to three or four minute blurbs! It was then that I decided a podcast might be the best method of sharing my interviews without mass editing or censored content.
Flylords: What was it like meeting Donald Trump Jr.
April: I had scheduled to meet Don Jr at the Trump tower in NY. It was surreal having to go through the secret service to get upstairs. He was welcoming, straight-forward, and seemingly relieved to take a couple of hours to talk about something other than business. Plus, he didn’t rush me to “get on with it” as I assumed he might. After the interview he showed me his fishing journal, compound bow, some outdoor pics… he was just like any of my fishing buddies who are passionate about the sport. And, just as I do with my fishing buddies, we avoided talking about politics.
Flylords: Do you have any fish on your bucket list?
April: I would like to actually land a marlin. I’ve hooked them but haven’t landed one yet.Flylords: If you had to pick one mentor for you in the fly fishing industry who would it be?
April: I’ve had a lot of wonderful fly-fishers contribute bits and pieces to the person I am today, but there is one in particular who stands out above the rest. Aaron Goodis helped me study for my CCI, helped me with my Spey cast, gave me fly-tying inspiration, was there for me when I started my business, was patient with me when I was young and selfish, and most importantly, reminded me that every day is a gift. Aaron is the most incredible mentor I could have ever asked for.
Flylords: Can you recommend a good read?
April: For casting, Al Buhr’s Two Handed Fly Casting. For fun, Miles Nolte’s The Alaska Chronicles.
Flylords: What’s next?
April: The little lady and I leave for Fiji in two weeks and then will be making our way through BC, Florida, Norway, Oregon, Exmouth, and then back to BC for four months in camp. It’ll just be the two of us on most of our travel, so I fully expect this to be the most challenging year I’ve had so far. Maybe this will be where I eat my words about how difficult it’s been to keep up with a baby around. Only time will tell.
And be sure to read our other Faces of Flyfishing features!