April Vokey

April Vokey

April loves traveling the world during part of BC’s winter and is currently in the midst of devoting much of her time attempting to grow the sport in the heart of sunny Australia.  We're thrilled to have April onboard the SkeenaWild team as an SWCT Ambassador. The SkeenaWild Ambassador program promotes global education of local conservation issues that impact the Skeena watershed.  It aims to empower people with the knowledge, resources and tools to ensure the long-term sustainability of our communities and ecosystems.

Something that always lights a fire under our butts is connecting and talking with conservationists and anglers.  And this is especially true when we get to chat with an empowered woman who is rockin' the field. We absolutely love a 'FlyGal' who is following her passion, sharing, teaching, supporting and elevating others who are interested in the world of Fly Fishing. April embodies this with gusto and we knew she would be the perfect inspiration.

SW:  We admire your work as a professional angler, expedition leader, teacher and business woman.  Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got interested in this line of work and established your own company?

AV:  My first guide position was actually with a company in the lower mainland on the Fraser River (guiding for sturgeon/Pacific salmon).  I longed to be on the river guiding for steelhead, where the experience is about so much more than the the biggest (or most) fish landed.  It was inevitable that I would eventually begin my own company to be able to share this experience with others.  My conservation activism was a natural occurrence as it paired necessarily with a species I am passionate about.

SW:  In a nutshell, describe the experience that FlyGal Ventures provides to their clients.

AV:  We take pride in hiring/working with guides who not only understand the behavioural patterns of steelhead, but also casting mechanics, efficient gear and proper catch and release handling skills; all the while focusing on having fun outdoors.

SW:  What brought you to Northwest BC?  And now that you are a part-time resident, what do you think are the greatest attributes of our region?

AV:  I always knew that one day “when I grew up” I would disappear into the remoteness of BC’s north.  Growing up in Surrey, it was all I could ever dream to leave a ‘less than gentle’ past behind me and get into the country.  I started by moving to Chilliwack when I was 21 (ten years ago) and was kept satisfied by annual trips north.  Soon however, I found myself longing for seclusion year-round and moved to Telkwa. 

I’ve only been a “resident” for a fall season thus far but am slowly making the move more permanent (beyond just my trailer).  The greatest attributes that I have always contributed to northern BC are its fisheries and their lack of interruption (dams, hatcheries, and passionate conservationists in the form of anglers.)  There is a sense of pride and community here and that just warms me to the point of wanting to help where I can.

SW:  How do you feel your organization contributes to fish conservation and habitat protection?   In your opinion, what are the best practices that we should be focusing on to ensure the long-term sustainability of our Watershed?

AV:  For us as a company, we use every opportunity to educate new (and even existing) anglers on the importance of our fisheries.  We are a 1% For the Planet member and we donate money every year to organizations who need funding.  Naturally, we donate gear/trips to those in need as well. 

For me as an individual, I travel the world preaching our beautiful province, letting anglers all over the globe know that their support is always needed.
When a situation arises that I believe can use my help, I tend to dive deep into it (example Flies for Fins for Thompson steelhead rehabilitation, again Flies for Fins and media hounding/education on the Sacred Headwaters, etc.)

It is a loaded question to ask about the best practises to ensure long-term sustainability of our Watershed as there are countless areas of grey that need some filtering, but these must be prioritized to what has the potential to be most hazardous at the time.  Personally as I spend my summers on the Dean River, I currently feel most inclined to educate myself further on the netting and other areas of concern in this region. There are few residents there (none who live there full-time) so the guides who live there for three months consecutively need to acknowledge the weight they have to record and report observations.  Upon gaining clearer insight to this, I hope to dive into the Enbridge fiasco… I have learned that for me as an individual, it is best to focus my attention, energy and media awareness to one outlet before confusing the public (and possibly even myself) on another.

SW:  What's on the horizon for you?  What are some of the new and exciting projects that you are working on?

AV:  In BC, I am looking forward to move back to the Dean river in June where we can try to instil some of the pro-active ideas that are currently on the horizon.  In Australia, I have been hired by a government organization to help expand the sport of fishing to areas of the general public who aren’t quite as familiarized by it as we are in North America.

SW:  Slight change of subject: Let's face it, angling gear wasn't designed with women in mind--both form and function. This seems to be shifting. What's changed and what still needs work?  What are your favorite pieces in terms of outdoor clothing and gear.  And perhaps you can also chat about how you prepare for those cooler, wetter days.

AV:  We are proud at Patagonia to have designed a wader for women who fish hard.  From the seams to the measurements, to the drop-down system for easy restroom relief, a lot went into making a wader for an avid angler (example, guides).  As far as what still needs work?  I’m fairly confident that these are above standard to what has previously been on the market, however, there is always room for growth and I am looking forward to receiving feedback from other women in the sport who are currently wearing our new waders and jackets.

For cooler, wetter days I always try to ensure I have a wicking layer on first (touching my skin).  This helps to draw moisture away from my body and prevents sweat from cooling me down.  A fleece layer atop of this almost always does the trick to warm me and if I ever get truly desperate, I heat a bottle (or warm a rock on a fire) to put on my chest/core.  Heat is pulled from extremities to warm the core so I always try to ensure that I have done that in advance.

SW:  Let's talk about training.  How do you keep in shape and maintain/improve your skills?  What kind of physical (and even mental or emotional) regime do you practice to help you on the river? 

AV:  Fishing itself is generally what keeps me in shape (naturally during seasons of rowing or extensive hiking, fitness is at its highest).  Often times during a busy guide season (often 75 days in a row without a day off), I feel a strong desire to connect with myself as a composed person.  Daily, I bend down to the rocks and feel myself ‘ground’ with Mother Nature and what she has blessed me with.  Hippie roots showing?  Probably, but for me this is critical for remembering how lucky I am; even on days where I would like nothing more than an hour to myself in the safety and mindlessness of a coffee shop.

SW:  Can you share one of the funniest (or most memorable) times you experienced on the river?

AV:  This might be four years ago or so on the Dean River with my brother-in-law Steve Morrow.  We had arranged a circle of stumps for guests to sit on while we prepared lunch.  As usual, bear stories emerged and the two of us entertained the group with exaggerative tales. 
Soon the group fell quiet as they listened attentively until one of the guests whispered in a hushed voice “there’s a bear right behind you…”  Stevie and I rolled our eyes as we continued speaking.  “No seriously, there’s a bear right behind you…”  I laughed and turned nonchalantly in response of his grave face… to find a large black bear and her cub right behind us!  She wanted as little to do with us as we did her, but she still gave us a startle.

SW:  What's your top-line advice for women who want to get into the world of Fly Fishing?

AV:  My advice is to do exactly that; go fishing.  There are no obstacles these days for man, woman or child to go fishing.  Lack of time is likely the most common of the excuses but if something is really important, time can always be found.  The better question would be why wouldn’t you want to get into fly-fishing?  And if not into fishing, how about simply getting outdoors?  It is, after all, what we as humans were born to do.

SW:  Thanks for taking the time to speak with us April.  We appreciate your insight and expertise, as well as, your tremendous support with SkeenaWild. 

AV:  Thank you!  Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to ever help out!

More Information: 
Flygal Ventures
Patagonia Wader for Women