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Putting the Z-Axis switch to work. This little guy was enticed by a homemade sculpin pattern on the 6110. Skagit short 375 and 8 feet of T-8 were the ticket.

That 6110 has some meat down low. I’m thinking it could easily handle a bit more. I got caught up in one spot where the branches of every tree were in the way. In that case 20 feet of skagit head seemed a bit much. A chopped up 17 footer or so in the upper 300’s or low 400’s might just be the ticket. Who knows maybe shorter and heavier.

Time to check the classified section of the forums and see what I can dig up.

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Received this from Simms today. Great to see them recognize Dennis and McAfee’s Fly Shop for the many years supporting Alaska’s fly fishing culture and showing support for Mike and Mossy’s Fly Shop.

Simms Fishing Products invites you to come join Mike Brown, the new owner of Mossy’s Fly Shop, for food, drinks and door prizes from 9-5, Saturday, February, 20th.

This is also your chance to thank Dennis McAfee for his 25 years of service to the Alaska Fly Fishing Community and wish him well. Dennis recently sold his shop to Mike so he could spend more time fishing with his grandkids. Dennis and McAfee’s Fly Shop have been fixtures in Alaska since 1985, it isn’t often you can find someone to dedicate this amount of time to the Fly Fishing Industry.

Mike has given the shop a whole new look by remodeling and painting which has been completed this week. With new inventory arriving daily, more room must be made, take advantage of some great deals before the season is in full swing.

So stop on by this Saturday to introduce yourself to Mike, say good-bye to Dennis and Diver and wish all of them luck in all of their future adventures.

Saturday February 20, 2010, 9am-5pm

Mossy’s Fly Shop

750 West Dimond Blvd.

Anchorage, AK

(907) 770-2666

I hear Dennis McAfee will be showing up between 11AM and Noon.

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I received an email earlier this week from Dennis McAfee, the owner of McAfee’s Fly Shop here in town. After some serious consideration he has decided to close the shop after 25+ years to spend more time with his family and do some more fishing.

I wasn’t a customer all those 25 years but I can say that every major purchase I’ve made over the years has been from his shop. Everything from the waders I wear, the boots I put on my feet, the jacket that keeps me on the water regardless of the weather…along with the rods, reels and everything in between…I picked up from McAfee’s Fly Shop with Dennis behind the counter.

I appreciated getting that email. It wasn’t a mass email. It sort of showed me that he appreciated my business. Says a lot and is why I took my business there and tried to steer more that way.

His shop was cool and I enjoyed talking with Dennis.

Great shop…great service.

Fortunately a new owner is taking over rather than having to liquidate everything. The new owner will likely change the name. That’s okay because it won’t be the same without Dennis. I found out who the new owner is. He is local and is someone most folks will recognize from the fly fishing community. I hope the new owner keeps the spirit of McAfee’s Fly Shop alive. All the fly shops in town sell the same things at the same prices. Service is what raises you up a notch or two.

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SkagitMaster - New Water Media

About a guy who likes to fish

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Just picked this up on Spey Pages from Riveraddict. If you don’t know who that is you better do some homework. It sounds like he has teamed up with Mishler to develop a new skagit casting video.

I think that most everybody on here knows by now that I am the “Skagit Crusader”. Now that I am at an age where I have more fishing days behind me than I have to look forward to, I am becoming much more aware of my own personal mortality. Add to this my passion for fishing and Skagit casting… I have put in enough time fishing, and in such a variety of circumstances and venues, as to only reinforce my feeling and belief that the Skagit approach is not just a justifiably distinct methodology of its own, but that it is also one of the most versatile ways for utilizing a fly rod. This circumstance has spurred me to start the undertaking of a project that has lingered in the back of my mind for some time now… a Skagit casting video. I have teamed up with Jeff Mishler, who shot Dec’s video, and we are hoping to make this gig a little different than the standard “how to”. Of course, with some of the actual instructional bits, there’s just no getting around the “usual” do-this-then-do-that approach. But, we want to incorporate as much actual-on-river examples as possible. The steelheading aspect we pretty much have established our agenda.

 Read the rest here.

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You always hear folks saying that if you want it bad enough it will happen. Not true. I wanted it bad. It just didn’t happen.

The days leading up to the trip I was physically and mentally exhausted. I usually don’t sleep much the day before a trip. This time was different. It takes me a while to settle in to a new place and constantly worrying about the weather and the river conditions sort of wore me out. 4AM came quickly and the hour plus drive to meet the guide gave me a lot of time to think about the day ahead.

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A tank full of gas and enough coffee to keep you in between the lines.

I tried not to set my expectations too high. This was steelheading in the PNW and from what I’ve learned the game isn’t so easy on a swung fly. Somehow though I convinced myself I was going to get at least one steelhead to hand. That right there may have been the kiss of death. I was probably pushing my luck. I just wanted one. I figured if I worked hard enough it would happen.

We met the guide at a local coffee shop before sunrise and on the drive up to the first run talked about the day ahead. The river conditions were good he said. The rains had brought the river level up a bit and added some color to the river.

We finally got our first look at the river as the morning light filled the valley. It was a medium sized flow cutting it’s way down the gorge. This early in the morning you couldn’t make out the texture of the river but you could see it’s various runs. I could make out pools, rock gardens, and bars. I was anxious for the truck to stop.

The game plan had changed a bit and before we started our float, our guide suggested we fish a productive run just upstream. It was a good opportunity to run my brother through the paces. It had been a number of years since he last fished and the first time ever with the two-hander.

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First run. Brian coaching my brother from the sidelines.

After a quick breakdown of the run, my brother and the guide setup at the top and I made my way to the middle. November in the PNW is like early September back in Alaska. Cool and crisp in the morning. Just cold enough to warrant fleece under the shell and to see your own breath. The landscape, the river, and the atmosphere though are much different than back home but carries with it some familiar aspects.

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Looking down.

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Looking up.

After a short moment of “taking it all in” I finally stepped into the water and began to strip line off the reel. I waded in up to my ankles and started to make progressively longer casts until the fly was just hitting short of the other side. River left is my preferred side at the moment. I like the Snap T because the anchor placement is almost automatic and I can get a decent cast most of the time.

The 7wt was loaded up with a 510 Compact Skagit and 11′ of T-11. At the business end was this.

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Starter fly.

The fly carried with it a lot of expectations. A lot to ask of a fly I know. Only thing left was to make the casts and take the steps.

I’m sure the guide started me up away from the bucket cause he knows how giddy a newbie can be and he didn’t want me blowing it on the lame warm up casts. I was on the inside of a soft bend that opened up into a wide pool. The near side dropped moderately fast and the far side was broken up by a small downed tree forming a seam along the cutbank. The depth looked consistent across the whole run. You could tell from the surface that there were a few nice sized rocks below that could hide a steelhead or two.

Cast after cast…step after step…I fired that fly to the far bank, mended, and settled into the swing. I felt at any moment it could happen. At this point I must have made three dozen casts. Then, at the sweet spot of the 37th swing I felt it…three deliberate taps. Instead of waiting for the fish to commit and burying the rod low and to the bank, I got anxious and effed up the whole thing.

I knew my chances were few and far between. For rookies it’s one or two opportunities. I just wasted one of them on a premature hookset. I stood there for what seemed like forever playing that moment in my mind over and over again. The guide came over a bit later and told me to take 5 steps upstream and work the fly through again. Sometimes he said you can get the fish to come back.

So I did just what he said. Composed myself, took 5 giant steps upstream, and started down and across. I can’t tell you how much I wanted a second chance. I knew if that fish came back I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. I would have fed that fish 5 feet of slack and hammered that fly in the corner. That second chance never came. I finished out the run a little disappointed but the day was early…still plenty of water left.

With so much water left, I figured one of us was walking away a winner. Unfortunately for us, the rest of the day just turned into a beatdown of epic proportions. We worked run after run, making casts, taking steps, mending, rod high, rod low, changing flies, eating on the float, and taking one beating after another.

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My brother...making the casts...taking the steps.

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Off to another run.

We fished it all…the wide long run that by the end had you waist deep and tucked up tight to the trees with branches poking you in the back, the inside bend that had us tip toeing along a 4 foot ledge with chain link rip rap armor just waiting to gobble up a D-loop that went too far behind, and the all too familiar exposed bar with a soft inside seam and good looking structure from tip to tail.

After 8+ hours of hoping…that last cast, that last mend, and that last swing was the toughest by far. If it weren’t for the fading light I know I would have kept grinding it out. I felt like I had failed and the disappointment ran deep. I started second guessing things…I should have changed fly color after that first teaser, I should have changed flies more often, I should have taken another pass through with another fly, I should have…I should have…I should have.

It didn’t sink in until a few days later. I finally came to grips with the outcome. I fished my ass off and well…shit like this happens. Going in I knew one or two opportunities. I got one. That works for me.

I wanted so bad to bring a steelhead to hand the only way deemed proper by fellas much wiser than me and who’ve taken multiple beatdowns to just get an opportunity at one more steelhead on the swinging fly. If anything, it’s made it worse. I can’t stop thinking about the next time.

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Last look.

In the end it wasn’t meant to be. Not my time I suppose. I know if I keep paying my dues it will happen.

I want to thank my brother for grinding it out with me. Can’t think of a better person to share the water with. Also, big thanks to Brian Styskal for showing two rookies the ropes and Tom Larimer for all the advice. It was great meeting you guys.

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Matchmaking

Even the best fly rod in the world ain’t worth a crap if you don’t have it lined correctly. With so many different fly line companies with their different line tapers, coatings, construction, textures, additives, and other super secret things, there is more than one line to any given rod. That’s good and bad.

The good is that because everyone casts a little different they can find what best suits them. The bad is that there are now so many choices that it can be overwhelming. I’m just hitting on single-handers. Let’s not get into two-handers.

Good thing there are friendly neighborhood fly shops around. I’m not sure if many folks do this but fly shops typically have an assortment of lines to try out. They are mostly there to throw on fly rods you are test driving before you buy. Next time you should bring in your rod and test a few lines out on it. Think of it as a matchmaking service.

I hear it a lot but “try before you buy” seems to be the way to go.

Here are some that I like.

  • Scientific Anglers Steelhead Taper – By far the best line for nymphing long distances. I know most of you considering nymphing as a high-sticking affair with or without an indicator. Mostly working in close so you can get that sweet dead-drift. Not on the big waters in Southcentral. Often times the big cast gets the big fish. The line is perfect for bombing casts and mending from further away than you thought possible. Carrying a ton of line, an indicator, split shot or two, and a fly is child’s play for the Steelhead.
  • Scientific Anglers Nymph Taper – This used to be my “go to” beading line. It works great if you are nymphing in close with an indicator. I like to use yarn indicators when working smaller water and the Nymph has no problem turning over a fuzzy afro puffball of yarn. Very specific fly line and not great at much else. If all you are doing is nymphing this is a good one to have spooled up.
  • As for a general purpose fly line, I like the RIO Grand, Scientific Anglers GPX, and the Sage Performance Taper. The general purpose [or all around] is the line I use the most. It has essentially replaced the Nymph Taper for nymphing. Does just as good a job as the specialty taper and you can throw dries with it too. Good for when the day is mixed with a little of this, a little of that, and some of this.

I’m sure you have your favorites. Please feel free to share if you want. I’m always tinkering and eager to learn a trick or two from others.

Rumor has it that Scientific Anglers is getting ready to debut a few more lines in their Sharkskin Series soon. The one I’m most interested in is the Sharkskin Steelhead Taper. Taking what is a personal favorite to a whole new level. Looking forward to throwing that one soon.

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