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Posts Tagged ‘fly fishing’

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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Photo by Tuber

I always look forward to getting back to this spot every year. I’ve never pulled a big fish or a lot of fish out of this stretch. What draws me back each year is the good vibes I get when I’m walking up and down the banks.

It’s just a nice stretch of water that puts a big smile on my face everytime I see it.

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With the right motivation I’m convinced you can accomplish the impossible. This week we hosted G_Smolt and Ratbone on the big local for 3 solid days of fish’n. In less time than it takes to enjoy a bag of Orville Redenbacher, I managed to rustle up a drift boat to get us into the good spots and Jay a motorhome to keep us out of the rain, while G_Smolt and Ratbone tidied up their affairs and jumped on a plane. Game on kids.

Damn those 3 days went by fast. I guess that’s what happens when you’re having a hoot. No need to go into too much detail. We woke up early every morning, downed a pot of coffee, ate a little, got geared up, launched the boat, caught fish, hitchhiked back to the truck, ate a little more, celebrated, and hit the sack. Repeat…two more times.

Some highlights from the trip:

  • G_Smolt and Ratbone are good people. Can’t say enough good things about those guys. Welcome into the circle boys!!
  • Water was unusually high for this time of year but we managed to catch a good number of fish all three days. Word at the takeout was most folks were struggling. Never one to turn my back on someone in need I handed out some advice and other goodies. Karma…it’s what keeps me out of trouble.
  • There really is no bad time to take in the hops and grainy goodness of adult beverages. A must being celebratory beers after a hard day at the office – Midnight Sun 22’s…in whatever flavor floats your boat. Ours happened to be Sockeye Red and Old Whiskers. Most fitting if you ask me.
  • Doesn’t matter what time you go to bed or how much you consumed the night before. Boat launches at sunrise and you’re coming along whether or not you’re ready.
  • Wet wipes are just essential for comfy undershorts.
  • 4 fishers fit neatly in a 3 fisher boat. Just make sure not everyone is leaning to one side of the boat. Jay…get your ass back into the middle…we’re plowing.
  • You catch as many fish as you are willing to work for. Fish are there in the water. Too many incidents to count but we were run up on by other folks just cause we were hooking up. G_Smolt had some dude cast right on top of him and bitch at him for catching too many fish. Huh?!? Seriously?!?
  • Lots of idiots on the water that don’t understand the meaning of etiquette. If the shitter is occupied you don’t come busting in there. Ratbone and Jay almost got hit by a boat that decided they wanted the spot Ratbone was fishing.
  • No sense beating a dead horse. After a while you ain’t fishing…it’s just casting practice.
  • 12 hours a day of fishing just isn’t enough for some folks. G_Smolt…you are the undisputed champ of getting your fish ON! My man doesn’t eat or drink and he doesn’t ever stop. I’m sure if we left him on that gravel bar it wouldn’t have phased him one bit.
  • Ratbone bounces back like a SuperBall. Nothing…not one thing can keep this fella down. Not even a tear in the waders letting in gallons of icy cold river water.
  • Catching fish on the two-hander is the BEST!!! Can’t get enough of it. Managed to hook 3 fish on the swing. Landed the biggest on a homegrown tie from G_Smolt.

It’s been a long while since I’ve been on an extended fishing trip. It felt good to know that tomorrow I was doing this all over again. I was able to let things come to me rather than forcing the issue. Not sure when I’ll be able to do this again but I’m already looking forward to it.

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The Neil Creek Estate is now $20 richer and I’m out one lunch at Charlie’s. Halfway into the trip I caved and threaded onto the end of my leader a bead. That’s right kids…it’s over. I can go into all sorts of philosophical discussions on what eventually unfolded but in the end the decision was mine.

A couple of days earlier I had arranged to meet up with Savoy of Mostly Right, Usually who was in the state on a month and a half fishing safari. A couple of quick emails and a phone call or two and things were set. Jay and I met up with Savoy at the take out. What a relief when we saw Savoy finally. A conversation just prior to this moment had Jay and I on guard. One of us was making it out alive if things went bad. Sorry Jay but you weren’t the one.

With introductions out of the way we made our way to the launch. It started out great. Within the first few hours I had racked up 3 fish, one being a good sized rainbow on a glo bug. Good, considering the handicap.

At this point, I thought all was well. | Photo by J. Kim

Jay hadn’t posted a score yet drifting flesh and glo bugs. He was definitely getting a little twitchy. Savoy on the other hand was hooking into fish after fish. It was obvious he could handle himself on the water and armed with beads and a green balloon, he was catching fish at a steady pace, which didn’t help the situation.

Lost count. | Photo by D. Yi

Jay and I both packed along beads just in case Savoy wasn’t loaded up with the hottest colors. I figured this was his first time and it would be a shame if he went home without hooking a crap load of fish. That right there was my first mistake. I should have asked. A short while into the trip, Savoy pulled out a guide box of beads. If you don’t know what that is let me explain. A guide box is about the size of a small briefcase, clear, with a shit load of compartments stuffed with every color and size bead imaginable in it’s own cozy little spot. It’s what every guide carries on their boat. If you’ve ever seen a display of beads in a fly shop, imagine that with a lid.

Jay and I debated back and forth whether we would string one up. For a while there we held out telling each other if we didn’t hook a fish in this run we were beading on the next. Our luck eventually ran out and that time finally came as we watched Savoy hook into another. We were running a blank on this particular run after working it hard for some time. I’d fish a spot only to have Savoy pick my pocket with a bead.

I remember looking at Jay and mumbling something about a bead not changing the way I’m fishing. I mean come on…I’d fish the bead just like I was fishing this lame ass glo bug. At the same time we both reached into the bottom of our packs and pulled out our case of beads. There was no turning back now. We knew what we were about to do.

Beginning of the end. | Photo by D. Yi

The decision didn’t come easy. I mean, up until that point I had thrown everything. Glo bugs, leeches, buggers, flesh, steak & eggs, poached eggs, scrambled, sunny side up, sunny side down, intruders, sculpins, and some messed up shit I tied up the night before. Oh sure, I caught a few fish but it wasn’t enough. I knew what the fish wanted and it wasn’t what I was serving. I could have easily avoided the spawn and not fished during the next few weeks. What would that have proved? You know what though…facing things head on is the only way you get answers. I got my answer and I’m okay with that. I’ll keep testing the water though…trying to find what else works.

After stringing up that bead…next cast…and BAM…it was on. For the rest of day we pulled out fish from every fishy looking spot. I handled the sticks the whole time and Savoy and Jay…what can I say. I took them through the drift and they hooked one after another.

Nice feesh. | Photo by D. Yi

Warming up. | Photo by D. Yi

Back in the bag of tricks go the beads. Can’t deny their effectiveness and on fish that have honed in on the spawn, it is the only thing that works well. On the day we drifted, there were too many boats to count. You can imagine the number of presentations the fish see on any given day. They grow wise to the game and that is good. Unfortunately for the fish the bead is about as perfect as you can get just short of using the real thing.

Spoke with a lot of people that day and they reported fair success…a dozen or so fish. When one group asked us how we were doing we told them we were having a pretty good day and hooked seven in this run alone. They were amazed. Just goes to show you that the bead isn’t the silver bullet. A little bit of skills goes a long way.

So for now, I will be throwing beads until later in the Fall. I’ll continue to mix it up a bit to see if I can’t find another way. Not much longer and I’ll be able to swing flies again. A few more weeks of the elements and this will bring out the big boys.

Circle of life. | Photo by D. Yi

Savoy my man…it was good fishing with you. If you make it up again next year give me a shout. Plan for a month later the next time and bring the 8 weight. The fish are much bigger later in the fall.

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Quote of the day – “You’re not a real fly fisherman until you’ve made your own fly rod.” – Response from the Mrs. when I inquired about a new 5 weight.

I’d planned this trip for weeks. It isn’t often I get the chance to fish a freestone the traditional way. Loaded with dries, nymphs, and small streamers, I was looking forward to wading my favorite freestone. There is just something about fishing a small piece of water…being able to wade anywhere you want and dropping dries and nymphs in pockets here and there.

That was the plan. After arriving streamside, I found out quickly this wasn’t going down the way I thought. Steady rain for the past few days brought the water level up more than I expected. Crossing anywhere was treacherous at best. I attempted one crossing only to get spun around after losing my footing and almost getting swept away. Sometimes you gotta know when to fold’em.

The major increase in cfs looks to have flushed the stream clean. No trout at the end of the line for me. The entire day I saw one trout do a splashy rise. Too bad for me it was on the other bank and with raging water between us it was hopeless. I tried everything. At one point I positioned myself 60 feet downstream and forced my way as far into the middle as I could. I made cast after cast…landing my fly in the slot only to have the current grab my fly line and drag my offering away. Frustration doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Later in the day I managed to run into the fellow that left this. A pleasant chap who fortunately wanted nothing to do with me. The feeling was mutual.

The summer this year has been less than cooperative. I think this month we’ve only had one sunny weekend with temperatures above 65. Cool weather and rain is in the forecast for the next 5 days. If this holds up I’m probably looking at next year to hit the freestone again traditional style.

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If you are planning a fly fishing trip to Alaska, check out the just recently launched Alaska Fly Fishing Goods. Brad Elfers and his crew have been running a fly shop and guiding for the past 15 years out of Juneau and have decided to bring their collective experience to the forefront. The site will help you figure out what, where, and how. Alaska is big…you might need some help finding your way around.

Editor-at-Large behind Alaska Fly Fishing Goods is the very own Neil Creek Chief Svengali himself G_Smolt. We all know how fishy that mofo is. Surefire guarantee that the site won’t disappoint.

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