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Michael Gracie

I’m not the only one who packed light for Deneki’s FIBFest

Deneki Outdoors Andros SouthI’ll admit I possess the originality of a Xerox, but I truly thought the concept of traveling thousands of miles to go bonefishing with just a carry-on bag was a first. Little did I know that Andros South customers were already doing it.

Paul Milne, proprietor of The Oaks Waterfront Inn & Events in Royal Oak, MD is one of those people that gets a little unexpected free time now and then. When his establishment isn’t hosting a spectacular wedding, he goes fishing. And Andros Island is one of his favorite destinations. It’s not a bad problem to have – in fact, the only bother for Mr. Milne has been finding a place that doesn’t mind him popping in for just a few days.

While I was at FIBFest, the entire staff went on an all night bender, and somewhere in the middle of it decided to assemble the boat assignments for the following day. And while none of the previous statement is even remotely true, it’s the only reasonable explanation I could expect readers to accept for the Deneki Outdoors peeps pairing me with a bonafide paying client, and one that only had three days to enjoy himself. Needless to say, Mr. Milne and I had a grand time.

How did Paul wind up there in the first place? Well, as he told me in between basking in the rays and hooking a few bonefish…

I had a few days off, and made a few calls. Nobody seemed all that interested in taking on an angler for less than a week. Then I found Andros South, via an internet search. They were quick to respond back, seemed happy to accommodate me, and made it clear there wouldn’t be a surcharge for the stub visit either.

Little did he know I was already hell bent on proving a point – that you don’t need a ton of gear or preparation to go fishing at the lodge. I just got beat to the punch, and now have to find yet another schtick – sandbagging AND minimalism are now both toast.

MG signing off (since those Deneki patrons took the last beer too, as they should)

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: The FIBFest bar is now officially closed

I look forward to some bonefishing during Deneki Outdoors FIBFest 2011. But I cannot deny anticipation of alcohol-induced rowdiness down at the Slack Tide after a hard day’s work either. Sadly, swinging from oceanside tiki bar rafters with a bottle of Captain Morgan in my free hand just ain’t gonna happen now.

See, our host, one Andrew Bennett, has officially succumbed to the influence of the corporation. Instantly gone are his perpetual smile, the laid back atmosphere he’s created at his lodges, and the singular focus on fishing-as-fun. It’s all business from this point forward, as Mr. Bennett has joined the board of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association.

While I expect to catch even more bonefish now – fish pay very close attention to industry press releases – from here on out I will address my old friend as Mr. Bennett. And I suggest you do the same (after you congratulate him, of course).

MG signing off (to find some space in my bag for a pipe and a tweed smoking jacket)

The 2011 Deneki Outdoors FIBFest Theme Song

Last year it was Congo Town, resembling Lipps Inc.’s Funky Town in every way except lyrics and licensing. I felt obligated to pull the remix.

For 2011, we go with an LL Cool J classic, hereinafter entitled “We’re Going Back to Andros”…

We’re going back to Andros, Andros, Andros
We’re going back to Andros.. hmm, I do think so
We’re going back to Andros, Andros, Andros
We’re going back to Andros.. I do think so

Going back to Andros, stylin, profilin
Growlin, and smilin, while in the sun
The line is taught, on the black graphite
And it’s fly, cause it’s sittin on West Side’s
Loomis push pole, plushed out, gold-leaf rod wells
and three flats waiting
VRRRROOM engine’s blowin, the deck, is shining
Passing all the skiffs on the way
Movement of the wind, reel’s gonna spin
Choose the MP3 and push play

We’re going back to Andros, Andros, Andros
We’re going back to Andros – yea y’all, I think so
We’re going back to Andros, Andros, Andros
We’re going back to Andros..

We’re going back to Andros, shakin ’em, bakin ’em
Takin ’em to spots they never before hung
Find the place, at sunrise it’s a trip
Where the Kalik’s cold, and the hands still strip
The iPod skip, but these bones kept dancin
Prancin, grindin, grinnin, romancin
I asked one to the bow, so we could have some play
I wanna do this, Bennett, and I’ll even pay

We’re going back to Andros, Andros, Andros
We’re going back to Andros – yea man I gotta think so
We’re going back to Andros, Andros, Andros
We’re going back to Andros..

We’re going back to Andros, rising, surprising
Advising realizing, she’s sizing me up
Her gaper – small; tail – tall
She said, she liked, the ocean
She showed me a dorsal, like she wanted a morsel
and started the feeding motion
Now I thought that was fast, but this girl was faster
She’s lookin for a real good time
I said, “Close your eyes, I got a surprise,”
and dropped a Gotcha sixty feet on a dime

We’re going back to Andros, Andros, Andros
We’re going back to Andros.. yeehaw, I know so
We’re going back to Andros, Andros, Andros
We’re going back to Andros.. I know so

I think it’ll work, but I’m trying my best to be cooperative here. If I had my druthers (i.e. nobody to answer to), it would have definitely gone this way instead…
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Twenty-six days until FIBFest 2011

Deneki Outdoors‘s FIBFest starts in just twenty-six days, as in before the month of March is over. In the grand scheme, there is no particular significance to the number of days until launch, unless that also happens to be part of your ATM card PIN (mine is “2626”). But there is a fine crew participating (whose count is now up to six) in what will surely be the epitome of unbiased travel-related opinion-making.

Never mind.

In the absence of the aforementioned journalistic integrity, we’ll be drinking like sailors, swinging from tiki bar rafters, and sleeping in ’till noon catching a lot of bonefish.

Documenting it online too. In the most colorful manner possible.

MG signing off (to find a new schtick, as the sandbagging has already been called out)

The first rule of FIBFest: Gear gets given away because of FIBFest

Deneki Outdoors FIBFest may be over for those that were on the ground water, but it ain’t over for the rest of you. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and the prize is such that you definitely won’t mind having missed all the bullshit I spewed at the daily after-parties (which made the crap I regurgitate here seem like a half acre of fresh roses).

Want a Sage 890-4 Xi3 rod, a Sage 6080 fly reel and a matching Rio Tropical Clouser fly line line? I thought so.

The rig comes straight out of Andros South, and was not even cast by yours truly (so you know it’s still in pristine condition).

Click here, wait a minute, and a little window will pop up asking if you’d like to receive Deneki’s email newsletter. You definitely want that newsletter, and signing up also has the added benefit of getting you entered into a drawing for the rig described above. A randomly selected winner will be made known around June 25th.

FIBFest attendees are disqualified from the contest as the FIBFest bar tab is still being tallied.

MG signing off (to buddy up to some lucky winner)

The FIBFest epilogue I wish I didn’t have to write

FIBFest has come to its conclusion. The standard response to this would say something like we caught a bunch of fish, drank too much beer, had a lot of fun, the trip back was long and tiring, and that Deneki Outdoors’ Andros South Lodge is so awesome that I can’t wait to go bonefishing there again.

While that may all be true, I woke this morning thinking just one thing: I already miss the people I met there. I now find it necessary to kiss a big pile of ass thank them, as I know for certain that if I never picked up a fly rod again I’d still feel my life in fishing was made complete. They are THE reason.

First and foremost, the management team at Andros South

  • Andrew Bennett – You picked a damn fine crowd, and run a damn fine operation. I wish you much continued success – if any group has 1/10th the fun we had, you’d still be the best gig in any town.
  • Rick Sisler – Your family rocks, your attitude rocks, and your management style rocks. Me thinks you’ve got all the bases covered, and I am jealous. Have a great time in Alaska!
  • Matt Hynes – You are a gentleman and a scholar. Thanks for putting up with my gear repair requests (and calling that pair of kings you didn’t know I had). Best wishes to you and your gal in Alaska!
  • The guest new friends list

  • Dick Pitini – Your one liners are so grand you should pick up a retirement gig as a stand-up comic.
  • Mike White – Thanks for not calling my all-in on that flush draw. I’ll show you the cards next time too, but only if you fish with me first.
  • Bruce Smithhammer – I am so grateful to have shared that outrageous day far down south with you. The memory of the shark attack, the bonefish rodeo, and the skies that broke over that sandbar as we hooked yet another triple will remain etched in my mind for eternity.
  • Kirk Deeter – Flyfishing is metal, baby. I’ve got a lot more to say, but…I’ll see you next week!
  • Johnny Spillane – Keep on fishing, and keep on skiing. You do many very proud, but some of us have seen and heard your bongo drum play, and think that’s even better!
  • Sam Spillane – See you on the Yampa, my good man. Sam Spillane dot com awaits the world!
  • Pete McDonald – I sleep more soundly now that I know Fishing Jones is so much more than a mere online identity. Hope our next outing is lengthier, and please remember…the stingray is your friend!
  • Louis Cahill – A little air was released from our bubbles the moment you disappeared. Hope to see you again, and soon!
  • The guides who put up with my inability to change casting direction on split second notice

  • Torrie Bevans – Everyone should fish with you their first day out. Gotta get the skunk off early, don’t ya’ know!
  • Norman Rolle – We ripped plenty of lips even when I unraveled. Best wishes with the club!
  • Freddy Dames – You should be the sidekick in Dick Pitini’s comedy troupe (when you’re not being such an incredible guide)!
  • Josie Sands – I’ll listen to you anytime. Anywhere. And every time!
  • The lovely ladies in the dining hall

    I fished all day, everyday, and still managed to gain eight pounds! I wish I could cook half as good as you all.

    About that schwag

  • Smith Optics – a pair of Backdrops in black Polarchromic Copper Mirror did not leave my face all week. With good reason.
  • Sage – 790-4 Xi3/6080 – I caught fish on this rig despite myself. Review to follow once my notes dry out.
  • Rio Products – The Tropical Clouser WF8-F never tangled on deck, and made it through plenty of mangroves without a scratch. Can you say love?
  • Steamboat Flyfisher – The site of every local in a South Andros Island night club with logo’ed regalia on was all the image I needed.
  • And finally…

    Short, simple thank yous go to Scott Fly Rods (S4S rods in 8 and 10), Waterworks-Lamson (Litespeed reels in 3.5X and 4.0), Simms (shade hat and wading boots), Rio (for the flouro stuff), P-Line (Adaro pliers), and Buffs (how did anyone ever do without). Additional thanks go to Trout’s Fly Fishing, Orvis and Discount Fishing Tackle (for fly tying materials) – with the exception of a single weighted crab pattern which I used on the West side on the last day out, I cast my own flies all week (and caught an awful lot of fish). I lost count on the third day, where doubles and triples became the norm, but I’m certain the totals were more than anyone could ask for in a single trip.

    Finally (finally), special thanks go out to my next door neighbor, who took me to the airport even though his family was in town when I left, and the two young ladies who took care of my collie dog while I was gone.


    I ain’t going to miss you FIBFesters one bit. And damn my lip hurts!

    The story ended way too soon. But it was a heck of a good one just the same.

    MG signing off (to get back to work…ugh)

    UPDATE: A few more folks that deserve thanks: LaVado McPhee, Camp Hand/Maintenance; Ethlyn Smith, Kitchen/Housekeeping Manager; Tiffany Johnson and Joanne Gibson in housekeeping; and more thanks for putting the pounds on me with that outstanding chow go to the kitchen staff…Essie Holbert, Gloria Brown, Karen Rolle, and Maggie Rodgers.

    FIBFest. flickr. fotos. free.

    With Louis “Quality plus Quantity” Cahill, you get exactly what you’re looking for…

    And then there’s a few pics from the cross-eyed dude with the Gotcha embedded in his left shoulder (yes, Smithhammer hit me!)…

    These sets will get updated each evening, so come back around anytime.

    Meanwhile, yesterday’s fishing report is officially canceled as we had a Keith Richard’s sighting last night at the tiki bar (a.k.a. Slack Tide). Dealing with the paparazzi was a bitch.

    Good for you, however, because the first person to guess who our Rolling Stone impersonator is wins a free Andros South cap!

    MG signing off (to find some Tylenol for my aching head sore casting arm)

    Teach me a lesson at Alaska West

    Those who have endured fishing with yours truly know that I rarely know what I am doing, but am very good with Photoshop. Hero shots are, of course, my specialty, and I now must dislose that virtually every fishing photo that has graced these pages has been manipulated. Except for maybe this one. Oops…here’s another. And lastly, one during the “had hair stage“.

    The soul searching that led up to this admission has been a long, tough road. Many late nights with whiskey bottle in hand, seeking a new path, one that would lead to tranquility, purity of heart, and forthrightness in every fiber of my being.

    But alas, I failed. And instead sent a check to Deneki Outdoors for a slot at their famed Alaska West Lodge the week of July 12th through July 19th, 2013.

    Payment to Alaska West, for a life of lies

    Alaska West sits on the legendary Kanektok River, home to the largest concentrations of gill and fin laden biomass in the western hemisphere. The folks up there are partial to catching the assorted beasts with two-handed fly rods. I suck at two-handed fly casting, and not for lack of practice. So if you decide you have a hankering for incredible fishing, combined with what could be the bonus of a lifetime, schooling me on the water as retribution for my years of deceit, here’s your chance.

    If, however, you decide you want to plan your trip to Alaska West that week because I am an exceptional anglertoo good looking for Hollywood…a lucky bastard that you’d rather just deliver a crippling kick in the nuts to, that’s ok as well. I’m adding Global Rescue service to my trip package.

    Deneki Outdoors Alaska West

    MG signing off (to see how much more chicanery I can get away with before judgement week)

    Long-Term Rod Review: Scott S4S 906/4

    gear bagI’ve pulled off a few half-fast rod reviews in the past, only to find some quirk down the road that made me dislike the stick. And go looking for something new. Hence, this review is long term, as I’ve owned the Scott S4S 906/4 for better than eighteen months now.

    As rods go, I’ve pared down my quiver considerably in the past few years. The goal: update my rigs while making them serve multiple duties. Let’s face it, premium fly rods are a significant investment—when you plow money into a business venture, you look for multiple revenue streams, so why not look to use your expensive fly rods for multiple situations and multiple species? Over the last year and a half I’ve spent more time with Scott’s saltwater six than any other rod I own. And as a result, I will likely spend more time with it going forward… than any other rod I own.

    Scott S4s fly rodThe S4S 906/4 is my go-to carp rod, loaded with (what else?) a Rio Carp. It’s the only rod I use for bass, slinging a Rio Bass. I use it for trout too, when ugly meat is required, on the end of a 200gr SA Streamer Express. And I’ve watched my flats-guide-for-a-day whip an entire Rio Bonefish (that’s a hundred feet, by the way) out with a swift wind smacking him straight in the face. He wouldn’t let me cast the stick off his boat, and after it was in his hands he wouldn’t give it up either—this was advanced casting lesson time, so I just thanked him for the instruction. And tucked my 8-weight between my legs.

    As far as the rod fit and finish goes, everything is built just as precisely as the Scott S4s 908/4 I reviewed last year. And it looks exactly the same too, so you can take a look at pictures here. I acquired this puppy after inquiring directly to Scott – my specs were as follows:

    I want a stick that is lighter than my average carp rod, bold enough to huck Meat Whistles around my (no longer secret) bass pond, and capable of joyful response while doing the sinking line/Sex Dungeon thing Kelly Galloup style. In addition, I want it to feel right with a skinnier reel i.e. under 6oz, and be willing to get the ever-living crap kicked out of it without looking like it needs a trip to the emergency room. Catch my drift?

    The folks in Montrose replied: You need an S4s 906/4.

    Since delivery I’ve doubled the rod over, exposed it to the salt, slung streamers all day long (tossing six pound rainbows overboard like dinks after this catch), and podium-ed in a tourney with it.

    I spent hard-earned dollars on this rod, but it’s been worth every penny—it is, without question, the the most versatile fly rod I have fished with to date. It isn’t soft enough for really short shots—you have to overline it, like I did with the Rio Carp in 7-weight. But the fatter lines, like the Rio Bass, the SA GPX, and the sinkers like the Streamer Express, engage the stick like the shifter on a 911.

    Did Scott get this rod absolutely perfect? Nope… I probably can’t easily turn over a #22 midge on the end of a ten foot 6X leader with it. But I haven’t bothered trying. That is cold-water “fancy” fishing—pristine conditions, smaller targets, fine scotch afterwards. The S4s 906/4 is all e.coli, barbed-wire fences, violent targets, and knocking off a case of PBR during the post-game show. I like those situations, but then again trudging around Denver’s South Platte hasn’t sent me to the hospital yet either. Knock on high-modulus graphite.

    I’m not sure Scott was planning on offering anything other than a lightweight, light wind, light-prey, salty handler when they were designing the S4S 906/4, but they wound up with something much more special. It takes a little time to learn its intricacies (i.e. I went through several lines before I found the sweet spots), but everyone else can now fade those trades—the lines mentioned above fit like gloves. After the cast you’ll likely never feel outgunned either.

    I definitely haven’t.

    MG signing off (because you never show up to a gunfight with a knife, but you might be able to hold your own with this fly rod)

    FTC Disclosure: The rod was acquired in exchange for cold hard cash. And nothing more.

    Bye bye bonefish

    Deneki Outdoors FIBFest 2011 is officially over. Bye bye bonefish.

    bonefish

    Photo courtesy of Cameron Miller

    Special thanks go out to everyone that participated, a list of which you can find here. Additionally, grande muchas gracias to Rick Sisler, Trevor Covich, the camp staff, and of course our rockstar host, Mr. Bennett. Meanwhile, some end notes…

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