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Michael Gracie

How to get “liked” on Facebook without even having an account

Step 1: Catch a rainbow trout on the Kanektok River.

Step 2: Agree to hold said fish while Tosh Brown snaps some photos.

Step 3: Allow the subject to squirm out of your hands…

Fumbled Fish Photo Content

MG signing off (because Big Brother is always watching)

A Walking Tour of the Alaska West Camp

I went a-wandering…

And found a really cool fort in the woods. Surrounded by most all the comforts of home.

MG signing off (because the tour is incomplete without going fishing thereafter)

Going for broke at Alaska West, and hitting the lottery instead

I went to Deneki Outdoors Alaska West Lodge on the famed Kanektok River in Western Alaska, never thinking I would score the pinnacle of fly-fishing achievements.

Queue backstory and climax in one fell swoop

An epic adventure is not complete without setting goals and then knocking them clear out of the park. The pursuit could be very personal, like attempting to perfect your spey casting stroke – all of the guides at Alaska West could certainly assist there. You might have photography in mind, capturing an image of the perfect take the moment the fish is fooled with presentation concocted by Mother Nature herself, delivered via proxy through a switch rod. Or you might have even bigger plans, such as trying to bag all five Pacific salmon species, a.k.a. the Alaska Grand Slam consisting of chinook, chum, pink, sockeye, and silver. They can surely be found together at Alaska West, if your timing is precise.

All worthy undertakings.

However, to reach beyond mere human endeavor, to transcend godliness in the angling world, achieve veritable self-actualization, one hurdle stands exponentially taller than the rest…

Catching a Starry flounder on the swing!

The Elusive Starry flounder

The exceedingly elusive (and supposedly tasty) Starry flounder

Legitimately, as in hooking the beast right in the pie hole, and on stacked and weighted tube flies at that.

Proof is no longer in the pudding – it has been memorialized in this very blog post for all denizens of the interwebspheres to be amazed, astounded and/or eternally captivated. Count the seconds until Platichthys stellatus supplants steelhead as the spey rod target of choice.

The well-oiled machine

In a nutshell, nary a wrong could be had on this trip. Much of the credit goes to the staff at Alaska West though. Howbeit Starry flounders were on the major feed, everything else about the operation also screamed WELL-OILED MACHINE. The folks running the place are of course the moving parts.

When you are sitting in the middle of nowhere, you expect something to go awry. A motor won’t start, a tent starts leaking, a meal is served cold? Yet nadda. The guides always knew the where to’s and how to’s, and spent plenty of time providing constructive feedback to the anglers i.e. Gracie, you spey cast like my grandmother your cast needs a tweak…do this instead. And they worked their asses off on our behalf, for ten hour stretches a day. The accommodations were comfortable and tidy, and the food was tasty and extremely plentiful (I carried home five additional el bees to show for it). The entire crew was perpetually friendly and enthusiastic. It clearly rubbed off on the guests too – everyone in camp seemed to always have smiles on their faces, even when the wind was howling and the rain was dumping.

That said, there was one solitary issue that must be pointed out…

(more…)

Continued Progress

I have been advised not to tie too many flies for the Kanektok. However, a fine gentleman’s fiancĂ© fine gentleman recently inherited my fly tying kit. It was more of a housewarming gift than a wedding gesture, and I was the first RSVP so the bride-to-be can’t cross me off the list now. All I ever tied was carp and bonefish flies, and I’d rather horsetrade for bait anyway.

Gotta see a man about some more flies

Not yet Deneki Outdoors approved, but don’t think I haven’t covered my bases. I just hope Andrew has an unlimited text plan.

MG signing off (wondering what else he might need)

Attention to details for Alaska West

You get busy. You write things. You reconnect with old people. You file extensions. You build stuff. You pass on the passable. You chase new opportunities. You make unexpected detours. You fight a few battles. You form some opinions. You meet new people. You rediscover interests. You read this and that. You conjure ideas. And then you miss things.

Like booking your flight for a much anticipated trip this summer to Alaska’s Kanektok River.

I wound up in that “missing” boat, but I’ve since disembarked.

Alaska West Intinerary

My old friend Tosh Brown is joining me. I will pass him a two-handed fly rod and beg the guide to teach him how to use it. Since I rely on pure luck.

Now all I need are flies. Lots of flies.

MG signing off (quite distracted by what lies ahead, but keeping his head down as best he can)

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)

Size doesn’t always matter, but pose for the hero shot anyway

You visit Andros South to catch big bonefish

Well, don’t you?

Ooh Barracuda

Photo by Andrew Bennett

If you are competing in the Inaugural Chickcharney Invitational, however, it’s a no-holes-barred multi-species grudge match. So anything goes, but size doesn’t necessarily matter.

MG signing off (because the competition was supremely tough, and he has to go pay up to the winners)

Two out of three ain’t bad, no matter what kind of water you’re on

fishing stories

My smallest fish was this big!
Now get me another beer.

There’s this steaming pile extremely informative column running over at Deneki.com right now – it’s a three part series on how a trip to the bonefish flats can actually improve your (likely more frequent) trout fishing experiences. Part 1: Situational Awareness, and Part 2: Reading Water, are already up.

Yeh, you might think such a comparison, between stalking the flats for the voracious, invisible speedsters and hooking everyone’s favorite salmonid, is borderline reaching. I wrote the posts, which means your probably right. But read them anyway – you might learn something (even if it’s just how to scribe a thousand words that sound like you know what you’re talking about).

And of course, Part 3: How to Drink Beer Like a Bahamian Flats Guide While Standing in 40 Degree Riffle Water, doesn’t come until next week. So you are forced to stay tuned anyway.

MG signing off (because saving the best for last is even more distracting than the fishing)

Bonefish. By the masses, for the masses.

Snatched from the clutches of Deneki Outdoors:

“The bottom line is…I just love this game.” – Torrie Bevans, Andros South Lodge

MG signing off (me too Torrie…me too)

The mother of all presentations happening at Trout’s Fly Fishing on May 26th

It’s entitled: Everything you ever wanted to know about fly-fishing for bonefish on South Andros Island but were afraid to ask…me, because I had a zit on the end of my nose that looked like something out of a scene from “There’s Something About Mary”.

bonefishOr maybe it’s just that I didn’t shave that morning, nevertheless said presentation will be hotter than mid-summer tarmac, but not nearly as hot as the fishing you’ll get if you join Trout’s Fly Fishing at Deneki’s Andros South Lodge from October 22nd through the 29th of this year.

Bonus!? I’m hosting said trip, hence your participation means off-the-wall sight fishing AND the finest entertainment value this side of the San Bernardino Valley in the entire Western Hemisphere. You didn’t think I’d slave away in a fly shop six hours a month because I like the company of Tucker, Jim, Rick and Cody, now did you? It’s all about the endless saltwater flats…duh!

Again…Trout’s Fly Fishing, 6th and Marion, Denver, May 26th at roughly 6:00 pm. And there’ll be free beer too (as if you needed another reason to attend).

MG signing off (to find my teleprompter)