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Michael Gracie

Book Review: The Alaska Chronicles

I’m driving north on Colorado Blvd. when the phone rings. I reach into my pocket and think I’ve got a crumpled up bar receipt in there – it turns out to be a mousie fly pattern, one I tried on bass at least a week ago. “These shorts went through the wash yesterday,” I think to myself. Yet the deer hair is unscathed, and I tied it myself. Then I push the answer button: “Hey…I just won the Powerball, and I want to share half the winnings with you!”

My evening would get even better – the copy of The Alaska Chronicles I ordered a few days prior had just arrived. It winds up taking under seven hours to complete the read. One trip to the liquor store once I hit the pictures – The Ocean playing on the radio during the trip there, and Lunatic Fringe blared on the way back. I must get home to those pages, but in between a decision to make: does this work require cheap beer, or a cheap wine? At less that $20 for three liters, boxed white it is.

At 11pm, snoring dogs huddled under my feet and the compelling urge to fill up the glass again, I find it fitting to address this compilation directly…

An Open Letter to author Miles Nolte

Dear Miles,

First, I hope this letter finds you, and finds you well. Guiding again this season? Or off to graduate school? Whatever makes you happy – where there’s a will there’s a way.

It is difficult to explain how enthralled I was by The Alaska Chronicles, other to say I had to absorb it cover to cover in one single evening. During the adventure I gathered supplies and hunkered down, one phone ring the only disturbance. Said call was from a dear friend, a fly fishing guide – he’s getting married soon and wanted to confirm my attendance at the pre-party. “Of course I’m going to be there.” But right now I had to get back to Alaska.

I must hereby inform you that your book will be passed on to that fishy soul, pitched as a pre-packaged lesson in perseverance and fortitude – while I’d rather keep your work in my own collection, I must now share it. As you so eloquently stated, success is a matter of both knowledge and skill, and I am now convinced there must be a symbiotic relationship between the two. The Alaska Chronicles should be required reading for both guides and clients venturing into the Alaskan experience, or setting forth into any water together for that matter. Attitude is the last ingredient in the formula – those that are fun to be with on the water make for the best days, no doubt. Maybe this is why your finest hours always wind up being those when and where you are fishing with your friends, regardless of the landed outcome.

Lastly, with the understanding that much of what you wrote was consumed by your colleagues as it happened, I can only say I wish I had been there. But the book is certainly one hell of a consolation prize.

Kindest regards…

MG signing off (to weasel my way into The Drake forum?)

Kelly Galloup and I talk meaty flies, new books and lines (and why we wished more women fly-fished)

Ask any of my fishing friends what my favorite fly is and they’ll tell you it’s undoubtedly the Sex Dungeon. Who wouldn’t love a fly with a name like that? What a lot of people still don’t get though…trout love ’em too. Particularly big trout. I’m also known for taking plenty of skunkings, but that’s because most of my casts wind up catching my hat. The inventor of the Sex Dungeon doesn’t have this problem – he’s Kelly Galloup, lifelong fly-fisherman, guide, and proprietor of the Slide Inn on the edges of the Madison River in Cameron, Montana.

Mr. Galloup is well known in fly-fishing circles for his what could be considered unorthodox techniques – huge, articulated flies with tandem hooks, and the use of fast sinking lines in moving water – but he’s probably best known for the “jerk-strip”, whereby the fly is retrieved by jerking the tip of the rod, and line drawn up as the rod tip is moved back towards the fly. The jerk-strip, along with all the rest of Kelly’s heavily researched methodologies, were first described in his 1999 book Modern Streamers for Trophy Trout.

I was walking through the International Sportmen’s Expo right after the show opened, and Kelly decided he’d put me in a headlock (former martial arts practitioner that he is) and drag me over to the loudest part of the convention center available to share his philosophy on fly-fishing as well as spill the beans on the new Scientific Anglers Kelly Galloup Streamer Express and his soon to be released book Modern Streamers 2. What I learned from the thirty-seven minutes to follow was that Kelly Galloup is without question one of the most enthusiastic, open-minded, and downright salt-of-the-earth people participating in the sport of fly-fishing today.

I could have spent the next couple of days hashing out the substance of the interview, parsing the question and answer “guts” of our talk, but the whole bit was just too damn good (and a hell of a lot of fun). Hence, it’s being published here as a first ever podcast. Enjoy.

[audio:http://media.michaelgracie.com/podcasts/KellyGalloupFlyFishingISE2010.mp3]

I’ll add that after we turned off the microphone, Kelly was still talking fishing, and we continued on for at least another ten minutes until I realized I was way late for the next call. I wish I could have stayed.

Kelly Galloup will be at the International Sportsmen’s Expo, Denver, through Sunday, and will continue on to some of the other shows throughout the country. Check the schedule for his appearances here.

And by the way, thanks Kelly! It was as real as it gets.

Editor’s note: Approximately fifteen seconds of the audio doesn’t exactly relate to fly-fishing, but it was about 15F outside; hence we were subconsciously wishing we were sitting on a beach drinking beers. Or at least that’s the best excuse I could come up with.

I’ll turn this Australian into a fly fisherman if it kills me

Fly fishing plunger Craig Berg came to America seeking the good life. And outside of a grand career and a happy, healthy family it’s been a unmitigated disaster. If you have to ask why, you obviously have never fly fished with my crew and I.

First and foremost, I’m a drill sergeant. You lob a weak cast, I scream. You snag your flies and try pulling them loose without walking up first, I scream. You allow your line to drag on the surface, I scream. Tangle your leader…scream! Asked me to retie your knots…scream! You get the picture – I’d fail guide school because I’m a terrible babysitter. But over the last few years Mr. Berg has figured out trout, and I take full responsibility.

Alas, it was time to move on to bigger and better things, and today was the breakthrough day. Tough love works…

Berg's first carp on the fly
Gracie rig and fly choice (and a little yelling)

I’m still figuring out this carp thing myself, but it’s always good to have a whipping boy quick study around to test my theories for me.

Editor’s note: special thanks to James Snyder of Primal Fly Fishing for piping his own version of the Comedy Channel into our outing, making for an even finer day. And, no…neither James nor I netted jack. Class dismissed!

Coffee with fly fishing wunder-guides Pat Dorsey and Chris Ramos

Brewing on Colorado’s South Platte River

I took the afternoon off yesterday, seeing as I worked until after midnight Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. At first I felt compelled to throw some gear in the truck and head up to the South Platte to do a little fishing. Then it hit me – I suck – what I really need to do first is kidnap a couple of top notch fly fishing guides, pull the Vulcan mind meld on them, and THEN go fishing. Visions of Colorado State Troopers chasing me down 285 attempting to rescue ‘the victims’ soon put the kibosh on that idea, so I decided to wander down to the International Sportsmen’s Exposition and see if I could find a few guides willing to spill the beans (sans the kerfuffle I’d previously cooked up in my weary little mind).

As it turned out, good choice. I wound up spending time talking with Pat Dorsey of Blue Quill Angler, and Chris Ramos of Angler’s Covey, two of the most knowledgeable fly fishing guides there are when it comes to Colorado’s South Platte River. And as I soon found out, they are both great guys who exude genuine passion for the sport, and a forthright desire to pass that knowledge on to their clientele. That I’ve been skunked at Deckers once this year, combined with the fact they just shrugged their shoulders when I told them I’d forgotten my wallet, only added to my glee.

The guts of our discussion follows…

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