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Thread: Books on reading the water

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    Member garnede's Avatar
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    Post Books on reading the water

    Can anyone point me to some good books that describe how to read the water and present various types of flies in that water?
    It ain't about the # of pounds of meat we bring back, nor about how much we spent to go do it. Its about seeing what no one else sees.

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    I have not read any books but my wife and I have learned this. Know the water your on. for example. The upper Kenai in June and July will produce trout on smolts but after the ferry crossing it is leechs and sculpins. Things like that will make a HUGE difference
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    Default How About a Video

    I know Book! However this video will put your basic needs into play concerning presentation and reading water. It has been around for some time but I have yet found something better putting it in simple easy to understand terms with great video.

    3M Anotomy of a Trout Stream. It may not tell you exactly how to present each fly for each condition however it will explain much of what you will need to know about reading basic water, what a currents does and why fish hold in certain sections of certain streams during various conditions.

    I do not know if it is available on this site.

    I do know most on-line major fly shops have it. Check out Hook & Hackle ask for Ron or Eric they are now located in PA.

    http://www.hookhack.com/

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    Default Kelly Pinnell...

    in the book, The ABC's of Reading Alaska's Small Rivers and Streams.
    The book includes diagrams and clear explanations.

    Also he did a very practical seminar on the subject at 2008 Great Ak Sportsmens Show. I thought the seminar was excellent - slides from Alaska streams with diagrams, explained. Maybe he'll be back in 2009. I see the book is available online, Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

    He also wrote, The Dolly Made Me Do It, a terrific, funny book about beginning to fly fish - but will teach you nothing about reading the water.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueMoose View Post
    3M Anotomy of a Trout Stream. It may not tell you exactly how to present each fly for each condition however it will explain much of what you will need to know about reading basic water, what a currents does and why fish hold in certain sections of certain streams during various conditions.
    Do they make it in a DVD I don't have a VHS. I am most interested in reading the water. After I figure out where to find fish I can work on improving my presentation.
    It ain't about the # of pounds of meat we bring back, nor about how much we spent to go do it. Its about seeing what no one else sees.

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    6XLeech, I bought The ABC's of Reading Alaska's Small Rivers and Streams based on your recomendation and the fact that it specificaly is targeted to Alaska. If anyone else has a recomendation keep them coming.
    It ain't about the # of pounds of meat we bring back, nor about how much we spent to go do it. Its about seeing what no one else sees.

    http://wouldieatitagainfoodblog.blogspot.com/

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    Default Cool...

    if you don't like Kelly's book...um, see Kelly at the GASS. Seriously, this book seemed to me like the guy just went out and fished and fished here, then sketched the lessons learned into this book. Experienced friends seem know "where a fish should be" by reading the water -- concepts I think Pinnell puts into print to aid those of us less gifted, or experienced.

    Freddie's or Wally world used to have the 3M Trout series in DVDs.

    Good luck.

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    there's no substitude to getting out there and fishing, cover a lot of water and you will start to find where you hook more fish. Just try to be a better fisherman every time you go out on the water, if you are going somewhere special like Alaska hire a guide, he'll point out fish, take what you learn back to you local streams and always be open to new techniques etc.

    A book is no substitute for fishing
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Default Fishing book

    I second powder monkey....you learn the most when you just get out on the waters, make mistakes and learn from them. Thats pretty much how I learned and by goin fishing with more experienced flyfishermen.
    There is a book by North American Fishing Club called 'Trout: Steam Fishing Strategies' It is a good place to start but by no means has it all.

    "I Envy Him And Him Only, That Catches More Fish Than I Do" Izaac Walton 1653
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    Quote Originally Posted by ak_powder_monkey View Post
    there's no substitude to getting out there and fishing, cover a lot of water and you will start to find where you hook more fish. Just try to be a better fisherman every time you go out on the water, if you are going somewhere special like Alaska hire a guide, he'll point out fish, take what you learn back to you local streams and always be open to new techniques etc.

    A book is no substitute for fishing

    Well I live here so if I hired a guide he would probably be teaching me to fish my favorite stream. I never fished rivers until i moved to alaska 2 years ago. So while fishing is not new to me, river fishing is. I have learned a significant ammount about river fishing in the last 2 years. But it is difficult to learn more when you don't know what you don't know. So I either read a book or fish with someone who is willing to forego fishing to teach me. If I ever hire a guide or charter it will probably be saltwater and not flyfishing that I pay for.
    It ain't about the # of pounds of meat we bring back, nor about how much we spent to go do it. Its about seeing what no one else sees.

    http://wouldieatitagainfoodblog.blogspot.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by AK Trout View Post
    I second powder monkey....you learn the most when you just get out on the waters, make mistakes and learn from them. Thats pretty much how I learned and by goin fishing with more experienced flyfishermen.
    There is a book by North American Fishing Club called 'Trout: Steam Fishing Strategies' It is a good place to start but by no means has it all.
    I have and will be hitting the streams, but it helps to do your homework when you are not on a stream. At this point I have fished for 2 years either alone or with mostly less skilled fishermen. There have been exceptions but we were not fly fishing. Thanks for the recomendation though.
    It ain't about the # of pounds of meat we bring back, nor about how much we spent to go do it. Its about seeing what no one else sees.

    http://wouldieatitagainfoodblog.blogspot.com/

  12. #12

    Default river fishing

    Being new to river fishing and reading water might I suggest another resource. Nymphing Strategies by Larry Tullis. Its a book, you will learn something there about how to properly rig and fish the water you are reading. Even more important in my opinion.

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    Premium Member Wyo2AK's Avatar
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    Default

    Several good posts have been made, and I agree that there is no better teacher for learning to read water than spending time on the water. Experience, both successful and not, will help you develop an intuition for where fish are likely to be found. However, having done some research to understand stream/river structure, as well as fish behavior in relation to structure, will only help to accelerate your ability to read the water. Knowing some of the key principles of stream behavior will help you to recognize different features (runs, eddies, pocket water, current seams, etc.) and types of fish lies - resting, feeding, or prime (both). Also, learn to recognize “dead” water, or areas fish are unlikely to be so that you don’t waste your time on unproductive water.

    And Chuck made an excellent point about learning specific waters – and the more time you can spend on one particular river or stream, learning the nuances, holes, runs, fish habits, food availability, etc., the more successful you will be. That takes time, though, and may not be practical for some people who can’t afford (time, money, whatever) to make a lot of trips. So learn all you can however you can - that way the time you do spend on the water will be more beneficial.

    Dave Hughes’ book called Reading the Water is an excellent resource. It’s keyed towards flyfishing for trout, and although it was published 20 years ago, I doubt the fish will care. My one criticism is that it doesn’t have a lot of pictures/diagrams. But the theory is excellent.

    Kelly Pinnell’s book looks like a good resource, although I haven’t read it. I’ll probably buy it sooner or later – although I feel I have a pretty good grasp on reading the water, there’s always more to learn. It looks like it has some good figures/diagrams, which I'm hoping will help my wife to better understand water behavior.

    There are also numerous books on nymphing, and many of them have a lot of good information on subsurface fish behavior in addition to subsurface techniques. I have a pretty good one at home that I picked up somewhere, but can’t remember the exact title. I’ll try to remember to post it later.
    Pursue happiness with diligence.

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    Default Cabela's Has it AND!

    That is the 3M on DVD Sportsmans might as well I would also check out where 6X mentioned.

    On a side note I have to beg to differ with the hands on learn through your mistakes although the idea has its place years of frustration can be avoided with a little knowledge up front.

    Most of us all start some place and most of us learn from the school of hard nocks which are great lessons, but if someone can increase their chances of catching fish by doing a little winter book work or taking a class on the subject it would save months if not years of frustration in some cases.

    When I am teaching average class in the Spring I would say half the people state up front I have been fly fishing for years and just can't seem to catch fish on a regular basis. Three common things come to the surface:

    Wrong Gear or Set up- normally to much Fly rod for the fish they are chasing or lack of quality gear and rigging.i.e. 9ft 7W ugly stick fly rod for grayling with sink tip line etc..... or something their dad gave them in 1970 etc........

    Lack of knowledge concerning how to read water i.e. depth at which to fish or how to get there and no understanding of entomology or bait fish.

    No Clue on the timing of fishing in Alaska i.e. what Grayling do from Spring to Fall, When is the best Trout Fishing as well as the Why and When Salmon Run and at depth which Species travels to effectly fish.

    Just food for thought! Pounding the water half armed is not a very productive way to achieve Catching which of course is the main reason for fishing.

    Sorry for semi-jacking the thread!

    I think you will find the limited or vast knowledge you will pick up from doing yoru home work will ensure the light will click on sooner than later and will allow you much more time to enjoy catching fish while fishing verse the pontential flip side of fishing and hoping to catch fish.

    Blue Moose.

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    Default Fishing v virtual experience...

    Chance favors the prepared, but I'm inclined to agree with Ak Powder Monkey - who from his posts has maybe fished for everything in AK at one time or other. I remember he posted a thing about fly fishing for ling cod once- I'd like to try one day. Anyway, after gnawing over all the gear/technique questions all winter, come spring it's more about getting out there.

    Some lessons learned reading are learned better fishing. Reading about fishing an upstream lie wasn't half as educational as casting to a large Dolly on Quartz Creek 2 Autumns ago. Getting the drift right was more effective when I quit lining the fish. And when I did all the above, I had 5,8,10 minutes of heart thumping, 5-wt action and time to wonder if I'd hooked a coho. Great fish that spit my fly (Greg's Marvelous Meat Fly) 30 yards downstream but left me plenty stoked. Really underscored the lesson. Reading is good (besides it's pretty much winter out there). Fishing is best.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 6XLeech View Post
    Chance favors the prepared, but I'm inclined to agree with Ak Powder Monkey - who from his posts has maybe fished for everything in AK at one time or other. I remember he posted a thing about fly fishing for ling cod once- I'd like to try one day. Anyway, after gnawing over all the gear/technique questions all winter, come spring it's more about getting out there.
    Still missing Sheefish, Burbot, Lake Trout and Halibut on the flyrod also haven't caught salmon in the salt on a fly (well except pinks and chums) so I still have room for improvement

    I definately put in my time and learn something new every time I go out, fish need food, safety, and to use as little energy as possible always think about those requirements when trout fishing. And never overlook a peice of water. You'll find that fish hang out in the weirdest places. Also find yourself a home stream where you learn every rock then take that to different waters to find what's different and what's the same from stream to streams. For instance I know Every Trout lie from Pink Salmon to the powerline hole I take what I've learned there and use it on rivers whereever I go.

    I haven't found much good reading on learning how to read water but I haven't really looked that much, but I often refer to Tony Route's Fly Fishing Alaska
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Member garnede's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyo2AK View Post
    Several good posts have been made, and I agree that there is no better teacher for learning to read water than spending time on the water. Experience, both successful and not, will help you develop an intuition for where fish are likely to be found. However, having done some research to understand stream/river structure, as well as fish behavior in relation to structure, will only help to accelerate your ability to read the water. Knowing some of the key principles of stream behavior will help you to recognize different features (runs, eddies, pocket water, current seams, etc.) and types of fish lies - resting, feeding, or prime (both). Also, learn to recognize “dead” water, or areas fish are unlikely to be so that you don’t waste your time on unproductive water.

    And Chuck made an excellent point about learning specific waters – and the more time you can spend on one particular river or stream, learning the nuances, holes, runs, fish habits, food availability, etc., the more successful you will be. That takes time, though, and may not be practical for some people who can’t afford (time, money, whatever) to make a lot of trips. So learn all you can however you can - that way the time you do spend on the water will be more beneficial.

    Dave Hughes’ book called Reading the Water is an excellent resource. It’s keyed towards flyfishing for trout, and although it was published 20 years ago, I doubt the fish will care. My one criticism is that it doesn’t have a lot of pictures/diagrams. But the theory is excellent.

    Kelly Pinnell’s book looks like a good resource, although I haven’t read it. I’ll probably buy it sooner or later – although I feel I have a pretty good grasp on reading the water, there’s always more to learn. It looks like it has some good figures/diagrams, which I'm hoping will help my wife to better understand water behavior.

    There are also numerous books on nymphing, and many of them have a lot of good information on subsurface fish behavior in addition to subsurface techniques. I have a pretty good one at home that I picked up somewhere, but can’t remember the exact title. I’ll try to remember to post it later.
    I do love to get on the water often, and my favorite river is the Little Su. I have floated from the parks to burma landing several times and fished the water near the road a good bit too. I have had great success fishing for salmon and have run timing pretty well figured out, if that is possible. When salmon are not present I have trouble locating the resident species, except grayling. I will look into Dave Hugh's book. When you get a chance post the title of that nymphing book. I will also look up the one whitepalm suggested.


    Quote Originally Posted by BlueMoose View Post
    That is the 3M on DVD Sportsmans might as well I would also check out where 6X mentioned.

    On a side note I have to beg to differ with the hands on learn through your mistakes although the idea has its place years of frustration can be avoided with a little knowledge up front. Most of us all start some place and most of us learn from the school of hard nocks which are great lessons, but if someone can increase their chances of catching fish by doing a little winter book work or taking a class on the subject it would save months if not years of frustration in some cases. When I am teaching average class in the Spring I would say half the people state up front I have been fly fishing for years and just can't seem to catch fish on a regular basis. Three common things come to the surface: Wrong Gear or Set up- normally to much Fly rod for the fish they are chasing or lack of quality gear and rigging.i.e. 9ft 7W ugly stick fly rod for grayling with sink tip line etc..... or something their dad gave them in 1970 etc........ Lack of knowledge concerning how to read water i.e. depth at which to fish or how to get there and no understanding of entomology or bait fish. No Clue on the timing of fishing in Alaska i.e. what Grayling do from Spring to Fall, When is the best Trout Fishing as well as the Why and When Salmon Run and at depth which Species travels to effectly fish.

    Just food for thought! Pounding the water half armed is not a very productive way to achieve Catching which of course is the main reason for fishing.

    Sorry for semi-jacking the thread!

    I think you will find the limited or vast knowledge you will pick up from doing yoru home work will ensure the light will click on sooner than later and will allow you much more time to enjoy catching fish while fishing verse the pontential flip side of fishing and hoping to catch fish.

    Blue Moose.
    I am a hands on learner, but I also like to know what to look for when I am learning. I am probably guilty of at least parts of all 3 things that people in your class are, at least at some point in time. I now know general run timing and if I fish a river I am not familiar with I have a couple of books to check. I only have one rod at this point, a 9' 8 weight, but I know what to target with it. I know the food sources that come from salmon, bait fish, leaches, etc. But I do not know bugs and nymphs, fly names, or how to read the water. Thanks for the high jack.


    Quote Originally Posted by ak_powder_monkey View Post
    I definately put in my time and learn something new every time I go out, fish need food, safety, and to use as little energy as possible always think about those requirements when trout fishing. And never overlook a peice of water. You'll find that fish hang out in the weirdest places. Also find yourself a home stream where you learn every rock then take that to different waters to find what's different and what's the same from stream to streams. For instance I know Every Trout lie from Pink Salmon to the powerline hole I take what I've learned there and use it on rivers whereever I go.

    I haven't found much good reading on learning how to read water but I haven't really looked that much, but I often refer to Tony Route's Fly Fishing Alaska
    I am still fairly new to river fishing, and have not had the privlege of fishing Alaska my whole life. So I am looking for something that helps give me the basics to look for when fishing the river. When I fet out on the water and see it will click and hopefuly help me catch more fish. I have found several great holes on the little su by trial and error, and a little guidence from a few friends. What type of info does Tony's book contain. If you still refer to it it must be good, but you can only read so much before you either put it to use or loose it. Thanks
    It ain't about the # of pounds of meat we bring back, nor about how much we spent to go do it. Its about seeing what no one else sees.

    http://wouldieatitagainfoodblog.blogspot.com/

  18. #18
    Premium Member Wyo2AK's Avatar
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    The name of that nymphing book I mentioned is “Fishing Nymphs, Wet Flies & Streamers: Subsurface Techniques for Trout in Streams” by Dick Sternberg, David Tieszen and John Van Vliet. ISBN is 0865731012. I’d guess you can find it used/new at a decent price online. It’s a great book that covers basic water mechanics, stream structures and lies, aquatic insects/baitfish, and it has a lot of good stuff on different drifts/techniques for fishing.

    Tony Route’s “Flyfishing Alaska” is a great book. It's broken down by species, and discusses life cycles, fly patterns and various fishing tactics. I’ll second that recommendation.

    Although I agree that there’s no substitute for actual time on the water to bring everything together and driving the lesson learned home, off-season prep time and research will only help you. True, all the reading in the world can’t make your arm lay out the proper cast to a specific situation, but that off-season conditioning can help you understand how water velocity changes, various tactics for approaching and drifting a lie, why eddies form where they do, what baitfish/eggs/flesh are available at what times of year, what species are running when and where, etc. I’ve been flyfishing streams/rivers for 20 years (it’d be longer, but I’m only 26 ) and although I’ve only been fishing AK for a bit over a year now, I know more about fish habits, habitat, food, migrations, range, etc. than a lot of the long-time Alaskans I run around with come summertime because I devour information whenever I can… on the river, on the boat, at home, at work , whatever. I’ve accumulated a lot of experience on trout streams back in Wyoming (water does the same stuff wherever you’re at) that I’ve applied (successfully) to fishing in Alaska, but I’m always learning more. And off-season research has definitely helped the lessons learned on the water be more beneficial and enlightening.

    I also think it’s helpful to try to understand why water behaves the way it does. Having some basic insight into the mechanics of flowing water, and its effects (mainly erosion and transporting food) will help you to “see” what’s going on beneath the surface. So if you can find a book that includes information on water mechanics it’d probably be worth a read. With enough experience on the water and some common sense, you can starting piecing all this together, but a little help along the way will only speed up that understanding.

    Really, it all comes down to energy – which equates to velocity, at least as far as we need be concerned. Loss of elevation contributes too, but really that just leads to higher velocities, so we’ll just keep it simple. The higher the velocity/energy, the larger the rock particles (silt, sand, gravel, cobble, boulders) the water can push/carry downstream. For instance, water traveling around a bend has a higher velocity on the outside of the bend. As a result, the faster water leads to increased erosion along the outside of the bend, carving a deeper channel (and possibly undercut banks). The water on the inside of the bend is moving slower and lacks the energy/velocity it had upstream to carry sediments. As a result, the finer particles settle out and wah-lah! A sand bar! (And don’t forget the eddy that typically forms upstream of the bar/point – fish the seam!) Over time, the sandbar/sediment continues to grow, while the faster water/main channel on the outside of the bend continues to erode against the outside of the bend, and the river/stream meanders.

    The same thing relates to water moving over boulders/bedrock/submerged logs. As water flows over a boulder, the velocity increases - much like air velocity increasing on the upside of a plane wing that gives a plane lift. Only in this case, the increased velocity of the water results in erosion and the scouring out of finer materials/sands/gravels (helped along by a resultant eddy) on the downstream end of the boulder. The result – pocket water in the form of a nice hole downstream of the boulder (or log or whatever). And don’t forget the eddy that forms on the upstream side of the boulder… this is the same effect that causes eddies upstream of points – the main current traveling over/around the boulder and creating a current seam as slower water backs away from the obstruction. Eddies upstream of boulders are often overlooked lies as we focus on the downstream eddy/pocket water. Scour also creates the plunge pools below steep drops/falls that often hold fish.

    As you look at the larger scale, the cycles of high velocity/high erosion and low velocity/deposition that create the various features that attract us anglers start be become evident. Take a riffle. Shallow water moving over larger rocks in shallow water is moving at a fairly high velocity and has washed away most of the finer sediments (sands and silts). As the velocity and energy increases (maybe at a steeper point in the stream) the water begins to cut a channel at some “soft spot” and forms a run (deeper channel) as larger particles are washed downstream. As water funnels into the run, the stream narrows (the cross-sectional area decreases) and the energy/velocity increases, carving a deeper channel and eventually forming a nice deep pool at the bottom of the run. But as the pool deepens due to sediment being washed away (resulting in a higher cross-sectional area) the velocity immediately starts to decrease. The fine particles that are washed out of the upstream riffles (small gravel, sands, silt) fall out of the current as the velocity slows and are deposited at the downstream/tail of the pool. As sediment builds up at the tail of the pool, the water depth decreases, the streambed rises, and the flow becomes more constricted again. The stream widens out over the deposited material (but the cross sectional area is still decreasing) and velocity starts to increase again. Before you know it, you’re at another riffle. The cycle begins anew!

    That is simplified a bit, of course, as there are other influences/variations (confluences, log jams, changes in steepness, etc.) but hopefully you get the point that with some basic knowledge you can gain a lot of insight into water behavior – and ultimately fish behavior, which is what we’re all after. (And hopefully I haven’t confused anyone and made things worse – I’m a hydraulic engineer so I can’t help but thinking this stuff is pretty neat. )

    Anyway, learn all you can, and next time you’re on the water you’ll have a strong base from which to start making observations. And observe as much as you can whenever you’re spending time on the water. Develop an eye for detail – the more you can observe and relate to fish activity, the more patterns you’ll start to notice, and the more successful you’ll be (especially when you move away from familiar areas to new rivers and streams).
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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by garnede View Post
    6XLeech, I bought The ABC's of Reading Alaska's Small Rivers and Streams based on your recomendation and the fact that it specificaly is targeted to Alaska. If anyone else has a recomendation keep them coming.

    Good move. 6XLeech gave some good advice. I have this book and it is certainly worth reading. Stare at the illustrations long enough and it will certainly make it easier to identify areas of likely holding water. Some good insights in this book for sure. Fishing books are always good for passing the winter months.

    Also check out "Flyfisher's Guide to Alaska" by Scott Haugen and "Topwater, Flyfising Alaska..." by Troy Leatherman. Both are on the forum store. Best two books I have for flyfishing Alaska. Scott's book is the "where" with 120+ maps with clear directions. Troy's is the "how and when" with tons of info on life cycles and seasonal tactics. Perfect pairing
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    Member BlueMoose's Avatar
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    Default I got to say!

    This is a Great Post! Keep up the Oustanding work.

    Oh Happy Holiday's! Keep your stick on the Ice and your Fly on the water!

    Blue Moose

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