Archive for the ‘Strange and Unusual’ Category

I’ve been hooked a few times myself, but never like this.

The Legendary Suick Muskie Thriller

Suick Muskie Thriller

This may not be a fly fishing video, but I got my start as an angler chucking huge treble hook laden chunks of wood in Northern Wisconsin.  As a boy, there was something awesome about the big splash down those old plugs would make.  As a trout / flats fly fisherman now, that’s no longer an approach I use.  I’d love to get back to some of my old familiar waters and chase muskie again on-the-fly.

I once had to defend myself from a pack of wild dogs with my muskie rod and a big triple treble hooked plug like the Suick.  It got me out of a very precarious predicament.  I also still bear a scar where one of those 3X trebles buried through my knuckle while attached to a thrashing 40″ Muskie.  Good times.

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I'm your worst nightmare

Bye Bye Fishy

After 22 seasons of guiding in Alaska, I can tell bad banana stories for hours. For a few years I laughed, but then I began to notice a pattern.  If you were to poll charter captains from Hawaii, to Alaska and all the way down to the Florida Keys, you would find a common theme.  Just ask Florida fishing guide “Bouncer Smith”.

The mere mention of a banana muffin on board was enough to send legendary south Florida fishing guide “Bouncer” Smith scrambling toward the cooler that held the offending item. With his face flushed and a vein bulging from his forehead, he hurled the hapless muffin overboard, much to the objection of its rightful owner. Was this the act of an isolated bananaphobe? Well you can forget about black cats crossing your path or broken mirrors, because to many fishermen around the world, there is nothing unluckier than a banana on board a boat.  (From Boating World Magazine)

Back in the day when I was still a skeptic, I actually hooked into a nice King Salmon while eating a banana.  It was mid May and we had to drag our driftboat over a shelf of ice to launch it into the Kenai River.  We were not expecting much in the way of success but were on a training mission. I was managing a lodge at the time and it was my duty to break in some new guides.  That meant I had to sit in the boat and direct the rookie rowers while backtrolling a plug.

I was hungry and the rookies had packed the cooler with some bananas.  I remember saying “What were you guys thinking?  I told them bananas were supposed to be taboo, but I was not really worried.  As I directed the first rower through a narrow slot, I went straight to work munching on a monkey pickle.  Before I took a second bite, my rod tip buried.  We laughed and joked about our powerful mojo that no banana superstition could overcome.  I happily landed and released a beautiful chrome, sea lice bearing, 35lb hen.

That evening, I called Andy Mezirow who is a captain and the owner of Crackerjack Sportfishing in Seward.  If you want to fish the salt on your Alaska trip, you want to be on one of Andy’s boats.  Just don’t plan on shoving off with any bananas. I told Andy of the scenario with my King and he did not skip a beat before replying in a grave voice. “Sorry to hear about your bad luck.  If you had not messed with that banana, then you would have hooked the 98# world record buck that was swimming next to that little rat you caught.” That’s an interesting perspective.  I have been haunted by it every time I have looked at a banana since.

I’m not afraid to admit severe Banana Phobia.

In Alaska, there was a crazy incident experienced by the guests and crew on a Saltwater Safari Co. charter out of Seward.  As I remember it, they had two full boats with a wedding party that ran all the way out to the edge of Montague Island at the mouth of Prince William Sound. It’s a run of 2.5 to 3 hrs and was considered the grail of halibut water at the time. Word was that the fishing would be off the hook, but after an hour, nothing was happening on either boat.  The captains were radioing back and forth as the guests got increasingly anxious and started to wonder if they’d been sold a long boat ride.  As another hour passed with no action, the frantic captains started in on bananas. Who has them?  Throw them over.  Apparently, someone did and after they were tossed, the fish began biting and both boats filled up on monster halibut.  I think it was considered to be the largest sport caught haul of halibut ever.

First King on the oars

No Banana in the Boat

I soon got serious about no bananas. I admit to catching a few fish with bananas on the boat or eaten by anglers, but only a few. I have a long list of days that went bad or started out bad when bananas were present or eaten by guests. One such incident was rather embarrassing.  I was running a boat on the Lower Kenai and it was mid July prime time for King Salmon.  I was guiding a mixed party with a couple from Oregon and a couple from Florida.  For the past week, I had limited every day on big fish.  The expectation was high for another fine day.

Before boarding this vessel, raise your right hand and solemnly swear…Yes, we have NO Bananas…oops 

I'm your worst nightmare

Bye Bye Fishy

We hit the zone I anticipated to be hot.  Other boats were hooking fish, but somehow, I was drawing a blank.  I was running the same gear through the same water as the past week, amid fish that appeared to be on the bite.  I was dumbfounded until Maureen pulled out a banana and began to munch.  I did not say a word, but her husband completely lost it.  He was a big game fisherman who traveled the world and wanted to add a trophy king salmon to his resume.  He started shouting at his wife for eating a banana and I actually had to take them to shore and drop them off for awhile to cool off.  When they returned, Joe claimed he had forced Maureen to puke up the banana, so the fishing should improve.  She looked ill.

We went on to land two Kings that day on the lines of the couple from Oregon, while Maureen and Joe continued to draw a blank. The next day, Maureen and Joe were back.  Joe claimed that Maureen had experienced a successful bowel movement that morning so we were banana free and the creepy episode continued.  Maureen landed the first fish that day and soon after I slid a net under Joe’s 60lb trophy.  I’m not superstitious, but what more sign does one need.  I’ve had a No Bananas sticker on my boat for many years now for good reason!

How about some science? “Ethylene is a hormonal trigger in plants that causes cells to degrade and fruit to ripen. A good example is the banana. The presence of ethylene is what causes the banana to go from hard and green to soft and yellow.” (quote from NASA)

If we can smell bananas, then what about trout and salmon that can detect chemical differences to parts per million?  Superstition aside, I would rather err on the side of science and caution.  I don’t think its crazy to want my flies, leaders, lines, cork grips and reel handles to remain free of banana funk.

No Banana Guides

It’s pretty simple people. Don’t mess with bananas when you are fishing or handling your fishing gear!  Just to be safe, don’t even talk about them while on the water. You should probably email this post to every angler you know for their own good and the sanity of any guide they might hire.

Some parting words of advice:

If you are fishing in the morning, skip the Bananas Foster for dessert.  I don’t even know why restaurants serving fisherman offer it.  My friend Dom had it on the menu at the Kingfisher in Cooper Landing, Alaska.  He took it off because all the guides were telling their guests not to order it.  Want a muffin for breakfast?  Go with chocolate or even poppy-seed, but never banana nut.  Don’t even think about bringing a banana muffin for your guide.  Be very careful of breakfast cereals, especially granola and watch out for that trail mix at lunch.  It’s very likely that PETA has learned about the negative power of bananas over fish and has a campaign to insert them into some of the products unsuspecting anglers might pick up on the way to the river.  If you do happen to slip up, carefully hide the offensive product and don’t under any circumstances mention it to those in your fishing party. Remain ever vigilant and may the fish reward you.

Yes, we have no bananas!

Now...safe banana free dining for anglers.


“Friends don’t let friends fish with bananas.” Alaska Fly Boy

Check out this post for more NB proof.

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This is a post inspired by a single photo.  I just became reacquainted with it the other day.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well I know my friend Stacy and I could probably each spout that many or more; especially around a campfire while drinking Glacier IPA and remembering the “Bug Eyed Sockeye”.  For blogging purposes, I will condense the story down to about 500.

It was a day like many others only a little bit better.  We were splitting a party of eight anglers, with four in each boat.  It was mid September and the Silver Salmon were packed into large holding areas.  We decided we could spread the whole group out on one particular run and put everyone on fish.  It was working out well.  Stacy and I slogged back and forth, coaching the casts, tying on flies, shouting encouragement and netting fish.  Each angler hooked into at least a dozen fish and the atmosphere was giddy.   Or at least Stacy and I were.  I was on about day seventy-five of non-stop guiding and Stacy was not far off.  While we pride ourselves in being professional and I have never yelled or lost my cool with a guest, I have been known to get a little loopy from lack of sleep and general fatigue.  In the midst of my manic psychosis swam the “Bug Eyed Sockeye”.

The spawn must go on...

The Bug Eyed Sockeye of the Kenai

I was between netting silvers and tying on new flies when BES swam past me.  I gapped in awe and then did the only natural thing I could do; I scooped her up.  “Hey Stacy, you’ve got to see this.”  Then the blathering began. Stacy and I slid into our own little world of fishy wonderment and lost track of time, space and our amazed guests for several moments.  From our guest’s perspective, we’d probably lost our minds.   There was ooing and ahhing and fishy fondling amid chortles and mad laughter.  There were camera poses and funny faces and more giggles.  It’s hard to explain how some things just hit you as outrageously funny when you are weakened from the grind and short on sleep.  We had a merciless case of the guide jollies.

The BES sure gave us some comic relief that day, poor pitiful creature that she was.  We reverently pointed her on up the slough, certain of her untimely demise.  We wished her luck and wondered what crushing impact caused her eyes to bug, without shorting out her brain.  Maybe she swam too deeply into Skilak Lake and had the bends.  Maybe she was in the midst of some evolutionary jump where fish develop eyes on stalks.  Or maybe…she was in all likelihood the host to an alien that transferred into Stacy.  That would explain a lot.  We may never know, but we will forever remember that Bug Eyed Sockeye.

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*It’s a fact that for more than 400 years people have reported seeing large, hair-covered, man-like animals in the wilderness areas of North America.

The real Big Foot photo

I'm no hoax!

According to the *BFRO, (Big Foot Research Organization), Vilas County Wisconsin has only had 2 documented Big Foot reports.  Since there was no internet when I was a boy and I’d have had no time for it if there had been, my experiences have gone unreported until now.  It was not until watching Eastern Rises and learning about Frank Smethurst’s fascination with Big Foot that I recalled my early interactions with the creature.

From the age of 6 until I started working in Alaska, I spent most of my summers along with a few other seasonal visits in and around Camp Manito-wish.  The camp is located on Boulder Lake, adjacent to the town of  Boulder Junction Wisconsin, which lays claim to being the Muskie Capital of the World.  My father was the executive director at the time and camp was home for me as much as or more so than our official residence in Whitefish Bay (Milwaukee).

*It is a fact that, for over seventy years, people have been finding, photographing, and casting sets of very large human-shaped tracks. Most are discovered by chance in remote areas. These tracks continue to be found to this day.

During the time when camp was in session, my dad was pretty darn busy.  I’d say his deal was a lot like mine as a fishing guide in that there is no down time in-season and something always needs doing.  Being a boy, I had unlimited downtime and a great big area to spend it in.  Fishing was often the mission, but I also fancied myself a woodsman.  I spent countless hours stealthily wandering deer trails and old logging roads.  I even made a sort of tree stand with a big 2”x12” wedged between the perfectly aligned forks of two oak trees.  I could lie across the board and silently watch as deer walked the trail and paused for acorns.

*It is a fact that the cultural histories of many Native American and First Nation peoples include stories and beliefs about non-human “peoples” of the wild. Many of these descriptions bear a striking resemblance to the hairy man-like creatures reported today.

I knew that I was the only human wandering the woods and I never saw any bear scat, but sometimes I’d come across other unexplained sign.  Tree stumps uprooted, huge rocks pulled from the earth and strange diggings.  Something else was out there in my woods.  Back at school, I managed to find some books at the library about Bigfoot and I was pretty sure there was no other explanation.  I read everything I could find about the creatures and did at least one class book report on the subject.  I’m sure the girls and some of the boys all figured I was a true nerd.

Then there was the incident that left no doubt.  I was poking along the lake shore, rolling rocks for crayfish and chasing minnows when it happened.  From out of the woods came strange grunting noises and as I turned toward the sound, a giant boulder whizzed over my head and splashed into the water.

A true believer.

*To many, these facts, taken together, suggest the presence of an animal, probably a primate that exists today in very low population densities. If true, this species, having likely evolved alongside humans, became astonishingly adept at avoiding human contact through a process of natural selection.

I’m not talking about someone throwing a rock.  It was truly a boulder hucked into Boulder Lake and right over my head.  The intensions were clear.  Something did not want me there and that something was Big Foot.  Heart thudding and head buzzing, I crouched for a moment, ready to dodge the next barrage, but that was it.  My woodsmen instincts soon kicked in and I crept up the slope toward where the rock had been launched and there was nothing to see.  I was both relieved and devastated.  The ground in the area where the creature had been was packed dirt covered in a deep layer of pine needles.  My meager skills could not discern a trail.  One thing was clear however; there were no rocks on that slope.

*It is a fact that sightings of these animals continue today. Real or not, these reports are often made by people of unimpeachable character.

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First there was the now infamous post: Fly Fishing needs Dirty Harry

Soon after that came “Elvis Has Left the Building” and the Unaccomplished Angler said:

It was suggested, not by myself but by others, that last week’s Dirty Harry blog entry may have set the bar too high to ever be reached again, by the likes of me anyway. Now that’s not to say that I agree with the suggestion that it was a bar-raising entry, but given the depths of my mediocrity as both an angler and a writer, I believe there is much truth in the assertion that I may have peaked.  Long-time UA supporter Rebecca Garlock (keeper of the Outdooress blog and a Co-Chief Executive of the Outdoor Blogger Network) suggested in the comments section that I was, in fact, “toast”.

Soon there was much speculation and a contest.

Outdoor Blogger Reward Posted


My first thought was in fact, good riddance.  I mean how does a fly fishing guide with rudimentary language skills and no clue about graphic design stand a comparative chance against this kind of blogging genius.  Then I got to thinking some more which hurts my head sometimes.  If this guy truly is a genius (thank goodness for spell check) then he’s up to something.

Here are some comment clues quoted from the man himself:

“I’ve actually met this Werner person you speak of, and he is not to be trusted. I’ve read his blog, which is marginal at best. To be honest, he’s a bit long-winded for my tastes and his retirement actually came as a relief to me. However, his children’s books featuring Olive the woolly bugger are excellent, so I hope he makes good use of his reprieve from blogging to create more books in the series.”

“Pat, please just tell us that the swimsuit you wear during summer wet wading is not a Speedo.” (agreed)

“No doubt the Unaccomplished Angler is grateful for your concern, and certainly the author of the Olive the Woolly Bugger books is curious as to what specifically was the initial basis for your less than charitable thoughts regarding the Olive books? In the UK the term “bugger” has a somewhat different meaning than here in the states, but I doubt that was it…?”

“I’ve got fish to try to catch, and a job to look for (if you’re hiring, drop me a line. Seriously).”

It’s been fun while it lasted—at least for me—but I smell burnt toast.

I’m going fishing.  Tightlines,

For my money, the Unaccomplished Angler is up to the following:

–          Watching cooking shows on cable, I mean the man is clearly an unaccomplished cook.  Who can’t make toast?

–          Roaming the rivers of the Northwest with his posse of Rogue Angles while Chucking Line and Chasing Tail.

–          Creating Wind Knots and Tangled Lines (he is unabashedly unaccomplished) and occasionally catching a Bad Fish.

–          Listening to the Allmen Brothers while following the comments on the Outdoor Blogger Network

–          Working on a brilliant new post that will cement his notoriety and lead to Clint Eastwood taking his call.

–          Writing the script for the movie that will launch his new career in showbiz and help fly anglers become heroes.


Bring it home for us man!

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Back on September 13, (my wife’s birthday by the way) I was busy as usual, guiding daily on the Upper Kenai River.  Blood Knot Magazine posted a story I had submitted last spring.  I just noticed it while visiting their website today.  No guide trip is ever the same, but this one was a little unusual.  On Me, In Me and In the Boat Check it out and give Blood Knot a view.

Bloodknot Magazine


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