Posts Tagged ‘missouri river’

Trout Spey in MontanaThe Lance Gleason 406 Productions short for the Simms Ice Out Shoot Out was filmed on the Missouri River between Great Falls and Helena Montana.  This is my home water from late October to late May.  Notice the Fish More knuckles when you watch the video.  Despite wintery weather hanging on, that’s what I’m always intending to do.  I can’t get enough of Trout Spey action on the Missouri.  The one positive to the colder weather, is that fish are still taking streamers on the swing.  A little action can help, but its still a tight line pull instead of an active cast and strip.  I love the anticipation and the resulting grabs.  These are not gentle plucks, but jolting yanks.


KK battles a chomper

KK with a chomper

Traveling to the next T Spey zoneT-Spey'd

I’m writing an article for Fish Alaska Magazine with Trout Spey as the topic.  I’ve got a deadline, so I’d better get back to it.  Looking forward to bending on Big Alaska Rainbows soon.

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It may not feel like spring in much of the country (I awoke to snow flurries), but the days are certainly getting longer. Fred is still in Montana and keeps fishing the Missouri River between Craig and Great Falls. Stacy is stalking the beaches and off-shore reaches of the southern Baja Peninsula, chasing Rooter Fish and whatever else will eat a fly.  Baja Beach Rooster FishHe now has a 23’ Cobia in the Cabo harbor to base from.  I know he made it down safely, after driving up and back from Tucson to fetch it.  I’m waiting for the first fishing report.  Stacy will be ready to host some trips on the Baja in 2012 and I hope to join him along with some of you.

Get Connected

Facebook for those that fishMystic Waters is connected on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and Blogger. The Social Network is unavoidable these days and truly is a useful way to follow and connect with your friends, the businesses you support and the topics (like fly fishing) that you love.  If you are on Facebook, please stop by and “Like” Mystic Waters Fly Fishing. Even if you are not on Facebook, you can still check out the Mystic Waters Fly Fishing Page to see what is happening.

I have been maintaining this blog for a couple years now. I also feature a site for seasonal fishing reports at http://www.kenairiverfishingreport.com Using a smart phone, I will be able to update regularly this coming season.  Over the next few weeks, I plan to rebuild mysticfishing.com to include the blog and a storefront for some upcoming logo apparel.  I hope you follow along.  Look for the new mysticwaters.com very soon.

Dates to Consider for 2011

Searching for SalmonYou are going to need a shoe horn to find space from mid August through September.  There are still some open dates scattered between June 11 and August 18. October remains an excellent month to fish the Kenai and we are taking reservations to the 15th.  Some of our best rainbows come in the late fall as well as some impressive silvers.

I am entering my fourth spring in Montana. Despite some lousy weather this year, I love it here. Several Mystic Waters guests and friends have dropped by and fished with me on the Missouri River.  I will soon have my Montana Guide license and plan to do some guiding here before the Kenai calls again.

The Good Stuff

If you fish often, then you certainly love great fly fishing gear.  When you join Mystic Waters, you get to use the good stuff.

For 2011, our primary brands are SageRossBeulahRio, Airflo, and Simms.  This is not to say we don’t use others, but that we feature these premium brands to help make your time on the water more enjoyable.

Deathstar RainbowLast season, I picked up a Sage 10’7wt TCX.  It fished great for large trout and silvers and was my favorite single hand streamer rod.  I also fished with the infamous “Deathstar”; the 12’6” 7wt. spey rod that George Cook nicknamed, because it can cast line to a far off galaxy.  It worked on everything from Anchor River Kings to Sockeye and big Rainbows and Silvers on the Kenai.  It even pulled some nice browns from the Missouri River in Montana.  This year, I am adding the new TCX 11’9” 6wt Switch Rod.

Ross has unveiled the new “revolutionary” F1 Reel.  Can’t wait to see how it rolls. We feature many great Ross Reels on our fly rods.  I’ve been fishing the 8wt Essence FW for several seasons and it continues to be one of the most pleasant casting 9’ 8 weights I have thrown.  We also fished the 12’6” 6wt Reach Spey rod.  It was deadly for sockeye salmon and worked out well for a fair number of big trout and silvers.  Ross also added some new 5 and 6wt Reach rods to the line up that look interesting.

Leaping Silver Salmon on the Kenai RiverBeulah is a great company for switch and spey rods at a reasonable price. I fished the 11’7” 5wt Platinum Spey last season.  It quickly became my favorite trout rod for nymphing and swinging lighter streamers.  From the drift boat, it became the favored rod of any guest who fished it, and was responsible for landing some impressive fish throughout the season. I’ve had the pleasure of spending time on the Missouri River with Bruce Berry (pro staff/rep) for Beulah, and had my spey casting tuned up a bit.

Rio continues to offer the largest variety of specialty lines. I had great success with the clear intermediate Outbound.  I have also found that the 8wt Rio Grand works well as a switch line for spey casting with my 10’ 6wt XPs.  This year, Rio has added a Switch Line to their inventory, and I can’t wait to run it.  I just ordered the complete set of MOW (spey) Tips in the Medium and Heavy weights to cover all water levels and sinking tip needs.

Airflo – Ridge lines have become my standard on the trout rods and I love them.  I started using the Supple Impact last season.  The ridge design works very well and they are durable and perform day after day without constant attention.  They cast and fish like no other.  On the spey side, the Skagit Compact designed by my friend Tom Larimer is the bomb for launching sink tips.

Proudly wearing Simms WadersSimms – Simms is the king when it comes to the soft gear that I rely on day in and day out.  I can’t imagine working through the fishing season without them.  I use the G4 waders and jacket. I rotate several soft shells and the River Tech top is one of my all-time favorites.  The Rivershed Boot with the new streamtread soles has been my footwear of choice.  I like the long sleeved solarflex shirts for any day of the season.  They work for layering in cold weather and as the perfect sun shield layer when it gets hot.

What Else:

I’m becoming a regular contributor to Fish Alaska Magazine.  My third article is coming out in May, with others soon to follow.  Since you enjoy Alaska Fishing, you might enjoy checking out Fish Alaska’s interactive website.

Simms Fish BowlI’m heading down to Bozeman in a week for the 2011 Simms Ice Out Guide Event.  It was great fun last year and looks to be even more action packed this time around.  I look forward to meeting up with guide associates and friends from Alaska, Montana and around the country.

At the end of the month, I am flying to Florida to meet up with my buddy Captain Eric Lund.  Eric and two other guide associates will be hosting me along with a small party of Mystic Waters Fly Fishing guests.  We will be chasing Tarpon on-the-fly along with all the other inshore and flats glamor species.

Roland Martin

We will be staying on a property owned by Roland Martin.  Talk about legendary.  I can’t wait, and I’ll be providing blog and social media updates during and after the trip.

In 2012, we are planning a trip to the incredible bonefish flats of Andros South. We are also considering a Fly Fishing for Kings option in Western Alaska and of course Stacy will be dialed in for Baja.  Stay tuned and let us know if you would like us to put you on a list for specific details on any or all of these options.

Let’s Stay Connected

Kenai Moose CalvesIf you avoid all the social connectivity tools, you can still fire me an email or a text. Even if you are not planning to fish with Mystic Waters this season, I’d love to hear about where you are going.  If you have time to share a story from a previous trip, I’d love to hear about it and possibly use it for a new blog post.  I know there are lots of great stories and pictures out there among you.

Tight Lines and I hope to see you on the Mystic Waters very soon!

Mystic Waters Fly Fishing
Call or Text 907-227-0549
Website: http://www.mysticfishing.com
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Spring is finally winning the battle in Montana.  Yesterday, I went out to help my friend Brian get familiar with his new boat.   I plan to help him get familiar with it as much as possible over the next month or so.

Now What.

No Oars? What do I do?

We bypassed three landings due to ice, before we hit one that was open.  The way the warm Chinook is howling today however, the lingering ice and snow will be sucked away very soon.  Due to increased daylight and warmth, I have been on the go (outside).  No blogging or writing this past week, so I am pulling out some notes I laid down in the middle of this cold winter (past?).  This is a trout fishing tip…

Use Your Imagination

To be successful getting bites, it helps to have an idea of where your line, leader and fly are within the water column.  Many inexperienced anglers just get their stuff out there and wait for or expect a bite.  Experienced anglers know there are many variables involved in the activity of fishing any given cast.  As a guide, I encourage anglers to imagine or picture in their mind what is actually happening under the surface.  Visualizing subsurface mysteries is a fundamental key setting great anglers apart from people who are just fishing.

Knowing when to mend to set up a dead drift or create the correct swing is important, but understanding what is happening to your fly is central to the process.  Currents are different from the surface to the bottom.  Changes in depth and structure create rivers within rivers.  Spend some time observing fish in clear moving water if you can.  Then try to target a specific fish if you can find one.  Pay close attention to your line, leader and fly throughout the drift.  Even if you can’t spot any fish, you can pick out a target and watch the drift of your fly.  Did the fly go where you expected?  Did it reach proper depth?   Watch what the current does to your fly as it drifts around rocks, over ledges and along the bank.  Build a mental file of these variables.  Now you have some background to imagine what is happening in stained water, deep water or larger rivers where you can’t see your target.

Fly tying and fly selection are both imaginative processes.  Fishing a fly should be as well.  When it comes to streamers, anglers will pick out a fly based on some criteria such as good looks or the fact that someone said it was a hot pattern.  Then they proceed to fish every fly the same way.  Flies have as many personalities as the tiers who build them. Pull each one through the water.  See what happens when the line goes slack.  Animate it with your rod.  Then cast it out there and sell it to the fish.

Winter Brown on a Streamer

I was sold out.

It was obvious I was in the middle of a fevered fish jones when I wrote this, but I think most people will either agree with these thoughts or be able to put some of these ideas into play.  Tight Lines!

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Riverside Ring Tone

Answer your phone...

“Thanks for getting right back to me.”  “No problem Paul.  Sorry I missed your call, but I had to release a fish.”  “Where are you fishing?”  “On the Missouri River near Cascade Montana.”  After finishing the call and arranging a booking for several days in Alaska, I got back to work fishing.  On Wednesday,  The River Damsel posted that her android smart phone was her favorite piece of outdoor gear.  Some readers appeared confused by that, but her reasoning was sound.  For me, when it comes to justifying a fishing trip mid week, I must concur.  I specifically picked my spot knowing that I had cell coverage and could answer calls and email between sessions of catching fish in my favorite office…outside on a river.


Streamer Eater

Caught Shadow

I had anther reason for being on the water yesterday besides it being a better office and the fact that I have an incurable fishing jones.  Rich Strolis from Catching Shadows sent me some streamers to try out on the Missouri and the Kenai.  If the fish above taken on my first cast of the morning is any indication, then mission accomplished I will have to keep testing them.  You can see great videos of Rich’s flies on his Catching Shadows blog as well as some patterns featured on Midcurrent.

Another Ice Pick Eater

Ice Pick Eater

Thanks for the great flies Rich.  If you need to R&D any new patterns in the west and/or Alaska, I’m your man.  I’ll let you know how the caddis fish come May.

Cold and Hungry

Ice Pick Eater off an Ice Shelf

Look out for the frozen "jaws" of the Missouri River

Ice Fish - Look out for Frozen Jaws


Get outa my face!

Splashes with Fishes

Turn and Burn

Colorful Shadow

Vibrant Rainbow

To anyone reading this post who might be momentarily envious of my office work yesterday, let me tell you about my karmic payback.  In my mad dash to quickly access the river, I plunged (glissaded) down a long steep hill to maximize my fishing time.

Bring crampons next time dumb ass

Payback Mountain

The trek back was anything but quick and accompanied by cursing and peppered with crazy giggles followed by more cursing.  I wondered if anyone across the river was witness to my madness.  I imagine a retired couple drinking tea and playing cards, suspending their game to gap in fascination at my plight.  In the time it took me to ascend, they could have called the neighbors and started a betting pool.  Will he or won’t he make it?  How long will it take? Oh, he went down hard.  Should we call 911?

I can clearly state that un-studded rubber soles worn smooth from too many trips by a cheap ass angler, are not great for steep snow covered hills (without crampons). I would guess that felt would work about the same, but you could not pay me enough to test that theory. To say that I slipped is laughable.  I went down at least a hundred times.  My fly reels looked like giant snow balls.  I slid around like a clown on a banana peel, changed course, post holed up a gully until I hit smooth rock, lost elevation, grabbed some prickly bushes, slid down ten precious feet on an old Bud Light can, froze my fingers, cut my jacket on some barbed wire and finally summited the meager hill, sweating like it was July.  It was great exercise.  When I tell my wife I am going to get some exercise, she gives me that knowing look that say’s; Nice try lazy fisherman.  She has no idea.

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In waters where it is legal to fish two flies, it is often the norm when nymphing to do so.  Should one always fish two flies?  The Pros are many.  Not sure what the fish are taking? You can experiment with two choices instead of one. You can also fish two stages of an insect; cover two zones of the water column, use a larger attractor and a smaller natural; the list goes on.  There are some definite cons however.  Last week I found myself in a situation where losing the dropper fly quickly paid off.  Before I go into it though, let’s look as some obvious problems with double fly rigs.

Wind / Tangles – Sometimes the wind is just too ugly to allow casting with a double fly rig.  Experienced anglers can usually pull it off, but it can be more trouble than it’s worth to fight physics.

The Drift – In some situations, such as tight pockets or swirling currents, two flies can compete against each other.  In slow water, a double fly rig can look out of place.  On picky fish, the double fly rig can be a red flag warning.  You also need to factor in the drifting location of two flies instead of just one.  This can be difficult around structure.

Snags – One fly often snags weeds or bottom and ruins the drift of both flies.  Snag the top fly on structure, and you just lost two patterns instead of one.

The Hook-up Ratio – Often, when fish take the top fly, the leader can impede the hook or bounce off the fishes nose, resulting in a missed hook-up.  At some point, the misses negate the value of the second fly.

Snagging Fish on the dropper – This sucks.  This can happen frequently when fish are taking the top fly and missing the hook as noted above.  When the angler (me) sets the hook, the first fly misses and the dropper often snags the fish on the way by.  I hate this.  It’s time to cut the dropper off.  I can’t be the only one who has this problem.

Ok, so here was my situation.  I was working down a good run of about 200’ on the Missouri River.  On the first pass, I missed 3 bites from which 1 fish got snagged on the dropper.  On the second pass, I missed 4 bites from which 2 fish got snagged on the dropper.  I managed to straighten the hook on 2 of the 3 snagged fish, but had to drag one in sideways.  I hate that.  Of the four fish missed cleanly, it is possible that some were on the dropper, but it was clear my top pattern was getting attention.

Missouri River Rainbow

It only takes one.

On the next pass, after cutting off the dropper, I had eight bites, hooking and landing 6 fish and snagging zero.  I was done dropper fishing for the day.  I was throwing a confidence pattern the fish were taking.  I did not have to worry about the wind, which was blowing straight into my cast.  I was able to concentrate on fishing the one pattern and getting the best drift possible.  I took another pass to verify my choice.  Then I picked up my spey rod to test the fishes mood toward a streamer.

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The Post Room

Subzero and Snowing

Friday was the day.  For me, it was the first day since mid November where I just knew it when I went out the door.  I had the innate sense that the fishing was going to be on.  Well, in truth, my sense is partially developed from years of experience and understanding simple patterns.  Seven days of mild, above freezing highs in the middle of winter.  The strong Chinook winds that had been blowing were lying down as the next cold front approached.  The fish have no choice but to take advantage of water a degree or two above the norm, especially with the next arctic blast approaching. And I almost missed it.

Heading toward the Big Belts.

The Drive


Friday was my day to clean the house in preparation for my son’s 11th year birthday party, Airsoft Gun war and sleepover on Saturday.  There was also laundry to do among other domestic tasks, plus my own list of business details.  I had better be on time to pick up my wife from school with a Pomegranate Martini ready within moments of her walking in the door.  At 9:30am, I was at my computer, looking at the weather forecast for Craig, MT and thinking that this is it.  Ideal conditions on the water and I’m at home trying to make the right choice.  I flashed on a recent post from Headhunters: “As a general rule, the only bad decisions we make exclude fishing.”  That sealed it.

Missouri River Montana

Can you feel it!

Fish Ahead

The Walk

I threw on my waders and hit the road.  My fishing gear was already loaded and ready for just such an effort.  I grabbed my wife’s new camera that I had purchased for her Christmas present, thinking it would be a good idea to test it out on the Montana landscape and possibly a fish or two.  I had a particular spot in mind.  It was only 35 min away.  I should be able to test the waters, the camera and make it back in time to bust out some chores.

Fish On

Fish On

Missouri River Rainbow

Don't be embarrased.


Missouri River in January

Streamer Chomper

Perfect Trout

Perfect Trout

Hardy Bridge

Heading Home

Fish Eye

Your Wife Will Get You!

Within an hour’s time, I cleaned the upstairs bathroom, swept the living room and kitchen, shop vac’ed the hard to reach corners along with the front entryway, shook out the rugs and sugared the rim of a martini glass.  I was at the school entrance by 3:45.  No one even asked about my day.

On Saturday morning, my wife grabbed the camera to film my daughter who was in a vocal competition.  I was busy making final birthday party prep.  When she got home, I got the business.  What were you doing all day yesterday hmmm?

The fishing was just as I expected.  It was almost unfair.  I am still smiling as I look out the window at a cold winter landscape once again.  We’ve had about 4” of snow and the temps are going sub zero again.

I’ve been busy for 24 hours keeping up with the boys, feeding them, cleaning up after them and sending them off and cleaning up again.  I’ll get the laundry done now and I’ll have time to work all day tomorrow on business.  The bruise where my wife pinched me will soon fade.  I made a great decision to go fishing!

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How can one possibly remain focused when after weeks of cold weather, the temps are now pushing to 50 degrees?  I suppose if one is not an angler, then the problem is not so great.  East of the Rocky Mountain Front, the Chinook winds have melted the snow and brought the temps up.  Despite the wind, there are some places on the Missouri River around Craig that offer some protection and great fishing options.  If you are in this area, stop in at Headhunters in the fly fishy town of Craig. Mark, John or Julie will set you up.  Check out the current fishing report: Mid-Week Update: We love the Mo

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I love the shoulder seasons.  Fly Fishing open water in west central Montana in the winter can be a cold prospect, but at least the option is there.  The paradox of my profession is that many of my summer clients are busy working hard now, so they can afford to take the time and spend the money to join me in Alaska during the “fishing season”.  I work hard all through the fishing season, so I can have some time to fish now, during the “shoulder seasons”.

What is a Shoulder Season?  According to the travel industry, it is the time for great deals, fewer crowds and near perfect weather.  I’ll buy that.  Any day I can go fish a world class river like the Missouri; I consider it a great deal.  There are definitely fewer crowds.  This time of year a crowd consists of one vehicle at a pull out or two trailers at a landing.  There may be an issue with the weather most days, but there are perfect weather days scattered throughout the late fall, winter and early spring, if one is fortunate enough to be able to pick them.

Safe Brainer

Helmets Are A Safe Brainer!

On Saturday night, the back of my SUV was filled with dripping skis, piles of jackets, ice skates, hockey gear and wet waders and fly rods.  On Friday, I took my 16 year old daughter and three 16 year old boys to Bridger Bowl.  Thanks to her helmet, the day was a good one.

On Saturday, it was mild enough to take my son Kyle fishing on the Missouri for several hours before trying to keep up with him at the Ice Plex on skates.  I was more than ready to sit on the couch come Sunday and watch Green Bay beat the Bears.

White and Brown

White and Brown

While on the couch, I was texting with a fishing buddy regarding the Packers, Bears rivalry.  After the Pack’s win and a text from Brian reading “Suck It”, we decided the game was over and we needed to go fishing soon.  How about Tuesday? Possible high of 40 degrees in Craig!

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Spey caught walleye


After too many weeks of excuses due to cold weather, youth hockey games, honey dos and life’s details, I just needed to get on the water.  Sam Wike from the Big R Fly Shop had recently hired Justin Olson from Reno to come out and work in Montana.  Sam texted me late on Monday night; “Are you fishing tomorrow?”  Apparently, Justin was available and needed to visit his new home water.  I decided that yes, I am fishing tomorrow, even though my thermometer still registered single digits.  I’m not a wimp when it comes to cold weather fishing; I just hate it when my line freezes constantly.  At some point though, you just have to suck it up and go or you might be waiting until spring.

I picked up Justin at about 9:30 and we drove south up the Missouri.  It was a balmy 22 degrees when we got to Craig, so maybe the deep freeze was lifting.  We got on the water a little before 11 after stopping at Headhunters to get the fishing report.  Mark Raisler suggested we nymph pink stuff (a Missouri River curiosity that is very effective) like Czech Nymphs and Lightning Bugs, but we wanted to throw streamers.  Last year at the same time, I had fantastic action fishing slow water with a variety of strip leeches.  Justin showed up with an impressive group of big streamers and tales of huge Nevada Cutthroat and Browns.  He rigged up a shooting head and I decided to swing with a 6wt Spey and floating line.

When it’s really cold, fishing the spey rod is nice, because on the swing, you can alternate a hand in either pocket.  I like to swing from moderate current into almost dead water and then retrieve about half the cast back in.  I had a quick tight line grab on the swing and then hooked a rainbow on the retrieve.  I was fishing a white bunny leech that I have found effective for fewer but often larger fish than the darker colors.  After a few more swings, I had a solid grab and was expecting a golden flanked brown trout.  Instead, I soon found myself staring into the crystalline marbled eye of a very fat walleye.  Staring into that eye really took me back.  I can remember how those eyes seemed to glow with a wild consciousness, that captivated me as a young boy fishing Boulder Lake in northern Wisconsin.

There is a debate going on right now about Walleye below Holter Dam.  Recently, the Montana FW&P Commission set a “no limit” regulation on walleye from Holter Dam to Cascade Bridge and a “20 daily/40 in possession” limit from Cascade Bridge to Black Eagle Dam. These regulations were the result of a growing concern from trout anglers that the walleye population is rising and could impact the trout population.  I heard from two FW&P Biologists at a recent Missouri River Fly Fishers meeting on the subject.  Their data, though not conclusive, suggests that the walleye population is modest and increases and decreases with water volume along the same lines as the trout.  {“0………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….” Quote from my spoiled cat O’Malley who wants some salmon.}  They do not feel there is a big concern at the present time and the new regs are an overreaction.  From a few radio tagged fish, it is notable that some walleye move up to Holter Dam in the winter, but after spawning, they move downstream and spend the bulk of the season below Cascade.  Walleye are not native to Montana and thought to have been illegally planted in Canyon Ferry (upstream).  I don’t believe in “Bucket Biology”, but the current fishery is now solid and enhanced.  As there will always be some fish carried over the dams, they are likely here to stay.  My motto is “Any fish, anytime, on the fly.”, so I hope to hook a few more.  I might even fry one up.  It’s been a long time.

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Tie more flies!

Get my family on the water more (regularly I hope).

Add a bit more content to the internet through the Website, Blog, and Twitter to stay relevant in the new information age.

Spend more quality time on the water so as to have more fishy content to share.

At least one destination saltwater trip

At least one destination steelhead trip

Buy more spey rods and lines because there are so many options.

I’m getting a Montana Guide License and extending my season by offering trips on the Missouri River this spring.

Help facilitate many anglers to great days on the Kenai River Alaska and Missouri River Montana.

Keep learning more about this crazy passion we call Fly Fishing.

I have involved myself with the Missouri River Flyfishers Club in Great Falls Montana.  Here is our next big event.

Fly Fishing Festival

Great Falls Fly Fishing Festival

Speaking of Saltwater fishing, I am planning to host a small group for Giant Tarpon in the Florida Keys this May.  Stacy will be in Baja in April and May and available to host anglers wishing to chase rooster fish.  More details on these trips will follow, but please let us know if you have the time and desire to join us.

Tight Lines and Great Fishing in 2011

PS.  Don’t forget to plan your Alaska dates soon.


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