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5 Fly Fishing Flies That You Should Cast More Often

5 Fly Fishing Flies That You Should Cast More Often

We bet that when a bug hatch makes trout appear out of nowhere, you drift an Adams through the strike zone. When they’re down deep, you might bounce a size 14 nymph off the bottom. You can always cast the classics, but how about something that’s a little off the traditional trout-pleasing menu? We nominate these five candidates for Alaskan fly fishing fun outside the box. 1. Mighty Mouse Imitators When it’s summertime in Alaska, you need to think about mousing. This pattern isn’t just an August trick for anglers stalking the big fish, but it can be a challenge to fire out on a cast. Size matters with this giant fly because it imitates a small mammal. Technique matters because you want it to imitate that small mammal taking a swim. Patience really counts. You have to let a trout slam the fly and turn before you set the hook. We aren’t saying that mousing is easy, but we do guarantee that it’s a lot of fun. 2. Deliciously Tied Sculpin Don’t let their size put you off. Big flies land big fish, and sculpins drive big rainbows wild. It’s up to you to deliver the motion that makes this fly so appealing to trout. Whether you swing down and across from gravel bars or cast to hungry ‘bows across spawning flats, a sculpin pattern consistently catches fish. We really admire the way this fly attracts hits before, during and after the spawn. Its little olive namesake isn’t much to look at, but a well-tied sculpin is a thing of delicious beauty to big, fat trout. 3. Dead Drifting Flesh You have to love the startled look on an uninitiated face when you casually talk about fishing flesh. It gets even better when you explain how the fly pattern imitates chunks of decomposing salmon. The high point comes when you show a novice how quick and easy it is to tie this inexpensive and effective fly. Can it get any better? Yes. You can’t fish flesh wrong, and trout love it. We favor a dead drift without any pun intended, but you can swing and even strip flesh. We’ll just leave it at that. 4. Correctly Pegged Beads Some folks still don’t believe that fishing a bead is really fly fishing. Obviously, the bead isn’t a fly, and it’s not attached to the hook. Here in Alaska, it’s considered an attractor, so you can’t peg one more than 2 inches from a hook. If you’re in fly-fishing only waters, you can’t fish a bead with a bare hook. We understand and respect the rules, and we know you do too. Beads are on our list because they’re cheap, realistic and durable, and they really catch fish. Don’t get us started on how easy it is to cast stone beads from the craft store. 5. Steak and Egg Combos Just the name of this late fall rig conjures up visions of doubling your hit percentage. It’s true. The presentation of […]

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Alaska’s Four Unofficial Fly Fishing Seasons

Alaska’s Four Unofficial Fly Fishing Seasons

Once winter sets in, we don’t do much fly-fishing. That never surprises folks from the Lower 48 because everybody knows that it gets pretty cold up here. What does surprise them isn’t a secret, and it always puts a smile on faces that come fish with us for the first time. We actually have four unofficial fly-fishing seasons here in southwestern Alaska, and each one is perfect in its own way. Unofficial Fishing Season 1 – April and May By April, the ice-out is on, but we treat early fly fishing spring fever with a big dose of patience. The state protects spawning rainbows by closing trout fishing in many rivers and streams and all fishing in some area waters. Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game posts online reports with detailed information about stocked lakes that are open through early spring. By May, downstream salmon fry migration turns into a buffet for winter-starved predators like dolly varden, and our unofficial first fly fishing season is unofficially under way. Unofficial Fishing Season 2 – June and July When rainbow fishing opens around the middle of June, we’re already out there chasing king, sockeye, coho, chum and pink salmon. The kings’ unofficial early run usually peaks by the middle of June, and we see anglers land 50- to 60-pounders every year. Early sockeye action fires up by the end of June with some of the world’s largest runs happening right here in southwestern Alaska. We’re catching plenty of dollies and ‘bows too. By the end of July, we’re officially in Alaskan fly fishing heaven. Unofficial Fishing Season 3 – August and September The end of summer means last call for late king and sockeye runs as they finish spawning, but even-numbered years put us on pink salmon from early August well into September. We’ve broken a few rods on 20-pound chums in August, and cohos stay aggressive well into September. Steelhead start to show up in some of our peninsula watersheds delivering serious fly fishing action all the way through October. Rainbow trout really bring out the best in us this time of year. They’re pretty much full of salmon eggs, so it takes every trick in our tackle box to entice stuffed ‘bows. Dollies are just as challenging. Unofficial Fishing Season 4 – October and November Sure, sometimes we have to knock the ice out of our guides, but it’s not officially winter yet, so we make the most of Unofficial Season 4. We enjoy the last coho runs even with a little cold and rain. Steelheads can be as elusive as ever, but they’re here in small runs. The seasonal egg smorgasbord is disappearing out from under the ‘bows, so we switch to flesh patterns. Some of our flowing waters are closed mid-September through the end of October to protect dolly varden during their spawn, so we always check ADFG online for details. Unofficially, we spend winter getting the lodge ready for your fly-in. Whether you come up for the […]

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The 10 Best “How To” Fly Fishing Videos on the Internet

The 10 Best “How To” Fly Fishing Videos on the Internet

We can guess what you’re thinking, and we agree. Nobody learns fly fishing by watching YouTube. On the other hand, anybody can go from being curious to buying their first waders with the right inspiration. Besides, it’s just fun to watch videos that cover rods and reels and flies and fish. Put “how to” in front of these 10 selections, let your fingers do the clicking, and enjoy. 1. Put Together Your First Rod, Reel and Line   This video does a great job of explaining the basics. The sponsoring tackle shop is based in Wisconsin, but we don’t hold that against narrator Tim Landwehr. We like his easy style and the way he keeps it all interesting. 2. Fish With Wet Flies and Nymphs   Orvis has put together a smart series with its video lessons, and the format is really user-friendly. In this one, host Tom Rosenbauer covers everything you thought you knew about nymphing. OK, he also covers a lot that you already know, but the quality of this series is outstanding. 3. Tie an Adams Fly   From Fly Fishing Daily, Jim Misiura introduces basic fly tying for beginners. We like this one because Jim’s instructions are very clear and easy to follow. We also admire anybody who can make a video about tying flies while wearing a Band-Aid on one thumb. 4. Master the Morrish Mouse   We picked this one out of a dozen great fly tying videos available at InTheRiffle.com. Notice the taper that the narrator trims into the body as he finishes up. We’d give him credit, but the video doesn’t, so we just thank him for the pointers. 5. Conquer a Kenai River Sockeye Rig   Brian Smith from the Peninsula Clarion is correct. It’s just plain fun to tie your own, and we like his strategy with the red hooks. Sure, this is basic stuff, but remember when you tried it for the first time? Credit Smith for making something simple really watchable. 6. Wrapping a Hareball Leech   In this video from Alaska Fly Fishing Goods, the narrator assumes that you know the basics as he shows you his take on tying one of the most effective patterns for catching salmon. He makes it almost look easy, so we’re impressed. 7. Read Any Kind of Water   We have to give another tip of the rod to Orvis. From currents and cover to pools and pockets, Rosenbauer talks and walks us through every setting. While we don’t expect to read droughts up here any time soon, we appreciate how much water these videos wade through. 8. Test a 3D-Printed Reel   No, we haven’t, and yes, we sure will if we get the chance. No, we can’t imagine it replacing our favorite reels, but yes, it’ll probably show up in pro shops one of these days. Field and Stream’s Joe Cermele tackles this one with just the right touch of humor. 9. Imagine That You’re in the Last Frontier […]

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10 Celebrities Who Really Get Fly Fishing

10 Celebrities Who Really Get Fly Fishing

We don’t run into them very often here on the Kvichak River, but they stay up this way from time to time. We don’t name names because everybody enjoys their privacy, but we know a few. They might be on this list, and they might not. The next time you’re stalking trout, keep an eye on that angler just upstream. He or she might be on our list of 10 celebrities who really get fly fishing. 1. Harrison Ford Ford pilots his own de Havilland Beaver up to his Wyoming ranch, but he says that he doesn’t get as much time on the Snake River as he used to. We’re trying to picture a retired Han or Indiana relaxing on the front porch and reading old copies of Fish Alaska Magazine. 2. Jimmy Buffet You can bet that the original Coral Reefer never misses a shot at serious saltwater fly fishing when he’s at home in Palm Beach. This is a guy who makes casting from a SUP board look easier than sipping margaritas. We cordially invite Buffet to try that technique on Lake Iliamna. 3. Liam Neeson It’s hard to imagine this Academy-award winning action star fly-fishing without attacking the drift, but his off-screen reputation as a precision angler is well-documented. Neeson credits his success on Canadian rivers to patience, and we aren’t about to argue with him. 4. Reba McEntire What does an Oklahoma girl do when she wants a new hobby that doesn’t involve making great country music? She learns how to fly fish in Tennessee. Reba fell head over waders for the best outdoor sport on the planet back in 2012. How do we know? We have our sources. 5. Eric Clapton Sometimes, even rock gods think about retiring, and Clapton makes it clear that he enjoys fly fishing because it’s a little bit quieter than his day job. If we could tune into British TV, we’d sure like to see an episode of “Botham on the Fly” starring Slowhand himself and a nice grayling. 6. Martha Stewart This one is hard to figure, but Stewart seems serious about fly fishing even though she has a lot to learn. Check out her video of fishing on the Upper Ruby River in Montana with some guy named Ted. She’s put together the perfect gear and wardrobe for a day on the water, and that’s a good thing. 7. Huey Lewis When he sang about how it was hip to be square back in the ’80s, Lewis hadn’t put together his 500-acre Montana spread. A few rich and famous years later, he’s still fly fishing the rivers in Ravalli County just like his father taught him when he was a kid back in California. 8. Emma Watson We bet she can out-fish that Potter kid any day. While her character, Hermione, casts some impressive spells, Watson casts her lot with Britain’s conservation charity, the Wild Trout Trust. This young lady ties her own flies and often donates them to […]

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A Salmon’s Life Cycle: An Incredible Journey

A Salmon’s Life Cycle: An Incredible Journey

We talk a lot about fly-fishing here at the lodge but we also get many questions about the Salmon life cycle. Salmon make an incredible journey downstream from the fresh water where they are born, to the ocean, and then back upstream again as adults, finding the exact location where they began several years earlier. Salmon Eggs Salmon lay their eggs in many streams and rivers. Depending on the species, a female salmon will lay anywhere from 1,500 to 7,000 eggs in a nest or redd she has created by making a shallow depression in the stream bottom. The male fertilizes the eggs and then both fish push gravel over them to protect them. Hatching Salmon Young fish or alevins hatch in late winter or early spring, looking more like worms than fish. These tiny fish depend on a yolk sac to provide them with nourishment until they are mobile enough to wiggle out of the gravel and find their own food. At this stage, the young salmon are called fry. Feeding on tiny plants and animals, the fry cluster in groups and develop into juveniles. Salmon Fry Cluster in Groups When juveniles are ready to migrate to the ocean, they undergo a physiological transition from freshwater to saltwater fish. Only about 10 percent of the fry make it to this stage and are called smolts. Smolt Development. Only 10 Percent Make it to This Stage.   Smolts are especially vulnerable and are frequently injured or killed by predators. Dams also slow the migration considerably. A trip that used to take one to three weeks can now take one to three months, depending on the beginning point of the trip. The smolts have limited energy stored in their bodies and may run out before they are able to reach the ocean. Up to 90 percent of the salmon hatched never reach the ocean. Salmon Spawning The smolts that complete the journey downstream spend several weeks in estuaries where the river meets the ocean, feeding on small fish and shrimp. Eventually, they disappear into the ocean where they grow to adulthood. After two to five years, the adult salmon are ready to migrate upriver to spawn in the streams where they were hatched. It is believed that salmon are guided to the rivers by currents, stars, and the Earth’s magnetic force. Once in the river, the fish find their home streams by scent. The journey upriver is a difficult one. Salmon do not eat during this time, but live on fat stored in their body. They may travel as far as 1,440 km in fresh water to their spawning grounds. Obstacles encountered upstream are many and varied. Dams, waterfalls, bears, uncertain stream conditions, and habitat degradation are among the most common challenges for salmon.

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Tackling Fly Fishing Line Confusion

Tackling Fly Fishing Line Confusion

At first, it’s as simple as making sure that line and rod weight match. After awhile, you appreciate that taper and type are more than fine points of friendly conversation among seasoned anglers. Still, those neatly hung boxes in the tackle shop don’t spell out where, when and why their contents will be the most effective. How hard can it be to choose the right line? As dedicated Alaskan fly fishermen, we feel your confusion, so let’s untangle your line options. Who Started This? Delivering a fly precisely where you want it depends on your line. Experience, location and wind play a large role too, but let’s give Cortland Line Company a little credit. This outfit liberated dry fly anglers from oiled silk lines back in 1953 with their Cortland 333 HT. With its braided nylon core, tapered design and synthetic finish, the revolutionary line quickly caught on with grateful fly fishermen. We also tip our fly rods to Scientific Anglers founder Leon P. Martuch. By the mid-1960s, he figured out how to produce straight braided line with a tapered overlay, and that inside-out thinking led to the wide range of options that lure us into tackle shops today. Taper Forward or Center? The idea of a tapered line seems innocent enough. A weight forward line proportionally tapers to a thicker end while a double taper centers line weight. So, how can we be confused by just two types of line tapering? Credit again goes to fly line companies that really just want to give us the best fly fishing experience possible. Seemingly endless configurations range from heavy weight forward designs that put bulk in the last 20 feet for power to double tapers that put delicate finesse in your presentation. Depending on the taper, you can gracefully cover distance or carefully cast to spooky fish. When it comes to tapers, our cups pretty much run over with options. Float, Sink or Sink-Tip? Again, the choices start out simple with three types of line. Floating lines offer versatility, sinking lines target depth, and sink-tips put streamers on the bottom. Things get a little more complicated when you consider line type and taper combinations. With a double taper or weight forward floating line, you can spend a day on the river switching between nymphs and dry flies. Sinking lines are assigned rates that indicate how quickly they settle by inch per second, and that makes them a good choice for lake fishing. Sink-tip fly lines combine float and sink design, so they’re naturals for streamers in rivers and lakes, and they put extra power in your cast. Is There a Code for All That? We really do appreciate fly fishing line options, and we’ve figured out a way to minimize confusion at the tackle shop. Take a look at the code printed on that new box of line. The series of letters and numbers separated by dashes actually makes sense. The first part of the code tells you about the taper. WF […]

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10 Trout Fly Fishing Basics That We All Forget Sometimes 

10 Trout Fly Fishing Basics That We All Forget Sometimes 

If you’re like us, sometimes your enthusiasm gets in the way. Maybe you’re too focused on that perfect presentation. Perhaps you’re daydreaming about how the morning just has to get better, or you’re suddenly up to your waders in incredible action. Once in an Alaskan blue moon, you actually miss one of these 10 trout fly fishing basics. 1. Take a Good Look The greatest fly fishing guide in Alaska can put you on the best action of your life, but slow down before casting your fate to those trout. Take stock of shade, find the seams, and check out the water and air for the day’s most likely fly options. 2. Make Sure You Can See A few minutes of quiet observation puts you ahead of the game, but how well can you see that potential action? Polarized sunglasses make it easier to spot trout coursing through sun-spangled waters, and your favorite hat is must-wear eye-shading gear. 3. Wade, Don’t Splash If the sight and size of waders wasn’t enough to spook them, trout still take off at the sound of your thrashing and splashing from bank to position. Ease into the water slowly, sneak up on steelheads and rainbows, and quietly stalk them with fly fishing finesse. 4. Put Those Nymphs to Work What’s in the water all year long and makes up the majority of an Alaskan trout’s diet? What type of presentation doesn’t include watching that rainbow race for your dry fly? Don’t deny yourself the productivity that comes from mastering the art of casting nymphs. 5. Big Trout Love Streamers This is another angle that gets you out of the dry-fly box, and it’s really effective with the big guys. The larger the trout, the more it needs to eat.  So, up your chances of landing a hungry trophy by swinging a good streamer presentation. 6. Match Colors With Seasons It happens. You try your best, and you still can’t figure out which fly color works best. When you’re overcome with indecision, don’t over-think it. Keep it as simple as lighter shades in the summer and dark colors for fall and spring. 7. Pause and Inspect Wind knots weaken line, hackles need adjustment, and tippets deserve a close look. Some Alaskan fly fishermen check their setup after every cast while others are good with a quick inspection after five or six tries. Mileage may vary, but this tip saves tackle and aggravation. 8. Hooks Need Help They don’t stay sharp by themselves, and the best down-time maintenance doesn’t always hold up to a stretch of heavy action. Keep a stone or diamond hone handy to touch up hooks that get dull during duty with as many rock strikes as trout bites. 9. When You Stalk, Stay Low You’ve probably demonstrated this basic to folks who are just learning the art of our sport, but it’s an easy one to forget. Trout that see you coming are gone in a heartbeat even when you’re wearing your […]

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How to Choose a Fly Fishing Rod?

How to Choose a Fly Fishing Rod?

Before you smile and wave us on, we understand that you probably already have the perfect fly fishing rod. We’re not sure that there is such a thing, but feedback here tells us that folks really enjoy honing all the finer points of fly fishing in Alaska, so let’s talk basics about picking out rods. Whether you’re filling up the rack or taking your very first plunge, these five questions should always be asked and answered. 1. Where Is This Rod Going? Are you setting your sights for rainbows on the Kvichak River or lake trout in the Upper Skilak? A fly fishing rod doesn’t care about the itinerary, but you want a length that targets the fish. If you expect to do some bush whacking, a 7- or 8-foot rod makes a good choice while many dedicated still water anglers prefer 10-footers. Split it down the middle with a good 9-foot rod, and you can fly fish almost anywhere here in Alaska. As long as you always match line and rod weight, you’re good to go. 2. Can You Handle the Action? If this is your first fly fishing rodeo, welcome to the club, and consider choosing a medium, mid-flex rod. It’s perfect for freshwater trout, versatile under almost any conditions and easy to learn. Slow, full-flex rods are also forgiving when you’re new, and they put extra excitement into landing small fish. Save the fast action rods for power casting on windy days. It takes practice to finesse precision out of these models, and you don’t get as much small-stream flexibility. 3. Does Material Really Matter? There’s no argument about the high-performing durability that you get with a graphite rod. Its light weight and responsive sensitivity make this your best choice hands down. Sure, you can spend more for something infused with boron or nano-silica resin, and you’ll enjoy longer rod life, but it comes down to personal preference. We know anglers who still love fiberglass for small fish and close quarters. We even understand bamboo and cane because we admire the custom craftsmanship that goes into these expensive models. 4. Are There Devils in Rod Details? Fly fishing rod manufacturers want to make you happy. They know that bells and whistles spook fish, but you have options. If construction is paramount in your decision, check out different manufacturers’ sites. If you prefer easy packing for quick travel, choose a multi-piece model. You might enjoy the personal thrill of starting with a rod blank courtesy of custom crafters who produce originals from grip to guides. A new fly fishing rod can be as beautifully simple or astonishingly sophisticated as you like. 5. What Do You Get for Your Money? We finish up with this one because we know that a $50 fly fishing rod can look like a bargain. You’ll meet up with this temptation in big box stores that also sell lawn mowers and linens. Fishing is a lifetime love, so invest at least $100 in something […]

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Why Are Fishermen Called Anglers? Hooks and History

Why Are Fishermen Called Anglers? Hooks and History

John Denny’s book, “The Secrets of Angling,” morphed the word into a noun, and Izaak Walton finally bestowed it on fishermen as a specific designation when he published “The Compleat Angler” in 1653. We could be called hookers. Go ahead and laugh. It makes us grin too, but think about the etymology. That $20 word for the study of word origins has something in common with fly fishing here in Alaska. It’s not an exact science, and its practice always leaves room for improvement, improvising and a passionate pursuit of perfection. We know that’s a mouthful, so let’s figure out the angler moniker with a very brief history of hooks. A Hook by Any Other Angle So, why are fishermen called anglers? Were we given the name as a verb describing what we do, or was it derived from that angle on the end of our lines? Yes, hooks were called angles back in the 1400s when Dame Juliana Berners published her ultimate guide titled “Treatise of Fishing With an Angle.” Dame Berners even included instructions for crafting angles because tackle shops didn’t catch on until the late 1600s. Gorges, Copper and Cock Feathers What do you call a spindle-shaped piece of bone used to catch fish more than 7,000 years ago? Archeologists call it a gorge. Fortunately, the wordsmiths left this one alone, and we’re glad because we don’t like the idea of being known as gorgers. The Bronze Age gave fishermen tools that let them reshape their gorges, and Egyptians figured out the basic shape that we recognize today. Those hooks dating back to 3000 B.C. were barbless copper wonders, but design evolution resulted in a barbed version by 1200 B.C. Second century Romans were partial to iron and bronze hooks sporting red wool and cock feathers. Historic rumor has it that these were the first hand-tied flies. From Homemade to Kirby Standards From those ancient times up to the days when defining the word “angler” was still up in the air, hook production was a home-based business. All fishing tackle started out as a project on someone’s back porch, but hooks posed a special challenge to determined fishermen. In spite of Dame Berners’ how-to book, the quality of iron hooks remained dicey at best. Credit inventive Englishman Charles Kirby for perfecting the steel-tempering process that put his little company on the map in 1665. Mass production quickly figured out his secrets, but his hook designs set the standards, and one of his originals brings a nice price for something that’s considered discontinued. Lucky Anglers With Options Whether we’re called anglers because of what we do or what we do it with, we can look back in amazement at how far we’ve come. Can you imagine what kind of tackle box you’d need for a gorge collection? You’d have to keep Roman cock feathers in a shoe box instead of a fly case. Today, we fish with steel, carbon and alloys. We can pick and choose hooks that […]

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Alaska Nothern Lights & Winter Greetings From the No See Um Crew

Alaska Nothern Lights & Winter Greetings From the No See Um Crew

Things slow down during the winter, but we don’t spend all of our time around the lodge fireplace daydreaming about Alaskan fly fishing adventures. Yes, we look forward to the first spring melt in April, and visions of sockeye and rainbows are always dancing in our heads. Still, our No See Um crew stays pretty busy. If you wonder what we do up here at our Alaskan fishing lodge during the off-season, prepare to be surprised. There’s Always Work to Be Done It may be hard to believe, but not everything we do up here is glamorous. We deal with the same winter chores that you take care of, but our sub-freezing days and nights require heavy winterizing around the lodge. We don’t just insulate pipes. Our chimneys, heater intake systems and propane tanks need special protection. We do our fair share of snow shoveling too because that boardwalk to the hot tub and sauna won’t clear itself. Of course, it’s important to make sure that the open bar is always stocked. We never know when company might drop by. We Still Have Plenty of Fun If you imagine us hunting and ice fishing during the winter, we confess to loving both. Living off the land is an Alaskan tradition, and appreciating this wilderness paradise runs in our blood. Where else can you go wolf watching just a few miles from the back door? How often can you look up and count bald eagles soaring overhead? When was the last time you heard North America’s largest owl sing his evening love songs? These are just a few of our favorite winter things, and we take pictures like crazy too. For us, the cold months are almost like a vacation. The Northern Light Skies Dance at Night Our amateur photography talents aren’t limited to winter treks through Katmai National Park or the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. We aim our cameras at the nighttime skies and capture the world’s most incredible light show. It starts with a faint glow and slowly builds into an incredible curtain of colors. Our Northern Lights ripple and dance as they drape the sky with brilliant reds, blues, purples and greens. It always takes our breath away, and the dazzling display is different every night. Did we mention that this miracle only happens during the winter up here? We know that our coldest months don’t appeal to everybody in the Lower 48. That’s OK because we make the most of our downtime. When we see you in April, the lodge will be in top shape. The rivers will be running with dollies and bows chasing salmon fry, and we’ll be saving you a place here on the banks of the Kvichak. When you’re ready for the Alaskan fly fishing trip of a lifetime, No See Um Lodge will be ready for you.

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