Questions with a Captain: Puffy

An unscripted & uncensored peek into the minds of Alaskan guides.

Community showers that might have hot water, basic electricity powered by a generator (so don’t forget to fill it), bears that prowl through camp at night, and sleeping in a wood and tarp tent for six months – these are just a few things that ensure that the guides up at Alaska’s Naknek River Camp never have a dull moment.

After spending last summer with this crew we couldn’t help but be impressed by their passion and dedication for what they do… and the sheer insanity. Get to know a little more about the guides that really make Alaska tick.

Flylords: So, tell us, who is Puffy?

Puffy: Puffy is an Ohio boy that grew up on the farm, left the farm, moved to New York and got a job in IT, met the woman of my dreams, and raised a family. Miss Dorothy is a gift from God for me. She tolerates my fishing, my hunting, my nonsense, she loves me for who I am and works hard for her family. Her family is absolutely the most important thing in the world to her and she has been an amazing partner in my life. I don’t deserve her. 

Flylords: How did you end up in King Salmon, Alaska?

Puffy: Twenty-some years ago a young man named John McClowsky was leaving the fire department for personal reasons and wanted to become a fishing guide. So I lent him my Hyde drift boat and 20 years later he says ‘So you’re retired from UPS” and I said yes and he says ‘You’ve gotta come to Alaska with me and work for me up here!” And I said, “I’m here let’s do it!” 

Flylords: What does a typical day look like for you?

Puffy: A typical day is, well I’m so excited to get my day started that I get up at like 6 o’clock, 20 minutes before my alarm ever goes off. And I’m sitting around listening for people to wake up so I can go play with them, drink coffee, talk about our day and what we plan to do. Then we’ll have breakfast and go down to the dock and meet my clients and I’ll ask them “What do you want to achieve today, what do you want to do?” And they’ll tell me and then I’ll get my gear organized and get ready.

99% of my clients are amazing people- they talk, we talk about life, we talk about family, we talk about everything. We catch fish, we laugh, and sometimes we cry. Then we’ll come back and all tell our war stories to one another about what we accomplished that day and have our supper. And then this happens- where we’re standing around a campfire talking to friends, laughing, enjoying a beverage, some of us may be playing a dice game, some of us may be playing beer pong, we’ll all stand around a talk about our day. Then around 9 or ten o’clock I’ll say ‘Hey this fat old man is going to bed” then I’ll say goodnight to Miss Dorothy and the boys and get ready for the next day where I’ll get up and do it all over again. I could do it every day, this never gets old. 

Flylords: What’s one thing you wouldn’t hit the water without?

Puffy: I wouldn’t think of going fishing without my son’s ashes, he has to go everywhere with me. Sometimes I centerline fish, sometimes I fly fish, but no matter what I’m doing on the water he is with me.

Flylords: Where do you live in the off-season?

Puffy: I don’t have an off-season. So I live in Georgia, I have a house in Michigan, and I have a new family in Alaska. So I am bouncing between those three for a pretty even amount of time. 

Flylords: What occupies your time in the off-season? 

Puffy: The one thing I do outside of fishing is I hunt wild boar with my dogs. I have a core group of buddies who are like family to me- they have dogs, I have dogs, we’re like brothers. We do that in central Georgia, southern Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Texas. We travel a lot. 

Flylords: What is your favorite fish to target in your own backyard?

Puffy: In Georgia, it’s Brown Trout, in Michigan it’s steelhead and in Alaska it’s silvers. They’re (silvers) are a salmon that takes the fly aggressively, they fight incessantly, they’re wild here, native here. Just a beautiful, powerful, aggressive fish and the epitome of what a sport fish is. 

Flylords: If you were a fly or streamer pattern which would you be?

Puffy: I’d be a sex dungeon. It’s big, wooly, and articulated. 


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