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WSJ: The Fly-Fishing Boom Is Finally Here

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I hope this is not a sign of a top in the sport...

 

Wall Street Journal weekend edition:

The Fly-Fishing Boom Is Finally Here

A new generation of fly-fishing fans is turning toward the soulful history of the sport with sought-after vintage gear.

By Darrell Hartman
Oct. 6, 2020 8:21 am ET

HOPE FLOATS “I really appreciate holding an original piece of art in my hands,” says professional angler April Vokey, a fan of traditional bamboo rods.

Late last year, Jonas Clark reached out to the owner of Vintage Fly Tackle, an online dealer of ultrafine rods, reels and other fly-fishing equipment coveted by the sport’s most ardent collectors.

 

For weeks his emails and phone calls to the founder’s widow, Laura Siemer, went unanswered. Clark, 38, sent a handwritten letter in which he described his passion for bamboo rods and English-made Hardy reels. Clark runs the Spinoza Rod Company with his stepfather, Marc Aroner, who has been crafting bamboo rods out of hard-to-find Tonkin cane since the early ’70s.

 

Siemer eventually responded, and the two started talking shop. Looking at their books was “eye-opening,” recalls Clark, who teaches entrepreneurship at Brown University and has sold consignment fly rods and tackle on the side for a decade. “They were doing as much business as the next five competitors combined, including me. I was like, ‘What? Maybe this is a bigger community than I realized.’ ” 

 

When Clark bought the company’s core assets in March, he acquired documentation for the nearly 10,000 vintage items it had sold, a trove to rival any factory or museum archive. He also gained the company’s email list, cementing his link to a subset of anglers willing to spend four figures on the type of pieces their grandfather’s generation would have used—including the ultimate fly-fishing status symbol, a hand-engineered Bogdan reel. Rare versions have sold for upward of $10,000.

 

“The field’s a bit—as my students would say—‘pale, male and stale,’ ” Clark says. And yet he’s betting that interest in these wares isn’t going to fade—and that Vintage Fly Tackle’s assets in combination with Spinoza, his other site, will lay the groundwork for a seven-figure business.

 

April Vokey, 37, arguably North America’s most famous living pro under 40, started using bamboo 10 years ago and noticed many of her peers doing the same a couple years later. “I’d started to lose the passion for fishing. It started to get too familiar. Understanding the history behind it helped to spruce things up a little,” she says. “I really appreciate holding an original piece of art in my hands.... It made me slow down when I was out there.”

 

“The hallmark of bamboo is that it’s slower and provides more of a connection to the fish and to the water—more soul,” says Ben Carmichael, who has co-edited several volumes of fly-fishing history with his father, Hoagy B. Carmichael, son of the famous songwriter.

“I think the Luddites are kind of missing the boat,” says Clark, who has seen his peers drawn to the pared-down philosophy behind vintage gear. “Fly-fishing has been growing in the last couple years. It has started to pick up again, especially with a younger generation who...don’t want to schlep a lot of stuff around in life.” 

 

Fly-fishing is only a fraction as popular as spin fishing, its more accessible cousin. According to a 2019 joint report by the Outdoor Foundation and the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, only one out of every seven American fishers uses flies. It is an older form of the sport, named for its signature element: the miniature imitations of minnows and aquatic insects, which are traditionally crafted out of fur and feathers. These lures are so lightweight that they rarely travel an arm’s length when thrown; rather, a weighted, tapered fly line and the caster’s skill conspire to send a fly the dozens of feet it needs to travel in order to attract the notice of an unsuspecting fish.

 

It is conventionally considered a challenging type of fishing, one that requires patience, practice and often a hefty investment in gear. 

 

Even so, the sport is on the rise. In fact, it hasn’t been this ascendant in decades, industry experts say—not since the early ’90s, to be precise, when images of a young Brad Pitt casting for Montana trout in A River Runs Through It sent droves of neophytes to their nearest Orvis dealer. 

 

“There are a lot of new anglers, and not as many old white guys out there on the river as there used to be,” says Joe Fox, 34, owner of Dette Flies in Livingston Manor, New York. “There is [also] much more variety at a customer’s fingertips.” 

 

Fly-fishing has been growing at an annual rate of nearly 3 percent, says the 2019 Outdoor Foundation report. And since Covid-19, local fishing has picked up. Between January and the end of August this year, for example, Connecticut saw a 6 percent increase in purchases of trout-and-salmon stamps, which tend to be more closely correlated with fly-fishing. New York State saw a 15 percent uptick in fishing licenses over a similar period. A wide variety of fish, including carp, northern pike and Amazonian peacock bass, are now deemed worthy of a fly-fisher’s attention, and additional techniques and tools have been devised to hook, land and safely release them. 

 

Women are more prevalent in the sport than they had been. “When I started, more than 20 years ago, it was unusual. That’s not the case anymore, thankfully,” says Vokey, whose podcast, Anchored, has been downloaded more than 10 million times. “I attribute it to the internet and feminism—women coming together and feeling stronger in all sorts of ways.”

 

As this reporter can attest from visits, the 114-year-old Anglers’ Club of New York is men-only. Yet there is plenty in the history of the sport to encourage women, including the fact that a 15th-century English nun is thought to have been the author of the first book to include angling, The Boke of Saint Albans.

 

“It’s often been men who’ve inspired me to continue on the path I’m on,” Vokey says, referring both to contemporary practitioners and to the likes of the late Roderick Haig-Brown, who wrote lyrically about fishing in British Columbia. “I don’t think it matters if you’re a man or a woman; if you read his books and don’t feel inspired to be a better human, something is wrong with you,” she says. 

 

Younger moguls have glamorized fly-fishing for a new generation of moneyed travelers. Former Blackstone executive Chad Pike has created a portfolio of luxury guest lodges and live-aboard boats that is unique to the sport. (In the past two years his hospitality company, Eleven Experience, has acquired properties in Patagonia and New Zealand.) Talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel, a devoted fly-fisherman, purchased Idaho’s South Fork Lodge with professional angler Oliver White in late June after nearly a year of negotiations. The renovated lodge will incorporate fishing art and books from Kimmel’s personal collection when it opens next spring for the 2021 season.

The southern Catskills, meanwhile, are generally agreed to be the cradle of the sport in America. Many of fly-fishing’s biggest legends have been locals, from 19th-century innovator Theodore Gordon to champion caster Joan Wulff, who at 94 still runs her famous fly-fishing school in the Beaverkill Valley. 

 

The Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, in Livingston Manor, New York, undertook a long-needed makeover of its exhibition space earlier this year, as part of a larger effort to be more accessible to the general public. “We mostly pruned. The place had collected loads of things that had fish on them and got screwed to a blank spot on the wall. [We are] paring down to the essentials,” says Cy Amundson, 44, an art handler for Manhattan’s David Zwirner gallery who serves on the museum’s board of trustees and goes by the angling pseudonym T. Polecat Dubbins. “It’s an attempt to make the whole thing readable.”

 

“It’s about trying to find all the good threads and weave them together for the present,” says Daniel P. Kim, 45, a New York–based Google marketing executive who bought himself a weekend at Joan Wulff’s school as a 35th-birthday present and has been an avid angler ever since. He serves as president of a private Catskills fishing club, and his 14-year-old daughter, Stevie Kim-Rubell, is now a tournament-level saltwater fly-angler.

 

“Whenever the sport has a renaissance, you get a lot of people looking back at the past,” says Joe Fox. His great-grandparents opened Dette in 1928, and he still deals primarily in the Catskills flies they popularized—dry flies, so-called because they float on the water’s surface. Dette’s classics mostly lack the foam thoraxes, rubber legs and elaborate dressings of newer and Western styles, and all are tied in the U.S. He says he’s seeing a return to traditional two-handed rods, which are being adapted using new techniques. Old-school fiberglass and bamboo rods are having a moment too.

 

“There are a lot of new anglers, and not as many old white guys out there on the river as there used to be.”

— Joe Fox

 

Fly-fishing style has also found its niche. This spring, as part of The North Face’s partnership with Supreme, the streetwear brand released a fly-fishing-themed collection that included shiny gold wading dungarees for $350. Patagonia’s distinctive trucker hats and dry bags are de rigueur for the under-40 adventuring set, and premium items such as its recycled-plastic chest waders and American-made wading boots have earned the pioneering California label the nickname “Patagucci.” Patagonia has also garnered attention for its activist filmmaking, including the eco-documentaries Artifishal, which takes a critical look at fish farms, and DamNation, which advocates for the removal of defunct dams. 

 

And yet the brand’s latest fishing-related release celebrates an approach more ancient than anything to be found in the sport’s museums or vintage marketplace. It’s an 18-minute profile of octogenarian Italian angler Arturo Pugno, who is said to use techniques from the 16th century and a 15-foot pole that looks more suited for Gandalf the Grey than for a modern outdoorsman. 

 

“Arturo embodies an ideal of mastery in sports, which allows us to be more focused and effective in our lives. Legacy and simplicity are foundational principles of our brand, and it’s bigger than any product,” explains Ted Manning, director of fish for Patagonia. The film also features Patagonia’s influential founder, Yvon Chouinard, riffing on a favorite mantra: “The more you know, the less you need.” 

 

It’s a rule that even conscientious anglers have long struggled to abide by. Learning about the sport’s most exquisitely crafted items tends to increase one’s desire to own at least a few of them. And if one ends up with too many? Clark, the vintage dealer, is always buying.

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Fly fishing has been on a crazy rise ever since social media. Instagram accounts like flylords and those ridiculously over dramatised fly fishing films have pushed a lot of people towards fly fishing. As a younger guy myself it's crazy to see how many more people my age I see fly fishing my local beaches the last two summers compared to just 5 years ago. Gink and gasoline did an article titled "is fly fishing just a fad" or something similar to that, if you can find the article it's worth the read.

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2 hours ago, Oakman said:

WSJ. . .?

 

Fake News.

No sure if you are calling the Journal fake news of suggesting this isn’t from the WSJ. Can’t help you with the former but this should help with the latter.

 

8C78799A-896B-4104-8E29-ADD7E943FEA8.jpeg.b968cade31427c5c161dce96ff3ca423.jpeg

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5 mins ago, Hook I said:

 I think April Vokey had someone very talented with a vision to market her with huge success $$ . God bless America !    

Do you follow her on Instagram? 

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47 mins ago, Hook I said:

 I think April Vokey had someone very talented with a vision to market her with huge success $$ . God bless America !    

Never heard of her before ... but clearly she's a natural beauty in a beautiful natural setting, often holding a "once in a lifetime" fish. The definition of photogenic. What could go wrong with that formula given an audience of old male fishermen.

 

Of course the WSJ features a story about fly fishing ... because it's so often viewed as the rich man's sport. Aristocratic even though ... "A River Runs Through It" was about a commoner's family and people like Lefty Kreh (the Yoda of fly fishing) sought to bring the particular sport to the masses.

 

The reality of fly fishing is that it is a REALLY effective way to catch fish using artificial means. Everything else is a dream come true.

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5 hours ago, flyangler said:

No sure if you are calling the Journal fake news of suggesting this isn’t from the WSJ. Can’t help you with the former but this should help with the latter.

 

8C78799A-896B-4104-8E29-ADD7E943FEA8.jpeg.b968cade31427c5c161dce96ff3ca423.jpeg

It was a joke, considering elsewhere on this site the mere mention of the WSJ brings out the rallying cry.

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9 hours ago, flyangler said:

I hope this is not a sign of a top in the sport...

 

Wall Street Journal weekend edition:

The Fly-Fishing Boom Is Finally Here

A new generation of fly-fishing fans is turning toward the soulful history of the sport with sought-after vintage gear.

By Darrell Hartman
Oct. 6, 2020 8:21 am ET

HOPE FLOATS “I really appreciate holding an original piece of art in my hands,” says professional angler April Vokey, a fan of traditional bamboo rods.

Late last year, Jonas Clark reached out to the owner of Vintage Fly Tackle, an online dealer of ultrafine rods, reels and other fly-fishing equipment coveted by the sport’s most ardent collectors.

 

For weeks his emails and phone calls to the founder’s widow, Laura Siemer, went unanswered. Clark, 38, sent a handwritten letter in which he described his passion for bamboo rods and English-made Hardy reels. Clark runs the Spinoza Rod Company with his stepfather, Marc Aroner, who has been crafting bamboo rods out of hard-to-find Tonkin cane since the early ’70s.

 

Siemer eventually responded, and the two started talking shop. Looking at their books was “eye-opening,” recalls Clark, who teaches entrepreneurship at Brown University and has sold consignment fly rods and tackle on the side for a decade. “They were doing as much business as the next five competitors combined, including me. I was like, ‘What? Maybe this is a bigger community than I realized.’ ” 

 

When Clark bought the company’s core assets in March, he acquired documentation for the nearly 10,000 vintage items it had sold, a trove to rival any factory or museum archive. He also gained the company’s email list, cementing his link to a subset of anglers willing to spend four figures on the type of pieces their grandfather’s generation would have used—including the ultimate fly-fishing status symbol, a hand-engineered Bogdan reel. Rare versions have sold for upward of $10,000.

 

“The field’s a bit—as my students would say—‘pale, male and stale,’ ” Clark says. And yet he’s betting that interest in these wares isn’t going to fade—and that Vintage Fly Tackle’s assets in combination with Spinoza, his other site, will lay the groundwork for a seven-figure business.

 

April Vokey, 37, arguably North America’s most famous living pro under 40, started using bamboo 10 years ago and noticed many of her peers doing the same a couple years later. “I’d started to lose the passion for fishing. It started to get too familiar. Understanding the history behind it helped to spruce things up a little,” she says. “I really appreciate holding an original piece of art in my hands.... It made me slow down when I was out there.”

 

“The hallmark of bamboo is that it’s slower and provides more of a connection to the fish and to the water—more soul,” says Ben Carmichael, who has co-edited several volumes of fly-fishing history with his father, Hoagy B. Carmichael, son of the famous songwriter.

“I think the Luddites are kind of missing the boat,” says Clark, who has seen his peers drawn to the pared-down philosophy behind vintage gear. “Fly-fishing has been growing in the last couple years. It has started to pick up again, especially with a younger generation who...don’t want to schlep a lot of stuff around in life.” 

 

Fly-fishing is only a fraction as popular as spin fishing, its more accessible cousin. According to a 2019 joint report by the Outdoor Foundation and the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, only one out of every seven American fishers uses flies. It is an older form of the sport, named for its signature element: the miniature imitations of minnows and aquatic insects, which are traditionally crafted out of fur and feathers. These lures are so lightweight that they rarely travel an arm’s length when thrown; rather, a weighted, tapered fly line and the caster’s skill conspire to send a fly the dozens of feet it needs to travel in order to attract the notice of an unsuspecting fish.

 

It is conventionally considered a challenging type of fishing, one that requires patience, practice and often a hefty investment in gear. 

 

Even so, the sport is on the rise. In fact, it hasn’t been this ascendant in decades, industry experts say—not since the early ’90s, to be precise, when images of a young Brad Pitt casting for Montana trout in A River Runs Through It sent droves of neophytes to their nearest Orvis dealer. 

 

“There are a lot of new anglers, and not as many old white guys out there on the river as there used to be,” says Joe Fox, 34, owner of Dette Flies in Livingston Manor, New York. “There is [also] much more variety at a customer’s fingertips.” 

 

Fly-fishing has been growing at an annual rate of nearly 3 percent, says the 2019 Outdoor Foundation report. And since Covid-19, local fishing has picked up. Between January and the end of August this year, for example, Connecticut saw a 6 percent increase in purchases of trout-and-salmon stamps, which tend to be more closely correlated with fly-fishing. New York State saw a 15 percent uptick in fishing licenses over a similar period. A wide variety of fish, including carp, northern pike and Amazonian peacock bass, are now deemed worthy of a fly-fisher’s attention, and additional techniques and tools have been devised to hook, land and safely release them. 

 

Women are more prevalent in the sport than they had been. “When I started, more than 20 years ago, it was unusual. That’s not the case anymore, thankfully,” says Vokey, whose podcast, Anchored, has been downloaded more than 10 million times. “I attribute it to the internet and feminism—women coming together and feeling stronger in all sorts of ways.”

 

As this reporter can attest from visits, the 114-year-old Anglers’ Club of New York is men-only. Yet there is plenty in the history of the sport to encourage women, including the fact that a 15th-century English nun is thought to have been the author of the first book to include angling, The Boke of Saint Albans.

 

“It’s often been men who’ve inspired me to continue on the path I’m on,” Vokey says, referring both to contemporary practitioners and to the likes of the late Roderick Haig-Brown, who wrote lyrically about fishing in British Columbia. “I don’t think it matters if you’re a man or a woman; if you read his books and don’t feel inspired to be a better human, something is wrong with you,” she says. 

 

Younger moguls have glamorized fly-fishing for a new generation of moneyed travelers. Former Blackstone executive Chad Pike has created a portfolio of luxury guest lodges and live-aboard boats that is unique to the sport. (In the past two years his hospitality company, Eleven Experience, has acquired properties in Patagonia and New Zealand.) Talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel, a devoted fly-fisherman, purchased Idaho’s South Fork Lodge with professional angler Oliver White in late June after nearly a year of negotiations. The renovated lodge will incorporate fishing art and books from Kimmel’s personal collection when it opens next spring for the 2021 season.

The southern Catskills, meanwhile, are generally agreed to be the cradle of the sport in America. Many of fly-fishing’s biggest legends have been locals, from 19th-century innovator Theodore Gordon to champion caster Joan Wulff, who at 94 still runs her famous fly-fishing school in the Beaverkill Valley. 

 

The Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, in Livingston Manor, New York, undertook a long-needed makeover of its exhibition space earlier this year, as part of a larger effort to be more accessible to the general public. “We mostly pruned. The place had collected loads of things that had fish on them and got screwed to a blank spot on the wall. [We are] paring down to the essentials,” says Cy Amundson, 44, an art handler for Manhattan’s David Zwirner gallery who serves on the museum’s board of trustees and goes by the angling pseudonym T. Polecat Dubbins. “It’s an attempt to make the whole thing readable.”

 

“It’s about trying to find all the good threads and weave them together for the present,” says Daniel P. Kim, 45, a New York–based Google marketing executive who bought himself a weekend at Joan Wulff’s school as a 35th-birthday present and has been an avid angler ever since. He serves as president of a private Catskills fishing club, and his 14-year-old daughter, Stevie Kim-Rubell, is now a tournament-level saltwater fly-angler.

 

“Whenever the sport has a renaissance, you get a lot of people looking back at the past,” says Joe Fox. His great-grandparents opened Dette in 1928, and he still deals primarily in the Catskills flies they popularized—dry flies, so-called because they float on the water’s surface. Dette’s classics mostly lack the foam thoraxes, rubber legs and elaborate dressings of newer and Western styles, and all are tied in the U.S. He says he’s seeing a return to traditional two-handed rods, which are being adapted using new techniques. Old-school fiberglass and bamboo rods are having a moment too.

 

“There are a lot of new anglers, and not as many old white guys out there on the river as there used to be.”

— Joe Fox

 

Fly-fishing style has also found its niche. This spring, as part of The North Face’s partnership with Supreme, the streetwear brand released a fly-fishing-themed collection that included shiny gold wading dungarees for $350. Patagonia’s distinctive trucker hats and dry bags are de rigueur for the under-40 adventuring set, and premium items such as its recycled-plastic chest waders and American-made wading boots have earned the pioneering California label the nickname “Patagucci.” Patagonia has also garnered attention for its activist filmmaking, including the eco-documentaries Artifishal, which takes a critical look at fish farms, and DamNation, which advocates for the removal of defunct dams. 

 

And yet the brand’s latest fishing-related release celebrates an approach more ancient than anything to be found in the sport’s museums or vintage marketplace. It’s an 18-minute profile of octogenarian Italian angler Arturo Pugno, who is said to use techniques from the 16th century and a 15-foot pole that looks more suited for Gandalf the Grey than for a modern outdoorsman. 

 

“Arturo embodies an ideal of mastery in sports, which allows us to be more focused and effective in our lives. Legacy and simplicity are foundational principles of our brand, and it’s bigger than any product,” explains Ted Manning, director of fish for Patagonia. The film also features Patagonia’s influential founder, Yvon Chouinard, riffing on a favorite mantra: “The more you know, the less you need.” 

 

It’s a rule that even conscientious anglers have long struggled to abide by. Learning about the sport’s most exquisitely crafted items tends to increase one’s desire to own at least a few of them. And if one ends up with too many? Clark, the vintage dealer, is always buying.

Watching this space closely, interest in fly fishing fresh and salt up this year for sure, but some of it is COVID related. More free time - more trips. 
 

but not everybody has the money for full day guided charters or exotic trips or crazy ****** prices.
 

in the thick of it right now

 

more to reflect on with some down time

 

 

 

 

E58276ED-759B-42A1-BF30-EB74B9F9DD20.jpeg

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2 hours ago, Hook I said:

 I think April Vokey had someone very talented with a vision to market her with huge success $$ . God bless America !    

 

She did indeed - herself.

 

And, for what it's worth, she's from Canada.

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2 hours ago, KironaFly said:

Never heard of her before ... but clearly she's a natural beauty in a beautiful natural setting, often holding a "once in a lifetime" fish. The definition of photogenic. What could go wrong with that formula given an audience of old male fishermen.

 

Of course the WSJ features a story about fly fishing ... because it's so often viewed as the rich man's sport. Aristocratic even though ... "A River Runs Through It" was about a commoner's family and people like Lefty Kreh (the Yoda of fly fishing) sought to bring the particular sport to the masses.

 

The reality of fly fishing is that it is a REALLY effective way to catch fish using artificial means. Everything else is a dream come true.

The 1st view of her was on WFN 

world Fishing Network . When It come to FF  I just follow the Catskills guys and some of the older Tarpon guys from the Keys / Flamingo   

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3 hours ago, Hook I said:

I don’t do Instagram her name pops up on TV & print a lot . 

That's too bad, her Instagram feed is always of interest. She features here little daughter quite a bit and the little tyke is adorable. Now the kid is catching her own fish after a couple years of April bringing her out to the rivers, and on bow hunts, in a kid carrier backpack. 

 

If you listen to podcasts, I HIGHLY recommend Vokey's podcast "Anchored". She mostly interviews people who are in the business, write about fishing, are guides or otherwise involved in the sport. Always interesting to hear how others came to grab a fly rod for the first time. 

 

2 hours ago, KironaFly said:

Never heard of her before ... but clearly she's a natural beauty in a beautiful natural setting, often holding a "once in a lifetime" fish. The definition of photogenic. What could go wrong with that formula given an audience of old male fishermen.

 

Of course the WSJ features a story about fly fishing ... because it's so often viewed as the rich man's sport. Aristocratic even though ... "A River Runs Through It" was about a commoner's family and people like Lefty Kreh (the Yoda of fly fishing) sought to bring the particular sport to the masses.

 

The reality of fly fishing is that it is a REALLY effective way to catch fish using artificial means. Everything else is a dream come true.

I follow quite a few fly fishing accounts on Instagram and there is a rise of 'common man' fishing narratives. One guy, Hector Rodriguez in the UK is literally creating a following for using the fly to catch barbel, a whiskered coarse fish that is looked upon with disdain by game anglers. He is also quite the fly tyer creating large streams for his other love, pike on the fly. 

 

He was recently profile on the Fly Culture podcast. 

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While I have never met Hector personally, we have become Instagram "friends". Here is a new Youtube video where he discusses his love for chasing this coarse fish with a fly rod. 

 

Hector is in the construction industry, as a laborer with some talents. He is about as far from the image of a refined British trout angler as you can get. 

 

 

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