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Fishing with Jack McKenna

“For the past 6o years, I have given my free time to the art of fishing. My chosen type of fishing is with a fly rod…Today, with the weather changing to rain and cold wind, I was called by nature to observe “the pipe” (coming into the pond near my home) do “its thing.” Slowly, I put a fly on my fly rod, and took a position above the pipe and cast a fly into the pipe’s outflow, letting the current carry the fly to any fish that might be attracted to the fresh flow of water…Last week, under similar conditions, seven came to my fly…Today, I caught only one, but he was the largest bass I have caught here in 16 years…between 5 and 7 pounds! I really was a little shaky landing this huge bass on a small #7 fly rod and a 3 &1/4 inch fly, but I eventually was able to land and release one of the largest fresh-water bass I ever have caught…only a 100 foot walk from my house to this incredible and seemingly unlikely fishing hole!”
Such is the narrative of one of Graland’s most beloved teachers, and I’m guessing many of you already have figured out who wrote these words! I am fortunate to count Jack McKenna as one of my closest friends, and he continues to amaze me and everyone with his incredible love for nature, science, and the outdoors. Now in his mid-80s, living in Salisbury on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Jack continues to fish, bike, cross country ski, and garden with the gusto and enthusiasm (and success) of people half his age. He and his wife, Alverta, live in a lovely house on an old mill pond. Not surprisingly, two kayaks sit ready at his small dock, ready to take the two of them on fishing and nature watching adventures on the pond. His gardens produce incredible tomatoes, kale, lettuce, and beans, and whenever there is even a skiff of winter snow, Jack has laid a track through the “neighborhood” to ski as though he were once again at Snow Mountain Ranch near Granby! Birds of every imaginable species have learned that Jack will feed and shelter them throughout the year; he and Alverta even fed and sheltered a crippled Canada Goose that was unable to compete with the other wild birds one Winter. Jack continues to be an avid biker, with a special cycling adventure on his birthday, where he tries to peddle as many miles as he has had trips around the sun…a little harder now than a few years back!
I make it a point to visit Jack once or twice a year, and we always head out onto the Chesapeake Bay with Captain Kevin Josenhans for Striped Bass and Speckled Trout fishing…fly rods only. And, by the way, Jack consistently out fishes me! We head back to his house by the pond, and often kayak to the upper reaches of the pond for fresh water bass and other fish never before seen by me in Colorado! Alverta always has the most amazing meals prepared, oftentimes including her world-famous Chocolate-Cherry Cake! YUM!
Jack remains an inspiration to me personally and to my family. But, more important, I know he remains an inspiration to thousands of Graland alums. I just wanted the Graland family to know that Jack is thriving, and still poses a very real threat to any fish foolish enough to inspect one of his flies!
Ben Duke ’68, Former Staff

Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.