A group of Bristol Bay students recently finished up a course on fly fishing and working as river guides. KDLG’s Chase Cavanaugh has more.
Trout Unlimited recently completed its annual Bristol Bay River Academy. The weeklong course took 13 students from around the region and brought them to Iliamna and up the Newhalen River. Alaska Deputy Director Nelli Williams says the program helps kids learn more about different careers along the rivers.
“It gives kids a taste of what it is like in the guide and lodge industry in Bristol Bay.”
One of the students was 17 year old Iliamna resident Shiann Nanalook. She said what attracted her most was the chance to fly fish.
“I’ve always been interested in fly fishing and just never got around to it, so when Nelly Williams came to our school and gave us a presentation, I instantly wanted to go to the academy.”
Apart from fly fishing, Nanalook says she learned much about work on the river.
“We got to learn a lot about fly fishing, how to be a guide, a lot about customer service, and a lot about the fishing regulations. It was really fun.”
Some students had never fly fished, so they learned to cast on the Iliamna baseball diamond, as well as practiced tying their own fly lures. Williams says the best moment is when all the students’ practice pays off.
“When it came to getting on the river and trying to catch a fly, the smile on their face when they caught that fish on a fly that they had tied, it was really awe inspiring.”
The other part of the program is learning about the river ecosystem, fish conservation, as well as customer service. On the last day, the students applied these skills toward guiding local sport fishermen upriver. Williams says by the end, the kids have changed greatly.
“At the end of their day as a guide, we do a little ceremony, and it really just builds confidence, excitement, and these kids have transformed from a typically quiet group to a very excited and confident group.”
Trout Unlimited hopes that through the River Academy, students will gain a newfound respect for the river ecosystem, including the salmon, and be able to apply their new skills toward personal fulfillment as well as a potential job in the sport fishing industry. More information on the program can be found at bristolbayriveracademy.org