Looking for a fly fishing guide for your next trip to Bristol Bay? Your guide could be a graduate of the Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy. In its fourth year, the Academy teaches Bristol Bay youth the business of recreational fishing and guiding, and grooms them to be advocates—and leaders—for healthy watersheds and sustainable economies. As part of their river education, students learn how to cast, how to read the river, what knots to tie, and generally what it takes to be a guide. They also learn about salmon conservation habitat protection, and resource stewardship. The program enables Bristol Bay youth to stay in their communities and earn a prosperous living while sharing an authentic fly-fishing experience with visitors to the region. Career guidance is part of their training as well, with time devoted to learning how to write a resume and find jobs in the fishing and tourism industries.
Eleven guides ranging in age from 15-24 completed the week-long program in King Salmon, Alaska June 3-10, 2012, an all-expense paid training. Under the instruction of guide and lodge owner Nancy Morris Lyon as well as guest instructors John Van Vleet from Orvis and ACF’s Sam Snyder, the students spent up to 5 hours in the Nakenk River, many of whom had never previously cast a fly rod or tied a nail knot. Back at Bear Trail lodge, a variety of local biologists, river experts, Native elders, and conservation organizations taught them about the region’s ecology, conservation issues, and how to preserve the region’s delicate fish population.
Some of this year’s students got to try their new skills out firsthand. Academy graduates guided eight veterans from Project Healing Waters, a program dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled vets. The groups enjoyed tying and casting for King Salmon at Mission Lodge in Alekgnagig, Alaska.
ACF is proud to be involved with such a uniquely enriching opportunity for young Alaskans. The River Academy is a result of a collaborative effort by Academy co-founders Tim Troll of The Nature Conservancy and Ekwok village elder and fishing guide Luki Akelkok, Trout Unlimited’s Nelli Williams, lead instructor and Bear Trail Lodge owner Nanci Morris Lyons, as well as a handful of energetic guest instructors.