Heidi Wild

HeidiWild.jpg


Name of guide service/lodge: Bear Trail Lodge
Number of years guiding Total:
Number of years guiding on the Naknek: 3

  

How did you first get started fishing? What or who inspired you to become a guide?  I joined the United States Air Force when I was 19. Alaska had been on the top of my dream sheet since I enlisted. As an avid angler, I couldn’t wait to leave the sand behind for the freshwater rivers and endless mountain ranges that Alaska promised. When I got out of the Air Force I still wanted to remain active in helping my local community. I was invited by one of the members of Project Healing Waters to join a fly-fishing retreat for combat veterans on the Nushagak River in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Not having served in the same capacity as these brave men and women, I wasn’t certain that it was appropriate for me to be included, but I was told that they were eager for me to join and wanted me to come be myself. Over the week, I was humbled to see how so many of them found solace by personally communing with nature. I watched as they reconnected with the world around them and for the first time in a long time, I felt good. The most amazing moments, however, were when the babbling rivers would give way to the scream of a reel. I would look over to see a fly rod take it’s imperial C-shaped arch and watch the expression of the angler as he or she fought to bring in their fish; the years of hardship seemed to fall from their faces and they began to smile, to beam from genuine happiness! When I returned home to Wasilla, Alaska, I knew what I wanted to do with every fiber in my being.

 

Who taught you to guide or has been your biggest influencer? It has been my privilege to learn from fishing legends, Alaskans Nanci Morris-Lyon and Heath Lyon. They live year round in King Salmon and are deeply integrated in their local community. They are acutely aware of the environmental impacts of climate change and development in the Bristol Bay region. Nanci and Heath provide a wealth of knowledge for guides and through their avid commitment to teaching the youth to respect the land they live on, they convey the importance of respecting this great land for a sustainable future.

 

What was the hardest part to learn or get used to?  At 5’3” tall and 130 pounds there is no denying that I lack the physical prowess of my fellow guides. There is a moment of concern when clients over 6 feet tall look down to see “little me” is going to be their tough Alaskan fishing guide in the wilderness on a remote stream where we hike miles through the tundra, along creeks and encounter bears, wolves and other predators. Growing up in the Northwest, most of my girlfriends love to hike, fish and hunt, but not every client is used to seeing women work in such a capacity and it can challenge their ideals. When I graduated from the guide academy they had to use a ballpoint pen to mark over the “he” pronouns and write, “her” in its place. They just weren’t ready for a female guide.

 

What is your most epic moment(s) on the Naknek? There are too many profound moments each season for me to choose just one; I would sooner choose a favorite grain of sand from the riverbed than limit myself to one singular moment.

  

Do you think there are any additional challenges or opportunities being a female guide? I don’t feel there are many challenges, as being a female fishing guide isn’t out of the norm anymore. There really are quite a few of us out there and I feel everyone is getting used to the idea.

 

Finish the sentence “If I knew then what I know now, I would…” have done then what I do now. 

 

What is your favorite part of being a guide? Many clients come to Alaska for the first time and it is a trip that they have waited their entire lives to take. They have busy careers, raise families and live in a world that has been indifferent to their happiness. But for one moment, one trip, we get to make their dreams come true and I am part of that experience.

 

What is your specialty for guiding?  A big part of my job, besides safety, is for everyone to have a good time. I remind people that we are out to have a good time whether we catch one or 100 fish—fishing with me is about adventure. We experience life as it was meant to be and if we stop for a moment and allow ourselves to feel present, we might find the happiness that is within us. I tell people Alaska is the most wondrous place an American can visit without a passport. Eagles soar high against the endless sun and swoop into pools of sockeye salmon; bears snorkel in rivers looking for their next meal below ripples, and moose wander with blissful purpose through the wilderness around you. You can’t help but be humbled by Alaska’s dizzying majesty.

 

Who is one of your most memorable guests and why? I had an 88-year-old lady as a client, and she was there more for the companionship than the fishing. She had been terrified her whole life of ever getting into a boat and she had never fished a day. I set her line up and helped her cast. We sat there talking about what life had been like growing up in the 30s, 50s and 70s. We got lost in wonderful conversation when she hooked into her first trout. I had to remind her to stay seated as she jumped with joy. We brought in her fish and a tear of happiness escaped but faded quickly when I released the trout she had been planning to EAT. She did not realize trout fishing was catch-and-release. I spent the next few hours being yelled at for letting her fish go because my generation was wasteful. She yelled, in a good-natured way, all the way back to shore and I don’t think she ever forgave me for releasing her fish.

 

Where do you see your career headed within the next 5 years? Working for Nanci and Heath at Bear Trail Lodge, of course. Over the next five years I will promote sustainable fishing in Alaska. Recently, I have been working with Trout Unlimited in an effort to protect Bristol Bay. We can all play a part in preserving the land and water systems throughout Alaska. I also want to work with some name brands in fly fishing to help streamline high-functioning women’s fishing gear as more and more women take an active role in the sport of fishing.

 

Please list your accolades and accomplishments and affiliations. 

Veteran USAF

Custom Rod Building

Graduate of Sweetwater Travel Guide School 

Philanthropist 

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