Nanci Morris Lyon
Name of guide service/lodge: Bear Trail Lodge
Number of years guiding:32
Number of years guiding on the Naknek:30
Species guided for: Rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, grayling, all 5 Pacific salmon, halibut, sailfish, striped marlin, yellowfin tuna, dorado, skip jack, wahoo (ono), bonefish
How did you first get started fishing? My dad. I have two brothers; one is 11 months older and the other is one year and two days younger, so we were all basically the same age. My dad loved to fish and hunt and he loved to spend time with his kids, so he took us everywhere including fishing and bird-hunting. I was always blessed with a lucky touch when it came to fishing, and, like most kids, I really enjoyed the things I was good at and I became hooked at a very early age, pardon the pun.
What or who inspired you to become a guide? Well, I was actually in business for myself as a contractor and real estate agent and would take clients out fishing some weekends. Every time I went I caught big fish, kind of like when I was younger, only on these occasions the captains would invariably tease me that I should come work for them. Then, I had a tragedy in my world and I needed to get away from the high-pressure life I was leading and I called up the skipper in Homer and told him to put his money where his mouth was. He hired me and the rest is history.
Who taught you to guide or has been your biggest influencer? Everyone I have been fortunate enough to have met in life. In the beginning, I watched a lot. I watched the things everyone did. If someone was better at casting I watched them closely and tried to figure out what they were doing that I was not. If someone was catching more fish I watched them and tried what they were doing. There are some outstanding fishermen in the world, I know I will never have the privilege of meeting all of them, but I sure would like to. Just hearing everyone’s theories on a fishery is priceless and can make you a better fisherman.
What was the hardest part to learn or get used to? Realizing that I was leading and they were following. Because of my life experiences, fishing was a fun thing everyone did together, but when you are a guide you are leading that fun and coming up with better ideas and different methods for everyone, not just yourself. I’ve never had problems sharing ideas or knowledge, but considering the different abilities that you see every day as a guide, I needed to learn to take everyone from the most experienced angler to the beginner to another level on the day they were with me. That’s if you are doing your job. Well, the challenge becomes finding a unique experience for the experienced angler because you are not going to be able to improve their technique. For the beginner, just helping them to become consistently better and having confidence in what they are doing gets the job done.
What is your most epic moment(s) on the Naknek? Easily and hands down the first rainbow trout that I helped a guest land that was 34 inches. I had never seen a thing so beautiful before in my life. I’m not even sure I was confident they existed. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Do you think there are any additional challenges or opportunities being a female guide? There were challenges in the beginning. I’m grateful that I was raised with brothers because I never really let it bother me, but now I really don’t think there are challenges other than the physical attributes of brute strength (which we can use our brains to overcome) and the vertical challenge we have when wading (but hey, there are short guys out there, too). Opportunities? I think it’s the same answer. I feel like everyone made a much bigger deal out of me being a girl when I was first starting than they needed to, but it gave me some unbelievable opportunities to go and do and see things. I’m very grateful for that, but now I think the talented women I have and do work with have to work just as hard as the guys to get recognition. It’s very cool to realize that we have such a large pool of females in the industry these days that it is not considered unusual. I mean we are still outnumbered and it has always been a male-dominated sport, but we are getting there and all of us who have chosen it as a profession have risen to the top by becoming really good and caring students of the sport.
Finish the sentence “If I knew then what I know now, I would...” have spent a lot more time getting ahead of the game in protecting the resource. I spend a large portion of my time in the winter serving on various boards that are connected to Bristol Bay resources in the hopes of protecting what we have. I have a burning desire to make sure I leave what I love in as good or better shape as it was when I found it.
What is your favorite part of being a guide? Hands down, the environment. I get to spend my day in it and sharing it with those I am guiding.
What is your specialty for guiding? You know, I don’t feel like I excel at anything. I’ve been told I am a knot guru and that I really know how to cast well. Some have said that I am very innovative with flies, while others say that I communicate well. I would be proud to claim any of those attributes.
Who is one of your most memorable guests and why? A husband and wife team that were Nobel Prize winners for advancing the cure for cancer. They were both in their 80s when I met them and they had been married forever. They worked together to earn the prize and each of them claimed the other was responsible for it. They were incredibly humble and so cute in the boat. They couldn’t safely wade anymore so I had to keep them in the boat, and somehow the good Lord blessed us with a 30-inch fish that day. Typical to the rest of their lives, they employed teamwork to get it landed. It was the largest rainbow trout either of them had ever landed and it sure made me feel good. They were so tickled by it they were giggling like teenagers. So cute.
Where do you see your career headed within the next 5 years? Well, when you are as old as I am and have had the privilege of doing and seeing as much as I have, you really only have one direction to go and that is to mentoring the next generation. Thank goodness I have had the huge benefit of finding others that want to do the same through the Bristol Bay Guide Academy. I am already seeing the fruits of my labor in that area through graduates that are working for me at the lodge as well as around the Bristol Bay area, it is SO COOL!!!
Please list your accolades and accomplishments and affiliations. I have managed to live a life that I absolutely love and adore, one where I wouldn’t change a thing if I had to live it over. I consider that an accolade and a huge accomplishment. Not that I feel my life is over, it just gives me a goal to attempt to maintain it for the rest of the days I am allotted. I am affiliated with an incredible number of individuals who enrich my life everyday and make change happen.