Students from a number of Bristol Bay communities this week learned how to tie a coho-catching fly, cast a fly rod into the wind, and prepare a detailed list of supplies to bring for a day on the water with a client. Tomorrow, their new skills will be put to the test.

Each year at its culmination, “clients” from the host community of the Bristol Bay River Academy arrive to be guided through an afternoon of fishing. By tomorrow, the 13 students of this years’ Academy will be ready to teach their community-member client the basics of fly fishing, and have a safe and fun day fishing the Newhalen river.


“The River Academy teaches kids from Bristol Bay communities the skills they need to be fishing guides,” said Nanci Morris Lyon, owner of Alaska Sportsman’s Bear Trail Lodge and River Academy instructor. “I enjoy sharing these skills, but I also enjoy the discussions that lead to better understanding between commercial, sport and subsistence fishing families and communities.”

“Trout Unlimited supports the River Academy because we believe it’s a win-win. The Academy opens the door for local kids to pursue sport fishing jobs in their communities, and enables them as future Bristol Bay guides to share local culture and river conservation challenges with visitors to the region,” said Nelli Williams, with Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program. The goal of the Academy is to ready local young people for good paying jobs close to home, as well as cultivate passionate guides who are informed about local waters and conservation issues, and are ready to provide a world-class experience to the thousands of anglers who come to Bristol Bay each year to fish. Seven of the Academy’s graduates are now employed at Bristol Bay-area lodges.

“We are incredibly proud of the skills our students have gained this year on the water, as well as the knowledge they have gained about the importance of healthy, shared fisheries among many types of users inBristol Bay,” said Morris Lyon.

Thanks to support from Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Trout Unlimited, Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, The Orvis Company, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, Bureau of Land Management, Alaska Conservation Foundation, University of Alaska Fairbanks – Bristol Bay Campus, and many other community supporters, the course is offered free of charge to 12-15 students each year.


The Bristol Bay River Academy is a place-based river education course that fosters sustainable outdoor employment opportunities for Bristol Bay young people. Learn more at or on Facebook.