Kenai rainbow trout are prized by anglers for their size and vibrant colors. Join Trout Unlimited for this Armed Forces fishing trip!
Story and photos by Alexa Millward
Travis Price with Fish Em LLC and participants.
Kenai River Rainbow Trout Fishing
There was a circulation of steam from hot coffee and one’s breath as excited chatter filled the crisp, fall morning air. Though the morning was cold, hearts were warm, and the anticipation of tight lines was on the mind. The day had finally come for the Armed Forces fishing trip!
Armed Forces Fishing Trip
This trip has been hosted regularly by Trout Unlimited Alaska and Kinross Alaska since 2018 as a small way to show our appreciation to the women and men who have served as members of the Armed Forces. This trip never ceases to foster connections, community, and a much-appreciated reprieve from the everyday hustle and bustle of life. This year we headed down to the Kenai Peninsula to host 14 Armed Forces service members for a day on the middle Kenai River with five guides from Trout Unlimited’s Kenai Guide Ambassador Program.
Fishing, community, and healing are three of the common interests among trip participants. Members of the Armed Forces often express dealing with various mental-health issues, including PTSD, anxiety, and the feeling of isolation with the realities of having to move around often. One participant stated, “Fishing is more than a passion for me; it’s a relaxing way for me to deal with the daily discomfort of my wounds, injuries, and mental condition due to the war.”
In the last five years, we have seen firsthand the potential this trip has in providing a community, connection, and a healing space for participants. Whether it’s the act of casting a fly rod, the adrenaline of hooking into a healthy rainbow trout, or simply spending a day in nature; this trip seems to provide just that.
Intro to Flyfishing 101
Dallas Voss and Dustin Kline with a Kenai River rainbow trout.
Fishing experience varies among trip participants, and we often hear a need for more resources when it comes to gaining the skills and confidence to hit the water on their own. Fishing in a new area, let alone learning how to flyfish, can be very intimidating. This year we were excited to offer an optional “intro to flyfishing 101” course the evening prior to our day on the water! This course involved learning the basic fishing knots, line setup, what flies to use and when to use them, as well as basic casting techniques. Not only did participants leave learning something new, but they also left with a few new fishing buddies as well!
With some good groundwork set, we hit the water, zooming upstream with the luxury of fishing from a powerboat. Participants finally got to put their newly learned skills to the test. It didn’t take long for the sun to sooth the frigid air and “WAHOOs” to be heard from up and down the river. The bite was on! Among the many highlights were many participants catching their first rainbow trout or Dolly Varden, and many even caught their biggest rainbow trout that day.
Developing Connections Through Fishing
There truly is something to be said about beginner’s luck and fishing. One participant that had never flyfished before ended his day not only having had a very successful first day flyfishing, but to top it off he landed a 27-inch Kenai River rainbow trout! The best part of the experience was the many boats that stuck around to watch him battle this beast and celebrate with cheers when he finally got the fish to the net. He exclaimed, “This is a fish of a lifetime!” We couldn’t agree more. It doesn’t get much better than that!
As everyone started making their way back to the boat launch for dinner, fish pictures were shared with the stories that went along with them. From the smiles and excitement, it was apparent it was a good day on the water, but most importantly, friends were made. Fishing aside, this is one of the highlights of the trip. The feeling of connection that started out as a group of strangers turned into a newfound community bonded over one simple interest: fishing. By bringing the powers of nature and community together, there is no better cure.
Special thanks to our Kenai Guide Ambassadors: Dallas Voss with Explore Kenai, Drew Petrie with Lost Boys Fishing LLC, Shawn Coe with Chasing Tails Alaska, and Travis and Lori Price with Fish Em LLC.
Trout Unlimited’s mission is to protect, reconnect and restore North America’s cold-water fisheries and their watersheds. Learn about our work in Alaska at tu.org/alaska. Alexa Millward is the Kenai Peninsula Engagement Coordinator.
Looking for more reading like this Kenai River rainbow trout story? Check out Fish Alaska’s Blog Archive.