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Day 1: What we knew, what we forgot, what we didn’t anticipate

As I type, Mission Lodge is buzzing. Forks are clanking, students are laughing. Someone just asked, “where are you from again?”(New Stuyahok, he answered). It smells like pizza, and I’m slurping down a Coke knowing we have a night of activities ahead – and the long days of June in Alaska will allow for them.

As one can imagine, a lot happens leading up to these first hours of the 8th Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy.


Our fearless instructors, Mac and Nanci.

Months of promoting the application period, painstakingly deciding which of the amazing applicants we can squeeze in, coordinating travel from remote communities around the region, lining up guest speakers, fine tuning the itinerary and lesson plans, working with our amazing sponsors* to get gear and fund the whole event and coordinating with our hosts to ensure we can take over the lodge before their first clients come. There are so many details, shopping trips and helpers that make the Academy possible. This was all stuff we expected, and chipped off little by little preparing for today.


The students test their equipment lingo chops on day 1 … always a fun way to see at the end how much they learn!

So now, sitting at dinner on Night One, looking at a room full of students getting to know each other, I start remember a few things I haven’t been thinking about as we planned the last 6+ months.

I’d forgotten the students’ vibe of nervous excitement for the week ahead, especially when they hear about their “final exam” – Client Day. I’d been so into the details, that I actually forgot the stunning beauty I’d get to spend a week within in the heart of Bristol Bay. (Lake Aleknagik is bigger than life and doing some serious beckoning right about now). I’d forgotten that Mission Lodge is a world class business that clients spend thousands to enjoy – we’re truly lucky to get to hang here for the week. Hadn’t been thinking about any of that.


Lake Aleknagik. (And we’re hoping for some sun this week!)

Then, there are things I wasn’t expecting at all! First, and perhaps the most pleasant surprise, there are not one but TWO academy graduates on staff at Mission Lodge this summer. Tiarna, one of our original students back in 2008, is now Mission’s Assistant Manager. And – the surprise – Shiann, a graduate of the 2014 class in Iliamna is on the kitchen/service staff this summer! We loved walking in to be welcomed by familiar faces and of course, are so proud of our students pursuing jobs in local lodges. With Shiann, we now have over a dozen students go onto jobs in Bristol Bay and that’s a number we’re pretty proud of!

Second, we can already tell this group is unique and incredibly special. We’ve got youth ages 14 – 24 here at Mission, from Dillingham, Koliganek, Togiak, New Stuyahok, Manakotak, Iguigig and Aleknagik. We’ve got seasoned fly fishers and a whole lot of beginners. They’re diverse, but a quality we noticed in everyone is a smile and eager vibe that all the successful graduates have had on day one. And it’s not every year we see so much of that right from the get-go.

I hope you can tell from my tone that we’re excited (like, really excited). Stay tuned for lots more updates throughout the week!


*Our 2016 sponsors include: Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, Bureau of Land Management, UAF- Bristol Bay Campus, Orvis, Alaska Sportsman’s Bear Trail Lodge, Mission Lodge, Alaska Fly Fishers and Mossy’s Fly Shop, Southwest Alaska Salmon Habitat Partnership (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service).


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