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2022 Recap: A Cross Cultural Experience at the Guide Academy

This year, the Guide Academy was hosted at Bear Trail Lodge in King Salmon, Alaska at the beginning of June. Students from across the Bristol Bay region came together for the course that was led by local lodge owners, former Alaska Department of Fish and Game sportfish biologists, and former students- turned-guides. The Academy culminated to Client Day, where each student hosted a member of the community for a day of guided fishing, using their skills gained from the week to lead a successful day on the water.  

The Guide Academy welcomed guests from near and far, who brought unique perspectives and backgrounds to the course, for the first time this year. Ethan Running Crane and David Sinclair, two students from Blackfeet Nation traveled from Montana to attend the Academy and learn elements of guide business development. They were joined by Tyson Running Wolf, a Blackfeet tribal leader, Montana state representative and guide and owner of Running Wolf Outdoors, who spoke to the students about his experience as an Indigenous guide and outfitter in Montana.  

Ethan, David and Tyson shared some of their cultural songs with the Guide Academy and guests during the final evening dinner, and gifted a traditional drum to Bristol Bay Native Corporation as a thank you for participation in the Guide Academy.  

The Guide Academy also hosted Stacey Simmons, Senior Manager of Shareholder Services at Koniag, Inc. Stacey manages the Kodiak Brown Bear Center and Lodge on traditional Sugpiaq lands on Kodiak Island, and shared how the bear tourism industry on Kodiak, in Bristol Bay and beyond is booming with strong opportunity for locals to be successful guides.  

The Guide Academy was honored to have Erica Nelson come and serve as a guest instructor. Erica is a guide based in Crested Butte, Colorado, and was recently featured in the New York Times as one of two female Indigenous fly fishing guides in the state. Erica is an Orvis Ambassador, and the host of the Awkward Angler podcast.  

During her time at the Academy, Erica sat down with Trout Unlimited staff, other instructors and some of the students to talk about the Academy, what it means to be an Indigenous guide, and the next generation of leaders in rural Alaska. The podcast mini series is available for free download on Spotify.  

Episodes from The Awkward Angler capturing stories from students and instructors at the 2022 Academy.

The Guide Academy has a longstanding history of bringing people together from different backgrounds to share in the passion and work of fly fishing and guiding, but the 2022 Guide Academy took cross cultural exchange and learning to a new level. While the students walked away the expected skills of casting, fly tying, client care and customer service, they also left with a better understanding of how their cultural practices, traditional knowledge and experience as a local in Bristol Bay can make them a more effective guide to visitors in the region.  

“What I’ve learned a lot this week is how to use your background as a point of strength, and that people really enjoy learning about that strength, and the individuality of the area.” – Laura Aspelund, 2022 Academy student, Naknek, Alaska 

Academy student Tessa Coopchiak with instructor Nanci Morris Lyon

The Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy is an annual, week-long intensive course that shares fly fishing, guiding and hospitality skills with local youth to prepare them for jobs in the fishing tourism industry in southwest Alaska. Trout Unlimited has been a proud contributor to the Guide Academy, in partnership with Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Bristol Bay Education Development Corporation and the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust. Nearly 150 students have graduated through the program in its 13 year history.  

Check out pictures and stories from the 2022 Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy on the Guide Academy Facebook page.  

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