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Fly Fishing for Beginners - What to Expect From Your Kenai River Guide

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They come kicking and screaming to this "fly fishing thing." (well, sort of)...

  • "I've never tried fly fishing."
  • "I'm no good at it"
  • "I'm a beginner, will I spend all day struggling?"

Fishing Guide - Part Guide, Part Therapist & Part Educator

Generally, this is what we try to work people through as guides on the Kenai River. We're part fishing guide, part therapist, part knot-detangler but mostly, we are educators.

When most people think about fly fishing, they picture majestic casting scenes from the movie "A River Runs Through It." They imagine casting a tiny dry fly 70 feet, false casting over and over rhythmically and elegantly. However, they mostly end up whacking themselves with a fly, sticking me in the side of the face and just having a bad time struggling all day with fly fishing.

No one wants to be bad at anything, especially when they are fishing with a guide. Truth be told, we are human too. We have gone through, and still go through the process of trying to be proficient fly casters. I'll be the first to admit that I have a lot to work on, and that's all part of the process. A process that should lead to the joy of a learning a new lifetime sport and hobby.

I try to stress to guests, that the most important thing to focus on, is how their fly is fishing. Where the fish are, how deep to fish the fly, how fast/slow to fish the fly and how to make a simple cast to get your fly back in the water after it has finished fishing.

Fishing the World Famous Kenai River
Fishing the World Famous Kenai River

'Simple' Tension Casting on the Kenai

Most of the fly casting we do on the Kenai River, especially in the upper reaches in Cooper Landing, involves simple "tension casting," where we use the surface of the water to load the rod and get the fly back in the water. You'll make a cast from the front of the boat to the back of the boat. We use a dead-drift or indicator nymphing technique most of the year, which is simple to learn. In non-fly fishing terms, you'll cast a bobber to the back of the boat and allow it to drift along the boat at the speed of the current. Utilizing a drift boat gives us a huge advantage. We use the boat to get into prime positions and regulate our speed to help control the drift for you.

Additionally, we do a little swinging of flies using simple spey casts (a series of modified roll casts). In addition to swinging flies, we will cast and retrieve flies for salmon and trout in slower water (another very simple technique to learn).

The best part about fishing in Alaska is the fish are so plentiful and aggressive that they give you more than your fair share of "do-over" opportunities (a fishing mulligan if you will). It's important to remember that fish don't care about how pretty a cast is (sorry Brad Pitt), they are really interested in how tempting that fly is!

About the Author: David Lisi

Owner/Guide for Cooper Landing Fishing Guide, LLC located in the small mountain town of Cooper Landing, Alaska where he is a year-round resident, guide, carpenter and trout bum. On any given day, you will most likely find Dave on the banks of the Kenai swinging for trout with his best friend and future wife, Jackie. Dave spent most days of his youth wading the waters of upstate New York fishing for smallmouth bass, muskie, pike and walleye. His journey to Alaska was sparked by a chance fishing trip on the Salmon River in New York with Mike Harpe, a legendary guide on the Kenai River. After the fishing day was done, Mike invited Dave to Alaska to fish the mighty Kenai River. At that time, Dave thought fishing Alaska was a pipe dream and didn't arrive in Alaska until several years later to take Mike up on his offer to fish the Kenai with him. Once in Alaska, Dave fell in love with the Kenai's mystical waters and the amazing fishing opportunities. He began his guiding career almost immediately and found a place to call home. Cooper Landing Fishing Guide, LLC was built in early 2017 with the goal of sharing the love and passion Dave and Jackie have for the Kenai Peninsula and the fish that live there.

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