On a lake somewhere in Alaska sometime before he became the avid fly tier he is today, Dave Atcheson had big excitement for catching a small trout.
“I had tied a wooly bugger fly, which is really a simply tie to fly” said Atcheson, author of ‘Fishing Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula: A Complete Angler’s Guide,” and a fly fishing instructor at Kenai Peninsula College. “I was out in the lakes with a friend and I caught a fish on a fly that I tied, it was the first one I caught on a fly that I tied and I was really excited. My friend looked at me like I was crazy, being excited over a simple 12 inch trout, but he didn’t realize that I tied it.”
As an avid sport fisher, Atcheson has a tackle box full of stories to tell but can summarize his passion for fly fishing with a simple phrase.
“There’s a connection to something bigger than us when we’re outdoors,” he said.
Fly fishing takes into account every aspect of the environment, making the angler aware of each insect, each fish, the different life cycles, the current, the weather and more, he said.
“Nothing puts you so into the environment like fly fishing,” Atcheson said. “When you’re all attuned to that, you dissolve into a different place.”
Atcheson looks to share this excitement and his passion through his beginning fly fishing course at Kenai Peninsula College and by supporting local fly tying events like Trout Unlimited’s Tie One On, a fly tying night at Main Street Grill in Kenai on March 20 at 6:30 p.m.
“They’re both for beginners, to make you comfortable with the whole world of fly tying,” Atcheson said.
Registration for this year’s fly fishing course at the college closes on March 19 and Atcheson warns that seats fill up quick and gives an in depth understanding of fly fishing, along with a field trip to the Kenai River. The Tie One On event is open to all skill levels and ages, giving an overview of equipment and how-to.
“You really save a lot of time by learning from folks, rather than hit or miss out on the river,” Atcheson said.
Atcheson would also recommend a course or event for any fishermen new to Alaska, because fishing in the state is a “whole different ballgame.”
“In Alaska, a lot of times we’re fishing with some part of salmon, so flesh flies are our big thing here,” Atcheson said.
Luckily, flesh flies are easy to tie since they are small “pieces of fuzz” on a hook, colored to match the decaying salmon flesh in the river. They are a good practice for a beginning fly tier, and always useful when fishing Alaska’s rivers.
“I tie a lot of flesh flies because I use them a lot and they disappear quickly,” Atcheson said. He also recommends any angler ensure their tackle box is stocked with a lot of each variety of flies.
“If seems to always be your luck that whatever they’re biting is the one fly you only have one of,” he said.
So, as the final stretch before thawed rivers and warmer fishing passes by, it’s a perfect time to learn how to tie flies.
“Because once you start catching fish on a fly rod, you want to catch every fish on a fly rod,” Atcheson said.