By Jenny Neyman
With a closure from May 1 through June 11, this is the spring doldrums of trout fishing on the Kenai River. Nothing for a diehard angler to do but prepare gear, practice skills and daydream.
And if you’re going to dream, why not dream big? Of escaping the hectic working world to the refuge of a quiet backcountry river system, of the thrill of chasing the jewel of California sea bass, of the adventure of plying the waters of a Bolivian jungle, or the excitement of enticing the strike of an aquatic tiger in the pristine jungles of northern Thailand.
Those are just some of the escapes available in the 2013 Fly Fishing Film Tour, a compilation of fly-fishing footage shot on waters around the world.
“Trout season in this area closes from May 1 to June 11. We’re in that period right now and there’s not too much to fly fish for at the moment. So this is really going get people raring to go,” said Mark Wackler of Fishology Alaska, which is sponsoring a showing of the Fly Fishing Film Tour on Friday at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center in Kenai as a fundraiser for the newly formed Kenai Peninsula chapter of Trout Unlimited.
Wackler has been going to Anchorage to see F3T, as it’s called, for years, he said. After last year’s showing he got to talking with event organizers about what it would take to bring the tour to the Kenai Peninsula. A local host sponsor, was the answer.
“I decided to do it. It sounded fun and was coincidentally about that same time the TU group started to get organized, and I got involved in that, as well. It worked out perfectly as an event for the new TU chapter here on the peninsula,” he said.
Films are submitted from all over the world for inclusion in the tour, including from Alaska. The Kenai showing won’t include Alaska clips, though. There are a couple of packages to choose from in hosting a F3T showing, and Wackler couldn’t resist the option of including more exotic locales.
“I started thinking to myself, ‘One of things I really appreciate is seeing these fisheries that I don’t know anything about — one in Thailand, and all over the world. That’s one of the cooler aspects, being introduced to some fisheries that are not familiar,” he said.
Besides, anyone wanting information on fishing in Alaska, or particularly on the Kenai, needs only to ask around at the film showing, since it’s also meant as a social gathering.
“It’s a cool event. The atmosphere is fun, and beer for sale doesn’t hurt,” Wackler said.
Doors open at 6 p.m. with the films starting at 7 p.m. There also will be a silent auction and door prizes courtesy of the event’s many sponsors. Tickets are $14 and are being sold in advance at Sportsman’s Warehouse and online at http://www.akfishology.com. Only 180 are being sold and are going fast, Wackler said Monday. There may be some available at the door, but he recommends advanced purchases.
All money raised from the event will be donated to the Kenai Peninsula chapter of Trout Unlimited, which formed this winter. The national organization has about 400 chapters across the country, with over 140,000 volunteers, according to the TU website. It’s a conservation organization with an emphasis on youth education. Its mission is to “Conserve, protect and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.”
The organization supports various conservation causes across the country, such as restoring native brook and wild brown trout habitat in spring creeks across 24,000 square miles of the Upper Mississippi Basin, helping to clean up abandoned coal mines in the Appalachians to abate toxic runoff, and to restore coho runs and golden trout populations in California.
In Alaska, TU has a Save Bristol Bay Campaign seeking to protect fisheries from the proposed Pebble Mine, and initiatives in Southeast targeting several salmon-producing watersheds.
Dave Atcheson, board member for the Kenai Peninsula TU, though, said that chapters operate autonomously and can determine their own priorities.
“Right now we decided to stay out of political areas. We want to have a get-out-and-do-the fun stuff focus. We haven’t taken a stand on any platforms,” Atcheson said.
Trout Unlimited is somewhat unique among fishing organizations on the Kenai in that it’s one of the few that isn’t tied to either commercial or sport interests. It is open to sportfishing guides and people with commercial permits, but recreational fishing is the purpose, rather than interests tied to making a living off fish.
“It’s more for the average person to just get out there and fish,” Atcheson said.
Atcheson said the Kenai Peninsula TU chapter board is discussing its priorities for the year, and has been talking about getting involved with habitat enhancement projects through the Streamwatch program, holding clinics and doing a youth educational outreach. Meetings are held monthly, though May 15 — at 7 p.m. in Room 132 at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus — will be the last for the summer until September. Anyone interested is welcome to attend.
Wackler said the Friday F3T showing also is a good way to get familiar with the group, or just get excited for the upcoming fishing season.
“Anybody who likes to fly fish or fish at all can appreciate these films, and it gets you fired up for the season,” Wackler said.