Kayla, sometimes referred to as ‘Fly Shop Girl’
Where are you at in the world? Where will you be fishing this year?
Juneau, Alaska is home base. Southeast Alaska water are my home waters. This year I plan on exploring the Southcentral and Southwestern areas of Alaska more as well.
What river(s) and lake(s) do you guide/fish?
Southeast Alaska being my home base carves a large canvas for me. From small streams and creeks around Juneau to the Situk River in Yakutat, I try and hit as many bodies of water as I can get to each season.
How long have you been guiding/fly fishing?
I was raised around fly fishing, but with typical teenage rebellion, I did not pick up a fly rod on my own until about 6 years ago. Although I am not a professional guide or fly casting instructor yet, I do my best to show friends, family, and local ladies the lay of the land by teaching lessons to local anglers May – September in Juneau.
What got you into fly fishing? When did you start?
My grandfather was a fisheries biologist in Southeast, Alaska. He had a passion for fish that transcended through him, to my father, and back to me. The love of fish came young, as did the passion for the outdoors, fly fishing just seemed to come naturally at that point.
Why do you fly fish? What does it “do” for you?
I joke around to my friends that I don’t actually fly fish to catch fish, I do it to hike around in the woods with a fly rod. Some days you get sun, some you get rain. Some days you catch fish, some days you catch none. I fly fish for the connection to the world. There is nothing cooler than catching a fish that has never been caught before in a place that no man or woman has stood before.
If you own and use a Rod Vault, what do you like about you Rod Vault?
I do not yet own one, but you bet it is on my summer savings wish list!
As a woman guide/angler, you’re definitely in the minority. What made you decide to be a guide/angler?
I think for me, it wasn’t that I decided to be an angler. I think I had always been one. However, one day I woke up and realized that I wasn’t just any old angler… I was a fly angler. That being said, my personal goal over the last several years has been to inspire more women and teenagers to pick up fly fishing. I did it to get outside, and do something that engaged me, and if I can inspire one new person each year to do the same, that is a win for me.
Has the fact you’re a female ever been an issue with a client or other angler? If so how did you manage it/them?
Gosh, I remember the day I was offered my job at Alaska Fly Fishing Goods. I was so nervous and anxious about working in a world of men, I honestly almost didn’t accept. Although my coworkers have always been extremely supportive of me working in a male dominated world, I have felt as though I have had to work 10 times harder to prove myself behind the counter than a man would need to. I do not think this put me at a disadvantage though, it just means that I need to learn my gear, knots, and flies better than any man that walks in the shop, gives us a phone call or shoots us an email.
All that aside, I think the worst I ever ran into was on my first guided trip on the Olympic Peninsula chasing wild steelhead with my dad. Both of us in the boat with the guide, the guide kept giving me questionable water, questionable answers to questions, and frankly, made me question why I was even there in the pouring rain, freezing my ass off in February. With about an hour left in the day I yell “Hey, Dad! Pass me that backpack, will you?” I still remember the look on the guides face when he realized I was this guy’s daughter, and not his trophy wife (Gross, that’s my dad!). Needless to say, we got a different guide the next year. With the new guide, I made it clear I was his daughter, paying equal shares in the trip, and we had a bet going on who would catch more fish than the other… They like to see women catch more fish anyways, it’s good for business, right?
Hell yes. Being a woman on the water is awesome. When you catch more fish or bigger fish than the dudes on the water, the silent victory tastes that much sweeter. Okay, that is rude… I do think that being a female angler sets me apart because I think about my cast, I take in my surroundings, and I connect with the environment around me. This isn’t a game of how many fish I can catch, or how big they are. It is about the connections I have built with the fish, my rod, my favorite watershed, and my closest fishing friends.
What is a piece of advice you want to give to other anglers or a tip/trick that has helped you grow as an angler?
The biggest thing I can tell any woman is to never ever be afraid to ask questions. Never let yourself get discouraged by remarks you hear, or not knowing everything. If you love what you do, do it no matter what. There is a community of female anglers out there that want to help you get into the sport, want to inspire you, and want to fish with you!
What’s your favorite new piece of gear?
I’ve got to say, my new Fishewear Abstract Char Dry Bag is one of my new favorite pieces. I am super excited to get out on the water with my matching leggings this coming season!
This year, I caught my first King Salmon on a fly rod. That was awesome. But, I still think my best catch of all time was my first Olympic Peninsula wild steelhead on the Hoh River. I had been catching sticks, rocks, logs, you name it, all day long. The guide shouts from behind me, “Lay it there! Right next to that log!” So, I do. Instantly hook something, and thinking it is yet another log, I try my hardest to break off whatever is on the end of my line… Well, turns out, that steelhead was one of the prettiest I have ever caught, but I have still yet to live down my “stick fish” experience.
What’s your “Dream Trip”?
My dream trip is easy: coffee in the morning, good company, a good flow, maybe a fish or two, stream side lunch, and a beer in the evening.
What are some of the best places you’ve been fishing?
Summed up in one word; Alaska. Alaska is where dreams are made.
How are you working within your local community to increase the number of female anglers?
Recently, a good friend of mine, Sydney Akagi, and I teamed up to create a film focused on women that fly fish in Southeast, Alaska. We named the film Reel Happiness, and we premiered it in Juneau a couple weeks ago with an incredible amount of positive feedback. We have decided to set up a couple more showings in Juneau, as well as bring it up to Anchorage for a showing, and eventually submit it into film festivals. I think the film highlights both the beauty of Alaska, but also the women who fly fish in Alaska… Sydney and I are both super pleased and are super excited to keep making more films like this in mind.
I am also a board member of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited in Southeast, Alaska. I stepped up a couple years ago, and have been hosting all the chapter events in town. Whether it is a movie, bar flies event, or a casting night, you are sure to see me running around like a crazy person setting things up.
Lastly, I teach free casting lessons May – September to any woman who wants to give it a try in Juneau!
I think that the more women see each other out there doing things like fly fishing, the more inspired they will be to pick up a rod and try it for themselves!
How do people follow you on social media or reach you?
Reel Happiness Film: reelhappiness