Juneau Web site provides road map for fly-fishermen

Posted: Sunday, June 08, 2008

KENAI - Fishing Alaska's streams is a dream come true for many anglers. The same can be said for a lot of fly-fishermen. But with so many places to fish in the Last Frontier, and a myriad of species to go after, figuring out what gear to use, where to go and when can be a daunting task.

This is where Brad Elfers and his Web site, alaskaflyfishinggoods.com, comes in. Elfers, who owns and operates Juneau Fly Fishing Goods, said he wanted to present an unbiased overview of fly-fishing in Alaska that would be user-friendly enough to appeal to beginners and contain enough detailed content to make expert fishermen happy. The Web site gives region, species and season-specific information, and while it doesn't promote any particular charter service or fishing lodge, it does let anglers know what size rod and what fly to use for each fish, as well as the right time of year to fish for them.

"I would get questions from Alaskans and people down south and they all have questions about where should I go in Alaska, when should I go there, what should I bring for fly-fishing," Elfers said. "(The Web site) only went live about a month ago and people seem to really like it, but it's certainly in its infancy."

Elfers' Web site has gained more than 5,000 hits so far, attracting folks from as far away as New Zealand, Australia and even eastern Europe. Even though the site is only a month old, Elfers said a lot of Alaskans have logged on to it as well.

Elfers, who has guiding experience in Southeast Alaska and in the Interior north of Talkeetna, pieced together his expertise and knowledge with that of Mike Cole, Elfers' Web site manager, who guided in the Bristol Bay area. In addition to general information, Elfers said fish reports from Bristol Bay and Southeast will be available on his Web site along with reports from the Kenai Peninsula.

"The folks that are asking questions are people that are new to Alaska," Elfers said, adding that a link on his Web site takes anglers to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's site where they can purchase a fishing license. "Also, it's aimed at some of the folks down your way, outside of the major cities."

George Heim, owner of Alaska River Adventures in Cooper Landing, said when he goes fishing in a place he's not familiar with, he usually looks for a guide. Many fly-fishermen, particularly beginners or those who are new to Alaska, look for folks with knowledge of the area and basic fly-fishing knowledge, Heim said. Guides are usually able to teach their clients how to cast better and make an effective presentation, but for folks with only five days to spend in Alaska, all they want is success, he said.

"They're looking for that little bit of insurance, so a site like alaskaflyfishinggoods.com can be a good primer," Heim said. "But as far as getting you on the Kenai and knowing what's been working the last couple of days and how to fish it, it's not going to do that for you."

A general overview of Alaska fly-fishing is a good idea, Heim said, but water levels and drainages can change. Salmon and trout also are finicky, he said, so the runs could be early or late, and that can have a big effect on an angler's success.

"Sometimes they come and sometimes they don't," he said. "That's the difference between a basic information site and finding a guide on a basic information site."

Andrew Peterson, owner of Kenai River Fly Fishing, perused the Web site and said it provides a lot of good general information on timing and general gear to use on the Kenai River, but there are a lot of specifics the site doesn't cover. It doesn't illustrate the geographical differences between the upper, middle and lower Kenai River, and it doesn't give people an idea of the fishing lodges and charter services that are available, he said.

"If someone has never been to the Kenai Peninsula, it's a good starting point," he said. "(I was) kind of surprised there weren't guides advertised."

Peterson said he'd like to see more information about how to access the different portions of the river. He was glad the site indicated that trout fishing can be better in the fall than in the spring, he said, giving fly fishermen an idea of when the best time to fish the Kenai would be.

"All in all it seems like a great Web site," he said. "I thought it was interesting to look at the information they provided."

Elfers said in the future, he'd like to have 30-second clips on how to fish using different styles and techniques posted on his site, adding he'd probably stay focused on fly-fishing because that's where his expertise is. He also said the next thing he has planned for his Web site is to start booking and recommending a group of lodges and outfitters people can go with if they're looking for a guided experience.

"Hopefully (the site) will be a resource for people that are interested in learning more about other parts of Alaska," Elfers said. "There's no end to the trips and fun things you can do."

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