Through these years we have worked to create an inviting fly shop, equipped with local knowledge and support for anglers getting into the sport. For those already in the sport, we have tried to provide the best gear and information to help you catch more fish.
Mike joined the team 10 years ago, and has helped grow the Alaska knowledge base, as well as beef up all the spey, switch, and fly tying knowledge. Kayla came on board 5 years ago and gave the shop a welcome boost of enthusiasm and has taken our online game up a notch.
Last Saturday, we celebrated locally with 20lbs of pulled pork, 20 prizes to give away, and 2 pony kegs. Let's just say everyone walked away happy. The local newspaper, The Juneau Empire, stopped in and wrote a short and sweet publication about our 20 year ride, and we'd love to share it with you.
FLY FISHING SHOP REELS IN 20 YEARS
BY KEVIN GULLUFSON
AND ALEX McCARTHY
(Published in the Juneau Empire, May 21, 2018)
At a party at his shop Saturday, Alaska Fly Fishing Goods owner Brad Elfers was surrounded by his people: dedicated fly fishing enthusiasts, many of them sunburned from days spent fishing in the early-summer Juneau sun.
The shop, which has seen ups and downs and a recent surge in interest in the sport, celebrated its 20-year anniversary Saturday with barbecue and beer. Juneau never had a fly fishing shop, Elfers said, before Alaska Fly Fishing Goods opened in 1998. The fly fishing community was small and dedicated back then, Elfers said. A few people had sold gear out of their garages but there wasn’t a full-fledged retail operation.
“I thought, gosh, this is the time to try it. I was 28 then and started one up downtown,” Elfers said.
A former flyfishing guide, Elfers ran classes out of his shop. “Tons and tons of teaching,” he said, to help generate more interest in the sport. He joined the local groups Rain Country Flyfishers and Trout Unlimited.
In the early years the shop depended a bit on patronage from the tourism industry. Visitors would buy T-shirts, hats and souvenir flies, Elfers said.
But about 10 years ago, Alaska Fly Fishing Goods expanded their operation to an online shop. The idea was to sell to people who were heading to other parts of Alaska for guided trips. Elfers, a former fishing guide, knows what gear and flies work in other parts of the state. Online, he recommends gear to customers and answers frequently asked questions about Alaska fly fishing.
“We’re now probably half local and half internet business,” Elfers said.
When the online business picked up, the shop needed more space. The local contingent of fly fishers was growing, too, and Elfers wanted to move the shop from its tourism-centered location downtown to a space more accessible to locals in the Mendenhall Valley.
Much of the sport’s growth has come from younger people and women. Like skiing, climbing, snowboarding and hunting, the sport draws in those with a passion to get outside. Fly fishing has been tied in with those pursuits, Elfers said, which is “pretty cool.”
“The last five years, it’s exploded. The 20-something, 30-something generation really enjoys it,” Elfers said. “Flyfishing has kind of an old white guy reputation to it and that’s not what it is anymore.”
One of those local 20-somethings is shop employee Kayla Roys. She’s been at the shop for five years and handles the shop’s social media. Roys grew up in a family with a love for fish, she said. One day 10 years ago, she decided to take a lesson. Roys was hooked. It’s the all-consuming nature of the pursuit, combined with a simple love for getting outside.
“The thing with fly fishing for me is that even when I’m not catching fish, there are like 10,000 other things to think about while I’m doing it. So it’s a lot more entertaining for me. A lot of my time is spent just hiking around in the woods with a fly rod, as opposed to catching fish,” Roys said.
Ten years later, Roys is now the president of Trout Unlimited. She says she now sees high schoolers and younger kids riding their bikes to the shop.
“Mostly at first I was just like ‘I want more women in the sport,’ but now it’s also just keeping it relevant for younger people, and fun,” Roys said. “It’s definitely a trend right now.”
Alaska Fly Fishing Goods runs classes for free and schedules can be found online at alaskaflyfishinggoods.com.