- The Washington Times - Monday, August 15, 2005

COOPER LANDING, Alaska (AP) — Curt Muse stood on the cobbled shore of a creek, casting a 3-weight fly rod upstream as a dozen students — all middle-aged or older — watched.

Mr. Muse was the day’s guest lecturer for the Kenai Fishing Academy, a weeklong class offered four times a summer by Kenai Peninsula College, a branch of the University of Alaska Anchorage.

As the students looked on, the longtime guide spotted a sockeye salmon, red as a fire hydrant but easy to miss swimming above colored rocks and below the rippled surface.

“You can barely see that fish and he’s red,” Mr. Muse observed.

Now in its third year, the non-credit course is aimed at fishing novices or anglers new to Alaska who don’t want to read how-to books or troll for tips from sales clerks at sporting-goods stores.

The academy was the brainchild of Gary Turner, the college’s director and an avid fisherman who helps teach classes.

“I thought, we need to educate people and teach them how to fish,” Mr. Turner said. “It just seemed natural.”

The college in Kenai, a town of 7,000 about 155 miles southwest of Anchorage, takes up 900 feet of riverbank on the Kenai River, known for its world-class rainbow trout and king, sockeye and silver salmon.

“We’re trying to push our education mission to meet the avocations of people, or their external interests,” Mr. Turner said.

Mr. Turner turned over the idea to Dave Atcheson, the college’s night-class coordinator and the author of a book on Kenai Peninsula fishing.

Mr. Atcheson assembled friends, guides and local specialists to hold a week’s worth of classes and outings, including field trips involving flying to a remote lake, an excursion to the ocean or a float trip down the Kenai River. The cost is $1,100 per person, $300 more with food and housing.

“The idea is to teach people how to fish, but also to teach them all that goes along with being a good steward of the land and resources,” Mr. Atcheson said.

Classroom sessions focus on gear and topics that novices may overlook, such as river hydrology, insect life, filleting fish, cold-water survival and bear encounters.

Mike Todd, a surgeon, moved from San Francisco to Anchorage seven years ago.

“I had never gotten out and done this,” Dr. Todd said as he tied a tapered leader with knots he had learned in the classroom. “It’s such a drag being in Alaska and not knowing how to fish.”

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