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.
Pucker Wilson’s opens second location
Five years after opening their first food truck, one of Juneau’s favorite burger joints has spawned a second location. Pucker Wilson’s now has two restaurants: one downtown next to the Juneau Arts and Culture Center and one near the Juneau International Airport.
Owner Chad Edwards said the food truck in the valley was always something he wanted to pursue. It just took a few years to make it happen.
“That was my intention from the start,” he said. “I believe that the Mendenhall Valley is underserved when it comes to burgers and fries and what I like to do. … It was a pretty natural decision to open the second location out here.”
The new truck, located in a lot next to the Juneau Mercantile and Armory, serves the same burgers which were voted best in Juneau in the 2017 Juneau Empire Reader’s Choice Awards. Edwards believes consistency in quality and cooking has helped his business thrive. He takes a lot of pride in doing a few classic things like burgers and fries really well. Then they mix it up with specials.
The new location is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
After five years making costumes at its location next to Perseverance Theatre in Douglas, the costume store is closing its doors for good May 28. The past two weekends, the store held sales with all items 25 percent off and then 40 percent off.
The store is taking advantage of Memorial Day weekend this coming weekend, with the sale running from Friday, May 25 to Monday, May 28. The hours will still be 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and all items will be 75 percent off.
Remaining wares include items that were previously only available to rent, as well as new items from Perseverance Theatre.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen. Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.