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Searcy resident spends summer as fishing guide in glacier countryOriginally Published September 22, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 20, 2013 at 12:07 p.m.
While many people flocked to the beach this summer, James Dillard of Searcy made his way to Alaska to guide others in the sport of fly-fishing.
He found a love for fishing when he was very young.
“I grew up fishing on the Little Red River with my dad and brother,” he said. The Little Red, known for prime trout fishing, opened Dillard to an opportunity of a lifetime.
“This is my fourth year as a fishing guide,” he said. “During my first few trips, I really loved it, and I thought if I could do this for a living, I would do it.”
He’s on his way to doing just that. He’s started his own fishing-guide business, Tailwater Fishing Co., and seizes every opportunity he can to take others out on the water and lead them in one of his passions.
“I bought a boat and got a website going, and business took off really quick,” Dillard said.
Now that his website is up and running, Dillard, 21, said he is taking others on fishing trips three days a week, all year long.
This past summer, Dillard fulfilled a lifelong dream: He was given the opportunity to be a fishing guide in Alaska.
“I applied for a few fishing-guide jobs [in Alaska],” he said. “I sent out reference letters and resumes and was given three different job offers.”
He ended up working for Kenai Cache Outfitters in Cooper Landing, Alaska, where he guided others in fishing for rainbow trout and salmon.
“Alaska is like the big leagues,” Dillard said. “I would have never dreamed I would be able to do this.”
Out of every part of his three-month stint in Alaska, he said, the surroundings he came in contact with each day were second to none.
“My commute to work was the most beautiful commute anyone could ever have,” he said. “The water up there is turquoise because it is glacier-fed.”
He didn’t believe his dream of becoming an Alaskan fishing guide would become a reality, but he is glad it did.
“It’s been surreal,” Dillard said. “I just had this idea in my mind, and it happened.”
While working as a guide in Alaska, Dillard said, he encountered some interesting wildlife while on the Kenai and Russian rivers.
He said that when he would take some clients out in boats, there would be 500- to 800-pound grizzly bears fishing on the banks of the river.
Although he plans to graduate from Harding University in May with a degree in social sciences, Dillard is already scheduled to spend next summer in glacier country.
“I love being outside and every part of [fishing],” he said.
The experience he gets with his clients on the water, whether in Arkansas or in Alaska, is what keeps Dillard guiding.
“A lot of these people have never fished in their lives, and I get to see their reactions when they catch a fish,” Dillard said. “It’s pretty special.”
Dillard’s clients range in age from 4 to 95, he said.
“One thing that’s cool about fishing is that anybody can enjoy it,” he said.
Zoned Editions Staff Writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.