More Than a Catch with Fish Kennedy Brothers
By Claudia Mosby
Photo: Jeannine Hendrickson
Ask someone who fly fishes where his or her favorite water flows and you are likely to get either a vague reply or none at all, for passionate anglers keep their sacred spots a closely guarded secret.
“It takes a lifetime to learn the waters,” says Greg Kennedy, one-half of the Fish Kennedy Brothers fly-fishing duo and guide service, “so the fishing community is very tight-lipped in that regard.”
Greg (32) and his older brother, Kris (38), grew up in Mammoth Lakes and agree their early memories are of spending time outdoors where “everything revolved around fish as a priority.”
When they were in elementary school, their parents started a fly shop where they grew up doing their homework on shop tables. “Our babysitters were fly fishing guides.”
While there is no “formal” training to become an expert guide, clinics and classes abound. And there is no substitute for the many hours of on-the-water experience. Both brothers have fished for more than two decades around the world.
“The movie ‘A River Runs Through It’ (1999) changed our lives,” says Kris. “Our favorite rivers suddenly were inundated when fly fishing became cool.” Since those early days, the two have guided internationally as well: Kris in Patagonia and Greg in Russia. While they work as a team most of the year in Northern California, each summer Greg returns to Russia and Kris to Bristol Bay in Alaska.
The Fly Shop, renowned as one of the biggest fly-fishing outfitters and travel organizations worldwide, offered Kris a position in 2003 and the two moved to Redding. “I was going to school at the time,” recalls Greg, “but this was a turning point. We both said, ‘This is what we
want to do.’”
“Northern California has myriad locations for excellent fly fishing,” says Kris. “Our waters are famous for salmon, steelhead, trout, striped and small mouth bass. Many rivers are also open year round. Without question, these are some of the best waters anywhere.”
Although many of their clients are seasoned anglers who come from around the country (and the world), others are novices who find their inexperience is not a disqualifier.
A beginner’s package for one or two people is $50 above the guided day rate and the brothers will outfit clients with all the necessary equipment. “All they need is a fishing license and a good attitude,” says Greg. Lunch is included.
Whether seasoned angler or novice, the two customize trips to client tastes. Those seeking an intimate experience may enjoy wading rather than rafting (for more adventurous travelers) or jet boating (which allows for fishing several spots through shallower waters). Those who desire a slower, more relaxed crawl over a larger part of the river with creature comforts at their fingertips are probably best suited to a drift boat trip.
More than just a living, fly fishing is a passion for these two, who give back to others through organizations like Casting for Recovery for cancer survivors, Project Healing Waters for veterans, and Cast Hope, a national program that works with at-risk teens.
“Our job as guides is often misrepresented,” says Greg. “We are not just there to help you catch fish, although this is a huge part of it. We are also there to educate on etiquette and ethics, about how to behave out on the river.”
“Recognizing your impact while you are out there is important,” adds Kris. “It goes to everything from wetting your hands before handling the fish to holding your breath while it is out of the water and taking care so someone else can catch that fish another day.”