GETTING TO KNOW YOUR GUIDE
In the fall of 2013 Lael began his journey as a fishing guide when he started LPJ's Guide Service and since that decision he has never looked back or had a plan B, this is where he was meant to be. LPJ's Guide Service was Lael's entry into professional fishing as a conventional guide, but as his taste for fish on the fly grew, it was time for something bigger, Fly Gyde!
How does a guy from Topeka, Kansas end up being a Salmon & Steelhead Guide on the West Coast's Olympic Peninsula?
I had always wanted to be a person who fished for a living, I didn't know what it would entail, but I wanted to do it. It's kind of like when a kid wants to be a fireman without really knowing what to do to be one. When I moved to Seattle over 15 years ago for a surgical technologist job, I did not realize I would have a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream, but when it came, I jumped at it!
Growing up in the Eighties, there was a TV show called Marty Stouffer's Wild America that I watched with my family. It showcased different animals, where they live, what they do, and in various locations around the United States, with some pretty solid narration. The episodes that I paid particular attention to were those featuring vast forests with flowing rivers, elk, bears, and fish. Watching this show years later during our 2020 quarantine I watched my favorite episode which to my amazement was entirely dedicated to the Olympic National Park, where I now guide and enjoy most of my days off, a very surreal, "No Way!" type of moment, but I guess some things are meant to be!
How did you get into fly fishing, specifically fly fishing with a two-handed rod?
Honestly, it grabbed my attention like nothing else in fishing had before when I first saw someone doing it. It's sexy, the casting, the equipment, and the places most anglers choose to utilize the technique. The exact moment where I was like, "Oh, I gotta do that!" was in 2010 or 11. I was floating down the Queets with two friends, and we had a fish on using conventional gear. As we fought our fish, a guy standing in the water had a steelhead on using a spey rod, and all I wanted was to be that guy! Even with the oars in hand and my buddy having a fish on, I still wanted to drop anchor and watch this guy using the spey rod fight the fish.
Swinging flies interested me because, at the time of my getting into spey fishing, it seemed like such a big challenge. It's still challenging at times and has a steep learning curve, but that's what attracts me, and swinging a fly to a fish that is already difficult to catch lit my fire for discovery. Also, picking up a spey rod let me begin my journey as an angler all over again. Other methods allowed me to connect with fish much easier, and because of this, I lost some interest in the chase; I only had expectations for how many I should catch. Connecting with a fish on the swing is always a rush and if had to choose one technique to fish for the rest of my life, I'd swing!
What is your motivation for getting on the water every day?
Finding a fish that is going to change my or someone else's life after I wake up. It's not something that happens every day, but I do have the opportunity every day; that's enough for me to set the alarm at 1 AM and hit the road if it will get me to that goal. The fish doesn't have to be a monster (although I would like it to be), and a fish of any size can spark interest in someone that lasts forever. Next thing you know, they are buying every rod, reel, fly, boat, trying to keep making that happen. Seeing that take place for the many people I've met while on the water or just talking about it in a coffee shop or airport is incredible and is what keeps me looking for the next fish!
In addition to being a professional fishing guide Lael is a Team Ford Bronco Ambassador and an accomplished outdoor commercial advertising & lifestyle photographer who focuses on showcasing the Pacific Northwest along with other destinations around the globe.
Here are a few words from Lael that keep him searching for the next best shot and his spirit craving more adventure!
Small decisions have given me some of the most significant moments in my life on the water. The first is picking the right fly out of my fly box to catch the biggest steelhead I've ever seen in a place I thought only existed in dreams. Next is staying out a little longer as the sun goes down to get 10 more "last casts" out of the evening bite. The best one that still is #1 on the list is bringing a camera with me everywhere I go so I can relive the best days of my life and share them with you.
Visit Lael's photography website to view more photos of his fishing and travel adventures at -