The purpose of this column is to highlight some of the guides we have here in the Pacific Northwest for our readers to aid in the selection of a guide who fits your needs. We are hoping that this helps to outline some of the things that make guides successful, fun to fish with and for other guides, tips on how to become a better guide, both on the water and as a business owner.
John holds Larry Wilson’s first Columbia River Chinook.
On April 6, 2023, I had the distinct pleasure to spend a day on the Columbia River with John Kaiser Jr. from Tenacity Outdoors. Brad Naish, a good friend of John, read a Guide Spotlight article and reached out to me, recommend-ing that I spend a day fishing with John. I had heard much about John on social media, so I was all for it. He proved to be a great guy to hang out with for a day and is very passionate about his profession as a fishing guide as well as helping Veterans find something that gives them hope and aids in combating the effects of PTSD.
We launched out of Kalama on a dark, wet, and windy morning to chase that unicorn that we all call a springer. We spent most of the day below Kalama. I had only fished the Buoy 10 area and up above Bonneville, so this was a new discovery and as always, I was surprised at how beautiful it was.
The goal of this specific article is to recognize John for all of the hard work that he has put in with Veterans and also to promote him as a full-time, professional, for-profit fishing guide.
Here is a little bit about John. He lives in Camas, Washington and grew up salmon fishing on the Columbia River with his dad. Much of their time was spent sitting on hog lines. John said that his father really gave him the fishing bug from an early age, and he has never been able to shake it. John is no longer a fan of sitting on anchor, but still loves to fish for salmon.
John joined the army after graduation from Washougal HS in 1997. In 1999 he was deployed to Kuwait with the 82nd Airborne Division. John served in Mosul in 2003 for a year with a Stryker brigade stationed out of JBLM in Washington. He redeployed for a third tour to Baghdad in 2006.
John told me in detail about the day that changed his life forever and I want to share it with all of you. He said that he had an uneasy feeling on that particular morning. They went out on a security detail to monitor and re-secure one of their checkpoints and also to take possession of a vacant building that was strategically advantageous. As they pulled into position, John, who commanded this mission, got his team ready to move. John exited the Stryker vehicle in which he was riding shot-gun. As he did so, insurgents launched a 120mm mortar shell at them that landed in front of the vehicle. John suffered significant trauma to the right side of his head and said that at one moment he was giving orders and the next he was spitting out blood and pieces of his jaw. To add insult to injury, he then took an AK-47 round through his right shoulder. Through all of this, John maintained his cool and instructed his team to get him medically stable and fall back to the base to get medical attention. He led as true leaders do, through the worst thing that he had ever experienced physically. It is a miracle that he survived this event and it led to the beginning of a very long recovery.
Jacque Kyriss sharing her seat with cash.
John was injured in October 2006 with what turned out to be career ending injuries. In 2008, John medically retired from the Army. He was awarded the purple heart and his glass eye has a purple heart painted on it in gold. It is pretty cool and if you ask nicely, John might even take it out to show you. I think that he looks a bit like terminator, and I like that he has fun with it and does not take life too seriously anymore.
Upon returning home, there was a void and John needed something to do, so he started fishing again on his own. It did not take long for him to realize that it was helping him with his post-deployment challenges. He had a buddy who was suffering from the same issues, so he invited him out to fish for a weekend. They spent a few days fishing together and ended up doubling from the bank one of those days. They had a lot of fun and John could see and feel the darkness leaving his buddy which sparked the idea of taking Veterans fishing. It was his way to do what he loves the most while helping Veterans in need. He could relate to what they were going through and knew that he had a viable solution.
John got involved with the folks from Veteran Outdoors in Texas and began taking Veterans on organized fishing trips. He was not an official fishing guide yet but was doing a great thing. His name soon became familiar to many of us due to his work with Veteran Outdoors and until recently, with Salmon for Soldiers. These amazing programs are non-profits that are funded by grants and donor sponsors. The intent of both programs is to take Veterans out on the water or on a hunt to address mental health issues, specifically PTSD and to reduce suicide. These activities get Veterans off the couch, into a social circle and give them a glimpse of the world that is out there wait-ing for them. Since 2012, John has taken more than 1000 Veterans fishing. This was done at no cost to any of them and the only criterion for participating is to be a Veteran who served honorably with one of the four branches within the US military.
As mentioned above and up until the week that this article was written, John worked with Salmon for Soldiers taking trips out weekly. John is planning to continue his commitment to taking Veterans fishing in the future through sponsorship and donors but will be focusing on growing his client base at Tenacity Outdoors.
For more information on Salmon for Soldiers and to donate, or volunteer, you can visit their website at https://www. salmonforsoldiers.com. Their events are designed to accommodate Veterans with paralysis, PTSD, TBI and other debilitating challenges.
The crew for our day on the water together included me, Brad Naisch, Jacque Kyriss, a close friend of John and an Air Force Vet and Larry Wilson, a friend of mine and a Navy Vet. I cannot forget to mention John’s deckhand, the 105-pound black lab, Cash. Cash runs that boat and has two jobs, to scare away sea lions and to make sure that any crumbs that land on the deck are quickly cleaned up. Also, Cash keeps your seat warm for you if you decided to get up and stretch your back. Even in the worst weather, Cash will make your trip enjoyable.
Cash runs that boat and has two jobs, to scare away sea lions and to make sure that any crumbs that land on the deck are quickly cleaned up.
As I always do, I asked John why he chose to become a fishing guide. John, unlike many of the guides that I have spent time with, did not aspire to be a fishing guide. He always loved to fish and felt that he was a good fisherman, but guiding was not something that he had considered.
After returning home, post deployment and after he healed from the injuries that he sustained in Iraq, John used his post 911 GI Bill benefits to attend Flagship Maritime in Tacoma to get his six-pack license for an uninspected personal vessel and began taking Veterans out on a regular basis. In time, costs were increasing, and John realized that working as a fishing guide was a great way to make some additional income. Since 2022, John has been guiding full time as a for-profit guide, but don’t let that fool you, he is in his 11th year as a full time, professional fishing guide. Many associate John with Veteran trips, but I am here to tell you that you should book a seat with him on his boat and pay the going rate. He has top notch gear, including Talon Rods, a brand-new boat that is very well organized and super clean, the best gear that money can buy and more stories than you can imagine. John feels that a healthy balance of knowledge and personality are what make him, or any guide, successful with clients. I can tell you all that he has one heck of a big personality and we laughed and talked for hours.
John spends most of his time on the Columbia between the mouth and Drano Lake, as well as the Multnomah Channel on the lower Willamette. In the winter, he hits some of the local SW Washington lakes for kokanee. You will often find him trolling 360 flashers and spinners and/or Brad’s Superbait’s. We fished Fish Flashes and herring on our day on the river and went 1 for 2 on a day when we did not see another net fly. John sticks to what gives him confidence and has been effective for him. He really prefers to move around, and troll as opposed to sitting on anchor. This makes the experience a lot more fun for those in his boat.
John and a client with her first Chinook salmon.
Though he is an avid salmon fisherman, John is venturing out into sturgeon and other fisheries now. By far his favorite fishery is the Buoy 10 B-run coho fishery because it is fast paced and gets exciting very quickly as his clients double and triple on aggressive fish. As a guide, it is always nice to put your clients on lots of fish, and John feels that the B-run coho fishery provides just that. During the summer of 2023, John will be running a guide boat in Ketchikan for Reel Alaska Salmon Charters, expanding is guide business outside of SW Washington. He will be back fishing in the Columbia River Gorge for coho by September.
John is probably best known in the guide circle for his commitment to taking Veterans fishing. I would say that John has the respect of many guides for what he has done, and it shows in the way that they treat him. I witnessed that as Cameron Black went out of his way the day that we fished to give John an insider tip. John is a great guy and I think that others see that.
In 2022, John was recognized as Citizen of the Year for Camas/Washougal for the work that he does with Veterans. This is an honor that was well deserved.
To book a day on the water with John, you can call or text him at (360) 213-4068 or email him at tenacityoutdoors@gmail. com. John is also active on Facebook at Tenacity Outdoors.
To nominate your favorite guide or to request a day on the water and an interview, you can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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