2016 Orvis Breaking Barriers Award: Nelli Williams of TU-Alaska

By: Jenny Weis
If you’ve fished a remote river in Bristol Bay and noticed a blond female angler with a powerful cast… despite the wiggly kiddo strapped to her back; or if you’ve attended a TU event in Anchorage and met the lady running the show; or if you’ve been impressed with a glossy booklet on the importance of protecting Alaska’s clean waters; chances are you’ve just seen a small glimpse of Nelli Williams in action. 
Family fishing in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Photo courtesy of the Williams family.
Nelli is the Director of TU’s Alaska program and a fierce advocate for clean water, wild salmon and Alaska’s many special wild and pristine places.
Last weekend, Nelli received Orvis’ Breaking Barriers award. According to Orvis, 
“The Breaking Barriers Award honors someone who has gone above and beyond to bring new blood into the sport, breaking down the barriers of introduction to fly fishing.”
In addition to her incredible work protecting Bristol Bay and many other important Alaskan waterways, over the past 8 years, Nelli has worked with the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust and a team of dedicated instructors to organize the Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy. The Academy is a weeklong riverside course that trains Bristol Bay youth to become fly fishing guides and conservation stewards for their world-class home waters. The Academy has been instrumental at breaking barriers between the sport fishing community and the traditional fishing of the largely Alaska Native residents in the region. In part due to Nelli’s work, members of the local community have begun to embrace fly fishing as a personal passion and professional opportunity, as well as a way to foster and nurture future stewards of the amazing natural resource in Bristol Bay.
Photo by Ryan Peterson.
As Nelli’s colleague and friend, I can think of no one more deserving of an award intended for someone passionate for introducing a love for fly fishing and for protecting our waters. Nelli – thank you for your energy, hard work, smarts and dedication.
Others, please join me in congratulating Nelli!
Jenny Weis is the Anchorage-based Communications & Digital Advocacy Specialist for TU's Alaska Program, but prefers to go by the title, "Nelli Williams protege."

Add Content