When starting something new, one of the first questions to be considered is how to begin? The choice at the extremes comes down to plunging in or taking a class.
In my case, I’ve always believed one can never know too much or learn too much, so I opted for a class; assuming I’d pick up the needed technical information, local knowledge about where to go, and get some instruction on casting (for which too much instruction doesn’t exist).
Given I’d been fishing fresh-water rivers, I already had most of the gear I needed. I did pick up a Winston BIII-SX (more on that in a later post); and bought a few flies for the species of choice: sea-run cutthroat trout (bought a few more the day of the beach session).
There are a number of outstanding fly shops in the Puget Sound. But I chose Gig Harbor Fly Shop’s class. I like the area a lot and there are tentative plans to move there when I can cast off the harness of corporate America. The shop’s location overlooking the harbor borders on the sublime. And I was impressed with the shop staff in both past online orders and talking to them in the store.
Their Puget Sound Beach Course (Fly Fishing 1.5) was held in two sessions: the first was three hours on a Wednesday night followed by a four-hour session on the water.
Taught by Blake Merwin, the owner of Gig Harbor Fly Shop, the course was a great introduction to fishing in the salt water of Puget Sound.
The three-hour classroom session, taught with slides and a lecture that was interspersed with tales of trips local and afar, was like drinking from the proverbial fire hose. I scribbled notes furiously as the course covered equipment, target species, food sources, tides and winds, and where to find good fishing. When I reread my notes I was surprised how much ground we covered. One tip: if you take the course please bring beer – none of the five students in our class did and it’s a shop practice!
The Saturday session was held on a sunny Saturday morning on a local beach near Gig Harbor. The tide tables called for a -1.3 foot low in the afternoon so we were in prime time to fish the ebb.
Driving over the Narrows Bridge earlier, the winds were calm and the water smooth. By the time we met at the shop, bought a few last remaining items, got down to the parking lot and got into our waders, the wind was up. A very visible back eddy in front of the beach matched the strong ebb.
Blake took some time to explain the beach and where good fishing should be found as well as tips for fishing different types of flies.
We five students separated along the beach and sought to catch a sea-run. Unfortunately, the back eddy never dissipated allowing a rip to form close to the beach. The bottom line is that no one caught anything.
And it wasn’t just the five of us. Water birds on the water weren’t diving for anything; a seal that poked his head up out of the water disappeared; likely finding better fishing elsewhere.
But I wasn’t disappointed. One doesn’t go fishing to only to catch fish. As Haig-Brown consistently alluded: fishing is more about context than practice. Standing on Puget Sound watching the sea birds and a bald eagle circling overhead, and feeling the chill of the wind and the warmth of the sun more than made up for getting skunked.
The course gave me the tools and information to head out on my own. And we did get some good information on where to go on our own. But you’ll have to the class to find out where.