ANACORTES — Learning the nuances of fly fishing is no easy task.
However, when members of the Fidalgo Fly Fishers are teaching said nuances — specifically fly tying and casting — even beginners can began to grasp the intricacies of the sport.
That was the case Wednesday afternoon at the Anacortes Senior Activities Center. For the third consecutive year the Fidalgo Fly Fishers got down to business at a free fly fishing class offered to those ages 12 to 15.
Gibson Groenig talked his friend Erik Becerra into taking the class with him. Both will be freshmen at Anacortes High School.
“I’d never fly fished before,” Becerra said. “I was excited about learning, so I was pretty happy when Gibson asked me to take the class. It’s something completely new and it’s fun. It’s a learning experience and I’m looking forward to getting better at it and doing more of it.”
Groenig had been around fly fishing before. His grandfather is a past president of the Fidalgo Fly Fishers.
“I used to live by a lake, and I caught a lot of bass,” Groenig said. “I wasn’t fly fishing, I’ve never fly fished. But now I’m learning.”
The class is being held on three consecutive Wednesdays for four hours a day. Each class is split equally between tying and casting.
The class was founded three years ago by club member Russ Asbury, who is stepping away from the class after this year.
He said the class was formed as a way to get young people involved in fly fishing.
“In order to keep fly fishing alive, we need to cultivate interest in younger anglers,” he said. “So, over the course of three months, we put together everything necessary for this class. We got club members who sort of specialize in tying and casting involved and the end result is what you see here.”
Tim Cornelius brought his grandson Lucas to the class. Cornelius said his son and daughter-in-law have a knack for finding classes and camps in an attempt to get their children to “put away their video games and keep them active.”
A longtime fly fisherman himself, Tim Cornelius said his grandson loves to fish.
“What boy doesn’t?” he asked. “We haven’t had him out fly fishing yet, but this is working as an internship type of thing.”
It takes some skill to turn a bare hook into a colorful fly capable of fooling a fish into taking a bite, and maybe even more skill to cast.
Lucas was taking it all in stride.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “I really like it a lot and I’m learning a lot. I’m looking forward to fishing with my grandpa.”
On Wednesday, those taking the class had bare hooks clamped into vises, prepped to be turned into a gray hackle fly. The entire transformation was led by club member Danny Beatty.
Beatty described the gray hackle as extremely versatile as it is able to be fished both on top and below the water surface.
After detailing the benefits of the gray hackle fly, Beatty began bringing it to life. Students removed the necessary materials and tools when prompted and followed Beatty’s lead.
Club member Dan Farmer mimicked Beatty’s efforts on a dry-erase board. With help from the two, as well as a one-to-one teacher-to-student ratio, the students were nearly certain of tying their flies correctly.
Tim Cornelius was impressed with the effort he saw from all involved.
“This group (Fidalgo Fly Fishers), it’s great they are willing to give up their time to do this,” he said. “It’s really neat.”
It wasn’t long before finished flies were released from vises. Asbury was impressed with what Becerra had completed.
“It’s phenomenal,” he said. “He (Becerra) just picked it up right away. He tied it in no time and looked like a pro doing it.”