The son of a Navy officer, Mike Ainsworth spent much of his childhood island-hopping across the South Pacific. Regardless of the shore on which he landed, the budding fisherman celebrated the opportunity to test its surrounding waters for fish. Now, Ainsworth shares his passion and expertise for fishing on his guided trips. He tailors expeditions for beginners—teaching tricky maneuvers such as fly-casting and testing fish’s ability to grant wishes—and whisking groups to the best fishing spots in Washington State in his stable Hyde Professional Series drift boats.
Over the years, Ainsworth has helped tykes reel in fish that matched their height and watched amazed as a 78-year-old guest singlehandedly reeled in a 4-foot-long king salmon. Despite his own quest to mark off elusive prey from his personal fishing list, Ainsworth maintains that his favorite part of his fishing expeditions is the look on guests' faces when they reel in their very first catches, a moment he often captures on film.
To say Mark Coleman knows how to fish is an understatement. Coleman, the owner of All Rivers & Saltwater Charters, has mastered the art of side drifting, float fishing, hover fishing, back bouncing, and jigging during his more than 10 years exploring the Pacific Northwest’s waterways. In the process, he earned captain certification from the US Coast Guard, a distinction also earned by each member of his team.
Aboard vessels that range from the 29-foot Reel Tight to a 16-foot, nonmotorized drift boat, Coleman and his staff lead chartered fishing trips through fresh- and saltwaters. All Rivers & Saltwater Charters have caught fish on the Columbia and Olympic Peninsula rivers, traveled the waters outside Anacortes and the San Juan Islands, and explored Puget Sound. Voyages pursue salmon, steelhead, lingcod, sturgeon, and other types of fish. The team can also lead fishing lessons for newbies, teaching essential fly-casting techniques, including the correct grip, the different casting styles, and how to use homemade tiramisu as bait.
Poking the water with long, stringy lines is the easiest way to access the rich fecundity of the underwater realm. Emerald Water Anglers teaches pupils what it takes to establish a quiet communion with beautiful aquatic bodies by instilling the basics of various casting methods and how to assemble a rod and reel. The two-hour single-handed group casting clinic provides students with all the equipment required and an instructional guide whose friendly nature embodies the calm serenity of this maritime sport. Small classes of up to six people give participants plenty of individualized attention as they learn the techniques behind overhead casting and roll casting, teaching their limbs the maneuvers required for future competent fishing ventures.
John Thomas has spent more than two decades fishing the Snohomish River system, and under the name Rotten Chum Guide Service, he lets others in on his expertise and tricks. Using a 20-foot Alumaweld fishing boat, Thomas gives guided fishing trips on the Snohomish River and Lake Stevens that range from 4 to 10 hours, which is just the right amount of time to compose an epic sea ballad. Each leisurely outing is designed to put guests in touch with nature as they ply the waters for kokanee—landlocked sockeye salmon—as well as steelhead and chinook, depending on the season. Rods and reels by Lamiglas or Okuma, Gamakatsu hooks, and Power Pro lines provide professional-grade assistance for hauling in the catches.
A father-son team, Dickson Flyfishing guides and teaches fly-fishing to all levels of anglers on Olympic Peninsula waters, Puget Sound rivers, and many eastern Washington rivers. Conscious of their environmental impact, they lead eco-rafting trips throughout the year on the Skagit, Sauk, and Queets Rivers, as well as fishing trips for steelhead, cutthroat trout, and salmon with scales made of gold. More adventurous clients can embark on winter fly-fishing trips for tarpon on the flats of the Caribbean or three-day campouts on the Grande Ronde River. Additionally, scenic rafting tours bring visitors up close to wildlife such as eagles. Dickson Flyfishing also runs a virtual fly shop, where they sell their own line of equipment.
Northwest native Murphy Pierson draws on the experience of more than 30 years fishing Puget Sound’s waters to help aquatic enthusiasts charter their own saltwater-fishing excursions. Specializing in guided salmon tours, Murphy equips guests with bait, tackle, and fish whistles for year-round charters where they try their hand at reeling in king salmon and coho in the summer or blackmouth in the winter. During May and June, Puget Sound Sports Fishing’s morning and afternoon trips down the Edmonds-nestled waterways turn into bottom-fishing voyages for lingcod. While visitors rest at the end of their trip, Murphy and his crew get their hands dirty cleaning and bagging each catch for the water-weary fishers.