Eli Rico spends more than 300 days a year on the river, guiding his clients on their quest to land salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, and trout. Whether hitting up Skykomish River in the autumn and winter for steelhead as big as 30 pounds, angling for Chinook salmon in the Columbia in the spring and summer, or fly-fishing for trout on the Olympic Peninsula, Rico has the expertise to help clients bring home the swimming bacon. Beyond simply catching fish, he also offers on-water classes that cover boat handling, reading water, and other essential fishing skills.
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.
Founded in 1994 by veteran anglers Hugh Pastoriza and Peter Corbett, Creekside Angling Company provides a one-stop shop for fly fishermen to gear up and plan tours of the Northwest's bountiful waters. Though the shop stocks a variety of top-notch equipment, from Sage rods to full fly-fishing outfits, the duo's greatest asset is the expertise of its staff. Hugh spent many years of his life fishing for more than 100 days a year, hitting waters all over Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Peter began fly fishing at age 9, and he turned his favorite pastime into a career upon moving to the Northwest in the 1980s. Together, they use their combined knowledge to lead guided trips into the waters of Yakima River, the Snoqualmie, and anywhere else steelhead rainbow trout hold their electoral caucuses.
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.
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.