And that’s a wrap on the #BeginnersSaltwaterWeekend 2023 and what a weekend it was.
This year, which some have dubbed “the best Beginners yet”, we welcomed 80 anglers onto the beaches of Hayling Island to learn all about saltwater fly fishing. From workshops covering casting instruction, to saltwater tactics, species, angling tips and safety, to the very spirit of the sport, no stone was left unturned in providing attendees with the tools they need to take with them on their onward saltwater journeys.
On arrival, guests were greeted with a goody bag filled with an assortment of gifts; YETI, BUFF UK, and Fulling Mill pulled out all the stops in support of this special weekend, and the Orvis pop up shop proved popular for those looking for specific kit, flies, and a general chat about the weekend ahead.
After a presentation from our well-respected Orvis-endorsed guide, Joe Walker, and casting sessions on the cricket pitches of Hayling Park, professionally led by the brilliant GAIA team, anglers descended onto the beaches to battle the wind and gain a taste of saltwater fly fishing in action.
While the conditions on Saturday afternoon were particularly challenging, anglers entered the water with enthusiasm. Joe Walker said: “Experienced saltwater fly anglers who brave the sorts of conditions our beginners faced on Saturday afternoon would be considered adventurous…for our attendees it was nothing short of heroic! They overcame those challenges magnificently and their improvements and newfound skills really shone on the (thankfully much kinder) Sunday session. Well done to everyone – if it was as much fun for you as it was for us as guides and instructors, we can consider it a big success.”
The Sunday fishing was a real measure of this success as the number of fish caught was greater than any other previous Beginner’s Saltwater Weekend; Group 1 caught a total of about 15 bass, with one angler netting 3 and another 4, and Group 2 reeled in about a dozen fish too. At the end of the weekend, one guide, Andy Miller, grinning, remarked that “some of the smiles have been bigger than the fish”, even with the biggest [fish] being about 30cm.
While the weekend is not a competition, we felt it necessary to award some anglers for their outstanding enthusiasm and effort. In Group 1, congratulations go to Richard Arlott for achieving the ‘Catch of the Day’ prize, and Simon Peters for ‘Most Improved’. In Group 2, Bob Clarke for ‘Catch of the Day’ and Selwyn Porter for ‘Most Improved’.
But the main winnings from the weekend are the overall confidence and casting ability that we saw each and every angler take home with them. If some anglers didn’t catch fish, they certainly caught the saltwater fishing bug and that was clear to see when many went straight back to the water after we concluded the prize-giving, and one exclaimed “I’m not going home!”
Aaron Rawling, Managing Director of Orvis UK said “I would like to thank everyone involved in making this weekend such a success; our Orvis guides, the GAIA instructors, our sponsors YETI and Fulling Mill, and importantly, all the attendees that came and embraced the weekend. The Beginner’s Saltwater Weekend is not only about introducing people to the sport, but also offers everyone the chance to meet new people, forge new friendships, and create memorable experiences. For us, it’s all about the people and the stories they bring from all corners which encourage us to continue building this incredible community of anglers. We can’t thank you all enough for joining us at this year’s Beginner’s Saltwater Weekend, and we look forward to keeping in touch and supporting you on your fly-fishing journey ahead. If you’re interested in joining us at our September event, you can book your ticket here: SALTWATER FLY FISHING FESTIVAL – Orvis UK. In the meantime, tight lines and good luck!”
Check out our short video from the weekend, or our gallery and look out for details of next year's event.