Guest post by Glynn Pirie, fly fishing enthusiast and Orvis Saltwater event veteran.
I had been fishing for many years, mainly for trout and grayling with the occasional carp or pike. But I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to fish for truly wild fish in amazing surroundings with the chance to catch multiple species and never know what I might catch next. Then I was told that Orvis were organising a saltwater fly fishing festival, perfect! I headed straight into my local Orvis shop in Stockbridge and bought an 8 weight Helios 3 rod.
The festival weekend was based out of the Chichester store and what an amazing weekend, I even caught a few fish but I struggled with the change from freshwater fishing. I struggled to cast much larger flies and against coastal winds, I just couldn’t get any distance in my cast. Add to this that I had no idea where the fish would be, the sea was much harder to read.
I went away happy, I had enjoyed the weekend but still felt a little disappointed that I struggled.
I needed to learn and have some clue what I was doing. The 2023 Orvis Beginners Saltwater Weekend promised expert instructors, expert talks and fellow anglers sharing their stories and experiences, so once again I signed up. I had two goals; learn how to find the fish and how to cast into that bloomin' wind with chunky flies.
The Saturday morning I registered and collected a pretty amazing goody bag with a YETI thermal mug and other goodies, had talks from hugely experienced instructors and guides that explained fly selection, reading the water and where the fish were likely to be. It was great to be learning this stuff but what really made it was being surrounded by likeminded people who wanted to talk fishing, where else can I have a conversation about knot types and fish that got away without rolling eyes?
Later that day we moved onto a local park where we were split into groups and assigned a casting instructor. Without any exaggeration the instructor was amazing. I learned how to cast into wind, and where my rod tip should be for easier casting, but I really needed more distance with big flies. 25 minutes later he had me double hauling like a pro, I must have gained twenty feet of distance, unbelievable! The evening was just as enjoyable, a browse of the pop-up Orvis shop and several purchases later, the chance to have a drink and chat again with the guides and competitors about what we had learned and how big the next day's fish would be.
Day two and off to Seafarers Walk to put my new skills to the test. I really wanted to practice my new ability to double haul. My casts were flying out and the guides were there to offer tips and advice. The increased distance and ability to get that fly out quickly saw me hook a flurry of bass up to just over twenty centimetres, not huge, but huge fun. Later there were prizes for biggest fish and most enthusiastic angler, some great prizes and a nice touch that encouraged best use of those new skills.
I knew by the end of the Beginners Weekend that I was definitely going to do the next Orvis Saltwater Festival.
With 140 competitors and unbelievable guides such as Colin “the Mullet Master” McLeod, Joe Walker, Phil Spratt and Andy Miller. Expert casters like Charles Jardine and three days of competitive fishing, huge prizes and social events ahead of me I was like a kid on Christmas eve.
Day one was registration and collection of another fantastic goody bag including OSFFF branded goodies including an amazing YETI hot shot flask - I’m pretty much addicted to YETI now, thanks Orvis!
Then off to Thorney Island for the start of the competition. Putting to use some of the tips and skills from the Beginners Weekend, I had a few bass up to 24 cm. If I could pass on just one tip from the Beginners, it would be to use a fly you are confident casting, it’s better to get your fly out there than constantly struggling against the wind. I was using a blue bass streamer that I could easily cast now.
Then just across at the next sand bank I could see Steve Lawes’ rod bent double with the sound of a screaming reel in the air. Grabbing my phone I filmed the last stage of the fight and the netting of the fish. That fish, at 59cm, went on to win the competition. I was shaking from excitement never mind him! That fish won him a Helios 3 rod and a YETI cooler!
Many kilometres later, time for another browse in the pop up shop followed by plenty of chats and stories shared with friends new and old. Luckily that goody bag had a free drink voucher that we were able to use at the hotel bar.
The next day I had lots of small bass up to 25cm, I wasn’t challenging any winners but at last I had a fish on the leader board. I had a great day! Later that evening after registering my fish and a quick clean up it was time for the social evening. There was beer from Lakedown Brewing Co and pizza from Delivita, both were delicious and I had far too much. Orvis were raising money for Fish Legal, selling raffle tickets with some great prizes, so I had a tenners worth. To my surprise my name came out and I won a box of beautifully hand tied saltwater flies! I was chuffed with my prize, then my name came out again and I won the main prize, a YETI one gallon thermal jug! I think the social side of these festivals are my favourite part, the fishing is really a bonus.
Sunday was the last day, but I would have liked it to go on for another week! Prize giving that afternoon was good fun, some fantastic fish were caught and some incredible prizes awarded.
I think saltwater is now my favourite place to fish, the challenge and unpredictable nature make it an addictive pastime. If you’re thinking about moving into saltwater fly fishing I really recommend the Beginners Weekend to prepare you, I felt more confident and enjoyed the fishing so much more from doing it. Massive thanks to the Orvis team who work some serious magic putting together what is now a permanent fixture in my calendar that I can’t wait to come back around.