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Spokane Fly Fishing School teaches lasting lessons

Mike Berube, right, watches Dan Ferguson tie his version of an October Caddis pattern. (Rich Landers)
Mike Berube, right, watches Dan Ferguson tie his version of an October Caddis pattern. (Rich Landers)

Enrolling in a Spokane-based fly-fishing school in 2007 gave Mike Berube two enduring assets: the skills to catch fish on a fly and a peer group to help him thrive in the sport.

Berube grew into fly fishing and the Spokane Fly Fishers quickly, advancing from a novice angler to the club’s president in six years.

“I could have just taken the course and been on my way, but this club is a treasure,” he said, noting that the upcoming 31st annual Fly Fishing School is the crown jewel.

The seven-week class, taught by a team of 12 club members, meets on Thursday evenings in North Spokane starting March 7. The class includes two extra sessions on pontoon safety as well as three Saturday fly-casting sessions led by a Federation of Fly Fishers certified fly-casting instructor.

“I still remember how the session on entomology opened my eyes to being a better fly fisherman,” Berube said. “Learning about bugs, their lifecycle, and what to look for when you wade into the water helps you make a big leap from just tying on a fly that looked good in your fly box.”

While he still loves to fish with a dry fly, club members taught him how to rig up for nymph fishing under an indicator and how to get a good drift.

“It’s all about matching your fly and presentation to what the fish are wanting at that time,” he said.

The classes, which are geared to a range of abilities from novice to accomplished, are taught in a casual atmosphere that encourages students to ask questions.

Topics covered include equipment selection, fly selection, stream fishing, lake fishing and lessons about how, when and where to fish.

“All of our instructors aren’t necessarily experts in the fields, but they all have a lot of experience, especially in area waters,” Berube said.

Every club has equipment junkies who have tested any new gear, and the Spokane Fly Fishers is no exception. “Students will get good insights,” Berube said.

Club membership is a benefit of enrolling in the school. The club has monthly meetings and programs plus a schedule of at least two dozen group fishing trips to area waters and as far away as the Elk River in British Columbia.

“It’s from those outings that we realized a few years ago that a pontoon safety course would be a good addition to the school,” Berube said. “We were on the Big Hole River when it became clear that one gal on the trip was struggling and ended up dropping over a diversion dam. We decided right there that we’d emphasize pontoon safety in the school.”

Aquatic insects haven’t changed since the school was started three decades ago, but fly-tying materials and fly patterns have.

“We update portions of the school every year,” Berube said.

New this year, each student will be assigned a mentor. “Our goal has always been to give the students the skills and information they need to go out and be successful at catching fish,” Berube said. “It will be an added advantage to be able to call an experienced angler occasionally to get tips for certain situations.”

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