In our latest installment of “Behind the Guides” presented by Costa Sunglasses, we were lucky enough to catch up with Dave McCoy, owner and operator of Emerald Waters Anglers. The only full-service year-round outfitter in western Washington. Dave is an accomplished angler and industry professional.Flylords: Who is Dave McCoy?
Dave: At a young age, my father introduced me to fishing and sparked a lifelong passion to experience and enjoy life in the great outdoors. Growing up in Eugene, Oregon, my stomping grounds were and remain legendary namesakes such as Crane Prairie and Hosmer Lakes as well as the Deschutes, McKenzie and North Umpqua Rivers to name a few. While I quickly discovered the thrill of having a fish on, it was the awe of these surroundings that instilled my deep passion for fishing and conservation. I have dedicated my professional life to the fly fishing industry and have spent the last twenty-plus years relentlessly trying to surpass expectations as a guide, outfitter owner, conservationist, and fly fishing ambassador. I would be nothing in my pursuits without the unwavering and unconditional support of my wife Natalie and daughter Nessa, who constantly inspire me without saying a word. In addition to owning and operating Emerald Water Anglers, I am also proud to also represent Patagonia, Thomas and Thomas, Nautilus, Echo and Airflo.Flylords: Can you remember the first time you picked up a fly rod?
Dave: Well, I was about 2 years old and have photo proof of it. My dad became a teacher simply to be able to fish 3 months a year and as my parents were divorced when I was about 4 or 5, I spent a tremendous amount of time fly fishing, rowing boats, catching snakes and crawdads and anything else a young kid would do around water.Flylords: Tell us about Emerald Water Anglers. Has it always been a goal of yours to start a fly shop?
Dave: Before we moved to Seattle, my initial goal was to work for one of the existing fly shops and be on their guide service, focusing on steelhead. But as I walked around handing out my resume to these shops, I was astonished to find that none of them had guide services associated with them. So I returned to Telluride for the rest of the year and while there, started Emerald Water Anglers which was intended to be a regional guide and travel service. After about 15 years of successfully operating the only western WA full-service guide company, I decided it was time to add the retail component to the business. 5 years later here we are.Flylords: Tell us about some of your local fisheries in Washington.
Dave: When I moved here from Colorado, my head was still in the trout world even though I had grown up in Oregon. I had steelhead on my brain so I was complete enamored with Puget Sound and immediately threw myself headlong at learning this vast saltwater expanse. Between Puget Sound and the small trout streams in the mountain outside Seattle, the sheer amount of water within two hours is overwhelming. Today after over 20 years in the area, I am still learning new water every season. Puget Sound has over 2000 miles of shoreline to fish and there are literally hundreds of small blue lines on the map that would take decades to check them all out. Add to this carp, bass, pike, muskie, spring creeks, alpine lakes, tuna in the ocean and of course the Yakima River, our only year-round trout stream in Washington. We have some water to explore…Flylords: When is the best season to come fish in Washington?
Dave: Washington is quite diverse in what it offers, we literally enjoy fly fishing opportunities 12 months a year with every month having one or more of our fisheries be at its peak so its a moving target. If someone were to come with an open mind, they would have a couple of different fisheries to choose from.
Flylords: What is the ideal setup (Gear wise) for these local fishing options?
Dave: So with the myriad of waters we fish around here, the excuse for a quiver of rods is very easy to come by. The small streams are wonderful for 0-3wt rods or your favorite glass/bamboo rod with a line weight heavier line so whatever rod you choose will actually load at 10-15 feet because that is a common distance to be presenting flies at in many of the small streams. Puget Sound and the Yakima are covered well with a 6wt rod/reel set up ready for the abuse saltwater will give it and it will also do well for carp and bass for the most part. Pacific Albacore off the coast you are going to want a stout 12wt to lift those barn doors off the bottom of the ocean and because all we do is spey cast and swing for steelhead, a 7wt spey rod is essential. Now if you want a 6 and an 8wt, that is fine too, shop owners don’t typically have an issue with this. Lastly, go chase Muskie, Pike and maybe some Chum salmon with a 9-10wt rod and then I think any angler is ready for what might be available during any season here in Seattle.Flylords: Do you have a favorite pair of Costa Lenses / Frames for Washington?
Dave: As you know, everyone has a slightly different face and head for wearing glasses and when you add a hat to the mix you can quickly understand why there are so many options to choose from. My eyes are blue so tend to be a bit more light sensitive so I love the Tuna Alley frame with 580G copper lens and green mirror. These work extraordinarily well for me even in some of our winter, rainy low light situations but certainly shine on all of the tropical trips I do as well.Flylords: How long have you been shooting photos for?
Dave: I have been shooting for about 20 years or so.Flylords: Do you remember the first image you had published?
Dave: I think so, it was one of a client of mine in a torrential downpour while summer steelheading though you would think the image was clearly a winter image. I could hear this strange sound coming upriver, sounded like a helicopter from a distance and then it became really dark outside and I noticed this rain squall coming very quickly. I ran back up to the boat to grab my camera and was overtaken by it by the time I got there. It was raining so hard I debated even pulling my camera out. Thought about for a second, did a quick setting change under the cover of my case, pulled it out, focused and fired off several shots with quick composition. Must have turned out alright as it has been picked up over a dozen times for various companies and stories…it pays to be lucky sometimes!Flylords: Do you have a favorite image you have shot?
Dave: I probably do and it likely involves one with my daughter fishing or doing something surrounding the sport.Flylords: What inspires you to shoot fishing photos?
Dave: There is a multitude of reasons for dedicating so much effort to shooting while traveling, guiding and fishing.
Flylords: What does your camera bag look like?
Dave: Much to the chagrin of some of my fellow photogs, I tote around an HPRD 3600 waterproof hard case backpack with a 17-40, 28-70, 70-300, 50 prime and a 14 fisheye, 8 batteries, lens cleaner, small flashlight, remote control, mini tripod and a host of filters. After a trip to Bolivia where I was carrying 3 rods, 2 camera cases, fly boxes, lunch and beverages, I decided I had to find a Pelican like case to go on my back. I have had this roll off the back of trucks, keep me afloat on river crossings and cushion my fall when scaling high river banks while all the equipment inside remained safe and sound. It also adorned with No Pebble and similar stickers which insight interesting conversations around the world.Flylords: How have you seen social media influence the sport of fly fishing?
Dave: Oh wow…could easily write a book on my personal views and observations but will choose the high road and stay on the positive side. I believe social media is a double-edged sword when it comes to fishing and the impact it has had on it. On the positive side, I truly believe it has brought much-needed attention to fisheries and species in peril that without the quick spreading word of social media would have likely gone unnoticed. Another upside to social media is as many have and continue to talk about fly fishing industry being stagnant or even diminishing, immediate gratification of posting images has circled more new anglers into the sport. Obviously, not everyone is happy about this but if we look at this more like a marathon than a sprint and the more people we have experiencing the outdoors, the possibility of them becoming stewards of the watersheds they call home is an invaluable asset to us retaining what we currently enjoy moving forward.Flylords: If you were stranded on an island and could only have one fly what would it be?
Dave: It would be the Clousbugger otherwise known as a closer, that will fish almost anywhere in the world, fresh or saltwater.Flylords: Favorite Beer?
Dave: Georgetown Brewing’s 9lb PorterFlylords: Favorite Book?
Dave: Let My People Go SurfingFlylords: Favorite Movie?
Dave: Dumb and Dumber, Bourne Identity or Man From Snowy RiverFlylords: Any big plans for 2019?
Dave: 2019 is going to be a fun year. I will find myself in South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Tahiti and a couple of other yet to be finalized locations with my favorite one being to Lesotho with my wife and daughter, watching them fish is among my most cherished moments in time.