I was first introduced to the world of the jetty during a summer vacation to the Oregon Coast. I was invited to join a school friend down at his family’s beach house in the small seaside town of Rockaway. After a day’s worth of crabbing on Tillamook Bay, walking on the beach, and spending all of our money at the local arcade, the eager search for something to do lead these two teenagers to an unsuspecting place.
To Lyster’s. A small roadside shop that sold fishing licenses to tourists, frozen herring to old salts, live clams to family vacationers and apparently, jetty fishing tackle to teenagers. Old Mrs. Lyster was a local legend. Fishermen would drive far past the Garibaldi Marina to squeeze out the latest fishing report. It wasn’t until years later, when I was recalling our experiences with her; I realized that regardless of where we went or whatever mishaps we brought upon ourselves, we were led there by a hot tip from the old woman.
We ended up spending most of our hard earned money there, thinking that whatever old Mrs. Lyster had that we didn’t was exactly what we needed to land our great white whale. Over the course of that summer I spent three weeks on the Coast. Exploring Arch Cape and finding hidden patches of goliath Mussels, stalking Sea Run Cutthroat in the lower Wilson, and scrambling over rocks on the Barview Jetty. To a kid who hadn’t ventured further than the local trout pond, this opened my eyes to a bigger world with bigger fish.
The jetty was my first connection to the sea. It is a world at the collision of the land and ocean. Great tidal forces empty Tillamook Bay twice daily, forcing all that water into a narrow channel bordered by two thin piles of rock. Strange creatures writhe in every crevice, slimy sea lettuce makes the simple act of walking a true hazard, heavy ocean swells can become a widow-maker. As we explored and fished, it seemed as if the ocean kept the area around the jetty in fresh supply of things for us to catch.
Lyster sold us Sand Shrimp and we caught Greenling. We picked up clam necks and we caught Striped Sea Perch, the small paddle-tailed Sassy Shad plastics yielded competitive Black Rockfish to fight over our lures. Overall, I probably spent more time on those rocks than I did back at the cabin. Every tide change brought us to the land of milk and honey.
While I graduated from a land lubber and spent many days fishing on the open ocean on friends’ boats, every spring, I get that urge to return to those rocks and get back to my fishing roots, and I do.
I don’t know if I’ll ever run into you again ma’am, but I credit your enthusiasm and knowledge for helping light that little fire that turned into my lifelong passion for the sport of fishing.