Understanding ocean swells is a critical factor to consider when fishing, particularly in Washington State, where jetties pose unique challenges. So, before diving into fishing, it's essential to comprehend what ocean swells are. Ocean swells refer to a series of waves that have traveled long distances from their source, generated by storms, distant hurricanes, or normal winds. Unlike wind waves, ocean swells are longer and have a different wave pattern.
The three primary characteristics of ocean swells are height, period, and direction. The height is the distance from the trough to the crest of the wave and is measured in feet or meters. The period is the time it takes for two successive wave crests to pass a fixed point and is measured in seconds. Finally, the direction is where the swell is coming from and is expressed in compass bearings.
Understanding ocean swells is essential for fishing because it impacts the behavior of fish and our ability to fish effectively. Jetties in Washington State can be dangerous during large swells, and it's not worth risking safety by fishing off the rocks during these times. It's better to look for low to moderate swells. We love swells that are less than 5 feet and have a decent period, preferably more than 9 seconds, for safe access to the rocks and the lower edges of the jetty where we are closest to the water! The direction of the swell will also allow you to make the best judgment on where to fish!
Furthermore, a large swell can make fishing challenging by dragging the fly out of the desired zone, preventing it from getting deep enough, and even tangling the fly line on the rocks during the retrieve. This can significantly reduce the chances of catching fish and make fishing extremely frustrating. If you do hook a fish during a moderate swell period, it's essential to be mindful when landing the fish. The swell will push and pull the fish, making it challenging and putting stress on your rod. This has caused us to break rods on larger fish and part of why we recommend strong leaders and 8wt rods!
Having a general understanding of ocean swells is crucial for fishing in Washington State. By being mindful of the swell's height, period, and direction, so that your fly can get in the zone and you can safely enjoy our jetties here on the coast!
Bookmark this site and add checking the swell to your pre jetty checklist!