ILWACO — A budding fly fishing business is busy setting up shop in Ilwaco, with grand intentions to grow into one of the biggest distributors in the world.
Spawn Fly Fish, a former Olympia-based online retailer, has relocated to 112 Spruce St. East in Ilwaco, where the business is anticipating a grand opening soon, after indoor renovations are complete.
“We’ll be a full-scale fly shop,” said owner Josh Phillips in between accepting deliveries and setting up displays on Monday, Dec. 14. “We’ll have all the top brands in the fly fishing industry.”
Room to grow
Phillips, 29, has built a following over the past three years for their unique and custom flies and lures, some of which they’ve filed patents for.
“We were an online retailer for fly-tying and fly-fishing equipment. We have several products we manufacturer ourselves,” Phillips explained. “We plan on opening our doors to the public for the first time here in Ilwaco.”
Ilwaco offered all the right ingredients for the burgeoning business, particularly a storefront with high visibility for an affordable price.
“Our plan was always to buy a bigger place,” said Phillips, who paid $70,000 for the building, which he considered a relative bargain.
“In three years, we went from my bedroom to my parents’ garage to now having a storefront, which has been really exciting. We’ve grown the entire way,” he said.
Phillips realized months ago that they would soon need more space for the business, which led him to look in Ilwaco. “We knew that the shop we operated in [my dad’s garage] was too small six months ago. It was like 400-square-feet. Everything was jammed packed in there.”
Their new storefront on Spruce Street offers approximately 2,500 square feet of floor space, enough for more inventory and storage as the business has been receiving several shipments daily.
“We’ve become well acquainted with the ladies at the post office,” Phillips joked.
Vast fly-fishing inventory
Phillips considers their array of fly-tying materials among their specialties, and their inventory is vast.
“We have more than 10,000 units in stock. We’re working on how to display them,” Phillips said. “We have more than 600 types of hooks. There are 42,000 individual items on the floor right now, not including any of our back stock.”
Phillips markets products under their own Spawn trademark, with materials made in the U.S. and assembled in Thailand.
“Our Spawn-branded products are what we manufacture and distribute globally. We have a provisional patent [on those]. They are probably our most popular product.”
The best-selling item is the ‘articulated shank,’ a jig inspired by action produced with spin-fishing gear.
“We have a twitch shank which is an unconventional product. It’s a jig but it’s articulated,” Phillips said. “It’s essentially a twitching jig for coho. The hook rides freely off the back so it ‘kicks’. It’s a really popular product that we will continue to expand.”
The appeal of the lure is its movement, which is irresistible to fish, Phillips said.
“If you twitch or jig for coho, you think about that movement,” he explained. “We wanted replicate that on a fly rod but on a smaller scale. So how could we get a jig-style fly that was also articulated to add that extra kick? And then this is what we come up with. We have a 60-degree and a 90-degree angle. It’s now widely distributed across the world.”
The biggest buyers have been two of the most prominent fly fishing distributors in the world — Hairline Dubbin and NOVE Outdoors in Argentina. Several products have ranked in the top 15 for sales on Amazon in their respective category.
“Our goal is to become one of the largest fly shops,” Phillips said.
Rockfish, shark, tuna, salmon and lingcod
When most think of fly fishing the first thought is often pitching dainty flies for trout in small streams or rivers, but Phillips feels there is fly-fishing opportunities for species not normally targeted with fly tackle.
“We’re unique in that we spend a lot of time off the coast,” Phillips said. “We hope to shed a lot of light on fisheries down here that aren’t considered fly-fishing fisheries, such as rockfish. Fly fishing is an extremely productive way to catch them because they’re in that center column. We also want to do some shark, tuna, salmon and lingcod when they’re at the right depth. We plan on shedding a lot of light on those fisheries we partake in. We always get funny looks when they see us just bombing a fly out as far as we can.”
Phillips plans to eventually include more spin fishing gear in the store, too.
“We don’t only fly fish — by no means are we one of those type of shops,” he said in reference to the somewhat snobby vibe of some fly fishing retailers. “I’ll be out in halibut season and salmon fishing in the river and trolling downriggers. We do it all.”
The official opening is still a few weeks away, but Phillips is eager to open his doors as covid restrictions allow.
“We’re really excited for when we can open our doors and people can come in and see it,” he said.
For more information, visit spawnflyfish.com.