The oldest fly fishing shop on the West Coast just got newer, and a favorite EN story about the business

When people saw the words “Patrick’s Fly Shop” and “demolition” in the same sentence, alarm bells seemed to go off.

But a closer reading of the Eastlake Social Club post revealed it was the building behind Patrick’s that was being demolished not the landmark lime green business on Eastlake Avenue East.

That was a relief.

People had even called the store worried. “No, no, I’m standing right in it,” says Wes Rostomily who works full time at the shop. It is being expanded in back by about 300 square feet for new retail and office space; there will also be an outdoor patio and side space to practice casting, says Rostomily.

And because of the planned bike lanes for Eastlake Avenue, parking in back is being added (photos at the end of the post).

Business at the shop has been brisk lately with the pandemic as people turn to new outdoor activities or pick up hobbies they haven’t done in 20 years, he adds.

With the changes happening at Patrick’s, now seemed like a good time to reprint a classic piece about the shop written about 10 years ago by retired Seattle Times editor, James Vesely.

But when we went to find Vesely for permission to reprint, we learned, sadly, that he had died in March of this year (cause unrelated to COVID).

Eastlake Community Council Secretary, Steve Dunphy, worked at the Times while Vesely was there and says “Jim was one of the best journalists I ever knew — smart, intuitive, happy to look at all sides of a question.”

He was also a fishing enthusiast although he doesn’t mention himself in his article. Instead the focus is on Jimmy LeMert, the former owner of Patrick’s. LeMert sold Patrick’s to Peter Lemman in 2018. As has fortunately happened with a few other longtime businesses in Eastlake that have sold, (Lake Union Mail, Pete’s Supermarket, Serafina Restaurant) the new owners continue to carry on, and improve on, the traditions set by the original owners.

So Vesely’s article still holds true in many ways, and although we couldn’t get permission from the author, we think he’d appreciate our reprinting it today just as we got it in 2011:

By James F. Vesely

Special to The Eastlake News

In a picture-perfect world filled with dreams of blue sky, river rock and flowing water, sits Patrick’s Fly Shop. Known to generations of anglers as a shrine to an elegant sport, the shop on Eastlake Avenue gives personality to the Eastlake community and fly-fishing wisdom to its visitors.

Patrick’s – the oldest complete fly-fishing shop on the West Coast – is owned and run by Jimmy LeMert, himself an icon among the fly-fishing anglers of America. So revered is the shop that Patrick’s has become its own legend, first-choice to its fly-fishing fans. Yet it almost didn’t happen this way.

“I was in pre-med and had been accepted to medical school at the University of Washington,” LeMert said. But he had been working in a fly-fishing store since he was a kid, and suddenly Patrick’s became available when the original owner died. “I’ve never looked back or regretted the decision,” LeMert said one recent afternoon. Since 1985, Jimmy LeMert and Patrick’s have been synonymous. Now 46, Jimmy is deep in the flow of the shop. But that’s not saying times haven’t changed.

For the customers coming to Patrick’s, the world of fly-fishing has improved enormously. Since the introduction of graphite fly rods beginning in 1979, the sport has become accessible to millions of anglers, LeMert explained. “No more bamboo rods, that’s for sure,” he said. Newer reels, a cornucopia of gear, easy novice and master lessons, all have drawn more interest, including a growing number of women, to fly-fishing.

Inside Patrick’s on any week, the place is both clubhouse and sales machine. LeMert acknowledges his shop has been in double-digit growth recently. He owns not just the shop but the land, and while Eastlake Avenue pulses with more commerce, Patrick’s will continue at its address. Beside, there is always the newest trend, the front-edge of angling just around the next bend.

Lately, that means anglers trying “spey rods”, a hearkening to the origins of fishing with larger, two-handed rods that can reach into the middle of a river. “Think of yourself on the Skagit,” LeMert said. “Unless you’re on a boat, you can’t get that far out from the bank. A spey rod will do that without a back-cast.”

Or go with the newest twist, “switch” rods that can be used for spey casting or the standard casting techniques.

This is as clear as the seam of a river to LeMert. He is a certified, Master Fly Fishing Instructor, one of 74 people in the world with that coveted title. LeMert has won the distance casting award at the Northwest Fly Casting Exposition three years running, and he’s won the same number of championships fishing the Florida Keys.

Yet, Jimmy LeMert understands home.

“We are so fortunate to live here,” he said. “We can fish all year around,” and reels off all the seasons of the fishing year, from Puget Sound to the Yakima, salmon to trout. “Some of the folks from the shop and I will go down to the shore and fly-cast. It’s like having everything so close, you can find a place to fish any time of the year.”

Does the fishing master ever fish just for himself?

“I try to fish once a week. One year, I decided to fish every week of the year, and I made it. I did 52 weeks of fishing,” LeMert said. And there was a hint what heaven must look like in his voice.

Feature sketch of Patrick’s by Karen Berry also originally accompanied article in the summer 2011 Eastlake News.

Construction behind Patrick’s Fly Shop where parking space is being added, July 22, 2020.
View from out back of Patrick’s where the foundation has been readied for more office and retail space. There will also be an outdoor patio and side space for practicing casting.

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