Sometime back I was fishing a local saltwater beach. It was a calm and pleasant day. I was only in water up to my knees. After fishing for about 90 minutes (without the slightest evidence of any fish present) a school, no, an army of baitfish proceeded to move right at me. They were heading directly parallel to the beach. As they got to me they made a perfect left turn out towards the open water, moved about 24 inches, and then turned 90 degrees to again move directly up the beach. It was fascinating. Fascinating because they were so close to me, because they weren't scared off by me, because I could see the dang things so clearly, and because they all followed exactly the same route. At any one time the column was only 30-36 inches wide but I couldn't begin to estimate how long the column was since it traveled by me for more than 20 straight minutes. I stopped casting just to watch the darn things for almost the entire time. As they moved towards me they were within inches of my leg before they turned out to the open water. I was trying to make note of their shape and coloration without disturbing them. After the fish army had moved by, I began casting again. Shortly after that I hooked a nice silver. I got it to hand and one of the baitfish soldiers was in its mouth next to my fly. I quickly released the salmon but retained the baitfish. (Okay you WFFC regulations police, don't scold me for briefly keeping a baitfish. I had a license, I had a punch card, I was fishing in open water, and I was using a single barbless fly. I didn't actually hook the baitfish; it was in the salmon's mouth and appeared to be dead. I wasn't targeting baitfish. It was an incidental catch.) I measured it. It was a strapping 2 3/4 inch long specimen. It was 1 1/2 inches across. It didn't have the profile of a sand lance or a herring. Most interesting of all to me was that the upper body was brown/gold, and there was a distinct purple stripe down the side. After measuring the specimen I gently dropped it in the water. I've tried tying some imitations of what I saw that day and have caught a few fish on it. My question is what were those baitfish soldiers?