The Shop

You live in a proud community which is chock full of admirable institutions and civic virtue. In all likelihood I’ve never been there, but I’ve experienced enough places to make that claim with confidence. I’m equally confident asserting that the local fly shop does more for you and your corner of the world than any other outfit in town. You disagree? Let’s consider the likely contenders.

Hospital – They come in handy to be sure. But wouldn’t we all be a lot healthier if we spent more time on the water, doing what we love in the sunshine and fresh air? Death comes to us all. No hospital in the world can change that fact. Exceptional fish come only to a select few. The shop can help on that score. Get on over there. You aren’t getting any younger.

Public Library – Near and dear to my heart, my library card is the hardest working piece of plastic I own. Paired with a little initiative, it has proven a reliable passport to untold worlds of knowledge and adventure.  But the other day I walked into a strange fly shop in a small town far from home, with an obscure question about soft hackle flies. I walked out 45 minutes later with more information on design, theory, history and application than I could possibly make use of, along with a handful of world class fish stories– no ID or arduous research required. Verdict? Fly shop by a nose.

Newspaper – I’m a staunch advocate of a strong, independent press, but let’s be honest. The paper is essentially charging you a monthly fee to deliver fresh depression to your doorstep every morning. The boys at the shop meanwhile know all of the current events worth knowing – where the fishing’s hot, what’s hatching, which colors are turning heads. That kind of news can have an immediate, positive impact on your life, and it’s all yours for the price of stopping in to visit. Chalk another point, for the fly shop.

Bank – Have you read a newspaper lately? No contest. (Much like what many financial institutions are pleading in courts of law these days).

Court of law – One question… Given a choice, would you rather be in the market for a fishing guide or a lawyer? Case closed.

Museum – Show me the beauty contest where split cane rods, inlaid landing nets, and hand crafted dry flies are out of their league and we’ll talk. Show me the painting that can tighten your lines and I may even listen.

Supermarket – Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats (and fishes,) for a lifetime. And we all know that man does not live by bread alone. Which leads us to …

Church – At least four of Christ’s twelve disciples were fishermen. And as literary legend David James Duncan points out in The River Why, they took time to tally their catch before catching-up with their newly resurrected Lord God and Savior when He reappeared at the Sea of Galilee. I don’t exactly qualify as a theologian by most conventional standards, but it seems pretty cut and dried to me. After all, who wouldn’t rather be standing in a river, thinking about God, than in sitting in church, thinking about the river.

Stalking the seam is not a solitary endeavor. We rightly honor the friends and family who support our pursuits. How about a little love for the guys and gals at the fly shop too? Who else goes to work each morning focused on sending us out properly equipped and appropriately informed? Where else do they listen to you brag on your triumphs and cry about the ones who got away? So be sure to scratch the dog’s ears next time you’re there and drop off some baked goods just because (maybe even an occasional six-pack). And most importantly, vote with your wallet – showrooming and bigbox stores do nothing for your town, your fishing or your soul. It may be the most valuable institution in your community, but if you don’t support your local fly-shop, who will?

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7 Comments on “The Shop

  1. I miss having a “shop” close by but always stop in at the local shops when traveling. Some of my best memories as a kid (half century or more ago) come from hanging around the “shop” and listening to the stories and banter of all the old geezers coming and going. In an ironic twist, the internet (the bane of many small shops) does provide me a means for staying in touch (Stalking the Stream is a fine example). And when I need to order stuff, I try to patronize the small shops as much as possible. Even over the internet the experience is more personal and prices aren’t really much different.

    • Thanks for reading and for weighing in Steve. I too make a point of stopping at the local shop when on the road. Aside from the obvious “where to, with what” type info to be gained there, I find it gives me a great introduction to the community and a sense of the place. It’s an honor to think STS can play some small role in keeping you connected in a similar way. We’ll do our best to keep it up!

      • I hope to spend some time in your area this summer and look forward to visiting your “shops”. I’ll probably try to make some contact ahead of time to get info on camping, etc.

        • Be sure and let us know when you’re headed this way. We’ll be sure and point you in the right direction. Maybe we’ll even get lucky on timing and be able to wet a line together.

  2. Back when I traveled for business, browsing fly shops… freshwater and saltwater… was my favorite entertainment in cities and towns along the way. I planned routes to and from the airport based on availability of fly shops to pop into and enjoy. Along the way, I saw and met some great people like Bob Clouser (PA) and Bob Story (St. Louis) and received excellent personal advice on fishing, tying, and fly selection. It is important to patronize your home town fly shop, as saving a few bucks on the internet or a catalogue may seem to make economic sense but it is short sighted if your local shop goes out of business. There is no comparison to having full-service and personalized help that a fly shop gives you. Plus they support TU and local and regional conservation and stocking efforts.

    • I thought I enjoyed them. Planning airport travel routes around fly shop availability takes it to a whole new level. Nicely done Ralph! Thanks for weighing in.

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