I Need a Fly Shop

This last weekend I quietly celebrated the fact that I made another circuit around the sun by leaving my children with their grandmother and heading a full 30min away to the big city of Charlotte, NC to spend the weekend alone with my wonderful wife.

Many people would expect, especially those that have no children of their own, that a weekend such as this would be filled with wining and dining and whole lot of other romantic bullshit. The reality of it is just being able to shop or sit quietly in a restaurant without having to repeatedly say things like “don’t touch that” and “sit back down” is all that’s wanted from a weekend away from the kids. (OK, maybe a little romance is desired but uninterrupted sleep seems to be a much better use for a hotel bed.)

Anyway, I decided to use this child-free opportunity to drag my poor wife to the only two places I’m aware of in the Charlotte area that would even come close to qualifying as fly shops; Bass Pro and Orvis. (If anyone reading this knows of anywhere else in the vicinity please do not hold back. PLEASE!)

Now, I have nothing personal against these places.

Bass Pro is, well, Bass Pro, and it does have a fly fishing section but it’s a big box store and the employees seem to suffer from the “working for a giant corporation and I am just a number” blues. Not to mention it kinda feels like a Wal-Mart with outdoor decor.

Orvis on the other hand strikes me as the Saks Fifth Avenue of the fly fishing world. I’ve never been in one of these stores and not felt keenly aware of my place in the American caste system.

I’ll admit that the perceived problems with these stores are mine and I won’t lay the blame on them for the way I feel.

That being said, I want a GODDAMNED FLY SHOP!!! Not a box store, not a high dollar clothing store that happens to also sell fly fishing stuff but an actual fly shop with a lab named Sage at the front door, bins filled with flies tied by locals and bearded guy with a beer gut behind the counter who knows whats going on because if he’s not there in the shop he’s out wetting a line. I want a shop I don’t feel guilty about spending my money at. I want a place that when I ask if they have something that they don’t carry it causes a prolonged conversation about the product ending with “yeah dude, we’ll shoot you an email when it gets in”.

That’s what I want.

I’m tempted to mention a popular Rolling Stones song at this point about one not always getting what one wants but truth be told this song doesn’t actually apply to the situation at hand because I might not be getting what I want but I’m sure as hell not finding what I need.

Thank god for the internet.




A Labor of Love

I have a habit (not what I would call a bad habit necessarily) of going a little overboard when it comes to tying flies. What happens is, I plan a fishing trip, be it a week in advance or a year in advance, and I start tying every conceivable pattern I can think of for that trip. Then I go on said trip, come home, and start tying every pattern I wish I would have had. This little quirk has left me with an insane number of flies, many of which have never left my home, much less been fished with. The plus side to this is with all of that practice I’ve gotten pretty good at making flies.

About a year ago I had a very brief moment where I believed I could be a pro fly tier. I went to a new fly shop that had opened with a box of my flies, showed them to the owner and without any hesitation he picked out four different patterns and told me he wanted a dozen of each. Easy as that.

I walked out of that shop king of the fly, knowing that it was my ticket into the glamorous world of the fly fishing industry. I was going to be one of the few lucky people in the world who had a job that they loved. The rest of my life was going to be spent making flies, talking flies, fishing flies. I would be a legend in fly fishing circles. Fisherman would drop my name like I was Lefty. Oh yea, my life was going to be fucking awesome

And that feeling lasted about thirty minutes into tying the first dozen flies for that order. That’s when I realized I could tie flies fast or I could tie flies neat, but not both. I also found out that when it comes to making flies for other people I tend to become a touch obsessive. I like my personal flies to look good and to be durable, but if I tie up a half dozen of something for an upcoming trip I don’t worry if one or two flies have a slightly longer wing here or a shorter tail there. I know it doesn’t really matter to the fish. As long as it floats/swims/drifts properly a few minor aesthetic problems with a fly won’t make much of a difference.

I do not feel that way when it comes to making flies for other people. I want them to be perfect. They must be identical. There must be NO flaws. None.

For someone whose catch phrase would be “hell, I don’t know, seems good enough to me, whatever,” being obsessive about anything is kind of stressful.

So, like I said, the dream of tying flies professionally died pretty quick after my first order from that flyshop.

I do still occasionally sell flies from my shop on etsy. So far most of what I’ve sold have been to people that know next to nothing about fly fishing looking for presents for someone else. When I do sell a fly I have to ask what color, hook size, and weight they want and if I get an answer back at all it’s usually a great big “I don’t know.”

I did recently sell two orders that were worth a combined $25 or so. After shipping, materials and time I think I made a cool $5 profit. The funny part about it is that I’m totally cool with that. I knew after that first four dozen flies I sold that making money wasn’t what it was about for me. I just like tying flies and if other people are willing to buy them so they or someone else can go out and try to catch a fish, all the better…

Though, I would like a new reel.

Selling Flies: A New Approach

My wife got the newest J. Peterman catalog in the mail the other day. If your unfamiliar with the J. Peterman Company or only know it through Seinfeld click this link to get a description of what is basically a heavy flannel shirt or this link for a T- shirt. I don’t know about the rest of you but somehow this company really makes me want want to buy that $90 flannel shirt. Maybe I’m just a sucker for colorful prose.

Reading this catalog got me thinking about my online fly shop. I’ve sold, maybe, seven flies in the last year from this site. I was beginning to think that the lack of sales had something to do with the fact that Etsy, the site I sell through, maybe didn’t have a strong following of hardcore saltwater fly fisherman looking for durable, high quality flies. (Yes this is a blatant plug for my shop and no, I have no shame.) But after witnessing the power of the J. Peterman catalog it’s obvious to me that it’s my sales technique that’s lacking. So I’ve decided to try the J. Peterman approach for selling my flies.

Here’s a sample. Let me know what you think.

The Backcountry

His name was Dan. You could call him Daniel, but you wouldn’t enjoy the repercussions. Only his mother called him Daniel. He was the one to introduce me to the Toad.

We were fishing the backcountry close to No Name Key. Dan knew where the tarpon were “laid up”. Guides like Dan always did.

He spotted the tarpon off the starboard bow. I saw it as soon as Dan pointed in its direction, all six foot of it suspending motionless like some mythical maritime monster frozen in time.

I made my cast. My line unrolled in a tight loop, Toad trailing behind. My aim was perfect. The slightest twitch made the fly come alive. The flaring gills of the silver king showed me the fly wasn’t the only thing to come alive. I knew at that moment that the Toad was a modern classic.

Tied in South Carolina on a Varivas 2600V hook using Enrico Puglisi fibers and a tail of the finest Finnish raccoon fur.

Hook sizes: 2, 1 and 1/0

Color: Olive/Chartreuse

Price: $4.99