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“Family Dollar” is a Fly Shop; uh, no.

Selene of Maine 7/26/23

Our logical head says there will be fly shops near the most well fished waters that anglers fish. These are often called “destination” shops. They have well worn wood floors with stud marks from the waders of anglers that frequented the shop over the years. Or of newbie’s that want to look like seasoned anglers but their vest is too clean. They are the ones asking for spots to fish and suggestions for flies. Any information they can get is taken in like cold lemon-aid on a hot summer day. 

It is that thirst from elder fly fisherman being sought out that makes fly shops a key component to the stream of knowledge flowing. Inspiration is in those shops. Old flies on the walls, fish mounts, bits of what once was, and tales being told. Some true and more not, but that is where the roots of legends are made. Tactics told, new patterns created and shared, all were secrets until word got out. And for most, that is exactly what they wanted, word to get out, a bit of local fame and notoriety for a fly pattern that caught so many fish that…..then the story changes every time it is told. 

Sometimes a book was written and the well told secrets were then documented. Books on how and where to fish were published and gratefully read and accepted by the fishing community. Shop owners welcomed the information in print. Less time giving directions and a few dollars spent at their shop for the sale of the book was indeed welcomed. 

The evolution

Then a thing happened. It was a slow change that I experienced in my career as a fly tyer. In the nineties people came to the fly shop seeking fly tying and casting lessons. I learned from Dick Stewart’s books and taught myself to tie first, then taught others. I praised the internet into the early 2000’s because so many fly patterns were then made available to everyone. There was so much information on websites like the Global Fly Fisher with researched articles, and fly patterns never before published. Independent tyers could sell their flies online without the backing of a shop.

Then, destination fly shops started going out of business including some of the ones I was working at. Magazines were losing their readers. Angry people online considered anyone that mentioned a fishing destination to be “spot burning.” Big box stores started carrying fly fishing equipment that was sub par quality. Flies became available to everyone and anyone for fifty cents each online. Many of the patterns were the common ones that were used in many places like the Adams, or Royal Coachman. These are just some of the reasons that fly shops went out of business.

Losing the local shops meant we started to lose the momentum of locally tied flies, and new local patterns. Worse yet, was losing the quality of the old local patterns that the overseas tyers didn’t tie well because there was not enough of a national or global demand for them. In my case, I’m talking about the New England streamers I’m sure every region has their own patterns that were not easily found in the commercial market for the same reason. 

Wait, wait? Where!

Then online stores developed for the purpose of selling rods, reels and flies virtually. Some of the bigger fly fishing wholesalers would only sell to a brick and mortar store. If an entity wants to sell online then they must have an address with local shop hours to sell to the community. While this rule exists, the dynamic for the open shops has changed considerably since the nineties.

If you want to check those stats, google where the nearest fly shop is to you, and you may be surprised by the answer you get. The romanticized idea of a destination fly shop is a rarity in many places. Be a patron of one and help them keep the tradition alive, ……or buy online from one that does both. Because the “Family Dollar; Bargain Retailer for Household Goods” does not deserve to make the google list as a fly shop near me. And while I love “Reny’s” too, but just because it sells a Life is Good shirt with a fish on it doesn’t make it a fly shop. Now, how about another sip of lemon-aid.

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Selene of Maine



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