Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Fly Shops…..

by Rebecca on January 15, 2010

in Fly Fishing

I can be……..

There is a level of trepidation that surrounds me each time I approach the doors of a Fly Fishing Shop….For awhile I wondered if it was just a ‘me’ thing, an individual nervousness that occurred without provocation or reason, but offhandedly, I’ve asked a few others about this peculiar neurosis and several of them also admitted the same pangs of Fly Shop shyness.

I’ve been in fly shops in many different states…a good cross section if I may. I feel like I’ve experienced the majority of levels an angler can feel of welcome, greetings and singe the hair off the back of your neck fun. Some fly shops I’ve left with a smile on my face, some fly shops I’ve left with a shrug of my shoulders, and some fly shops I’ve left running to the nearest bar for a few shots to calm thy nerves.  

When I approach a fly shop I’m typically from the invader, out of towner position. I’ve adopted a protective routine, one that gets me through the first few minutes while I taste the temperature of the air. I like to pull my fishing hat down low over my brow in an effort to appear inconspicuous and I’ll slip through the door with my arms extended out in front of me, palms up in a submissive pose. Basically the, I come in peace and just want to buy flies, posture. (ok, maybe I’m not that extreme, but close enough)

At this point, with years of fly fishing and holding my breath when I go into fly shops under my belt, I would have thought I’d be beyond the nerves. Maybe someday it will go away, but to this day I still hold back certain questions I may have just in case the fly shop has a 10 lashes with an 8 weight fly line policy for any inquires that may be deemed unacceptable.

Now, I can only imagine what it’s like for the people who run fly shops. The clientele that walks through the doors must be as varied as the fish in the ocean. In fact, they could probably name 50 different fly shop visitors by levels of fish. The smart dolphins, the cheeky blow fish, the arrogant sharks, the yap guppies, comical clown fish, serious trout, the silent eels and so on. So I’m sure they have seen it all, heard it all, dealt with it all and some of them may have built up the outer shell of say, a crustacean over time…..

I guess like all things in life, Fly Shops come in all shapes and sizes. I just wish there was a sign on the door that indicated the levels of expectation once I enter the premises. For example: 
1) All welcome, no intimidation or interogation tactics will be applied.
2) All welcome, only minor use of hot searing pokers will be utilized to the highly irritating.  
3) Equipment and creditials will be checked at the processing area. Liberal use of waterboarding and fly line lashings will be employed if you are found unworthy.

I hope someday I’ll move beyond my Fly Shop shyness because I do love them. If I’m not standing in water, a Fly Shop can be a whole ‘nother form of fishing nirvana. Standing amoung the new fly rods and surrounded by thousands of  crisp unused flies is a wonderful place to daydream (until someone jabs you with the end of a size 4 hook) and spend a great deal of money on things that make fishing all the more fun.



{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

GregNo Gravatar January 15, 2010 at 11:51 am

Walk in like you own the place. No one can make feel inferior — especially in the shops in the Boise area.

There’s no secret club in the fishing game — just nice people or arrogant jerks. I’ve always felt the point of fishing is to ‘share’ experiences and help people up. Unfortunately, some people get off on pushing people down.

Ben Franklin said it best…

“A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.”

Fly fishing is a personal experience. It’s based in the memories you create and the experiences you share.

For myself, when I’m too old to make it to the river and wade its waters, I stand on the bank and remember the best years of my life, the fish I was blessed to catch, and great company I kept in a good friend and fishing dog – not the arrogant jack-a-holes I’ve met (in fly shops) along the way.

Keep fishing!



RebeccaNo Gravatar January 15, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Greg~ Great reminders. The Fly Shops in Boise aren’t bad, I can only think of one that, ummm, gave me the ‘unworthy’ vibe back when I was first starting out. I lived through it.

I’ll keep fishing, creating the memories I cherish and as always, I’ll write about it so that someday my family has a bit of a legacy to remember me by…..

I hope to meet you out on our Idaho rivers one of these days~ I’m the one under the tattered tan fishing hat with the golden retriever fishing dog intently watching me ;-)


KirkNo Gravatar January 15, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I get butterflies when I walk into a fly shop, too. For me it’s mostly due to the fact that it’s like being a kid in a candy shop with a pocketful of cash and no parental supervision to maintain restraint. Adrenaline pumping, I feel weak and on the edge of losing my resolve. But there is, as you noted, another force at work that may cause trepidation. Only twice have I been in a shop where the dudes (it was two different shops) behind the counter exuded a holier-than-thou attitude. One was, I believe, just a jerk. The other one was just putting on a gruff front but was, underneath the mask, a very nice guy to deal with. Nearly all shop owners are outgoing, welcoming and helpful. They know that customers are what allow them to stay in business and they value that. Beyond the “value” of a customer, they just treat you like a person ought to be treated. First impressions carry a lot of weight in my book.

Maybe you should try marching in and confidently proclaiming, “You are now in the presence of the Outdooress”.

Reverse the intimidation factor.


RebeccaNo Gravatar January 15, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Kirk, the Mrs. lets you visit Fly Shops unsupervised???!! She must call the bank and credit card company right as you go out the door of the house to request a monetary protection cap.

I do love the Fly Shops that the guys are cheerful, helpful and nice. It’s not like I ask them for their secret honey holes, I just love good conversation or at the very least a smile goes a long way.

As for busting through the Fly Shop doors annoucing, “You are now in the presence of the Outdooress!” I don’t know if that would stun them, or simply put them into a bout of laughter. Although, I could follow it up with, “You better be nice or I’ll write about you on the Internet!” ;-) yay…more laughter..


Zach LazzariNo Gravatar January 16, 2010 at 1:49 am

I get nervous because fly shops are the reason I have never have had a savings account. I’ve been in shops where I feel welcome and others where there is an air of arrogance and competition. After working in a fly shop I realize there is a level of boredom after hearing and answering the same questions several hundred times in a day. Most shops are run by good people who are willing to shell out advice. If they are grumpy it is probably because they are tired of talking about fishing and ready to spend some time on the water. Every good shop accepts enthusiasm.


RebeccaNo Gravatar January 16, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Zach ~ I’ll keep that in mind, the boredom for them aspect, the next time I’m in a Fly Shop. I think the worst part is the arrogance I’ve gotten sometimes, which has made me leary when I first walk into shops if it’s my first time in it.
Thankfully, I’ve had some great experiences in a lot of Shops as well. Those are the times I always spend way more than I had planned. Even if I didn’t technically need anything, I’m always good for 10 flies and maybe a hat!


ColoradoAnglerNo Gravatar January 16, 2010 at 10:35 am

Got an Orvis shop out here, in which, the folks that work there make every effort to make you feel unwelcome if you don’t fit their ‘idea’ of what an angler should ‘look like.’

I love going in there unshaved, and flashing ink just to get a rise out of ‘em. The attitude and coldness is quite obvious…and hilarious.

Never buy anything there, and never will – I spend my money at a REAL fly shop down the street where the attitude is laid-back and the staff welcome all who enter…

This sport is long over-due for a serious kick in the ass, says I, and if I can do my part to rock the boat, all the better.


ShoremanNo Gravatar January 16, 2010 at 4:26 pm

I love your sense of humor. I’ve only been inside three “fly shops”. Besides Orvis in Bend, Oregon which I found boring, one in Maupin, Oregon which I found very helpful, and the one I visit on a regular basis down in Sacramento. The guys are great and extremely helpful. I guess I’m too old to be intimidated by fly shops.



shannonNo Gravatar January 16, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Unfortunate about that Orvis shop, and I know this is “jargonistic”, but any retail store is only as good as its employees. If you get to the right person even an Orvis in the Highland Park area of Dallas can be a great experience. Once all the gear is bought, the greatest thing you get from these folks is absolutely free – knowledge. Coloradoangler – I think the ass kicking is well underway with the help of the American economy.


RebeccaNo Gravatar January 16, 2010 at 9:33 pm

@ColoradoAngler ~ Keep going in there and giving them a fright. It will be good for them. I wonder…do they realize how bad that sort of attitude is on our beloved fly fishing? Keep kicking some ass!

@Shoreman ~ The way I see it, humor can be found in just about every situation. Keeps the world light and fun. Keep those great fly shops close and give them money every once in awhle so they stay in business. Of course, doing that gets you new fun things and everyone needs new stuff once in awhile!

@Shannon ~ you’re right about employees. I think thats why the feedback I’m getting is the Owners of Fly Shops are always excited, and nice no matter how someone looks or how much they know, when someone walks in the door. I love the employees that smile, ask if I need any help, and let me either do my thing or we end up in a 30 minute conversation about anything under the sun ;-)


WolfyNo Gravatar January 16, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Rebecca – the “aura” of fly shops has been a subject for years of discussion among shop owners and industry folk. I think it merely represents a cross section of humanity – mostly good folk, with a few jerks thrown in to keep you honest.

Regardless of whether I’m buying a half dozen flies, or a rod/reel/line outfit, it’s MY MONEY and I have a feeling that I’m in charge. If I feel otherwise, I leave and go elsewhere (unless, of course, it’s the only game in town. Then I’ll buy my flies, but leave with a bad taste)

Overall, I’ve found the shops to be pretty helpful and accomodating – especially the long-lived ones (amazing how that works – treat people well, and with respect, and they’ll return. What a concept)



mikeNo Gravatar January 18, 2010 at 9:49 am

I totally understand the feeling,,not so much on the flyshop level though,,well maybe one here in boise.As a former full time calif. surfer, you have not expierienced intimidation till you have visited any real surfshops in the beach cities. I have been well seasoned to that treatment, so when I moved here and took up flyfishing I was pleasently suprised at how much more welcome flyshops make you feel than the surfshops of so. cal. There is only one flyshop here in town that I allways feel unworthy when I walk through the door, the rest have all been great.


NerverackerNo Gravatar January 18, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Personally, I’ve only been in a few fly shops. Being fairly new to fly fishing, I’ve really only been in 3 or 4. My “home away from home” is the fly shop I buy EVERYTHING from. Most of the guys in there are just a bunch of great guys, and they are willing to give advice on where to fish, what to fish with, how to tie this fly, and what to tie it with. Several of the guys and regular patrons are becoming fishing buddies. I’ve learned a ton from just hanging around the shop and talking to people. My first experience there was decent enough to go back at least for the 600th time.
The other fly shop in town is just mediocre. There is one guy that runs the place. He tries to be nice, and helpful, but he doesn’t have the level of knowledge, nor the personality of the guys at my “home” shop. I visit on occasion just to see what’s new. I may pick up the token fly or 6, but not much else.
I’ve never had a horrible experience in a fly shop, and I hope I never will.



nimrod243No Gravatar January 19, 2010 at 8:28 pm

It’s good to know there are other fly fishers out there that go through this! I too love being in fly shops for all the cool stuff you get to look at and dream about, but it seems like a lot of times I am either getting my ear talked off or I am getting some seemingly not-so-approving sideways glances.

It would be nice to go in and look around and ask a question or strike up a conversation, if I feel like it on that particular day, or just pick up what I need and get out of there before my wife calls me wondering where the heck I’m at.

Tight Lines!


Joe GuideNo Gravatar February 9, 2010 at 6:16 am

Fly Shops are only as good as the people working in them.

Do you feel welcomed when you walk into that door? Do you look for assistance and the fellow at the counter has been on the phone for the past twenty minutes and still hasn’t done more than nodded when you came in the door. Do those workers always seemed to be gathered around a corner of the store- talking about their next adventure. Do you always have to go get someone to find something for you? Is there some special fly fishing book by someone in your community and your store still doesn’t have a copy? Things like that… cause people to go to the internet to make their orders, but loyality and kindness will always bring them back into your shop.

You are a customer and should be greeted and asked if you need any help, but that is not always the case in every fly shop.

Helpful assistance with positive and happy attitudes will ALWAYS be apprecated…noticed, and returning customers will always make the effort to support that local fly shop.

Keep looking for those happy Redfish…tailing in the grass:>


Leave a Comment

Anti-Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree

Previous post:

Next post: