The meaning of Fly Shop 

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By Owen Plair

The local fly shop is a place where lives are changed forever.

It’s a place where you can feel at home and a place that exists solely to help you as an angler. That feeling you get as the door opens and you look around is something that cannot be replaced. Being surrounded by everything you love, and the people who love it as much as you, is what life is all about. Its a place where new adventures start and countless memories are created.

So why would you drive to the local fly shop when you can just buy it online and have it shipped to your house for the same price? Why not just google what flies to buy or what fly line to use? This rod looks cool online, why not just order it? Don’t get me wrong, the internet is a great tool. You can learn a lot and most of the time find what product you’re looking for. Fly fishing is a very small industry and there are few actual fly shop locations. Those few locations are shops which are born from a passion for fly fishing and created for you as an angler to further that obsession. It’s a place that not everyone wants to shop and a place that needs your support as much as you need theirs. Think about a handshake and a smile next time, instead of clicking a check-out button.

Just about 10 years ago I started working at the local fly shop.

I was a 16-year old kid trying to make a few dollars to put gas in my car. I knew very little about fly fishing, hell, I didn’t even know what an 8wt was at the time. The door opened and the first customer of the day walked in. I greeted him good morning and asked if I could help him with something. “Do you have any bonefish tippet?,” he asked. In my head I was thinking tip-what?!? “Let me get someone who can help you,” I replied.

I went to the back and got my boss to come help the customer find his “tippet”. As I watched Tony help this customer with tippet and then flies, and then wading boots, and then a new shirt for his trip, I soon learned he wasn’t just selling the customer, he was truly helping him, and creating a friendship by doing it. “You never want to wear Nike tennis shoes wade fishing in the bahamas. These are a few of the flies I used at that lodge a few years ago, tell the ole Pinder Brothers I said hello and have a great trip! ” said Tony.

The customer thanked him with a big smile and handshake of excitement that he was now ready for his upcoming trip after taking the advice from Tony. About two weeks later that customer came back into the shop with a photograph of his trophy bonefish and a big smile that told the entire story. He thanked Tony and for the last 10 years we’ve helped that same customer in the shop.

I soon learned more about fly fishing than I learned in grade school.

I became obsessed with knowing what flies, leaders, lines, rods, reels etc, to help customers with for fisheries all over the world. If there was a question, I wanted to have the best answer. I learned that using the products and experiencing the fisheries was the best way to really know what to recommend to a customer. The thing I love most about working at a fly shop is being able to share with other anglers the knowledge and experience that someone else taught me or that I learned through personal experience using the product. Almost like passing along the torch of fly fishing to the next angler. I enjoy teaching people and giving them advice to help in so many areas of fly fishing and that’s the difference from a fly shop and shopping on the internet.

I’m sure I can speak for any fly shop owner or employee that we truly care about you as an angler. As I look back on the last 10 years and the thousands of people that the shop helped, it is simply amazing the incredible friendships, experiences, and most of all memories that were made from working in a fly shop. You have to understand how important it is for a fly shop to have your support as a local angler because it is not just there job, but their livelihood.


What’s great about the internet is that you can see when new products come out and have an idea of what you may be looking for. Do some research on the internet and read up on something you may want. Then stop by your local shop to see it in person and get their advice. The greatest and most important thing about a fly shop is having product for you to experience in person. Countless examples, like casting a new rod. I always take 5-6 different model rods for an angler to cast so that they can feel the differences and find which rod fits their cast.

I’m also there to watch them cast, and help them decide on what rod is truly best for them for what species they are looking to target. You cannot do that by reading an article on a website. Feeling the drag of a new reel and the weight of it balanced on the rod you want to put it on, or maybe just comparing colors in person. Then choosing the right backing and fly line, and knowing you can trust the knot will not break when that dream 100lb tarpon rips you into your backing.

Getting advice on the best local flies for a fishery from someone who actually has fished the flies you are buying or tied them personally. Trying on a new shirt or pair of shorts to make sure they fit right. I could go on for days about the benefits of just stopping by your local shop every now and again to show them support because they are there to support you.

Need a guide and don’t know who to choose? A fly shop can always recommend a guide that they know will provide you with a great experience. Don’t just google a guide, call the local fly shop and ask who they would recommend because most have a list of the best guides in the area that they have either fished with or know well. You want to learn how to fly fish? Why not just watch a YouTube video? Go by your local shop and ask for lesson or see if they have a school you can sign up for! And yes, there is such a  thing as a fly fishing school, but that’s a whole other story.

Even when it comes to choosing a destination to fish or getting a recommendation for a good lodge or guide is always something a fly shop can help with. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and make a call to get a personal recommendation.

Supporting your local fly shop is something I feel all fly fishermen should do.

Whether you’re new or experienced, there is always something you can learn when you walk in the door. I take pride in working at the fly shop and, most of all, I take pride in helping you as an angler. It’s what my life revolves around. Your local fly shop cares and they will always be there to help you. Return the favor and shop local to thank them for the help they are providing to make your next day on the water the best it can possibly be.

Owen Plair
Gink & Gasoline
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4 thoughts on “The meaning of Fly Shop 

  1. Very well said. As a kid I was introduced to fly fishing by a father who simply have me a Shakespeare rod one Christmas and told me, ” this fly fishing thing looks cool, go figure it out son!” My father was to Yankee proud to ask the people at the local fly shop for help. I on the other hand started going there out of necessity when my first few outing resulted in lost gear and no fish. I now run the guiding business for this shop, North Country Angler in North Conway NH. Without North Country Angler I probably would have given up on the sport long ago. Seasoned fly fishermen are sometimes quick to forget just how steep the learning curve is. Fly fishing isn’t a sport that you can just jump into like hiking or biking and it is much more complicated than sports like skiing and golf. Without fly shops we will not sustain the sport.

  2. I agree with you if you have a Fly Shop worth a damn in your town. Greenville, SC doesn’t have a good fly shop. We have Luthi’s Outfitters. Basically, Luthi’s Pawn decided to add a fly shop and became an outdoor store. The only problem is they forgot to leave the pawn shop mentality behind. The owner is a complete jack ass. He doesn’t know squat about treating people with respect and probably even less about fly fishing. I assume this is because he is used to haggling with Greenville’s finest over the price of gold.

    They have all the name brand gear & rods, but you can’t go in there without getting a sales pitch on something you are not even looking for. And if you don’t buy anything its like you have no business being in there. I rather order the wrong size from an online fly shop in California and send it back twice than go in there. When I’m in a pinch, I go to the Orvis store DT and deal with parking garages or make my way to Cabelas on the Infamous Woodruff Rd. Or when in town stop by Fish Hawk in Buckhead Atlanta or Davidson River Outfitters in Pisgah. Luthis is 2 minutes from the house. I hate that fat bastard.

  3. The shop pictured in your header is a great place to visit.
    Unfortunately my first visit to a fly shop was not that positive. Twenty-five years ago I walked into a local Denver fly shop and swore I would never come back. The owner was so condescending and elitist I wondered if they were really in business to serve people. She made it a point that they served an exclusive rich club that catered to booking trips to exotic places. I never really went back in there.
    Fortunately the ownership changed hands and that shop is now another great place to visit.
    Generally most of the shops I have been to are pretty good but there are some real dogs.

  4. There are some really great points in this article. But the comments here highlight some of the “realities” of fly shops. I agree that a good fly shop is essential to the fly fishing industry to survive and thrive. However, there are fewer and fewer good fly shops around. The rise of internet commerce probably has something to do with that. But Herman’s comment about fly shop elitist attitudes is equally telling. I remember when I was just learning to fly fish decades ago. I would go into a shop to get some advice, and often times I would leave feeling belittled. I had that experience in several fly shops around Denver. I actually never experienced a fly shop that had a truly altruistic attitude toward me. Maybe it was because I was young and didn’t have $1000 to drop on a new rod. But those feelings have stayed with me for years. I believe that to encourage new anglers to pick up the sport, the fly fishing industry needs to check the elitist attitude at the door. Be there to help your customers no matter what their income or experience level is.

    As far as internet commerce goes, Crabkilla’s point is spot on. There are a lot of great fishing spots around the country and world where there are no shops, or no expertise. People still want to fish. So where are they going to turn? The internet or course. So internet commerce is an equally important player in helping fly fishing to survive and grow.

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