Fly Shop Catch 22

I went to my local today on my way home from work. I use the term “local” lightly… it is across the bay and a $5 bridge toll from where I actually live. I haven’t been there many times, as it is not real convenient and the trip there involves being on a highway I detest, usually at a time in the commute that makes me want to slam my head into the steering wheel.

Still… I wanted to support the shop, so I went.

I needed fly tying materials. Specifically I was looking for some 1/0 tarpon hooks (thinking of that Florida trip a lot these days).

The shop looks great. Very clean, very well organized. Hell, they have a drift boat IN the fly shop.

“I’m just looking for tying materials.” I said.

“Well, we are a bit low on stock at the moment.” was the reply.

And it was true. There were no 1/0 tarpon hooks. There were no EP fibers in the colors I wanted. They didn’t have the style of silicon leg I was looking for. I was looking for a few specific things and I went 0-fer. I came ready to spend some money and left empty handed.

Just a few days ago I put in an order on Amazon for some materials. It was easy to do as I had just sat down at the vice and knew what I was needing (wanting is maybe the better word here). With Amazon you don’t get to hold the stuff in your hand and turn it over and make sure it is right, but you sure do have a selection… and it is that kind of immediacy and selection that likely means my local is taking it in the shorts and doesn’t have the business to actually keep things stocked… which in turn, makes me more likely to need to turn to the web to get what I am looking for… which means even less business for the shop… and it goes on and on and on.

Death by a thousand Amazon orders.

Part of it may be that I’m looking for materials usually used for flats flies in a place that is more trout and stripers. They did have 3/0 tarpon hooks though and EP fibers in other colors, just not what I was looking for.

When I got home, waiting in the mailbox were two packages of hooks… one was size 1/0, although not specifically for tarpon. I’m kind of thinking they might do the trick though (especially given a recent conversation with Davin about smaller diameter hooks maybe being a good call for tarpon).

Do you have a local shop and if so, how is it doing? What makes a shop successful or what makes it struggle?



  1. RE tarpon hooks – small diameter, and small hook size, work well. I did an informal test on a few models:

  2. Bjorn,

    Check out He’s got just about everything you could want for tying materials, and it’s helping a guy in the industry, rather than Amazon.

  3. I’ll do that, and it would be good to find a home in terms of where I get my tying materials, since I clearly can’t get them at my local shop, or even at the Orvis store further South. I’ll say though, while I buy the stuff on Amazon, it is getting sold my small fly shops somewhere… they just use Amazon as the platform.

  4. I live in Boise, Idaho, there are two shops I go to here in town sometimes, but most of the time I will drive 18 miles to the Faded Fly shop in Nampa. Why? Because the guy is a great guy and has all the local fishing info, he has a decent selection and will order in anything you want if he doesn’t have it on hand. Charlie the owner does most of his business on line but keeps the shop open for the locals to come in sit around and BS about fishing. The shop has a large casting pond, big enough for 3 people to be casting at the same time and whenever I stop in Charlie has a new rod that “I just have to try”. I have bought a lot of stuff from the Faded Fly and will continue to support them. I do occasionally buy stuff on-line through independent dealers I find on ebay because I am cash impaired and always looking for a bargain. In fairness, the both the other shops here in Boise, Idaho Anglers and the Orvis Shop are good shops and each have stuff the others don’t have, but no casting pond and not really places that people just stop in to say hi and give the fishing report for the locations they just fished.

  5. The only fly shop (and hunting/fishing store) in our county closed a year ago. In its place: the 62nd pet food store in a 10 mile radius.

  6. There is a great fly shop about 45 minutes from me, the Bear’s Den, in Taunton, MA. They do a lot of mail order/internet business, but they keep the huge store stocked and well merchandized for us. They have a casting loft, which helps during our winters. They organize workshops (Lefty Kreh in 2 weeks). What sets them apart is their customer service, from tackle and trip advice, to special orders, to biminis and huffnagles, to consignments, and to outstanding communications about all of the above. Calls and emails to confirm orders, advise delivery, etc. To get to that level of customer service, it takes deep knowledge of the subjects, and commitment to customers. I haven’t bought anything fishing-related anywhere else in many years, and don’t plan to. Way to go, Scott, Sarah, and Amanda.

  7. Sitting in the middle of nowhere in the vast South Pacific I have a hard time getting to my “local” fly shop. I do use the on line option but I go thru my old local fly shop in Bend, OR, The Patient Angler. Peter has always had a great selection of everything I need to tie my flies. So I get to help sustain a local shop while still having the convenience of on line.

  8. I have the exact same problem here on the north lobe of the Bay. I really want to support the local fly shop but when they don’t have what I want, they offer to order it for me. That’s nice of them but when I add in postage and another $5.00 bridge toll it begins to become uneconomical. I sometimes keep a list of stuff I need and when the list gets big enough I’ll make the drive to Sacramento and hit Kiene’s. They usually have everything I’m looking for, even for tropical, salt water or the Amazon jungle.

    An0ther aspect of ordering stuff over the phone or online is the subtle differences that make some stuff more desireable than other. For example, if you’re tying tarpon flies, one grizzly saddle will have more of the feathers you want for the size flies you’re tying than another saddle. Ordering on line or over the phone, you have to trust the person on the other end to understand what you are tying and t be able to select the best saddle for you. That isn’t as important when it comes to synthetics because they are pretty uniformly made due to the manufacturing process. But I defintely prefer to select my own natural materials including saddles, necks, and deer hair. If I have t order natural materials, I use a shop that knows me well, that I frequented for many years in the past, and that I trust will select the best material.

  9. Good to see that folks have their favorites. I need to find a shop to order from… I’ll work on that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *