Mar 13

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?

Apr 11

Rent the Rod?

This business appears not to be in operation anymore. I can understand why. Decent idea on paper, but I’d think it would be hard to make it work.


I saw a little link on The Trout Underground to a new business that is renting rods and reels.  This is one of those things that is hard to see how it plays out.  It could be that someone rents an Xi3 and takes a trip to Belize and realizes that he/she needs to do this every year and they go back and buy that rod.  It could be that the angler who has a once in a lifetime trip to the Bahamas rents that Xi3 and never fishes the salt again.  Does the “industry” come out ahead or does it lose out?  I don’t know.  My crystal ball is in the shop at the moment… can’t wait to get that thing back!

You can rent a Sage 6000 series reel for $15.  That reel is normally $600-$700.  That sounds really reasonable as the rental is for a week.

You can rent a Sage Xi3 for $100 for a week.  The rod normally $725 (for the 8 weight).  That sounds a bit high, really.

Xi3 – a great stick.

In saltwater the rod is kind of important, but the reel… that’s where your trip falls apart really, really fast if things go wrong and there are way more things that can go wrong with a reel than there are with the rod (me thinks).  Am I off base on this?

For the consumer, it offers you another choice… you can rent a rig for a week and see how you like it (so long as that rig is either a Sage or TFO rod and one of two Sage model reels).  You could take that trip without dropping $1,400 for the reel and the rod… what you’d pay for that Sage rod/reel combo.

If it means fewer sales at your local fly shop… well… that’s bad.  Enough fly shops are shutting their doors these days.  Each local fly shop is a gem and each time one closes, we are poorer for it, as anglers.

Nov 10

Shout out to the California Fly Shop

Today (actually, yesterday as you read this), my wife broke me off a little free time.  I could have grabbed a rod and gone in search of bass or carp, but instead, I headed up 101 to the California Fly Shop in San Carlos.  I’d never been there before, although I had seen some announcements from them over the years and I may be on their email list.

I needed help and I needed a full fledged fly shop to get that help.  We have an Orvis about 10 minutes away, but, ya know… the retail experience at Orvis is very uneven.  The fly fishing side of the store is often left in the hands of folks that don’t know a sink tip from a lead sinker.  Every once in a while you find some real quality folks there, but if they aren’t working that day you are SOL if you actually need some advice or something unique.  I have heard from a couple people that their actual gear has come leaps and bounds, but sometimes you just need a real fly shop.

The California Fly Shop is about a half-hour drive away and is tucked away in an industrial park, although it is next door to an REI.  I finally found the shop and the lack of cars out front made me wonder if they were open… which they were.  I walked in and found it to be a pretty nice shop… well stocked with gear, rods, flies and fly tying materials.  I picked up a few things and when Steve asked if I needed any help, I confessed to him my frustration with the Bimini Knot.  Fifteen minutes later I had learned the knot, gotten pretty sorted on what my tarpon leader needed to look like and I was out in the parking lot test driving the G. Loomis NRX in a 9 wt. and chatting with Steve about Baja.

Thanks Steve.  I appreciate the time you spend helping me out.  You guys have a great shop and I’ll certainly be back. My first and second Tarpon Leaders are now done.

The NRX 9 wt. was LIGHT but powerful.  It really felt like casting a 7 wt.  I was casting with a Rio Outbound floating line, which makes it pretty easy to cast, but I have to say, first impressions were very positive.  I still won’t be buying one unless they knock about $500 off the price tag, but if I found one in the Orphanage for Abandoned Rods, I’d probably rush through the adoption papers.

A nice shop with helpful people