Operating a fly shop has many perks such as having access to some of the latest and greatest equipment, finding out where the fish are biting (even if we don’t get a chance to pursue them ourselves), and meeting some of the celebrities of the sport. All of these things are great but the one thing that really keeps me coming back day after day is the opportunity to work with aspiring fly fisherman, lending a hand when we can, explaining the intricacies of our sport, and coaching through the hard and lean times.
Working with young anglers that show an interest in a sport even some adults feel too complicated and difficult to be worth the effort is part of the reason Scott and I get such a kick out of coming to work each day. It has little or nothing to do with the selling aspect of retail, but rather the part of playing teacher when necessary. Everybody can learn something but the younger folks are more open to the world and have minds capable of soaking up every tidbit and morsel to develop their own opinions and skills.
We’ve been lucky enough to have a great group of customers, and what we would now consider friends, visit us over the years, none of which embody what is good with today’s young anglers more than Austin and Jeff; two young men that came into the shop every once in a while after they got done at the skate park. They had a budding interest in fly fishing and were willing to listen, learn, practice, and persevere. They were hooked before they ever got their first fish on fly and their obsession has gotten more intense over the past five or six years. It’s hard to believe they first came into the shop while in their early teens and now they’re productive members of society with jobs, girlfriends and high aspirations for the future.
We’ve recently had a chance to fish with both of them and it’s wonderful to see the skill they both possess at such a young age, but it is kind of depressing when I look at how late I took to the sport. I can only imagine how much more skillful I would be had there been someone to start me along the path at their age. My young friend Tanner is another that shows a great deal of fly angling potential, but he has so many interests that dedicating time to one or the other is tough right now. Rest assured that he’ll come back to his roots when the time’s right. Fly fishing stays in your blood forever and everyone comes back eventually, even if it takes nearly a lifetime to realize what you’ve been missing.
We’re not the only ones trying to get kids into fishing and provide a good example. Anglers for Conservation and their Hook Kids on Fishing Program shows youngsters the joy of angling and gets them outdoors and away from the computer screens. They understand that living means experiencing, not reading about or watching secondhand. They also teach ethics and responsible use of the resources which is necessary if the sport is to survive and grow. We can all do our own little part.
Being employed in a fly shop is about more than selling equipment, stocking shelves, and rigging lines for people. It’s about mentoring the next generation of fly fishermen. It’s about celebrating their successes, sharing their failures, and encouraging them towards future angling adventures. Austin, Jeff, Tanner, and all the others we’ve helped over the years are on the right track and we’re glad to have played a small part.
Brian “Beastman” Eastman