In Pursuit of Perfection: The Ideal Fly Shop

by Mark McGlothlin on June 27, 2013

in Inquiring Minds Want to Know


I love the assault on your senses when you first step into a real fly shop.

Lately I’ve taken to simply stepping out of the shop doorway, standing still, and taking time to soak it in. There are of course trinkets and temptations as far as the eye can see, and in fact the more you look the more you espy in terms of goods and product demanding a touch.

But clearly it’s not all about the visual.

Some of the most memorable shops I’ve been in have an aroma that adds to the ambiance, whether it be wood smoke from the pot bellied stove in the corner, the wet dog asleep in the wader section, the pot of cheap coffee steaming on the counter or the astringent perfume from the two aisles of tying materials from all over hell and beyond.

Lately some of my compadres and I have been spending a great deal of time talking about what makes a great shop a magnet for fishers; the deeper we’ve dug the more surprised we’ve been at what we’ve found.

Sure, great product lines help.

So does a nifty building in a sexy location, acres of binned flies, decent coffee, enough softgoods to keep She Who Must Be Obeyed interested and a shop critter. A motley array of old pickups, drift boats (at least one wooden) and kayaks in the parking lot scores points too. And there should be at least one aromatic, bearded old timer (ZZ Top-inspired beards even better) sipping a spiked V8 and cursing hipsters and today’s crowds basking on the porch or leaning in a corner.

But that’s still probably not what gets us back in the door for a second (and more) repeat visit.

It’s the staff.

You don’t have to spend much time in a shop (60 seconds or less for the folks I’ve been talking to lately) to get a feel if you’re welcome. A simple greeting and a smile go a long way. As does a fishing update that’s long on reality and short on bullshit, even if the news ain’t so good. Or selling me what I’m really looking for and not the latest graphite wonder rod or NASA-engineered waders that cost more than my first truck.

They don’t bitch if it’s snowing. Or raining.

There are shops that make you feel like you’ve just stepped into the living room of a great friend; you just have to smile when you get there. Folks who look you in the eye and listen, laugh at your sh*tty jokes and whistle reverentially when you show off yesterday’s pic of your ten inch rainbow.

Yep, we understand it’s a damned tough business, and we truly appreciate the guys and gals working dawn to dusk to run shops in these challenging days.

So who runs a great shop out there?