A hundred fishing writers have written about stream etiquette. As fly fishers, most of us have read these articles and talked about our own and others behavior on the water. We all have funny or nasty stories to tell about random encounters with boorish turds. And any of us worth our salt know the rules of the river. They can all be boiled down into one golden mantra to follow…Do Not Disrupt Others In Any Way. Simple. End of conversation. Just don’t be a dick. But no one has ever written about fly shop etiquette. And, because of many social and professional dynamics, this can be a much more complicated and delicate conversation. This is why it is a discussion topic usually avoided—like religion and politics. But I have zero qualms with instigating an argument about any of the three. Here are a few hot topics…
Uh…dude. Yer in the wrong place.If you go into a fly shop and ask for “snaggin’ hooks” do not be alarmed, or surprised to get a strange look from the man behind the counter. He will most likely explain curtly that it is a fly shop….selling only fly fishing gear. You would get the same reaction if you showed up at an archery shoot armed with a semi-auto shot gun, or to a B.A.S.S tournament event with a tin full of chicken livers. Severe faux pas. The same applies to phone calls. Do not call a fly shop looking for live night crawlers, minnows or sucker flesh. Call a bait shop. The difference between the two is immense. And they are easy to tell apart. Even in a phone book. It’s all in the name; anything with the word “angler” is a fly shop. Anyplace with a name that includes “beer” “bait” or “ammo” will have some old guy who will just love swappin’ stories about homemade egg cures and snagging big spawning rainbows at night.
Check yo self ‘fore ya wreck yo self!The quality of service and information you receive at a fly shop is a direct reflection of your attitude and demeanor once you walk through the front door. So, do not act like you are hot shit and smarter than the young punk working in your local shop….even if, in fact, you are. It does you no good. The best advice for improving your experience in a fly shop is to understand the typical fly shop employee. They are usually more intelligent and worldly than the average joe at the 24-hour convenience store, but probably paid less. Fly shop employees are there because they are proficient at what they do and love sharing that knowledge with others. They are there to promote the sport and enhance your experience on the water. If you exude cockiness and attitude it puts a shop guy on guard. He is working there to help people, not prove a point about his fishing prowess. If you experience an employee acting aloof and only replying to your questions with short, vague answers…check yourself closely before storming out of the shop and telling your friends about how arrogant the jerks are down at the fly shop.
Yo! Wrap it up, B!Make your fishing stories brief and please god let there be an odd ending or a punch line. An average story told by a fly shop customer goes something like this: “Yeah just got back from the Frying Pan River. Oh, it was great! I went down with Joe. You know Joe, he comes in here a lot, I think. Anyway, Joe and I went down and stayed two nights in Basalt….no, wait….it was two weekends ago. Anyway we both caught fish. Well, I got a bunch and Joe struggled a bit. But I was using small blue-winged olive mayflies at first, but I was getting these big rainbow trout coming and looking at my fly and not eating it, so I switched over to a size 24 emerger….an RS2, I think…I have one here in my fly box….no wait, it is out in my car. Anyway, it was this tiny fly that had a dark olive body and a tuft of something white up front, by the head….or maybe it was grey? I have one out in the car…really. I can go get it right now. No? OK. So, I switched to this other fly…the RS2, I think. Well, the trout didn’t like that one either. So, I finally switched over to this really big green mayfly pattern. I mean REALLY big! I’d show you that one, too but I…………”
At this point the fly shop employee is contemplating either suicide or that job at a 24-hour convenience store. That same fishing story told by a fly fishing guide goes like this: “Yeah, took Joe down to the Pan…whacked em’ good on drakes… Shoulda’ been there! Saw some guy fall in trying to net a fish! Friggin’ hilarious!” Wham. Bam. Story done. And, true or not, a punch line thrown in for good measure! The point is this: we all love a good story….but if it is a long one, it had better be a good one. The best and most memorable fishing story I ever heard in a fly shop was told in three words. “STONEFLIES! GUNNISON RIVER!” The man had not showered in days, had a wild look in his eyes and never came all the way into the shop. He just stuck his head in and yelled! Great!
Are you shitting me?Do not expect the guy at the fly shop to tell you all his secret hot spots. At best you will get a slight gesture to a certain corner of a map and a sly nod of approval. Do your own homework and put in some leg work. If you pressure the guy he will send you to the same place he sends everyone else….you will most likely catch a few average fish and see a bunch of other guys. Look close, you might recognize them from the line at the cash register! You can get some great leads on fishing spots, but only after you have developed a friendship and rapport with the guys.
Have I shown you my rear naked choke?Do not go into a fly shop and have someone tend to you for 45 minutes while you cast a rod, or try on waders if your intention is to leave the store and purchase your crap online. If you are doing this, please inform them right away, so they don’t waist time on you. And while I am on the subject, if you do your shopping online solely to avoid the state sales tax do not bitch when your local fly shop goes out of business. Also, do not order a reel and line from a big box store such as Cabela’s and then bring it into your local fly shop and expect them to spool the line on for you. You may or may not have gotten a better deal at the big box, but what you certainly did not get was the service. Most fly shops will do several things for you. They will often give you a break on the cost of the new fly line when you buy a reel and they will give you free backing…and, most importantly, they will put it all together for you.
Closin’ time, bud!Do not come into a fly shop right at closing time to pick at the fly bins or even cast a new fly rod. The employees are experts at what they do…they get that way by spending a lot of time on the water. They probably have plans to hit the local creek or bass lake for an hour or two after work. Or maybe (now, brace yourself!) they actually have a life outside of fishing. Yeah, crazy…I know.
Crazy Fly Shop Questions!