Believe it or not, I do other outdoor stuff outside of fly fishing. I run, I (enjoy it when someone else tends to the) garden, I hike. I’m even comfortable enough to spend a whole day doing one of those things, even if it means that I am “giving up” a day fishing.
That doesn’t mean that I am not going to be thinking about fishing. Or looking in mountain streams for brookies. Or noticing big, cruising carp in a subdivision pond. Or planning my next trip to wherever I am currently, this time with fly rod in hand.
A few weeks back I was up in Vermont, doing some trail running and exploring a part of New England that I had yet to venture into. Vermont is beautiful, but the location of the state makes it such that you’re not going to be there unless you want to be there. No one just drives through Vermont. The Stowe area, where I was, is great. But unless you ski, there probably isn’t much of a draw for folks from a distance.
The ridge of Mt. Mansfield, containing the highest peak in Vermont, was the draw for me. I hit it early in the morning, enjoying spectacular weather and views only slightly obscured by wildfires blazing to the north in Canada. After the run, I ate some pizza in Stowe, and headed back down to Massachusetts.
When what did I see? A sign for “The Fly Rod Shop.”
I’ve known that the shop existed, primarily from seeing social media buzz for their relatively young fly fishing show. Being “The Vermont Fly Fishing Show,” I rightly assumed it was somewhere in Vermont – but I had no clue I’d be passing it on my trip.
So, I stopped in.
The shop sits by itself up on a hill. That day, boats from float trips were spread out on the lawn being hosed off and prepped for the next outing. The big “OPEN” sign hung from the front porch, and I walked on up.
One of the employees saw me pull in, so he stopped spraying down the boats and headed inside. I was warmly greeted, and immediately asked if I needed anything. I didn’t need anything. I was just stopping to check out the shop, poke around the locally tied flies, and see if there were any unique pieces of gear or miscellany. He told me to go ahead, and waited patiently at the counter.
After only a few minutes, I made my way back to the front. He engaged me, asking where I was from, what I fished for, and what brought me up to Stowe. We talked about that for a bit, and then I asked for a quick synopsis of the local fishing. He energetically talked about the brook trout only minutes from the shop, excitedly lauded the lakes and their various tributaries’ runs, and willingly wove helpful info into it all.
Maybe I’m overthinking this, but he had to have known I wasn’t going to be buying a whole lot that day. First of all, I definitely had the “I just want to look around” aura about me. Second, I was in running shorts and a t-shirt with no wallet evident. But he still took the time to talk, be friendly, and offer customer service.
I’ll gladly go back to The Fly Shop if I’m in Stowe or the surrounding region. I’ll quickly recommend them to anyone heading up there for vacation – even if they aren’t initially planning on fly fishing. They have a great selection of tying materials, more than enough fly rods to warrant their name, and various items that cater to fly anglers and tourists alike. But those reasons aren’t why they get my accolades (whatever those are worth). It was that one, good ten-minute stretch where I felt welcome.
This kind of attitude and atmosphere is what the fly fishing industry needs now more than ever. Not pushy, not industrial, not apathetic, not elitist, not cliquish. Just a pleasant “how can I help you?”
It goes without saying that I think you should check out The Fly Rod Shop if you’re in north-central Vermont. Even if you aren’t, head over to their website to see what they have going on!