At the end of January, I wrote a blog about the dilemma I faced being two hours from home without my sling pack, which contained all my flies, tippet, leaders, and other gear I needed to fish for the day. Fortunately, I was fifteen minutes away from the TCO fly shop in Reading, PA, and I was able to purchase the items I needed to save my opportunity to fly fish. Since that time, I’ve needed to pick up different items for fly fishing and fly tying, and I think of how having a fly shop near fishing destinations is incredibly helpful and can save the day. It brought back into focus that supporting local businesses and fly shops are critical to the communities they support.
As travel restrictions increased due to COVID, more of my purchases became internet focused. We can order our groceries online now! Amazon is a click away, and large stores like Walmart and Target have user-friendly apps and websites to facilitate any online purchase. However, an online purchase would not have helped me on January 24th in Reading, PA.
My blogs the last two weeks (Part 1 and Part 2) have been about the benefits of hobbies. One of the biggest benefits is the sense of community created and the connections we create through our hobbies. This week I had the opportunity to interview Murray Friedman, owner of Hunting Creek Outfitters in Frederick, MD. I reached out to Murray for some of his insight on fly fishing and experiences in owning a fly shop as research for the book I am writing. One thing that struck me throughout the interview is Murray’s connection to the community.
In nearly every answer to one of my questions and in the stories he told, Murray’s pride in being part of the Frederick community and the local fly fishing community was evident. He spoke about the feeling of joy in having generations of fly anglers and outdoor enthusiasts visit his store. He has customers now who first came to his store in a stroller and are now adults. Murray has supported local fly fishing clubs, Casting for Recovery, Project Healing Waters, Trout Unlimited, the Ruffed Grouse Society, and many others. Small businesses can’t support every cause and charity, but when you can walk into a store and talk to the owner at any time, it allows for those connections to be made without a corporate board or process. Local causes and charities often rely on the support of small businesses.
Murray described the friends and characters he has met in the fly shop over the last twenty years. He was gracious when describing the repeat customers who have kept his business going. Some of those customers have become friends and fishing companions, and some bring on that smile and eye roll, wondering what will they say next? Those interactions make all the work worth it and have helped him connect to the community.
Growing in a hobby requires support. Through my conversations with Brian the shop manager and Murray, they were able to help me select different gear, recommend local streams to fish, and give me suggestions on different ways to approach those streams. With most hobbies, having a place to go to get the gear you need, to gain knowledge from experienced and friendly mentors, and to receive encouragement on your continued pursuits is incredibly helpful. Fly shops are one of the critical places for support of fly fishing anglers. Other hobbies have their groups, organizations, vendors, and stores as well.
In the growth of a fly fishing hobby, connecting to the network of fly shops is a very helpful step. Many of the fly shops support each other and will recommend other shops if they don’t carry a particular item you need. I will include a list of shops and businesses at the end of the blog that have helped me in my journey. Owning and running a store takes a lot of work. Murray talked about how he doesn’t get to the stream as much as he’d like because there is always something to do for the store. The grunt work of sweeping the floors, cleaning the bathrooms, and keeping track of inventory are not glamorous but are necessary to provide a welcoming space with the items the customer needs. Part of that welcoming space is the shop dog, Mazie, who adds to the friendly atmosphere and is a conversation starter.
The local fly shops provide so many benefits over a pure online shopping experience. A few of those benefits are listed below:
- The ability to try out gear, either trying on clothing or rigging up a rod and reel and casting it outside the shop
- Instructional classes for fly tying and fly fishing (sometimes intro classes are free or are offered for a reasonable fee)
- Helpful staff that point out techniques that have been working recently, different flies to use, information on hatches, and different places to fish for different species
- Advice on fly tying materials and techniques–often they will show you directly on a vice in the store.
- Information on local clubs, guides, and fly fishing events
- Good return policies
- Good storytelling and places to share your favorite fishing story without continually boring your family
- Support of local charities and causes
- Ordering specialty items for you directly through their vendors
- The ability to buy your fishing licenses there and receive instructions on restrictions for different areas
I can see how my growth as an angler has been aided by my time in different fly shops. They have slightly different vibes and distributions of merchandise, but I’ve found them to be overall friendly and helpful places. Supporting local businesses that support your growth in a hobby is a win-win situation. These local businesses are each growing their online presence, but it is important to support these shops both online and in person, based to your personal comfort level and in accordance with local COVID guidelines. They have definitely saved the day for me before, and I have always ended up gaining more than just the purchase I made. Thank you to Murray Friedman and all the other fly shop owners who have helped me grow and find the fly fishing community.
- Hunting Creek Outfitters, Frederick, Maryland
- Great Feathers, Sparks, Maryland
- Backwater Angler, Monkton, Maryland
- Beaver Creek Fly Shop, Hagerstown, Maryland
- Savage River Outfitters, Swanton, Maryland
- Tulpehocken Creek Outfitters (TCO), 4 Pennsylvania Locations
- Holsinger’s Fly Shop, East Freedom, Pennsylvania
- Lively Legz Fly Fishing, Pennsylvania Based Online Store
- Kettle Creek Tackle Shop, Hammersley Fork, Pennsylvania
- Ron’s Flies, Nicholson, Pennsylvania
- Mossy Creek Fly Fishing, Harrisonburg, Virginia
- Shannon’s Fly & Tackle, Califon, New Jersey
- Brown Trout Fly Fishing, Asheville, North Carolina