Before I begin, I feel obligated to point out that this post is meant to serve as both a humorous take on the daily life of a shop employee as well as a lighthearted guide for those who may be new to the wonderful world of fly fishing. Don’t take offense, and don’t read it as making fun of the uninitiated. If you know anything about the SCOF crew, you know that we aren’t exactly what you call elitists.
A fly shop is an intimidating place upon your first visit. I get it. There are hundreds of fly patterns, guys in plaid speaking in a strange and foreign tongue, and, in many cases, an old guy giving advice to a young couple about fly patterns and relationships. He looks like he works there, but he doesn’t.
If you’ve found a good shop, you’ll be made to feel welcome. If not, find another shop. Shop employees are almost always willing to provide guidance for a beginner, but you must remember that you will only get out what you put in. In an effort to set you off on the right path, I have assembled the following tips. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and common sense should rule the day. You’d be surprised, however, just how rare common sense is.Without further ado, here we go.
You should . . .
- Acknowledge the shop staff when they greet you. (Shop guys, greet your damn customers.)
- Be honest. There’s no shame in saying that you are a beginner. Contrary to popular opinion, we don’t think our customers are idiots. We just don’t walk around with two pieces of fly line assuming everyone needs to be shown a surgeon’s knot.
- Ask questions. Yeah, there are a lot of perks to working in a fly shop. We dig the discounts and the opportunities to field test new gear, but we are there because we enjoy sharing what we’ve learned. We may keep some secrets, but we’ll answer most of your questions.
- Mind your damn manners. Yeah, we may cuss and talk shit with our buddies in the shop, but we don’t do it when women and kids are around. You shouldn’t either.
- Cultivate a relationship with the employees the same way you do with the bartenders at your favorite bar.
- Cast a rod before you buy it. You might even get a little casting lesson while you’re at it.
- Try on waders and boots before you buy them. Walk around a bit. Wear the socks you would wear when you’re fishing.
- Have reasonable expectations for the lifespan of your gear. Fifteen-year-old waders leak, and you need to replace the fly line on that old reel your granddad found in the garage and gave you. That’s just the way it goes.
- Give us your feedback. Is there something we could be doing better? Did we let you down? Please let us know so we can fix it.
- Always be learning. There is always something you can improve, and we are happy to help.
You shouldn’t . . .
- Act like you know more about this whole thing than the guys in the shop unless you actually do. I’d be willing to bet you don’t, though.
- Be a dick.
- Interrupt employees that are helping a customer. It’s one thing to ask a question when folks are just shooting the shit, but don’t interrupt the guy trying to sell an $800 rod and a new pair of waders to show him your fish pictures. We love seeing them, but we occasionally need to sell things to keep the lights on.
- Feel unwelcome. If you do, find a shop that makes you feel welcome.
- Ask for free stuff. That’s kind of not how it works.
- Wiggle rods around like you’re trying to perform an exorcism. I’ll let Kelly Galloup handle this one.
- Ask the guides to take you fishing. We’ve actually invented an arrangement where interested customers can exchange money for on-water-instruction. We’ve decided to call it guiding. Check it out.
- Speak on behalf of the shop or as if you are a representative of the shop. You’d be surprised.
- Act like an Eagle Claw rod is as good as a high end Scott, Orvis, or Sage. They aren’t. Whether or not they are good enough for you is another matter.Similarly, don’t think that a high-end rod is the solution to your casting issues. It isn’t.
- Take this sport too seriously. If it isn’t fun for you, or if your sole motivation is to impress people, find something else. There will always be a better caster or a better fisherman out there, so don’t compare yourself to everyone else.