Mar 2 2009 11:04 am

pimpin' ain't easy

I became the buyer/manager for the fly fishing department at JL Waters in late November.  JL Waters is the local outfitters here in Bloomington (really the only such place in all of southern Indiana).  It’s been around since 1973.  Great shop.  We’ve got “technical apparel” (Patagucci et al.), footwear, climbing, backpacking, and camping gear, a huge selection of kayaks and canoes etc. etc.  The fly shop hasn’t been up to snuff for several years now, mainly because it has been handed off to a new buyer every six months of so.  This makes for a weirdly patchy rod, reel, and line selection, a non-existent supply of fly tying materials utterly basic to our local creek smallmouth fisheries like big streamer hooks, Zonker strips, and dumbbell eyes, and no real unified “program” to speak of.  Not to mention a mysteriously empty Zero Gravity rod tube, spools in reel boxes and reels in spool boxes, a collection of Clearwater I rods discontinued some two or three years ago (they’re 33% off right now), and a local clientele who shake my hand and say with a sympathetic and resigned tone: “’re the new guy.”   

Given that I’m not teaching this spring semester, and that I’ve always wanted a good local fly shop to support, I decided to apply for the job when the revolving door opened last fall.  I’m having a good time with it so far and feel that I’m finally making some progress growing the department and getting some of our local customers back.  I’ve met a bunch of great people who know a lot about fly fishing.  Good times all around.  I’m warm and fuzzy.  Though I surely wish the Orvis price sheet was organized in some obvious way, that Wapsi’s catalog codes weren’t so tedious, and that there wasn’t a shortage of good dry fly hackle right now.   

One thing that has been really hackin’ on me, however, is the other service a fly shop necessarily provides: information about where to fish.  I’m spent several years here exploring local creeks, finding access, finding fish, and now I have to tell every random person that wants to know where it all is.  Well, at least where some of it is.  This is necessary, of course, because without places to fish, people won’t buy tackle and flies and new Fishpond chest packs.  And the more people fish, the more things they will buy.  And this is good because, at least from one perspective, the more they fish the more passionate about fishing they will be and the more they will protect fisheries and the better those fisheries will be (this is Rich Osthoff’s rationale in his spill-most-of-the-beans-book Fishing the Rocky Mountain Backcountry). 

And the natural extension of this is it will help the fly shop grow as well and we’ll enter into a furious cycle of glorious autocatalytic improvement bliss.   

And we all know this is good because once the addiction reaches a certain level, only the most esoteric crap can knock the monkey off your back.  I plan on buying a 7wt switch rod for instance, and a bass rod that throws a 10wt pike taper line.  And clearly I need to make more homemade dubbing blends in my coffee grinder and use them only with tedious dubbing loops...Tim.     

Anyway, I feel like I’m cheating myself and others who worked to learn an area when I pimp local hotspots.  I try to tell them: don’t fish during the spawn, use barbless hooks, catch and release etc. etc.  I only give a river’s name.  The only creek I give specific instructions for is the local creek, the one 15 minutes outside of town.  And I only offer directions to one spot, the one that happens to be most obvious.  I mean, someone had to tell me at some point, right?  There are five or six miles of creek and I started at that same obvious spot and had to learn most of the rest of it on my own, I had to look at maps, and drive around and wade up and down and do a lot of fishing. 


But this is rewarding.  And I tell customers that.

So I try to justify my pimping and I’m feeling ok about it so far.  Maybe I won’t feel so good when I run into a bunch of customers on my favorite backwoods holes this summer, but then I’ll just have to hike farther and harder than them, won’t I?

But my reaction to the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail that I learned about recently on Midcurrent belies my true feelings about pimping.  The “trail” has a website which describes 15 different creeks and rivers in Jackson County NC.  There are maps and notes about each one.  Some of them are very small wild and native trout streams (people might be shocked when they get to Moses Creek, see photo below).  Some of them are some of my favorite places to fish.  I try to get down that way a couple times every year to visit friends and do some fishing (though Dr. O’Connell is actually up this way and sitting in my living room right now as I type, update to follow). 

The “trail” was developed by the Jackson County tourism authoritA with help from, shocker, a couple local guides.  This trail might be great for local guides and fly shops (if there were any fly shops in Jackson County, I’ve always thought the old Jack the Dipper on the Tuck would make a great fly shop).  I guess the Waynesville, Bryson City, and Cherokee shops will be the ones to benefit. 

But how will it be for the fish and the rivers?  The website has a lame statement about leaving the river better than you found it blah blah.  I want strong language about the specific regulations for a few of these places.  For example, Panthertown Valley is ALL CATCH AND REALEASE, ARTIFICAL LURE ONLY.  That is important.  Panthertown is a rare place where the fish need to be protected.  Single barbless hooks should be encouraged in Panthertown.  It's irresponsible to hot spot it without mentioning this stuff.  Similarly, a lot of the places they mention are wild trout waters.  They need to emphasize that catch and release is important for maintaining these fisheries. 

I’m going to write to them and say that.

At the same time, a lot of those wild trout waters are pretty far off the beaten path and require a bit of a hike to get to, so that helps keep the crowds down. 



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