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Working At The Shop(Part One)

Working At The Shop(Part One)


I walked into a fly shop for the first time about 60 years or so ago. It wasn't a fly shop so much, as a hardware store that had a pretty good selection of flies tied by a few locals. A little corner of the store displayed a selection of streamers in cellophane, stapled to small rectangles of cardboard. There was also a wooden bin divided in to squares that contained lots of dry flies. 

  At the time, I was still fishing with Al's Goldfish, Super Dupers, and sometimes on a nearby shallow lake with a fluorescent orange Mooselook Wobbler. My fishing buddy had somehow just acquired a beat up fly rod and reel and had kindly included me in this new way of catching Trout. I got to share the rod if I bought a few flies. I can't remember the flies I purchased that day, but chances are fair that they were a Grey Ghost and a Black Gnat. 
Since then I have roamed around hundreds of fly shops, almost always finding something I needed. My love of fly shops has never waned and I continue to seek  them out whenever the opportunity arises. 
So when Sue and Brett, owners of The Rangeley Region Sport Shop, presented me with the opportunity to work in the shop last Summer, I jumped on it. I had been tying flies for the shop for a few years and had always liked the way they seemed to appreciate the few tiers from whom they purchased the shop's inventory. Brett is the typical laid back fly shop owner, while Sue, a former teacher, is a whirlwind of activity. Brett is however, almost fiendishly selective about the way he wants the shop flies tied....not a lot of compromise in that respect, and consequently he ties a large percentage of the flies found in the shop....over a thousand dozen per year I would estimate. He has taught Sue his way of tying and if you leave her alone, she'll whip out 6 dozen a day or so of crisp, quality flies herself. I always felt my flies were appreciated, even when Brett might find a flaw here and there. I had tied for other shops, and the experience was okay, but always felt kinda too business like.. I always got paid but never felt part of the shop. Brett and Sue would open my fly deliveries and treat them like Christmas presents, before dumping them in the bins.
During the Season, Brett is almost always out on the water with a client or two. I think he prefers being out over working in the shop, but that is an opinion, not a fact. I found out early on, that I didn't know what I didn't know. Sue can whip up a backing to fly line Albright knot with her eyes closed and has an uncanny ability to change spool reel directions, regardless of the reel's brand. And for some reason, no two brands seem to use the same method. i found myself embarrassingly slow with this stuff and would almost always have to say, "Sue", and she would come to my rescue. Still, I was enjoying myself and sometimes felt like I was actually helping....I was a lot better at talking than doing. There's a lot of behind the scene stuff that has to occur to be able to service the shop's clientele properly....until next time.
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Peter Kenniston - April 24, 2020

Very interesting, have known John his whole life.

Vesta - April 24, 2020

I tied a couple of flies at the Outdoor Women Program with Fred Hurley from Wayne one year, but never found a fish that would even look at them. It wasn’t Fred’s fault though. Don’t think I have a back for it….May have to go to Rangeley this summer and buy a couple of John’s flies. Great article, John.

Cheryl - April 24, 2020

I had the pleasure of meeting John at Henry’s Fork in Idaho where he taught me how to fly fish. He’s also the best fire side story teller I know.

milt baston - April 24, 2020

joking aside John, great article and hope that your next one comes soon

Peter Frend - April 24, 2020

Well done. The knowledge and experience that sets the Rangeley Region Sports Shop apart.

Spencer Brown - April 24, 2020

Excellent Blog! I enjoyed reading your first article and look forward to reading many more!

dale - April 24, 2020

Great stuff, John; you should put a few pieces together and send them to the big magazines.

Tom Goodspeed - April 24, 2020

Good job John, looking forward to the next one!😀

milt baston - April 23, 2020

I have had the dubious honor of fishing with John for more than half of those 60 years; and I must say that he is beginning to catch on.

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