Moves and expansion give fly fishers reason to smile The track record for small, local fishing retailers has not been good in recent years. The economy, the Internet, competition from big-box stores and the unpredictability of fishing forced a number of places to close.
But now there is a sense of celebration among South Sound fly anglers. Tacoma again has its own fly shop with the move of Puget Sound Fly Co. from Kent, and Gig Harbor Fly Shop has tripled its space at a new location.
“There’s not a lot of expansion right now in the fly- fishing industry. There’s more contraction than anything else,” said Brian Bennett, national fly-fishing sales manager for Patagonia.
After eight years in Kent, Anil Srivastava opened Puget Sound Fly Co. in its Tacoma location just after Christmas. Blake Merwin moved Gig Harbor Fly Shop to its new location Jan. 2
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“It shows that they’re growing,” he said of the two shops. “It’s a testament to Anil and Blake and how they take care of customers and the knowledge they have. It’s nice to see a couple guys doing good.”
PUGET SOUND FLY CO.
Anil Srivastava was so busy tending to customers recently, he didn’t have time to unload the boxes of newly arrived gear and materials. It’s just the scenario he envisioned when he moved his fly shop from Pacific Highway South in Kent to Tacoma Mall Boulevard.
“Already, there’s quite a few people from Tacoma who I’d see once a year or never see, now they’re coming in more often,” he said.
“Most people are pretty positive. In this economy, when you tell people you’re moving, they ask if you’re going out of business,” Srivastava added.
While there is still work to be done in getting the new shop going, Srivastava’s decision is confirmed by a customer. After purchasing some items, the man said, “Now that you’re such a short drive, you know I’ll be back.”
The new shop has about the same amount of inventory as the former location. But because he has more display space, it looks like he has more items, Srivastava said. “When you have a lot of inventory, but it doesn’t display well, you’re paying a lot of money for inventory that’s not moving,” he said. It also helps that the store is not crowded. There is room to sit and try on waders, there is space to hold a rod without poking someone or something.
Future plans: Next month, Srivastava will add a line of women’s gear from manufacturers such as Redington, Patagonia and Simms. “More and more women are getting into the sport, so it will be nice to offer them products made just for them,” Srivastava said. The women’s offerings will include waders, boots and apparel.
This also is the time of year new products begin arriving at local shops. Among some of the items that he expects to attract interest are the F1 reel from Ross and the NRX rods from G. Loomis. The aluminum reels feature a drag system made with carbon fiber and stainless steel, and 10 O-ring seals to keep water out. The rods are made from the first graphite the company has developed in 17 years. Made for fresh and saltwater, the the NRX rods were honored with both “Best New Freshwater Rod” and overall “Best of Show” awards at last fall’s ICAST Show.
Customer reaction: Jim O’Keefe joked that the move is exactly what he has been suggesting Srivastava make for years. “It’s a heck of a lot better than driving to Kent,” the Eatonville resident said.
“When the Morning Hatch left, it was a sad day for a lot of us fly fishers,” he said of the former fly shop that closed in 2007. “I’ve come in here several times, and he’s always had customers, so that’s a good sign.”
On a rainy mid-January day, Barb Pinney made her first trip to the shop. Srivastava called out her name as she walked through the door. With her shopping list in hand, Pinney looked around and gave a nod of approval to the new shop.
But for her, it’s the man behind the counter that is most important.
“I’ll come down here from Seattle for Anil,” said Pinney, who was a patron of the Kent shop for five years. “I’ll come here for his expertise.”
GIG HARBOR FLY SHOP
When he first opened his shop in early 2009, owner Blake Merwin wanted to share his passion for fly fishing.
“I hate going into a fly shop and some guy is talking over my head,” Merwin said. “You have to realize where people are at to take them further in the sport.”
While Merwin talked about the new shop, a man came in looking to buy a fishing license. Merwin doesn’t sell them, but told the man where he could get one. Rather than let the man walk out after that, Merwin asked him a few quick questions. Turns out the man was invited by a buddy to go fishing the next day in South Sound. Not sure whether the man was going to fly fish or not, Merwin still gave him a couple of flies to try.
Giving away a couple of flies won’t cost Merwin much, but it might have introduced another person to the sport. And that’s his goal.
“We want people to love fly fishing. But they’re not going to get it unless you show them,” he said.
His original shop had just 570 square feet of retail space at a second floor location in downtown Gig Harbor. Now, with 1,900 square feet and a better location, Merwin is noticing more people coming in off the street.
“I can remember being on the phone with people, trying to tell them where the shop was, waving down to them out the window,” he said.
“It’s been awesome so far,” he said of the difference.
Future plans: Merwin said the shop will hold a grand opening Feb. 12, with seminars and demonstrations. The shop staff also is busy planning an education weekend, likely to be held in May. The schedule for the free event will be filled with short seminars, casting clinics, and sessions on fly-fishing destinations.
“We’re trying to take down some of the barriers to fly fishing to get people into the sport,” Merwin said.
That’s one reason why the shop offers regular clinics on casting, fly tying, and steelhead and searun cutthroat trout fishing, with many sessions on the water. It also hosts events such as the Fly Fishing Film Tour, scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 24. The showing of 15-20 short films drew 120 people last year.
Customer reaction: Nate Slater said the original location was a “good starter shop,” but the new location is “awesome.” Before the shop opened, he used to make the trip to the Orvis store in Bellevue. “But I’m not Orvis people,” said the commercial fisherman, still clad in his rumpled overalls and hooded sweatshirt. “The open space and the visibility of all the items is great,” the Key Peninsula resident said of Merwin’s new shop.
Asked for his reaction to the new location, Gig Harbor resident John Abbott joked, “I’m broke” after stocking up on fly-tying materials. After the Morning Hatch Fly Shop in Tacoma closed, Abbott said his tying eventually stopped. “I got back into tying because of this shop.”
While the expanded store is nice, Abbott said it’s the atmosphere he truly appreciates. “It’s a nice place to get away. It’s kind of like a barber shop,” he said. “When you’re here, you get the advice, the latest info, the stories.”
Gig Harbor Fly Shop
Where: 3115 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor. Turn left from Pioneer Way onto Harborview Drive. The shop is on the right.
Information: 253-851-3474, www.gigharborflyshop.com
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays; noon-6 p.m. Sundays
History: Began operations as an online store in 2004; opened first brick-and-mortar location in 2009.
Puget Sound Fly Co.
Where: 6001 Tacoma Mall Blvd., Suite B2, Tacoma. Take the southern most exit into the Prosser Plaza.
Information: 253-472-2420, www.pugetsoundflyco.com
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays
History: Was located in Kent for eight years before moving to Tacoma.