January 12th, 2009

"PLUCKING A PIGEON, or how not to get."
By James Castwell


Could this have been you? You had a little time on your hands. You wandered into a fly shop and started looking around at all the neat stuff. You had fished a few years ago with a fly but you didn't really know what you were doing, and that was all right at the time. You seem to remember you fished for browns; yes, that's it. They were brown trout.

Not wanting to appear that you came in by accident, when the clerk strolls over and purrs, "Hi, can I help you?"

You open your big mouth and make life really easy for this guy. "What kind of fly works good here for brown trout?" you say.

Do you realize what you have just told him? Here are a few things of which he can now be reasonably sure about you.

You don't know that browns take many different flies at many different times. You don't know that you should match the fly to the food the trouts are eating. You probably can't cast well, you don't know your equipment, and you're a real novice.

Hey, you could be a "pigeon."

You have interest, probably some money, the time to go fishing. You don't have a clue about fly fishing. Hang on to your feathers. You could lose a few. This might be easy plucking and now it's all up to him. Remember that he does this for a living!

As you answered, he may have been thinking; "fly tying lessons, fly tying materials, casting lessons, a rod, a reel, a new line, leaders, all kinds of stuff. Let me see how much I can build this sale right now." If you get out of there without spending money on something, it will be a miracle.

You may hear him say, "Well gee, that depends on a few things." Translated that means: "I need more information; this guy might even need waders."

"Are you new to our area?" he smiles, getting really friendly now. He may welcome you to the area, shake hands, tell you his name and just happen to mention that he's been guiding fly fishermen for years and probably knows more than anyone around.

And, guess what your thinking? "Hey, am I in luck, this guy likes me and he's a real guide. Boy, I can learn a lot from him. Maybe I could get into this. It won't cost me anything just to talk to this guy." Well, guess again. He has rent, expenses, wages, taxes and bills. He is going to make money on someone, and I've seen too many pigeons lose their plumage when they shouldn't have.

So what happened to the free lunch?

Fly shop owners have to make a choice. They can treat their customers only one of two ways. One is to view each customer as a new, and potentially long term friend, a kindred spirit. Give him all the best information about gear, places, when to go, and what to use. Figure that he'll keep coming back as he grows in the sport and continues to purchase more and different equipment over the years. You might call this "the long view."

The second way is to treat each customer as a "pigeon," to be plucked at once for every buck he can get. It's his business and his idea is to make as much as he can in sales each and every day.

Besides, the "pigeon" may never come in again; get him now. I call that " the short view." What should the owner do? That's his choice; short view, long view, it's his business.

I'm pleased to say that most owners take the long view. At least the successful ones.

They are dedicated sportsmen, conservationists, and know what they're talking about. Most wouldn't recommend a certain fly rod just because they have too many on hand, nor a reel because they make more on it than another.

They wouldn't "schlep" something off on you, fix you up with the wrong flies, nor too many leaders. They'll will give you good advice, straight information, honest recommendations and a fair deal. You're important to them as a person, not how much they can make off you.

How can you tell them apart? It's not easy, just be advised. Did you get a chance to try a few rods outside? Did he suggest that perhaps you should attend a meeting of the local fishing club before you buy much? Sort of feel it out? So you did have a clue?

Or, when you left the store were afraid to tell your spouse how much you just spent on all this stuff; whatever it is?

Did you just get plucked? ~ James Castwell

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Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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