Montgomery Ward. Western Auto. Sears & Roebuck. Magic
names from the past, my past anyway, perhaps yours too.
Stores that had everything; hardware, software, underwear
and over-wear. And fishing stuff, lots and lots of neat
That's where my dreams were hatched, nurtured and to some
degree accomplished. I could buy a muffler for my car or
a cane fly rod all at the same store. I could get a big
reel for big fish, tiny flies for trout and furniture.
They didn't sell bait (that I remember). They didn't sell
spinning rods and reels either (they had not been invented
yet). Casting rods and reels though, lots of them, they
were the 'in' thing until Mitchell and Johnson came along,
then spinning took over. And then cane went out, replaced
by fiber-glass. Times changed and society did too. Only
one of the stores above still exists. Now we have 'Wally-World'
Time was when the store where a fellow bought his fishing
gear sold a whole range of other things, unless he went
to a bait-shop. And you know what? Bait-shops were just
that, bait-shops with very little else.
They were no pro-shops, they hadn't been invented yet either.
Good grief man, it was just fishing gear and/or bait; there
was no attitude of superiority in the name of the store or
the attitude of the owners. Down to earth types. Good old
boys. Made you feel welcome. Oh sure, you knew they knew,
and they knew you needed to know what they knew too. (Wow,
did I just write that?) Well, they told you. And you listened.
And you did like they said. Because you knew that they knew
and now you knew too.
And you caught fish. And they sold fishing gear and they
made a living doing it. It worked out well for both of you.
But they did not make it selling dog-beds and sweaters.
They did it by having what you needed for whatever 'kind'
of fishing you were doing...or wanted to do. They succeeded
by being of service to you, not just by having the gear,
but with the right attitude, honest information and making
you feel like they cared about you and your success.
These places are for the most part gone now. Progress
and society have all but snuffed them out. Attitudes,
ethics, morals and economics have forced them into
extinction. Too bad, I miss them and the days they
filled and the services they rendered. For me, Sears,
Wally's and Target don't make it somehow.
But, the wheel continues to turn. Many yuppie fly shops
are or have gone under. Trying to cater only to a
high-class clientele is tough. Some can make it, but
not many. Fly shops which are going to make it are
expanding. True, in today's market, which is repressed
for any number of reasons, there is an effort to add
spinning and bait-casting to shops. Even bait machines,
sometimes located just outside the front door for
The 'holier than thow, pro-shop' attitude will be hard
to hang onto under these new venues. Are we seeing the
demise of pro-shops? Hardly, but those that don't offer
goods to a wider field may fold. "Times, they are a
changing," and those who don't change with them will
have a tough time of it for sure.
Has the time of the 'Pro-Shop' now come to it's end? Is
it's day in the sun fading? Do we want to do away with
the 'genuflect' when we enter the Pro-Palaces? Will I
once again be able to buy tires and terrestrials, rods
and rugs, and lines and linens at the same store?
Doubtful, but I can remember when I could and it was
not a bad thing. Back then some folks even thought
that fishing was...well, just fishin'. Perhaps some
day Les Schwab will be a sponsor on here.
~ James Castwell