Several years ago there was a fly shop a few miles from
here that was part of a much larger sporting goods store.
Not a chain, just a local place, well known and thought
of in the community for a long time. The 'fly shop' part
had been a recent innovation, riding the crest of the
'movie' and reflecting the interests of the son of the
owners of the store. He needed a job, was very interested
in fly fishing and so the fly-shop part developed.
Every winter they would have a fellow teach an evening
fly tying class. The store was open until nine so the
classes started at seven and ran until closing time.
The store didn't charge anything for the classes even
though they featured a pretty well known instructor
and author of a fine book on fly fishing.
But he did charge for his tying classes. He didn't sell
anything, just charged for his time teaching. Not much
as I remember, maybe ten bucks a person for six nights.
Of course the fly shop was open during his classes and
if any of the students needed anything they could buy it.
Not from the instructor, from the guy running the fly
shop at the time.
The store didn't charge anybody anything, except for
materials and so forth. The instructor got a nice place
to teach and got all the money for his efforts. He
collected all his own fees. It was a fine arrangement,
seeming to satisfy everyone.
I think it's proper for anyone teaching fly-tying,
fly-casting, fly-fishing or fly anything else to charge
and be paid for it. It is when double-dipping takes place
that I get disappointed. By that I mean a fly shop that
charges for classes and the materials necessary to utilize
them. I can side with a shop which might charge for a six
evening tying class and included in the price is all the
materials needed and the use of a vise and all the tools
It is here that sometimes keeping an eye on the bottom
line blurs the view of the top line. If the first goal
is making sure the bucks roll in, then sometimes the
quality of the classes tends to suffer. There are a few
shops that still offer tying and casting classes at no
charge except for any materials used but not many.
Offering free classes is a great clientele builder, but
most feel it reflects poorly on their image and that must
be promoted at all costs. Heavens forbid the fly shop
owner would suffer image damage. Giving something away
most certainly could do that. After all, if the classes
are nearly exorbitant, they must be really good. Sometimes
it's just the chance to 'rub elbows' with the great and
For a fly shop to actually give free casting lessons and
hope the attendee's might actually buy something from the
shop would be just too much to ask. They might run home
and buy new rods off the Internet or from Wally World.
True. They might. Make sure you make so much off of them
that it won't matter if they buy rods, reels lines and
other goodies someplace else. Get yours first. Even better.
Get yours and then make a profit on what they buy from you
Once, I remember a shop offering a substantial discount to
any class members on things they bought. Forty percent I
think it was. The problem was that some of the things they
sold were 'fair traded,' no discounts allowed or they would
lose their supplier. It all gets very complex. What do they
charge for and how and why? If a fly shop gives a free casting
clinic and a guy wants to buy a rod he fell in love with and
the shop gives him a discount, should that fly shop lose its
dealership? Or how about a fly reel? Same question. And, yes
there are manufacturers out there who will do this.
So the fly shop must charge the full price or lose it's
dealership. No way around it. Or is there. Other free
things. Done all the time. Who hasn't bought a reel and
fly line and had the backing thrown in and installed at
no charge. Here is another way things are done, or can
be done. Not used as often but if a shop really wants to
get around things they will take in trade-in's. Allow far
more for the traded in item than it is really worth.
Always a way around things...if they really want to.
Remember. These are things your local fly shop might be
able to do. The big-box guys? Not a chance. Of course
your local fly shop can't do anything if not given the
chance. ~ JC