We fly anglers live in an interesting world. This comes to mind
after a day "off" . Of course, our idea of a day off may not be yours,
but we planned a quick trip to Victoria, B.C. for an afternoon visit with
Clive Schaupmeyer who writes the "Our Man in Canada" column for
this website. Clive and his wife Willie were in Victoria for the annual
meeting of the Outdoors Writers of Canada.
And like many of us on the web, we had web-chatted, spoke on
the phone - but never met in person. So here was an opportunity to
have an "eye-ball" meeting. For us it's an hour or so drive to the ferry
in Port Angeles WA, and another hour on the passenger ferry, The
Victoria Express to make the crossing.
Beautiful sunshine day - the first in a couple of weeks. Nice music
on the C.D., thermos of hot coffee and tooling down the road on cruise
control. Pretty nice.
"Say, as long as we are going right by, how about we stop and say
'hi' at Tommy's?" (Castwell, and his idea of a day off - stop at a fly
Tommy it turned out, was off somewhere fishing. But we spent a
half hour going through new books on his rack. A couple of which will
show up on the book review section. And looked at some new fly tying
materials. And a shirt . . .
Smooth sunny crossing, polite, friendly customs officers, and
sitting outside on a bench waiting for us when we landed, Clive and
Winnie. Over refreshments at Clive's hotel, mention of fly-tying
materials. A list of local island fly shops was produced, Winnie found a
downtown map at the bellman's desk, zeroed in on the address, and
with Winnie guiding we took off walking.
Victoria is a beautiful city. Clean, flowers everywhere, traffic
neatly controlled and at least in the harbor area, lots of little shops and
restaurants. Not a mall in sight. Absolutely lovely! For American's it is
also a major bargain. With the current exchange rate about 40% you
can have a holiday for very little expense. Certainly less than the same
amenities in our closest city Seattle.
So it was off to find the fly shop, (second one of the day.) Nice
people, well stocked, but not the materials we needed in the right color.
But Castwell did manage to spend a few bucks anyway. But there is
another shop! Not within walking distance, 'tho.
The clerk at this fly shop recommended another other fly shop,
and offered to call a taxi for the four of us. How nice! Cab was prompt
in arriving and took us miles away to the "other" fly shop, which turned
out to be Island Outfitters Ltd., which bills itself as a sportfishing
center. Gratefully they did have the hair he wanted, in the proper
colors, and he will be able to tie Castwell's Marblehead for a number of
Island Outfitters is a very neat shop. In the U.S. it would be called
a "cross-over" shop. They have spin, bait and fly fishing items and
gear. Well done, nicely laid out, with a large, knowledgeable, friendly
staff. (One of their staff Carlin Bennett is a well-known B.C. tier and
writer who we hope you will see soon on FAOL.)
As fishermen tend to do, we all were visiting, when we became
aware of another person wearing a green shirt with an embroidered
Cortland logo. Introductions all around. The Cortland guy is Bill Gower.
(Who by the way, made room, and went out of his way to take the four
of us all the way back downtown in his van.)
If I sound a little impressed by the courtesy and friendliness of our
Canadian neighbors, you are bang on. And the point it this: On the drive
back downtown, we asked Bill how fly fishing is doing in Canada. We
have heard all sorts of doom and gloom comments about how bad the
fly fishing industry is here.
Bill said there isn't any problem with a declining sport, or
declining interest in fly fishing in Canada at all. Hmmmmm.
This became quite a lengthy discussion. And maybe it has to do
with attitude. Many fly shops in the U.S. are private little kingdoms of
the owner. If five years ago he received a free demo rod from one of
the major companies, or bought one at key-employee discount, that was
the rod! I mean THE Rod. No matter what came out new or better, he
pushed sales of that rod. Because he used it, and was an "expert"
everyone had to have one!
At some point people all either had his pet rod, or lost interest
after being pressured to buy. Is the market "saturated?" Even in B.C.
where ever more stringent regulations are enacted to protect their
salmon, fly fishing is increasing.
And where do most of the new fly fishers come from? Spin
fishing, bait fishing . . . the same place most of us started. And most of
us probably bought our first fly rod from a shop that we trusted where
we had bought spinning or bait rods. We bought other rods based
mostly on our own experience and knowledge of what we needed for a
Does the difference in attitude between Ward Bonds " Island
Outfitters" shop in Victoria, B.C. (which Bill Gower said was very
typical) and our speciality fly shops count toward the lack of new fly
fishers in the U.S.?
Interesting question. ~ LadyFisher