Jack's Rod & Fly Shop
Every fly fisher, with any years under their belt, has
visited a number of fly shops. Modern fly shops no longer
just contain flies and tackle. Interspersed among the flies,
rods and reels are designer clothing, objects d'art, and
other items, some only remotely connected with fly fishing.
Waders no longer only come in olive drab canvas, vests are
available in colors other than tan, and hats, well that's
another story in itself. Fly fishing is no longer a bastion
of male chauvinism, therefore some shops have entire sections
containing angling equipment especially designed for the
By Neil M. Travis, Montana
For those of us old enough to count our years of angling
in terms of decades, we remember when fly shops were
precisely that and nothing more. Jack's Rod and Fly Shop
in Roscommon, Michigan, was specifically that kind of fly
In the '60s, Jack's Rod & Fly Shop was the only fly shop
near the south branch of the Au-Sable River in Michigan's
lower peninsula. Many local businesses carried a few flies
and assorted other fishing items, but Jack's was the place
to get it all. Situated just off the main highway on the
outskirts of Roscommon, Jack's place was nothing like the
modern fly shop. An unassuming building, it housed both
the fly shop and the family residence, and except for a
sign on the front, you would never guess it was a business.
There were only two people associated with Jack's place:
Jack Schweigert and his wife Ann. When you stopped at the
shop you rarely found Jack, but you always found Ann.
You would not find any "foreign tied flies" at Jack's place.
All of the flies were tied by Ann, and she was usually busy
tying whenever you happened through the door. There were bins
of flies of every description, most of them dry flies, with
only a few nymphs, streamers and bucktails. If you could not
find exactly what you wanted, Ann would tie it for you.
Jack's fly selection, even by modern fly shop standards,
was impressive. The entire back wall of the shop was devoted
to the fly section. In addition to all of the standard dry
flies, they had a number of "specialty" flies. Parachute
flies were called "glider flies," and there were over 20
different "drake" patterns.
They tied flies called "See-Easy" flies. These were dry fly
patterns tied with a single up-right wing of Impali hair
which made them easier to see in dim light. There were
"Buzz Saw" patterns, double hooked flies, tied in streamer,
marabou and large squirrel tail patterns.
In addition to flies they sold rods, reels, lines, hand-tied
leaders, nets, fly boxes and vests. In those early years most
of the rods were bamboo with names like Orvis, Granger and
Young. In the later years an occasional fiberglass rod could
be found among the bamboo sticks.
Jack and the unique rod tester to graph proper line weights
Jack sold a concoction he had cooked up which he simply
called "Dry Fly Dope." He claimed it would not discolor
the fly, that it dried instantly and that it left no oil
rings on the water. It smelled like carbon tetrachloride
and kerosene but it did make your dry fly float. It was
sold in small, wide mouth bottles which normally leaked
out on your vest, imparting a distinctive odor which
remained with you from season to season. It guaranteed,
that if you fell in while fishing, your vest would serve
as a flotation device. Modern floatation vests had nothing
on an old cotton vest soaked with Jack's "Dry Fly Dope."
Most of what Jack sold was directly related to fly fishing,
but they sold a few lures, and for ice fishing on the local
lakes they produced a series of handmade pearl spoons. You
could find a box or two of bait fishing hooks, split shot
and snelled hooks. I don't believe they sold worms, but I
Over the years that I traded there, nothing ever changed
much at Jack's place. No trip to northern Michigan was
quite complete without a stop at Jack's. However, time
and tide wait for no man, and the lure of other waters
drew me away from the tannin stained water of the Au Sable.
A few years ago I drove back through the town of Roscommon
and down the road to Jack's place. The weathered sign still
hung outside the building, but the place was empty. Staring
through the dusty window glass I could almost see Ann sitting
behind the counter tying just one more fly. The smell of
Jack's "Fly Dope" filled my nostrils and for a moment I
was young again. Wherever Jack and Ann went, they took
with them a piece of angling memorabilia, the likes of
which will not likely come again. ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana
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