KW Morrow, White River

April 2nd, 2007

Backcountry Outfitters
By Ken Morrow

The other afternoon I decided to stop by Springfield, Missouri's, only independent fly shop, Backcountry Outfitters. The shop is located in a 1,000 square foot storefront in a strip center on Battlefield Road. It's a well-stocked shop with a great fly shop ambiance. They carry a lot of FishPond gear, only Simms waders, and most of the major brands of lines, leaders, tippet, and tying materials. Their supply of tying materials was pretty impressive. It's comparable to that of the Orvis shop in Branson and exceeds that of Bass Pro here in town, which is the flagship store of this big box sporting goods retailer. They carry a few high-end vises and other tying paraphernalia as well.

When I walked in, one of the guides greeted me promptly and asked if I needed anything in particular. I said no and he left me to browse. The owner and another guide were playing cards at the tying table in the center of the store. After I checked out the entire place, I said hello and sat down for a chat. I've been looking for a particular rarely-stocked tying material I wanted to ask them about. It's what I was looking for when I walked in. They made some good suggestions about what type of products to look for and apologized for not knowing exactly what I needed and having it in stock. But they didn't offer to find it for me. In the past, all of the independent fly shops I have asked about stuff like that have offered to find it for me, gone through catalogs with me, and taken my contact information to follow up. So I was just a tad bit disappointed in the level of service comparatively speaking.

Prices at Backcountry Outfitters are very competitive within the lines they carry. But carrying only FishPond and Simms limits their offerings to the low-end consumer. Frankly, I didn't even look at their rods to see what they do…and don't... carry. But judging from the Simms and FishPond brand loyalty, I would assume they aren't carrying a bunch of sub $100 fly rods, either. That may be a very wise business decision given their proximity to Bass Pro Shops. They would not be able to compete with such a huge retailer on price points on products Bass Pro carries.

The guys there are pretty cool and younger than the staff you find in most independent shops these days. They're not kids by any stretch. But they don't have gray hair yet, either. They tend to be streamer-focused anglers, themselves. And the shop has a very good selection of quality streamers, streamer-tying materials, and bass and panfish merchandise. I also think it is wise for most Ozarks fly shops not to limit themselves to just trout. We have far more high quality warm water fisheries than we do trout fisheries. Smallmouth and largemouth bass, white bass, and crappie are all species within the range of expertise at Backcountry Outfitters. In fact, while I was there, even walleye and carp were discussed. And that is a refreshing change for a guy who is used to the fly shops of Branson and northern Arkansas.

You can find Backcountry Outfitters on-line at http://www.backcountryoutfitters.org Next time you're in Springfield, stop by and say hello. And tell them I sent you. ~ Ken

About Ken:

Ken graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1988, and spent the next several years serving in the United States Navy as an intelligence analyst and Russian Language translator. He is a veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Leaving the nation's service in 1993.

Ken is also a published outdoor writer and historian, having penned articles and stories that have appeared in several national hunting publications like North American Hunter magazine, on GunMuse.com, in regional and local newspapers, and historical and literary journals. He has also provided hunting and dog training seminars for Bass Pro Shops and other sporting goods retailers nationwide. He volunteers his time to Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited, as well as several local charitable organizations. He is also a REALTOR with Coldwell Banker in Springfield, Missouri; where he lives with his wife, Wilma, and their Weimaraner, Smoky Joe.


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