Monday, September 21, 2009

Picking a West Yellowstone Fly Shop

I spent a week in Yellowstone National Park in early September 2009. It was my first visit to this natural wonder upon wonder. This is the fourth installment of my reflections on the wonders and lessons of Yellowstone.
Fly shops in West Yellowstone are like bars in a small Wisconsin town. There's one on every corner and usually one or two in the middle of the block, too. And just as Wisconsin gas stations make most of their money selling beer, it seems most gas stations in West Yellowstone do a fair fly business. (For all I know you can get your fishing license after mass.) Google has 46,200 links in the query "West Yellowstone fly shops." That's some options.

How did I pick Blue Ribbon Flies? Well, first off there was 1% for the Planet, a nonprofit the Craig Matthews, owner of BRF, helped start that is pushing business to give a little bit back to the planet. I like the organizations backed by BRF and like the way it takes advantage of the law of big numbers: a few really big businesses (and some smaller ones) donating a little bit adds up to a lot of money. Second, Craig was kind enough to give a few interviews to podcasts that I like to listen to and I found him to be funny and not dead serious. I love to fish. It's pretty much all I think about most days, but I still try not to take it too seriously and I don't like fly guys who treat it like it's rocket science.

Third, Craig promptly responded to an email I sent months ago giving me all of the basic advice a newbie could ask for and more. I thought it was pretty neat that the guy who wrote the book and did the video and all that other stuff still took the time to respond to the "info" in-box.

So that's how I picked Craig and Blue Ribbon Flies. I am pretty sure I would have enjoyed the service at Bud Lilly's Trout Shop, and I probably should have given them more consideration since they've been advertising in one of my favorite magazines, Fly Fisherman, forever. This video alone should have sent me to Bob Jacklin's fly shop.

And I'm pretty sure Madison River Outfitters is a great operation from what I've seen. And the small shack on the corner that simply said "Fly Shop" probably would do the trick too. Indeed, I imagine it's pretty hard to run a bad fly shop in West Yellowstone for much more than a season. Competition is stiff and I expect that elevates everyone's standards.

But starting at BRF was a good decision for me.

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