Our first catalog cover.
Yellowstone river at Mill Creek confluence looking north.
The Absaroka mountain range (11000
ft.+- ) over looks
The Founding of a Business
Part Three of a Trilogy
So where does this all lead to?
In parts 1 and 2 of this short
trilogy I’ve ragged on some shop owner’s characteristics and I’ve
ragged on some guide’s habits and other people who are associated with
this hobby. I’ve explained how I created a business in the
heartland of American fly fishing. Along with this business I
have now put together a fly fishing school, which can lead novice
anglers to a more independent way of viewing fishing in general. So, in
essence, I’m just trying to do my part to insure , at least
temporarily, fly fishing does not go the way of the elitist, the
newly rich, the ignorant and or the old school English
tradition. Regardless of all of this, I’m certain there will be a
few devoted fly fishers who will not profess to my way of
thinking at all. That’s quite all right. There are extremists in all
walks of life. If you ever own a fly shop you will
undoubtedly meet more then your share.
where does this leave us?
I’ve written a little about how I got
started doing what I do. I’ve written about how the fly fishing
business could affect the average reader in his or her own pursuit of
fishing. I guess it now comes to line up the rest of the field
take a bunch of verbal pot shots. Accordingly, in this section I
just write random notes from my desk. After all it is snowing as I
write this, I have time on my hands and if you are still reading
these words apparently you have a little time on your hands also.
One thing which amazes me after fifty years of fishing and this
reference is not disputed and still written by many, is the fact
that a little kid can usually out fish the well equipped adult. Why is
this? I tend to believe it is simple desire within the kid and the
kid’s controlled focus on everything he knows about fishing. The kid is
patient. The kid is willing to try new things to get a fish to eat
whatever he offers. The kid also eliminates, through his inexperience
many of the items which can clutter an angler’s focus. The shop owners
who are “merchandisers” and not anglers are now saying as they read
this, “he can’t say
that. He’ll put us out of business. We need to sell stuff, plenty of
stuff.” The shop
owners who are true anglers are dialing the phone to speak with me
and possibly to get a franchise before it costs them a pile of
Because I’m coming to all areas.
My fishing “logic” has continually changed since I started fishing. At
one time I owned several neoprene waders. I used them often. In fact,
I’ve worn a set or three out well before I ever came to
Montana. I’ve trashed a few sets since then. However as time
moves on I found that suiting up every time I wanted to get into the
water just became a pain in my back. Right now I am a firm
believer in the positive uses of hip waders. They are quick to
get in and out of . They come in a variety of styles including
stocking foot. I don’t make any wading products as of this writing but
I do have them on my business’ wish list. However, getting back to the
kid, a kid just says I’m going fishing and off he goes. Sneakers
work for most, but felt soled sandals, for kids and the young
at heart, do even better when used in the summer. Well, at least on the
freestone streams around here. Except that the water tends to
cold in the mountain creeks. Now here’s a little bit of advice
When you fish with a buddy who wears chest waders, you can
and easily get a few fish under the ‘hooked and flip
released” category because he or she is still messing
with waders, gravel guards and boots while sitting on the tailgate
watching you fish. Ask any well qualified angler and they will tell you
that, “you can’t catch a fish unless you have a line in the water.”
Simply put, hip waders will keep your line in the water for more time.
They will keep the car cleaner because they a quick to remove and
provide more time for fishing instead of calling over a friend to help
in removing the neoprenes. Air also does not stay trapped around
your body so you don’t wind up stinking like a soggy bear at the end of
I ’m not one to haul around a fishing net on a daily basis even
though Knoll’s Fishing Products does make twelve different models
of nets. Yet, in some of the nation’s fly shops the owners would
have you believe, especially as a novice, that you need one right
from the onset of fishing. Then again, some anglers have read so
much advertising and viewed so many pictures in magazines that
they believe it is as important as a rod or fly selection. Sorry, but
in most streams and creeks a forceps which is simply clipped and
unclipped from your vest or shirt pocket will work quite well.
And we must all remember that all of our trout are coated with a thin
membrane of mucus which wards off infections and such. Nets, no matter
what kind or what advancement in the bag fibers or even how much they
are promoted or cost will naturally harm a fish more
then leaving the fish in the water and having a quick twist with
a forceps or pliers to remove the fly. Now I have to admit when keeping
a fish for a dinner use any net you can find. Sometimes a club
will also do the trick efficiently. However a simple single
strand stringer will keep the fish alive for hours or at least until
you depart for the kitchen.
Floatant is a wondrous thing. Without floatant we’d be false casting
like we did in the sixties. I’ve been experimenting with these
substances for quite some time and I find it totally amazing all of the
different products that are advertised to the readers of magazines. Do
they all fulfill their claims? I don’t know. I really don’t care and
I’m not about to start testing every product that comes out. All
I know is that my floatant works exceedingly well. In my shop I carry
other products which are well advertised but my “good
stuff” outsells the others annually. Here is the reason why.
First off my floatant comes in a jelled form. I’ve also placed
this jelled concoction in an oversized bottle which does not fit in
standard vest caddies. My reasoning was simple as a child’s
thoughts. I was tired of having a loosely capped, inverted bottle of
liquid drool down onto my waders like loose snot. The K.I.S.S. method,
which stands for Keep It Simple Stupid, made me take the
bottle out of the inverted caddy and make the product into a jell. It
works well and many of my customers say that it is the best line
dressing and cleaner they ever used. Three for one isn’t too bad a
deal. So should I add a weak dye and call the same product as something
else? I don’t think so. It’s just not my style.
How about fishing vests. Knoll’s Fishing Products does make this
as part of the product line and personally I fill my whole vest
with everything I can fit into the pockets. Well, in actuality most of
the items are small boxes of flies. Do I use all of these items?
Not really. Nevertheless, it is good to know that you have
something with you when you leave the proximity of your vehicle
and a trunk full of other neat stuff. I do have some friends who swear
by these lanyard necklace thingies. I’ve tried one out a few seasons
ago and every time I caught a fish the stupid necklace was
swinging like a pendulum from my neck and became a pain in the neck
(just as a figure of speech) as I fought the
swinging mass of tippet material, flies, and vest accessory
tools. I just couldn’t cut it. Sorry but I’ll just keep to my old
stained and over stuffed vest in use. And for some of the anglers who
wouldn’t wear a beat up vest I say this, “I drove a ‘vette in the
sixties. When the new style came out, the new ’vette owners like to
flaunt the fact that they had the new model. I just looked at them and
didn’t say too much. I drove mine first.”
We now move into all the vest accessories and fly tying gizmos and
doohickeys. I’ve seen dozens of different makes and models of these
well thought out items and I do not believe that any make
or model is much better then any other brand. Most of the gizmos will
out live us all or, if used in a river or stream will be inadvertently
dropped in the water and lost well before their time. Most of these
products we dangle from our vest need not be built with planned
However I am not eliminating these guys from the overdone
advertisers. For example I’ve seen the “new revelations” in forceps.
The new “thing” is a forceps with a scissor included just behind the
beak of the forceps. I’ve had a set of these for maybe twenty
two years. They are a common tool used in the medical industry
and, in the past, I built numerous medical facilities and
had small gifts of one or two pairs of these “new revelations” given to
me by the presiding physicians. I have these “ new
innovations” in my shop right now and have had them for four or five
years. Heck, I even have them in three colors. But, the glossy
ads will be paving their way to your door every month touting whatever.
How about hackle? Here’s a few thoughts. Genetic hackle is great stuff.
Feathers which are sold as “Dry fly hackle” isn’t as good. It’s a
different breed of bird so that‘s why the “genetic” name has been
eliminated. Also the length of a feather isn’t the only criteria
for a good product. Feathers sold by the strand are extremely
expensive as compared to the whole saddle. And the feathers in a #2 or
#3 neck can still tie some good flies even though the cost of the piece
is less then a #1 cape or saddle. Naturally, the more a
product is advertised the greater the price of the product becomes. My
customers would never pay $75 -$125 dollars for a neck or a saddle.
Well that is not correct . If held hostage they will cough up the money
but only under pressure.
Some of the tiers are honestly cheap and others just know I don’t have
it in my heart to charge that much for one. Enough said on that.
So what is it that we have here? Am I a “spoiler” or a friggin’ hero?
Do I downgrade an industry to promote angler independence? Or, do
I promote a great hobby that has been saturated by hype and elitist
attitudes? Personally, I really don’t care if you can tie a trout fly
or if you have to purchase your fly arsenal. I do not care if you
cannot easily spew the Latin names of bugs or you can only tie one or
two knots. This is a simple hobby so why promote a caste system
within its ranks? I have also found that most of the elistists wouldn't
be good leaders anyway. They are so bogged down with "proper" and
"suggested" that many of the faithful miss the point of why they
dabble in the hobby anyway. Many elitists will even take offense
that I call fly fishing a hobby instead of an art form. But, in my
opinion art is pure flowing motion not the structured metronomic
casting of a purist fishing two flies on one line at a high priced
getaway that stocked the pond with pellet fed big fish.
But, one thing is for certain. I orchestrate all of my products
on need basis and created a retail price for the product which is
not based on some driving force to take advantage of the inexperienced.
Like I have stated before, “flies should be like snicker bars.
Available everywhere in fishing locations.” Outfitters and guides
need to be a little more honest even at the cost of a few trips or even
change their ways to aid in the promotion of an area’s resources.
Without this attitude the industry is spiraling downhill.
Manufacturers should take a really good look at what their products do
and the value they have placed on them. Then again maybe they should up
their prices a little more. I’ll be waiting in the shadows like a big
brown trout.” Doc Knoll