Twenty five years ago I found Fly Fishing and it changed my life. I was home for the weekend from junior college and walked into a fly shop that someone told me about on Erie Boulevard. I was skeptical.
Until that point, I had relied upon bait, spinners, and plugs to land trout on the local creeks and lakes, and thought of the ultra-light spin casting tackle I grew up with as refined. I did not buy a thing on that first visit, but became obsessed with the whole idea of fly fishing. And the man with the handlebar mustache and stubble beard tying flies in the way back of the cluttered shop, I found him very interesting.
The following summer I returned, pocket full of cash, and bought a brand new Sage DS eight foot five weight. With that rod, a plastic cup of wooly buggers, a cheap Orvis Clearwater reel and a Cortland 444 WF line, I embarked out the door of the busy shop and headed deep into what quickly became the most consuming activity of my life.
But that did not happen overnight. In fact, after that first summer of frustratingly trying to teach myself how to cast and catch trout with my new wand, I kind of gave up. The following fall, with no cash to gas up my truck and head back to school, I returned to the fly shop, thinking I would return this expensive fly rod. Get my money back.
The ignorance of youth was hard at work, and the mustached shop owner scoffed at the notion of refunding my purchase. He did give me a casting lesson in the parking lot next to the strip joint across the road from his shop. Then sent me on my way.
So the rod and I travelled about the Adirondacks for a few years, and I began to get the hang of it. I spent countless hours on the streams all over New York state, through my twenties, trying to master the cast and the presentation…The art of fly fishing.
Over the years I would stop in the shop and buy odds and ends, even upgraded my outfits a few times. But mostly it was to hang out and talk fly fishing with Wayne Walts, the mustached proprietor of The Troutfitter fly shop.
When I decided to guide, after having become hopelessly sub-addicted to Stillwater Fly Fishing, I frequented the shop often. At that time Wayne was himself hopelessly sub-addicted to salt water fly fishing. While the small creeks no longer blew up my skirt, and I was trying to learn the secrets of the big lakes, Wayne was flying to the Bahamas with his fly rod, then returning and telling us Syracuse fishermen his wonderful tales.
But the thing I liked about Wayne the most was that he accepted me as a young fly fishing guide at a time when “real guides” around here only existed on The Salmon River. But I was trying to do something different. And I think he respected that. He always had a smile on his face and was good natured.
Within the last several years, I rarely stopped in the shop. On occasion I brought a friend or guest in who needed a rod. But my own stuff I bought…on the internet…a little ashamed to say.
Then I heard through the trout bum grape vine that The Troutfitter was alive! So I stopped in and yes, it is very, very much alive. So I am going to have to start loitering around there when I can.
Anyways, if your one of the few people reading this blog, and you would like to see the best selection of fly tying and fly fishing equipment in Central New York, it can be found at The Troutfitter on Erie Boulevard in Syracuse, New York.
Its a true story.
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