January 13th, 2003

Full Circle
By James Castwell

Montgomery Ward. Western Auto. Sears & Roebuck. Magic names from the past, my past anyway, perhaps yours too. Stores that had everything; hardware, software, underwear and over-wear. And fishing stuff, lots and lots of neat fishing stuff.

That's where my dreams were hatched, nurtured and to some degree accomplished. I could buy a muffler for my car or a cane fly rod all at the same store. I could get a big reel for big fish, tiny flies for trout and furniture. They didn't sell bait (that I remember). They didn't sell spinning rods and reels either (they had not been invented yet). Casting rods and reels though, lots of them, they were the 'in' thing until Mitchell and Johnson came along, then spinning took over. And then cane went out, replaced by fiber-glass. Times changed and society did too. Only one of the stores above still exists. Now we have 'Wally-World' and Target.

Time was when the store where a fellow bought his fishing gear sold a whole range of other things, unless he went to a bait-shop. And you know what? Bait-shops were just that, bait-shops with very little else.

They were no pro-shops, they hadn't been invented yet either. Good grief man, it was just fishing gear and/or bait; there was no attitude of superiority in the name of the store or the attitude of the owners. Down to earth types. Good old boys. Made you feel welcome. Oh sure, you knew they knew, and they knew you needed to know what they knew too. (Wow, did I just write that?) Well, they told you. And you listened. And you did like they said. Because you knew that they knew and now you knew too.

And you caught fish. And they sold fishing gear and they made a living doing it. It worked out well for both of you. But they did not make it selling dog-beds and sweaters. They did it by having what you needed for whatever 'kind' of fishing you were doing...or wanted to do. They succeeded by being of service to you, not just by having the gear, but with the right attitude, honest information and making you feel like they cared about you and your success.

These places are for the most part gone now. Progress and society have all but snuffed them out. Attitudes, ethics, morals and economics have forced them into extinction. Too bad, I miss them and the days they filled and the services they rendered. For me, Sears, Wally's and Target don't make it somehow.

But, the wheel continues to turn. Many yuppie fly shops are or have gone under. Trying to cater only to a high-class clientele is tough. Some can make it, but not many. Fly shops which are going to make it are expanding. True, in today's market, which is repressed for any number of reasons, there is an effort to add spinning and bait-casting to shops. Even bait machines, sometimes located just outside the front door for after-hours availability.

The 'holier than thow, pro-shop' attitude will be hard to hang onto under these new venues. Are we seeing the demise of pro-shops? Hardly, but those that don't offer goods to a wider field may fold. "Times, they are a changing," and those who don't change with them will have a tough time of it for sure.

Has the time of the 'Pro-Shop' now come to it's end? Is it's day in the sun fading? Do we want to do away with the 'genuflect' when we enter the Pro-Palaces? Will I once again be able to buy tires and terrestrials, rods and rugs, and lines and linens at the same store? Doubtful, but I can remember when I could and it was not a bad thing. Back then some folks even thought that fishing was...well, just fishin'. Perhaps some day Les Schwab will be a sponsor on here. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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