Ladyfisher
Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

November 9th, 1997

Experts



What is an 'expert?' An old story says, "It's someone from out of town with a briefcase." Maybe that's what the New Construction South called the carpet-baggers, too.

Lefty Kreh, probably the best known fly fishing instructor in America has a favorite saying. He lays it on anyone willing to listen, "Don't show knowledge, share knowledge." By the way, Lefty will dress anyone up one side and down the other if they call him an "expert." Lefty considers himself a professional.
"Why does it matter," you ask? "What's the big deal? Isn't it just a matter of semantics?"

It really is a matter of attitude. In any endeavor, there are so-called experts. Fly fishing seems to have more than it's share. (Not to mention the experts who spend our tax and license money for fish management - that's another story.) Anyway, experts are usually whose who have endowed themselves with that title, and think they not only know everything, but will tell you so even if you haven't asked. There is a great book, not on fishing, (and probably out of print) called, "If You Meet Budda On The Road Kill Him." It is a great read.

Professionals however are still learning. Professionals will listen to what is happening, try and improve their skills, and are willing to share their knowledge with you and me. The word professional does indicate the person calling himself a professional is making a living from that profession. It doesn't matter if the profession is accounting or being a manufacturers rep.

Big changes have occured in fly shops over the past few years. Part of what has happened is a result of marketing and advertising. Some fly industry companies jumped on the popularity of the film, "A River Runs Through It."

A couple of major fly rod companies aimed their ads toward women. Between the 'movie' and the marketing lots of new fly fishers came into the fly shops - along with their dollars.

The front page of the August 5th, 1996 issue of "Investor's Business Daily" carried a terrific article by Larry Olmstead titled, "Why Art of Fly Fishing Is Luring New Fans". No, I don't subscribe. My pharmacist saved the article for me. Those who read the article got another reason to try fly fishing, "This intellectual side of the sport is what interests many fly fishermen, and the individual battle of wits with each fish brings them back again and again."

So you walk into a fly shop, maybe on the recommendation of a fly fishing friend. Maybe you saw an advertisement in your local paper. Maybe you were just out and about and decided to "look around." What would be different today from say even ten years ago?

Back then there were fewer fly rods, fewer reels, and about a quarter of the special use fly lines and flies. The owner of the shop really knew about the items they had. Service and your satisfaction were paramount. Of course they had to sell stuff to stay in business, but doing the best job for you came first. They built their business on that basis - and it worked! The "old" fly shop and the people who worked there cared about fly fishing; it was like a fraternity. Or, excuse me, to be politically correct perhaps a sorority.

Fly shops today have hundreds, no thousands of items. Unfortunately, no one can really know everything. Ah ha! The experts can. Yeah right. Sadly there are a lot of shops with owners who call themselves experts. They don't care about your needs or desires. They just want to sell, sell, sell! They consider themselves experts and gurus and are insulted if you don't buy anything - or buy into their ideas.

One fishing buddy stopped into a name fly shop on their way back from an extended camping trip with his family. The "expert" took one look at his disheveled appearance, turned and walked away. Guess our friend wan't dressed appropriately for that shops image. (He did find another shop the same day where he was welcome, and bought a $500 fly rod.) Enough people buy into this garbage that these shops do have a small, but blindly solid cadre that dote on each and every word.

Where did the service, and fellowship of folks sharing a sport go? What happened to building a business on trust and sincere interest in and for the customer? What happened to the Golden Rule?

For anyone who is unfamiliar with the Golden Rule, it is: Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.

IT IS NOT: He who has the gold rules - or, get yours first.

But then, what do I know, I'm not an expert. ~ The LadyFisher

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