Sunday, January 24, 2010

First Impressions

Let me lead this off by saying i was asked a while back to contribute to this blog, not WHAT to contribute.
First impressions are big. It can shape your trust in the shop you’ve just stumbled into, whether it be an auto mechanic, therapist, bar or fly shop. I once wandered into the only fly shop in Spearfish South Dakota at the end of July about 11 years ago. My first, second and third impression sucked . The place was dead except for the black and white TV set running a version of General Hospital the rest of America saw the week before. In front of the noise maker, slumped like a Grizzly Bear that just had a 55 gallon drum of donuts and a keg of beer, slept the shop dog/owner. I’m not sure if his poor attitude was because I woke him or because I was the first soul he had seen that week. I knew my way around the industry by then, I had been through a few shops that sold me Wooly Buggers for a BWO hatch. I knew I could not play Syracuse style zone defense to get what I wanted in downtown Spearfish. This was obviously a time to play offense and not the “run it up the middle” stuff. The poor guy had no idea I called a play in the dirt before I even walked in. “Ol Fargo” wasn’t new at this, he understood quickly I wasn’t there to make his month by buying a Winston 4 weight. I was looking for info in a very strange place for the price of a dozen flies and a leader. Then we blindsided him. In walked my trick play. Long brown hair, eyes that would melt you, a smile you fell in love with the moment you saw it all wrapped up in a cute little 4-11” package. Just one of the two women I should have married, not the two I did. Little J had him eating out of her hand, it just wasn’t fair. She changed both my and ol Fargo’s first impressions for the better. “Trust me” was the last thing I heard as we walked out the door with the grease covered napkin map leading to his secret spot.
After spending 2 weeks with Miss J camping at Slough Creek, Fargo’s secret spot did not scream good things back at me. This weed infested puddle on the outskirts of the Badlands of our country gave me a very poor first impression. The weeds on the fringe of good water was so thick, the very large population of snakes sharing it with us didn’t even seem to get wet as they tormented me. Having to wade to my nipples just to get a portion of a 60’cast to open water made me feel sorry for my tiny fishing partner. It took about 8 minutes to completely understand the gift we were given and squash yet another wrong first impression. It was one of a few days I counted fish. We were in the hundreds before a thunderstorm drove us back to the pick up.
Fly shops can be funny places and I don’t mean classic Eddie Murphy funny. Sometimes you have to decide on your own if you got what you were paying for when you didn’t buy anything. Information is tricky to put a price tag on. I want to know that shop dog is standing there with confidence and knowledge, not arrogance. The shop is no place to put someone new. The shop is not a place for a recycled guide who cant produce while his feet are wet. A shop dog should be a local. The shop dog should never talk about what one of his guides did yesterday. If you recognize any of these during your quest, trust your first impressions.

I have worn several hats in this industry in the last 5 years and I now find myself a free agent. No solid affiliation will bring a bit of honesty boiling to the top in someone like me. My first impression of some of the young guns of this industry has not always been positive. Fair or not they have had to prove themselves to me to truly listen and appreciate their youthful exuberance. Respect is earned. Theo Anest and the boys at Colorado Skies have done that. His passion for the sport and who he has chosen to surround himself with has helped him grow into a great guide and shop owner. I’m not getting a nickel for this contribution, if anything it’s me paying Theo back for doing things right for a sport that I have loved for 30 years. Trust your first impression in this quaint little shop in Parker, if for nothing else he would never have General Hospital on.
This was just a way to avoid the fact that anyday my feet are not wet i get bored. I needed to do something other than tie flys this morning, sorry Theo. Any complaints about this dribble should be directed to my staff at, my name is Bob Streb and i approve this message

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