Jack is a blog reader and volunteered to do a guest post (he didn’t want his surname printed). I’m very grateful. Here it is.
I recently interviewed Charlie Shadan, owner of Evening Sun Fly Shop in Pepperell, MA, to gain a better understanding about the sport of fly fishing from a business perspective and how the fly fishing industry is evolving.
Hi Charlie, it is great to meet you. Thank you for taking time to share a bit of fly shop wisdom with our readers. First if you would, please tell us a little about yourself, when did you begin fly fishing and where?
I began fly fishing 50 years ago on the Squannacook River with my Godfather and mentor.
What are your best memories of fly fishing?
My best fly fishing memories continue to evolve from my first fish on a fly to the lasting friendships that have been created. My best memories revolve around watching some of my proteges catch fish on a regular basis.
What do you enjoy most about it?
What I enjoy most is that it is a retreat into nature and takes my self a long way from the mundane activities of life. It provides a catharsis like no other activity I have tried and it is a total release of stress and anxiety.
What made you decide you wanted to open a fly shop?
I decided to open a fly shop as a means of supplemental income as the company I work for was transitioning into areas that made me feel uncomfortable and unfulfilled.
What do you enjoy most about fly shop ownership?
I enjoy having an opportunity to share the 50 years of experience with any client who asks for and is receptive to help. Playing pass-along with my knowledge will perpetuate itself from one to another. Watching my clients fly fishing grow from one aspect to another reminds me of what a difference it has made in my life.
What do you enjoy least?
There are no aspects of flyshop ownership that I do not enjoy. Each day presents itself with new challenges and opportunities that help keep it fresh and exciting.
How has the sport fly fishing changed over the past 10 years?
The sport has changed over the last 10 years in terms of the technology available to clients. The sport has also become a lot more technical as far as styles of fly fishing i.e., Euro-nymphing, tenkara, spey, etc.
How has the industry changed?
The industry has gone through many consolidations and many of the large companies are bypassing the small shops from “first points of purchase” to purchase direct”. It is purely profit driven. Sadly it leaves out the added value of knowledge a fly shop owner can provide the consumer when determining the purchase of one product from another.
Sadly, We’ve seen so many locally owned fly shops close over the past 10 years, how have you managed to keep your shop so successful?
I’ve managed to keep my shop thriving and successful by realizing the client is the sole focus when in my shop. It is much easier to keep a client than it is to find a new one. My primary goal is to get that client to return again, maybe next time with a friend which happens often. The size of the sale does not matter, customer satisfaction is at the top of the list.
For many, fly fishing has an air about it, that it is an expensive hobby to get into. Many shops and manufacturers in-line themselves with this. I’ve noticed many of your product lines are much more moderately priced. Is that a marketing philosophy?
Fly fishing should not be expensive. Given the myriad of choices from technology to pricing to styles and functionality, it is very easy to direct a customer to price conscious acceptable choices. As I always say to my clients: “it is not the arrow, but the hunter”.
An $800 fly rod does not make you a more effective angler. It’s all about building your skill-set with the right help. That’s where I come into the picture. My marketing philosophy has always been to probe the client asking them pertinent questions about their skill-set, type of water they plan to fish … to make sure they are purchasing the best affordable rod, reel, etc., for the right conditions, then help them make the best buying decision.
How many of your members tie their own flies and do you see much growth in that category?
About 20%-30% of my clients tie there own flies. Through my tying lessons I have taught hundreds of clients both new and experienced, and I don’t intend to stop now. There is great satisfaction in tying your own fly, taking it out on a stream and catching a fish with it. What a way to make a memory!
How many flies do you personally tie a year?
I personally tie between 7,000-10,000 flies a year. Some are for myself of course. However in most cases all are for my clients who know my flies have a proven track record.
Well thank you for your time Charlie, it was a pleasure meeting and speaking with you. I hope you have a great season both in the shop and on the water!