When I was new to fly fishing and fly tying, Andy Bonzagni and his team at Concord Outfitters were absolutely instrumental. I know many others who feel the same. I run into other fans of the shop, and we swap tales about Andy. I love visiting his store.
The Sage Northeast Tour will be there May 12. It’s a good reason to swing by. There will be free food and drinks and the ability to chat fly fishing, see new gear and cast rods. They’re also raffling off some new hardware. Link here.
Tell us a little bit about your background?
Grew up in Wellesley, MA. I started fishing local lakes and ponds while growing up. After I got my license and could drive, I kept expanding west: the Swift, Deerfield and Westfield. For a long time, though, it was “a fly rod on a bike.” I used to fish with a 7’6″ fiberglass rod, which I still have, actually.
How did you get into fly fishing?
I got into it at age seven or eight. My Dad would take me fishing, but, then, I saw one of his buddies fly fish. As soon as I saw that, I knew I wanted to try. It just got me, and that’s when my Dad got me a rod and a tying kit.
What was the genesis of Concord Outfitters?
A fly shop I used to frequent was the Wayland Orvis store. Bill Sullivan was the owner. I became friendly with him.
I had sales jobs out of college and started a construction company. That all paid the bills and I did well, but I was never passionate about it. My passion was fishing.
So, I ended up talking to Bill. He had just sold his store, and I realized that I wanted to open up one. So, we got going in 1999.
Sadly, some fly shops have gone under. Yours is doing well. What’s unique about your fly shop?
Retail isn’t easy. My focus has been on customer service and teaching. We also have tried to inform people with our travel program.
I try to have great folks on our team and to retain them, so that customers can see the same faces. Part of that is I work in the store as many hours as I can.
I never wanted to focus on the online business and putting things in boxes. So, we’ve worked hard at establishing relationships with customers. We have shop loyalty, I think. We have customers who place our shop stickers on their cars.
Tell us about your travel program?
We have a reputation for well-run trips. We do a lot of research before we book a trip and invest a lot of energy so that our clients will be comfortable and their expectations will be met.
With the Internet, people do a lot of research and that has helped our travel program. People see what’s out there. For example, we have run three trips to Cuba for Bonefish, Permit and Tarpon, bringing down 10 anglers each time. We got there as soon as the market opened.
Your favorite local rivers for trout?
I love the Westfield Gorge area, and the seven miles of gated C&R fishing. I think it is the prettiest water. The season is limited mid-summer when the water heats up, but it offers great fishing in the spring and fall. The Farmington is always consistent, but it does get crowded at times.
Your favorite species?
Tough one! I think False Albacore, fished from the shore, is tough to beat. Chasing Tarpon down south is pretty addicting, which I try to do once a year.
What’s your favorite style of fly fishing?
For me, I don’t have one. I nymph, throw dries and streamers, etc. Whatever is most productive and whatever my mood is. It is hard to pass up on dries when noses are up, though.
Any new gear that anglers should know about?
We’re now carrying Thomas & Thomas gear. It is great to see them succeed, given they’re a local company.
The new Orvis H3 rods are great for saltwater. I fished a bunch recently in Cuba, including the nine-wt. to the 11-wt. The H3 10-wt. feels like a trout rod but has plenty of power. It is my favorite saltwater rod.
Slingpacks from Patagonia and Fishpond are great stuff. We do a lot of volume in those, both for freshwater and saltwater, including waterproof ones. Slingpacks are very popular. They outsell vests by 10-to-one these days.
Any future trips?
Argentina in February 2019 to chase freshwater Dorado. That will be a great trip for people looking for adrenaline.
We are doing another Cuba trip in April 2019. Cuba is on many people’s Bucket List. We’re really dialed-in at this point and have it down so that people find it easy and comfortable.
This summer, we are going to British Columbia for bull trout and cutthroats. We’ve been going there for about 10 years. For the bull trout, it’s all about sight casting, and it’s great fun.
Thank you, Andy, for making the time for this interview! See you soon at the shop.