It was the same tired, tawdry pick-up line that I’d used many times before without success. But when you are new in town and really need some action, you never stop trying. The object of my interest had deep brown eyes, a husky voice, and a three day beard.
“I’ve just moved to the area and I’m looking for some fun. Do you think you could show me a good place to fish?”
He’d heard the tremble in the voice, felt the strike-twitch-reflex in the handshake, and had seen the same furrowed brow in many others who were just like me. He knew I needed a fix. I didn’t need a hug, I needed a tug.
Maybe my second pickup line would have magic today, I thought, though it never had before: “I’m not asking you to point me to your favorite spots, just a decent one.” I could tell this was not the first time that Charlie had heard this line either. I didn’t think it would do any good to try the “If you were going fishing today, where would you go?” approach either.
To my utter amazement, Charlie went behind the counter and pulled a blank piece of white paper from the tray of his computer printer. Before I knew it, he had drawn a detailed map of the Swift River above Route 9. He mapped out where to park, pointed to the best access points, explained how to fish the bubbler arm, and instructed me on Y Pool etiquette.
I was getting ready to run out the door with the map when Charlie asked if I had waders. Since it was the middle of the summer, I figured I could just wet wade in my shorts. Besides, I had foolishly left my waders in Georgia with other “non-essentials” until we could move into our permanent housing.
Because of the 55 degree water coming out beneath the Quabbin Reservoir dam, Charlie strongly recommended that I use waders. Then he insisted that I take one of his pairs of waders, fish ’em hard, and bring them back as soon as I had a chance.
Now what kind of person takes the time to draw a detailed map, explains how to fish the river, and gives his waders to a complete stranger?
That’s the first of many Charlie encounters that have left me dumbfounded.
My wife and I are rich in family, friends, experiences, and rewarding work. We are not hurting financially, though we do have a fairly conservative budget. Unfortunately, hiring a fishing guide does not fit in that budget.
One day in October, out of the blue, Charlie called me up and asked if I’d like to go fishing with him. I knew Charlie was a sought-after guide, but this didn’t sound like a guide trip invitation. I couldn’t believe my good fortune to be able to go fishing with him.
We met at the Swift River and got geared up. I expected Charlie to do his thing while I did mine, touching base at various times during the day so Charlie could tell me about the fish he caught and I could tell him about the sticks I caught. But Charlie stayed by my side all day giving me pointers and doubling my knowledge of fly fishing, which admittedly didn’t take much.
Now what kind of person takes a day off and spoon feeds a novice fisherman all day?
Okay, here’s my point. I’m not recommending Charlie Shadan for sainthood. But Charlie is a great example of the wonderful fly shop owners who serve the fishermen of New England. The same could be said of Andy Bonzagni of Concord Outfitters (interview here), Torrey Collins of Upcountry, and Brian Comfort of Deerfield Fly Shop.
It’s not a coincidence that I am on a first name basis with all these guys and most of their employees. It’s not because of my striking good looks that they remember me when I come in, though upon reflection, it could be that. It’s because they make it their business to make friends with their customers and they bend over backwards to give great fishing advice to anyone who asks, even the ones like me who can’t afford a guided trip or the top-of-the-line fly rod.
These fly shop owners keep giving and giving. Concord Outfitters raises funds to make sure that the Assabet River is stocked twice a year so that a trout stream is within 30 minutes of Boston anglers. Upcountry has fishing reports twice a week that are second to none. This week, the Deerfield Fly Shop is hosting free online fly tying seminars.
These guys keep feeding our need for fishing opportunities and information year-round. We are so fortunate to have them.
One last Charlie story: This past Saturday I was at the Evening Sun Fly Shop, not because I needed to buy something but because I needed to get out of the house. The frigid conditions and pandemic were giving me cabin fever. When I need to get away for a while, the Evening Sun is one of my happy places.
Actually, I did find something I needed; I just didn’t know how badly I needed it until I saw it in the shop. After a nice visit with Charlie and purchasing my newfound treasure, I was getting ready to leave when I noticed that Charlie sold Apex fly tying vises just like the one I use. But mine is missing the little screw that puts tension on the rotary arm of the vise.
I mentioned this to Charlie. He promptly unscrewed the one out of the new vise, handed it to me, and compelled me take it with me.
Now what kind of person…?
Maybe you have a story of how a local fly shop owner or employee bent over backwards to serve you. Feel free to share it in the comments section below.