Digging into Charlie’s, the 6-year-old Arvada, Colorado flyshop mainstay, is akin to entering the box of a tying master. But instead of perusing a dozen rows of meticulously filled C&F foam slits, you’ve stumbled into a dream selection of 2,400 fly bins filled with more than 100,000 ties, as well as a super-sized inventory of materials to construct the bugs fish beat themselves up over year in and year out.
“We like bugs. We like to tie ’em, we like to fish ’em, we like the varieties and the specialty stuff,” says shop co-owner, Charlie Craven. “Having a large selection of flies in a big metro market like Denver is important. Not being located on River X, we have to stock flies for freestones, tailwaters, big rivers, small creeks, warm water ponds, salt water, steelhead, and Alaska.”
“If people want it, we try to have it.”
Like Harry Potter with a whip-finish tool for a wand, Craven has gone from protégé to tying wizard over many years in the biz. He started tying at the age of 8 and was producing commercially by 12, spinning flies for most of the Denver shops in massive quantities. After guiding stints on the South Platte and Colorado rivers, he worked and managed flyshops, gaining experience in all facets of the game. He opened his signature business with partners Ross Bartholomay and Matt Prowse, in 2004.
“I would say about 45 to 50 percent of the physical shop is devoted to fly tying. Like I said, we have tons of tying stuff and really try to keep up on what’s new,” Craven says. “We love to tie and any new item is as much fun for us as it is for customers.”
Although materials and flies are major components at Charlie’s, there’s more to the overall equation, including rods, reels, apparel and books/DVDs. The shop carries Sage, Winston, Scott, St. Croix, Ross rods and reels, Abel, Galvan, Nautilus, Redington, Simms, Waterworks, Patagonia, Korkers, Brodin, Fishpond, Tiemco, Dyna-King, HMH, Renzetti, Regal, William Joseph, Hareline, Wapsi, Umpqua, Idylwilde, Solitude, and more.
The shop also takes pride in its staff of knowledgeable enthusiasts. “Lots of places, not just flyshops, have staff and owners who are just burned out and over it. We all have our days, but we really try to exude that we like and enjoy what we are doing. I’m proud to say that many of our best customers are also good friends,” Craven says. “Looking from the outside, you might think we don’t like some of these guys given the amount of shit tossed back and forth, but in most cases everyone really enjoys it.”
Expanding into the online realm, the FlyBox website has more than 160 step-by-step fly pattern tutorials. And it recently opened an online store. The shop also offers classes and free tying demos every weekend during the winter months.
“As these folks get better and better, they get more into it and really do become better customers. It’s a win-win for all of us and it’s great fun to see a guy go from a never-ever to being a damn good tyer and angler in a couple seasons. I’ve seen it a lot and I know the shop has much to do with that. Education is a boon to any business.”
If you’re looking for an education in everything from tying to expertise on local waters such as the Colorado, Eagle, and South Platte systems, Charlie’s FlyBox is a prime source. The shop recently won American Angler’s retailer of the year honors. For more information, see charliesflyboxinc.com.