Texas is growing. Every month, thousands of people pack their bags and make the move to the Lone Star State, partly because it’s filled with opportunity and a thriving workforce. And as Austin spreads its arms, so spreads word-of-mouth about flyfishing in central Texas. In recent years, flyfishing has exploded in the heart of Texas Hill Country. This growing interest has also led to the growth of Sportsman’s Finest—a fly shop that supports the varied needs of outdoorsmen, especially flyfishers.
Opened 12 years ago just west of downtown, with the goal of providing quality equipment and apparel to the Austin area, Sportsman’s Finest doesn’t mess around with the small stuff. From the outside, it might look like a typical flyshop, only with more square feet and a casting pond. But as soon as you pry open the hefty front door, you get a sense that this shop is a little different.
First, there’s the polar bear, standing rigid and upright, kindly greeting customers as they enter the store. The bear basically splits the shop into two halves—on one side, a cornucopia of guns and hunting equipment, and on the other, a great place for flyfishers to spend an hour or two when the fish aren’t biting. The building is big but cozy, with its abundance of clothing and fly rods, paired with ceilings supported by dense cedar beams. Just beyond the bear is a fish tank, filled with aquatic wildlife commonly found in central Texas. While searching through the endless drawers of flies from Umpqua and Rainy’s, customers can admire the one-of-a-kind freshwater life known to Texas.
Sportsman’s Finest prides itself on carrying everything a flyfisher might need. Upcoming permit trip to Mexico or Belize? Check. Fishing local spring creeks for illusive Guadalupe bass? Covered. You think of it, they’ve got it. But it’s not just the endless amount of gear in stock that can wow fly anglers; it’s the spectrum of products. “The broad mix of manufacturers, as well as the number of items we carry, is what makes us stand out,” says Sportsman’s Finest Flyfishing Manager Greg Welander.
This leads, of course, to some of their customers shopping for hours, and this customer quest for variety and volume has affected Welander’s buying habits. While the average fly shop might carry a handful of big-name brands, Welander keeps an open mind about bringing in and representing smaller companies, especially those local to the area, like Howler Brothers—a quality-conscious outdoor clothing company that was founded in Austin and is proudly supported by legendary flyfisher Flip Pallot. Customers can also find artwork by Chance Yarbrough, a Texan who uses his passion as an outdoorsman to drive his art.
Along with locally-based companies, Sportsman’s Finest is also stocked with well-known national flyfishing brands such as Sage, Scott, Winston, G Loomis, Thomas & Thomas, Hatch, Hardy, Nautilus, Ross, Abel, Tibor, Simms, and Patagonia. Welander believes in satisfying the needs of every customer, whether it’s a beginner looking to buy a first rod, or an avid fly-tyer wanting a specific Enrico Puglisi fiber color.
Central Texas is a mixing pot of fishing possibilities. Year round potential for bass and redfish, with a hint of rising trout in the winter, is the purest form of a hidden gem. This immense fishing opportunity requires a fly shop that can handle every technique, every specie, and every form of water. Sportsman’s Finest fits the bill perfectly.