In a town crazy for baseball, there are at least a few people in St. Louis, Missouri, that regard the Cardinals as mere amusement—something to occupy their time while driving to some of the most underrated flyfishing streams in the Lower 48. Many of those drives start at T. Hargrove Fly Fishing, tucked off Interstate 44 along the commercial sprawl of Manchester Road. A quick drive gets you to the interstate artery that leads to all directions from St. Louis. Hargrove’s is the last stop for a fishing license and supplies prior to the road trip.
In a long forgotten depression-era house, converted into a flyshop 23 years ago, Tom Hargrove holds court among the regulars, the “just-in-town and need a fly fishing fix,” or the caring spouses picking up a gift card, because everything with a price tag on it is alien to them. Hargrove’s is similar to the bar in Cheers. The regulars are waiting at the door before they open, and they often close the shop down at night. All are willing to help a stranger get an advantage on the fish.Open the door and there is an old church pew, a tying table that has never been cleared, and a wood-burning stove with simmering beans, chili, or a hearty soup. Welcome! Come in and have a bowl. All of the senses are filled, the walls—and ceilings—are covered with product and product posters (T. Hargrove is a dealer for Sage, St. Croix, Winston, and Abel, among others.) While you settle into your bowl of chili, Tom’s eclectic vinyl record collection spins on the turntable: tunes such as Electricity by Captain Beefheart, or some Exotica music from Les Baxter.
This is flyfishing, relax. Sit down at the tying table and take a vise for a test drive. There is no hurry here.Check out the latest rods, reels, or a pair of waders. Grab a rod and cast alongside the cars traveling up and down the busy Manchester Road. You will get looks, but you also need to know how the rod casts in a breeze. You will even find custom hand-tied flies if you need them. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, it’s likely stashed somewhere in Hargrove’s basement. The basement is a whole other story….Tom and Craig Stephens also work at the shop. They tie, fish, and build rods. If you can cast a fly to a fish in Missouri, these two can point you to a creek, river, or lake to try and a fly that will catch the fish, whether it’s a trout, bass, carp, catfish, or alligator gar. Sure, you can buy tippet at the bigger fly shops or chain stores, but to glean a tidbit of info about a stream with wild trout, or where to wade for smallies, take some time and take in a bowl of chili at Hargrove’s.Check them out Tuesday through Saturday, or at thargrove.com