Sunshine and Salmonflies on the radar
Of the laundry list of flyfishing variables we cannot predict, weather—good or bad—ranks near the top. So far spring 2010 has been a strange, extended winter for many living in the West: Rain, snow… more snow. Nowhere is that more prevalent than in southwest Montana, where late-season snowpack continues to pile on, extending runoff season indefinitely.
Watching the incessant deluge from the windows of The River’s Edge flyshop, in Bozeman, MT, good fishing is always a go—whether it’s delayed or not. And the promise of rivers returning to fishable levels, and Salmonflies smashing down the doors is, like every year, inevitable.
“It’s been a weird year,” says Steve Summerhill, who co-owns The River’s Edge with business partner Dan Lohmiller. “We ended April looking at maybe a low-water year, and all it’s done since is rain and snow, which has pushed us to above average snowpack and tilted things the other direction. Our long range forecast is for more cool and wet weather in the coming weeks. Keeping in mind that the only two jobs you can consistently be wrong at and still get paid are a fishing guide and weather man, hopefully this means that the fishing will be that much better in August.”
The River’s Edge began business in 1983. Dave Corcoran and Greg Lilly (son of Bud Lilly) started it as a small flyshop and outfitting business. Since then, it’s grown to 10 full-time guides, and is today one the largest outfitters in the region.
Swinging by earlier this spring, in town for Simms’ annual Ice Out event, we perused brimming fly bins, purchased licenses, and left pleasantly surprised with the quality of service, as well as the forthcoming flow of solid fishing information. Hours later, we were on the Madison, wading the Braids with an arsenal of new flies, which, like they’re supposed to do, produced fish. To that end, The River’s Edge and its staff strive to maintain friendly, quality service for all clients, new and seasoned, that annually hit the area to taste some of the best dry-fly fishing in the country.
“We try and have a professional, clean, and well organized shop that our customers enjoy being in. We really try and treat all customers equally. Whether you’re a ‘never ever’ or a ‘been there and done that,’ we give the same advice and show you the same products,” Summerhill says. “I know that there is an ever present ‘Dude’ trend in a lot of flyshops today, but we really try to take the attitude out of our staff and make sure that all customer feel welcome. With all that said, we still have room for ‘Beer Fridays.’”
During the past 20+ years, the shop has seen trends come and go, especially when it comes to guiding and fishing. And, in particular, attitudes: “Both Dan and I come from a guiding background and it’s been interesting to see how a full day of fishing for our clientele has changed from a sunrise-to-sunset, hardcore day to a ‘lets fish until we get tired and then do dinner and cocktails.’ Perhaps, it’s that people who come to Montana these days have a lot more things to do. Most are not here with the ‘Fish Hard or Die’ mentality.
On the retail side of the business, the biggest change has come in the form of web sales and increased customer knowledge.
“It’s been interesting to watch as consumers who used to go to their local shop for advice and information now come in already knowing a lot about the products they’re looking for, and are looking for more confirmation about their decision of what to buy,” Summerhill says.
As far as “what to buy?” the shop abides by a product showcase formula of 50/50 hardgoods to softgoods, with maintaining a true “flyshop feel” at the forefront of most business considerations.
“We’re often told to put the stuff people really want in the back and make them sort through the stuff you want them to buy,” Summerhill says. “For us, I think that having our fly bins and true fishing necessities up front has kept our customers feeling like ‘this is a true flyshop and, by the way, they also carry some great shirts and other items.’”
The shop carries brands such as Sage, Winston, Rio, Scientific Anglers, Ross, Galvan, Abel, WaterWorks Lamson, and others. It also maintains a strong relationship with its Bozeman neighbor, Simms.
“The Simms presence in our store is obviously a product of our proximity to them. We’re just a few short blocks away and have developed a great relationship with K. C. Walsh and many its staff. As the Simms product line has grown, so has our Simms presence, which is hard to argue since it’s one of, if not the, strongest brands in the industry right now.”
What’s new for summer 2010?
“This year we’ll be fishing where the fishing’s best,” Summerhill says. “The most exciting new product I’ve seen is the 20/20 tippet threader, because it’s the only gadget to help you tie your fly on that I’ve ever been able to make work in front of a customer.”
For more information on The River’s Edge, guided trips in the area, and fishing reports, see theriversedge.com.