Orvis Fly Rods
Best Made Axe Restoration
Coal X Otter Wax
CF Burkeimer X Filson
Faribault Woolen Mill Co.
While visiting the in-laws in Atlanta over the holiday, I managed to sneak out for a short side visit to Athens with the wife and baby. The plan was to walk the downtown and grab lunch at one of Hugh Acheson’s places, either the National or Five and Ten. Being a Sunday though, things were slow or closed. Neither of Acheson’s places were still open for brunch by the time we got to town. Fortunately, we were able to hit Onward Reserve. OR are among the few highly curated and high-quality modern but traditional menswear and lifestyle shops in the South. OR was born out of the online flash sale site 5 Mile Club, but now has two retail storefronts, one in Atlanta and the original in Athens.
Walking through the shop, I kinda wish I hit this place before my recent work trip to St. Simons Island… OR carries several hard to find top notch southern apparel brands, including their own-label brand. You can find Southern Marsh, Smathers & Branson, Cotton Bros, Social Primer, Martin Dingman for example. They also carry iconic brands like Barbour, Hudson Satler, J.W. Hulme & Co. Their Filson selection is pretty damn good and mixed in you’ll find Beretta, Wm Lamb & Sons, and even Yeti coolers. I was just window shopping but couldn’t leave without a set of Smathers & Branson knit rainbow trout coasters for the man-cave.
They also have an immaculate and well-put together website. Their cracking website has a an extensive selection of “Made in America” goods, and a great blog with stories and recipes from the OR guy’s adventures. You can find guidance on many tasks in the OR man’s life from making Venison poppers to picking a hunting dog, and from tips on being a groomsman to how to stock your bar. Its short, to the point advice that can instantly improve a guy’s life. So, If you’re in Atlanta (Buckhead) or Athens, they are absolutely worth a stop in. They’ll make you a Makers and Ginger if you’re so inclined while you browse. Or hit the website or wait a just a little while because they’ve got expansion plans for Nashville, Houston, Charleston and DC.
After our walk around downtown, we knew we needed to eat something, so we hit Mama’s Boy on the way out of town. It was a balmy 50 degrees so we sat outside and ate fried green tomatoes, biscuits and gravy, and short rib hash, while washing it down with some the best strawberry lemonade I’ve ever had.
When I was in high school I was in the Environment and Conservation club. I remember camping trips in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. We swam in cedar creeks, stained red by the roots of the trees that lined the banks. We planted dune grass on the bluffs from one end of Ocean City to another. I remember the scent of patchouli wafting from the first girl I liked as we made posters about recycling and watched old national geographic and wild kingdom films on a rickety movie projector after school. On occasion we took our seine and combed the surf and tidal pools of the beaches and waded knee-deep in the sulfurous bogs of Great Egg Harbor looking for rare snails, blue crabs, picking up litter while cursing the jetskiers. I read Thoreau and Emerson and Sagan. My romance with Nature blossomed walking the beaches at dawn surrounded by the morning song of the gulls. And when I went to sleep at night with the window open to hear the sound of the distant surf crashing and peak up at the stars, I dreamed of someday being a great naturalist like my heroes Muir and Roosevelt.
Well romances fade and I obviously did not become a park ranger or write epic tomes about the sea or go off to the woods to live alone. The dream still lingers in my soul though, and I crave the feeling of full self-awareness that comes from being close to Nature. I realize that when we love Nature, we are truly loving ourselves. Its not much, I know, but taking a moment to share Nature’s gift is a way to ensure others can experience that love too.
So here is my unique take on the holiday gift guide this year. Happy holidays from deadbait.
A day flyfishing the Rose River in Syria, VA. ($95)
Walden (Leatherbound) by Henry David Thoreau
Timberland Earthkeepers ($180)
Patchouli Diptyque ($28)
Opinel Pocketknife ($17)
Woolrich Logan Ridge Blanket ($136)
The new Filson X Horween has dropped. Oh boy, there go my plans. I didn’t want this holiday to be about material things and I wasn’t going to get anything for myself this Christmas, but I might have to be more open-minded. Two storied companies have come together to put together quite a line of vegetable-tanned leather totes, wallets and bags. They are unmistakenly Filson, and unmistakenly Horween. I’m pretty sure if I pick up the leather tote I will be giving it to my daughter in 17 years to take with her to college. Hmmm, its so nice she just may have to inherit it.
“Good enough is an enemy, ” says Skip Horween. “We want to do each thing we do the best way we can do it.”
SCREW BLACK FRIDAY. Instead of buying loads of plastic, Chinese-made crap at a BIG BOX STORE on Friday, why don’t you consider supporting American jobs, artisans and makers instead on Dec 2nd. MAKERS MONDAY is a new movement by the folks behind some of the most interesting maker brands around, Shinola, Tellason, Schoolhouse Electric, Topo Designs, and veteran American-made manufacturers like Johnson Woolen Mills and Ghurka. Pledge to support your local maker!
I had to weight in. Here’s my comment on about the situation and Steve’s article.
“I read the article too at Angling Trade. I think I agree with your opinion Steve. Fly shops also need to decide what role they want to play in an increasingly online society. Take a look at the CA-based Flyshop. They produce their own line of rods and have both in-store and e-commerce enabled experiences. In short, they are prepared for the modern customer. Just as fly shops have adopted new systems to manage their inventory or apps to to manage appointments for their guides, they have to start considering that customers want and expect convenience, and to be able to shop the way they want. Now, what does that mean for warranties? It means that there ought to be some choices in warranties – for shoppers of different ilk. I agree with having different levels of warranties because there are reasons not to buy a lifetime warranty sometimes. And you better believe the cost of that warranty is included in the price of the rod. They’ve done the math or they wouldn’t offer it. But rod warranties are NOT keeping anglers from buying new rods from fly shops. Fly shops are not doing enough to market their value in addition to the rod purchase – their know how, local expertise, etc. Why not bundle new rods with guided trips? Why not bundle new rods with gear – and not just rod cases. Why not develop an in-house rewards systems, points that can be used against any purchase. See – the key is that fly shops have to find a way to compete on their strengths or the market will continue to evolve and leave them behind – and we would all hate to see that happen.
I recently went into The Backwater Angler because I went to the Gunpowder River and left my reel case behind. I thought – what a perfect excuse to shop for a new reel! Even though the shop owner offered to rent me a reel, I wanted him to take me through his stock and to have a conversation about the product. He had me bring my rod in and we tried several reels on the rod, and I walked out with a really nice new Ross reel. It has a lifetime warranty, but will that stop me from shopping at Backwater Angler for future reels, maybe a rod? Hell no, because I wanted the personal interaction and the comradery that comes from knowing your local fly shop owner. That’s the value of shopping in-person at a fly shop. Now, I can tell you what I don’t want to do – I don’t want to go into a fly shop and buy a rod, and then get asked if I want to buy the warranty like I’m shopping in Best Buy. That’s just not all that interesting. You feel like just a customer when things get that transactional. But I can also tell you that I’ve visited some fly shops where that’s how they made me feel, like a customer at a Best Buy, with no real interaction, just a how can I get you into that car attitude. Those fly shops I don’t return to. So I guess I’m saying, fly shops have to sell service, let the rod companies sell parts and repairs.”
I had a couple of further thoughts which I didn’t put in my comments. Two years ago I purchased a 8wt from the THE FLY SHOP in Redding, CA (their line) and broke it – not once, but twice. The first time I didn’t think it was my fault, but it broke as I was reeling in a nice schoolie striped bass. I don’t know maybe it was my retrieve. The second time it broke while I was casting to Florida-strain largemouth in Texas and I got a snagged in my backcast and like an idiot, whipped the rod instead of cutting the line.
Now, at that point, I thought about a few things. One, I had to be more careful with my equipment, but two, I also had to upgrade my equipment because clearly the Flyshop rod was not very forgiving for my level of angling at the time. Three, I had to learn how to cast better and play fish better. So, on the second break, I could have sent that rod right back in to be replaced given the warranty, but I saw that I was the one who needed improvement. So I chose not to. I chose to change rods. I choose to become a better angler. So I did not continue to mooch more rods from the Flyshop, I chose to become a better angler and a smarter customer.
Also, about two years ago, I was fishing my Hydros (the now discontinued rod) from Orvis on the East Branch of the Delaware. I made the cardinal mistake of walking to the water without stringing up. Of course I lost the tip. I went to Orvis completely prepared to pay for a new tip, but my warranty covered it – I just had to pay a small fee and shipping. They replaced the rod entirely actually. The Hydros was not inexpensive and I deliberately bought it instead of the lower cost option because I wanted the warranty. Being a new angler, I knew I would f*ck up eventually. So I felt I had paid in advance for that f*ck up. Also, whether I purchased the rod from a fly shop or Orvis doesn’t matter. Know why? Because even as a novice, I still went out and purchased 2 additional rods. Neither had warranties and they are my backups and loaners for friends I want to share the sport with. I purchased the spare rods online to get a good deal, but I purchased all of the supporting equipment, the lines and reels and countless fly fishing doodads from fly shops, because I still wanted the experience of “outfitting” the rods. You can’t get that kind of experience from a website, only from a great fly shop salesperson. And so to reiterate – fly shops have to sell service and all that experiences that come from outfitting, let the rod companies sell repairs.
In my humble opinion here are three GREAT local shops that overdeliver and could use your support.
Backwater Angler (Monkton, MD)
Mossy Creek (Harrisonburg, VA)
Was in Vermont for my dear friend Mark Emerson’s wedding to Jessie St. Peter a couple weeks ago at the Grafton Inn.. Though we came in on a wet and soggy day, the weekend quickly became sunny and bright. It was a beautiful, simple ceremony among a small group of family and friends in a field below a bower of wildflowers and next to a tiny trout stream, the Saxton. Grafton Vermont is absolutely beautiful little village and if you’re passing through I recommend stopping for lunch.
We also passed through Manchester where we made the obligatory stop at the Orvis outlet store. I scored sunglasses but couldn’t get the reel I wanted because the usual salesmen was on break. The bright spot in Manchester was discovering the Smokin’ Trout off the beaten path. This eclectic gift shop was a fly fisherman’s dream. The owner Buzz is a fantastic tall tale teller and will regale you with quite a few fishing yarns while you shop. A dusty outpost whose main fare is cigars, the rooms are full of bric-a-brac and antique fishing and fly gear, first edition and rare books on the art of the angle, pictures, rods, you name it. I spent a half hour mulling about and wound up leaving with a copy of Nick Lyon’s the Seasonable Angler and a box of 3 dozen hand-tied flies including many hard to find “extended body”mayflies.