The Cycle Of Flies
The Missoulian Angler Fly Shop is the oldest fly shop in Missoula, with over 100 years industry experience on staff. We’ve seen a few things in 35 years. This year we’re seeing Schroeder’s Parachute Hopper is hot, like microwave lasagna hot.
We’ve stocked the Parachute Hopper for at least 25 years. We first got it in because it was working so well, and had to have it. Since then, we’ve watched the ebb and flow in sales. It always works to some degree. We’ve watched that fly sell less than 6 dozen a year to being the hottest fly on the river. That’s a big swing, and we’re ready for it!
The swing comes from the trout. Our customers and Missoula’s best fly fishing guides are in daily contact, listening to what they say. This year they say Schroeder’s Hopper. Last year they said the G Kes. If you’re on the water, paying attention, the trout will tell you things about your fly choice as well. The Missoulian Angler will help translate if you’re not hearing what you think you should be!
Hot flies are like the weather. If you want to know about the weather in August, or the hot fly, ask us on September 1! We’ll have a great idea then. But before that, it’s a crap shoot. Of course, we’ve all seen James Bond shoot craps- there is some methodology to placing your bets- but no guarantees. You do the best you can with what you have, and try not to roll too many 7’s!
OMG! The one hit wonders. Can’t keep ‘em in stock for a season, and then two years later 40 dz. are decorating the Dollar Bin. There are some shops that buy flies for their Dollar Bin. Not us! We can fill ours with flies we thought would be hot, or were previously hot, or never got hot. Customers ask all the time, “How did this fly get in here?”, and we’re always forced to answer, “On merit.”
It’s starting again for next season. We buy flies from 9 different venders and keep our local tiers busy tying our custom patterns, and keep looking for more to maintain the best fly selection in Montana. It’s like sending a fat guy to the doughnut shop! Sales reps appear with overflowing boxes of new fly patterns, and we start salivating like Pavlov’s dog. What’s going to be so good we have to have it? Who’s come up with the latest and greatest, that perfect combo of the Purple Haze, Sex Dungeon and Pheasant Tail that’s going to be so hot fish jump in the boat to take it. Take our word for it, they all look good enough to eat! And the cycle continues, but not without consequence.
We only have so many bins in the shop, and get new flies all the time. Like the art collector with no more wall space, where does our new purchase go? What leaves to make space. Sometimes the choice is easy, like the pink and orange wooly bugger. What were we thinking! Sometimes it’s more difficult, like removing the Copper Bob in various colors. Hottest fly in the early 2000’s- it’s lost its mojo. Some customers will be annoyed, finding the old tried and true gone. That’s when we ask you to take some things on a little faith.
We want you coming back. We ‘re don’t sell flies that happen to be in stock, flies that don’t represent your best bet on the water. That’s not how we roll. Missoulian Angler is the oldest fly shop in town for a reason – repeat customers. We’re intense about flies, and when a pattern disappears, it means we’ve found better. This is where trust comes in. We know you’ve been using a pattern for 20 years. It works for you. You trust that pattern. And trust is key! We know the moment you lose faith in a fly, it’s done. It takes a little time to find the trust for a new fly.
A while a go, a customer told us a story. His son in law had given him a new fly- said it worked great. He tied it on and fished it for 10 minutes. Nothing. He lost faith in the new fly, and tied on the trusty Pheasant Tail. 3 ½ hours later he caught a trout. See! It works! It wasn’t till later he saw the humor in that, but it was the old tried and true.
Watch the best guides in Missoula go to work. If nothing is happening, they make something happen. Tried and true, or something new, if one fly isn’t working, they move on! Find the size, find the color. One of the first lessons every angler learns is what good water looks like. Fish are there, and if you haven’t spooked them, they’re eating. If they’re rising, even more so! You need to be able to reach into your box and have something a bit different, a new look if you will. Buy your flies shallow and wide- that means don’t buy 12 Parachute Mahoganies, buy 4 of those, then some cripples, some Comparaduns. You know, the same, but different. Give the trout a bigger selection, and you’ll find their selectivity isn’t as big as issue as it once was.
The Missoulian Angler has the largest fly selection in the city of Missoula and likely Montana. We’re willing to say the biggest fly selection within 200 miles of Missoula! And it’s not just wide, it’s deep. For those who visit the shop, you’ve seen the storage beneath the fly bins. That storage is filled with flies. When the Mahoganies are on, and we sell 4 dz. Size 14 Brindle Chutes in one morning, we just reach under the bins and pull out 4 dz. more. We care about flies, and do everything we can to make sure we have the flies you need when you need them.
You can’t be a fly shop without Parachute Adams, Pheasant Tail nymphs and Woolly Buggers. Wherever the cycle is on those flies, they’re always in the loop. Believe us when we tell you it would be so easy to just keep a few flies in the shop, the ones that always work, and be done like most shops. But that’s not our job. Our job is to keep our ear to the water, pick up the rumblings of what’s hot on the Bighorn, what’s hot on the Madison. If Trout are eating it on the Snake River or the Henry’s Fork, there’s a good chance it makes a fine meal on Rock Creek, the Bitterroot River, the Clark Fork River and the Bitterroot River.
We all dream of Shupton’s Fancy, Paul Schullery’s fictional fly that “taketh a fish on every cast.” It’s fictional for a reason! But we never stop our quest of finding or building a better mouse trap. The G Kes didn’t just appear- we tested that fly until we found what worked. That’s what every tyer does before he puts his creation out there, test, test, test. To make sure it does what it’s supposed to, and that’s catch trout. Whether the fly is designed for a specific situation, or is a general use fly, every fly designer secretly dreams of being on the cover of Fly Fisherman as THAT guy who created the fly that sweeps the world. Lefty’s Deciever, the Clouser Minnow, Copper John, Purple Haze- the list goes on and on. And when that fly appears, the Missoulian Angler will have it stock- before it gets on the cover!
We’ll order a lot of Parachute Hoppers for next year. Along with a few we haven’t even seen yet, and the Morrish Hopper, the Pink Lady Hopper and many of the tried and true. A couple might fall to the wayside, and that’s a natural occurrence. We won’t know the hot hopper for next August until next September! But you can be sure the Missoulian Angler will be ready with something old, something new, and full bins of flies, so when you need what’s hot, you’ll find it at Missoula’s oldest fly shop. Experience is one thing you don’t get quickly!