As we embarked on our “River Ramble” tour of the TU Top 100 Trout Streams we vowed to immerse ourselves in each community we visited. Part of that process was to always “Buy Local” as our friends at Simms put it. To that end, we always frequented the local fly shops, the local grocery stores, the local breweries, local restaurants, the local music scene and so on. We always tried to avoid the “chain” businesses. Nothing wrong with the chains and big box stores, but we wanted to support the local communities wherever we could. While there are numerous highlights of this perspective on our journey, here are a few that stand out so far.
Our hometown is Austin, TX so Yeti was a natural to handle our cooler needs. We’re traveling with a 30qt “Hopper” which has saved us on numerous occasions. Forget the fact that its kept our beer, sodas and water ice cold along the way…. we’ve had a couple of refrigerator breakdowns in the SaraLinda which caused us to make the Yeti our primary frige. Many thanks to the Texas Apple team who gave us a going away gift certificate that led to our Yeti purchase.
Our second hometown is Bozeman, MT, headquarters for Simms Fishing Products. Simms is a quality company making the best waders, boots, jackets and other gear to keep you “dry, comfortable and protected from the elements – no matter what the conditions”. Barb and I both wear their waders and boots and given how much we’re fishing (over 135 days so far this year), they’ve held up incredibly well. They also are the sole wader manufacturer in the US…. not just a local company, but local waders too!
Local Fly Shops
I really want to give a big shoutout to all the fly shops we’ve visited so far (see full list at end of post). It started at Unicoi Outfitters in Helen (GA) and most recently, the Bighorn Trout Shop in Ft. Smith (MT). Nothing can replace the local knowledge these shops have concerning safety on the rivers, the best spots to fish that match your abilities and what flies you’ll need to catch fish. They also employ great guides that provide memorable trips on the local waters.
What has impressed us most has been the feeling of community and even family in these shops. Of course you come in and tell fish stories after a day on the water. But we were also invited to local TU dinners; into shop owner’s homes for drinks, dinner and more fish stories; told of numerous “Nunya” streams to fish; and gone out to local breweries with shop staff and guides. These are local folks with a passion for fly fishing, their local fisheries and their local communities. Of course, we want to support them at every stop along our ramble.
We’ve had so much fun asking guides and shop owners what their favorite local beers are. I think we’ve tried every recommendation and more along the way. There are so many we could call out but so far, one stands out in particular, Straub Beer in St. Mary, PA. Since 1872 Straub has been brewing the finest beers and has been designated an American Legacy Brewery.
We first encountered Straub in Slate Run PA. We had the pleasure of meeting a member of the Straub family at the Slate Run Tackle Shop. Later on, we were invited to dinner at Tom and Deb Finkbiner’s place and when we opened the fridge, every single type of Straub Beer was there…. and yes, I sampled them all. Awesome beers! Furthermore, Straub is a major supporter of fly fishing and in particular, the on-going efforts establishing Pine Creek as a world class trout stream. Given the beautiful brown trout we caught (and released) there, they are well on their way.
Dublin General Store
When we pulled into Irons RV Campground in Michigan, we asked where the nearest grocery store was. I’d done a little research and found about 30 miles away was an IGA. However, our campground host said we had to go to the Dublin General Store. OK… wanting to stay true to “Buy Local” we took the 15 minute drive to the store, sitting pretty much in the middle of nowhere and were blown away.
It’s been in operation for 81 years and if there is one thing its know for, its jerky. What caught our attention was summer sausage infused with morel mushrooms…. WOW! And it didn’t stop there. We found gourmet cheeses, a full service grocery store, a full meat market, a phenomenal beer selection and more. Half of the store is devoted to food and the other was essentially a hardware store. What we learned from some of the other shoppers was that the store is a destination for many in Michigan. One couple indicated they came up each year specifically to buy jerky, summer sausage and meats.
There are many more we could have mentioned, but to just give you some “local” flavor, these stood out. We are excited as we continue our ramble to discover even more of these local gems along the way.
Local Fly Shops We’ve Visited and Supported (so far in 2016)
Unicoi Outfitters; Helen GA
Blue Ridge Fly Fishing; Blue Ridge GA
Brookings Cashiers Village Anglers; Cashiers NC
Hookers Fly Shop; Sylva NC
Tuckaseegee Fly Shop; Bryson City NC
Davidson River Outfitters; Brevard NC
Hunter Banks Fly Fishing; Asheville NC
Four Seasons Outfitters; Richwood WV
Backwater Angler; Parkton MD
TCO Fly Fishing; Boiling Springs PA
UpCountry Sportfishing; Pine Meadow CT
Housatonic River Outfitters; Cornwall Bridge CT
Hungry Trout Fly Shop; Wilmington NY
Ken Tutalo’s Baxter House; Roscoe NY
Slate Run Tackle Shop; Slate Run PA
Kettle Creek Tackle Shop; Renovo PA
TCO Fly Fishing; State College PA
Savage River Outfitters; Swanton MD
Old Au Sable Fly Shop; Grayling MI
Père Marquette River Lodge; Baldwin MI
Bighorn Trout Shop; Ft. Smith MT