AFTER 3 days of overcast skies, sub-zero temps and snow, the sun finally broke through the clouds in glorious fashion today. Its return was welcome. Days like this are vital to one’s spirit and prevent those thoughts of packing up and leaving this God forsaken tundra that often can occur at this time of year. The air was cold and crisp and the wind was non existent. The feeling was good. The heat wave at 10 degrees was remarkable and I basked in the warmth while I shuffled through the woods and collected some kindling for the fire.

The shelf ice is thick and wide on the area’s trout streams and Mr. trout is a bit chilly himself.  It won’t be long now (Jan. 1) before the Winter trout season begins in Minnesota and Wisconsin’s to follow in March. I continue to look forward.

Last Saturday I was fortunate to be invited to appear at a Holiday Open House at The Fly Fishers in my home town of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (specifically West Allis). The owner Pat Ehlers has run a class operation there for many years and the atmosphere was festive. A cast of characters and professionals were on hand to assist Pat’s customers with their Christmas shopping needs and to show off new products for 2009. I was tying flies and demonstrating techniques to all who would listen. It was great to be back in the shop again and the feeling was much like that of the sun today. I was in a good place and it felt good. A large crowd passed through the shop despite the pouring rain and wind typical of those southern climates. There was food and drink, laughter, and story telling. There was also purchasing. As I chatter at you from behind the keyboard, I understand that the written word is not capable of conveying to you the importance of making sure that this institution we call “The Fly Shop” survives. There is basic human communication amongst anglers that occurs in a shop that cannot be duplicated anywhere! This level of face to face interaction, product examination, and educational opportunity is as valuable as any learning to be done in fly fishing. I believe that as brick and mortar fly shops continue to disappear, our future fly anglers risk loosing an important piece of the fly fishing puzzle. I think we can support both online and brick and mortar fly shops. If there are no shops where you live, find a brick and mortar shop with a good online store and support them, there are more and more of them out there every day. Shop online for specialty products that are difficult to find in shops or available only online. But, by all means, go to a shop when you have the chance.  Face to face contact with people and product in fly angling is a piece of the puzzle you will need to understand the journey.

Of course there were the pranksters alive and well at Pat’s. They left me this custom pattern when I was on break from my vice.