Full Combat Shopping| The Full Reid
Okay, I’ll admit it; I’m your basic male shopper. I need a pair of pants, I pull into the mall, go directly into the one store that I know sells the ones I like, grab a pair off the rack in my size, buy them and walk out. Done. That’s the way it should be.
Sometimes, I’m unable to walk directly into the store that I want and I’m forced to “walk the mall.” Okay, eyes forward, ignore the cell phone salesmen, no I don’t want rain gutter covers, no, my non-existent jewelry is clean enough, thank you very much. Get to the store, purchase, leave. Well, in all honesty, sometimes the window displays do pique my interest. “We have Tank Bras!” Hmmm, I guess it would be nice to keep the bugs off the front of your M1 Abrams. I hold firm and keep walking. But sometimes, once in a great while, I’ll get hooked.
On my recent trip to Montana, I only spent more than 20 minutes in three towns (hey, it’s a FISHING trip), Bozeman, Ennis and West Yellowstone. Let’s throw out Bozeman ’cause I only used it as my point of entry and exit. Note to self: check on validity of the TSA (Trout Safety Administration). These guys stopped me in the parking lot at the airport in Bozeman and went through my fly boxes searching for and confiscating any flies on which I’d not yet crimped down the barbs. The inspectors took my whole supply of number 8 Kauffman’s golden stone nymphs with Madam X-style rubber legs and custom angora/silk/Angelina fibre dubbed bodies. They also took away my extra set of waders because of possible zebra mussel infestation. They looked official, so I guess it’s for my own good. I did happen to see “Senior Inspector Mike Smith, TSA” the next day enjoying himself in a drift boat. Makes my heart glad to know that even government employees can get a free day off to go fish, though I don’t know how they afford it on their salaries.
Okay, where were we? Oh, yeah, we’ve chucked out Bozeman from this oh so scientific survey and that leaves us Ennis and Yellowstone. According to the sign entering Ennis, the population is 660 folks and 1,100,000 trout. Ennis has two major fly shops. West Yellowstone, according to US census information, has 1,650 permanent residents. It also has five major fly shops (hmm, all centered on a microbrewery).
A quick bit of math leads us to the conclusion that the mandatory ratio of residents to fly shops in Montana is 330 to 1. This holds true for both Ennis and West Yellowstone, so probably works throughout the state. As a comparison, within the city limits of Baltimore, there is one, count ’em, one fly shop for a population of 651,154 deprived souls. It’s just not fair! Time for a full Senate investigation.
There is even one fly shop half way between Ennis and Quake Lake, in the middle of nowhere, that has more flies in one place than any other store I’ve ever been to, bar none. Mmmm, flies… Oops, sorry, drifted off for a minute.
As a final note, there are also fly shops in most of your lodges along the Madison, some of which are very good. This is a good thing. Lucky for me, at one of these lodges, I was even able to find some size 8 Kauffman’s golden stone nymphs with Madam X-style rubber legs and custom angora/silk/Angelina fibre dubbed bodies that looked exactly like the ones that had been confiscated in Bozeman. Figure the odds (I knew they couldn’t be mine as, on close inspection, I found that the tyer had crimped the barbs). They also sold used waders. Great shop. On my trip, I’ve brought my tying kit with me, but after fishing all day and rehydrating all evening, I’m too tired to tie. So, in standard male shopping mode (get to the store, purchase, leave), we pull into West Yellowstone. I need to buy some flies, get a Yellowstone license and info on Slough Creek in the Park.
We hit the fourth shop on the main street of town. We figure that you don’t want to go to the first place you see, as they are there to grab the truly desperate. So by going to the 4th place, we’ll have weeded out the places catering to the wanna-be fly fisherman. Hmm, that brewpub is up the street a bit. Maybe we’ll go there after we get the stuff we need. This should only take 5 minutes. My fishing buds and I line up at the counter to get our licenses. There’s a fan blowing from the back corner of the store. A nice… cool…breezeARRRGH! I can smell it! It’s… It’s FEATHER PHEROMONES!
A shudder runs through my body starting at my wallet. I.. must.. resist…I…am…in… mall…uh, male shopping mode. Leave the store NOW! But I can’t…A little switch has been flipped in my brain. My fishing buddies have seen this before and start screaming “INTERVENTION!” But it’s no use. Jekyll and Hyde, Kent and Superman, Parker and Spiderman. They’ve all gone through it.
“I change. I am Fly Mall Shopper Man!”
I shake off their restraining hands as I’m inexorably drawn to the back and sides of the store. Bins and bins of flies greet my eyes. Size 16 extended body grey drakes, tungsten cone head laced Autumn Splendors, even hair wing PMD emergers.
My fingers act on their own, pick up a gross of little plastic cups and proceed to fill them. Size 20 bead head pheasant tails embed themselves under my nails. I ignore the pain and follow the scent trail. There it is, the fan. It sits in front of the hackle display, seductively oscillating, calling my name “Frrraaaaannk, Frrraaaaannk, Frrraaaaannk” in a susurrating whisper. And next to the fan, the mother load. The discount bins. Oh, you evil fiends! My bleeding mitts paw through the bins. 10 packs of chenille for 5 bucks, pink raffia for scuds, peach baskets full of half-priced hackle. Bwahahahahahahah!!!!
There is more. I move down the wall, grab two empty peach baskets and start pushing full skeins of variegated chenille into them. Suddenly, I now have two fly shop clerks as personal shoppers. They recognize the signs. Two others are restraining my buddies by explaining the Yellowstone fishing regs in extreme detail. A fifth keeps pointing the fan at me.
I turn the corner and confront a confused 6-year-old. He looks in my baskets. I can tell he wants my stuff. “Mine, Mine, all mine!” I gurgle as I get to the selection of plastic nymph body forms. I clear the rack. The small child follows. I run to the checkout counter, trampling the young man in my haste. I must put my scent on the items and mark my territory. Ah, time for the plastic. The clerk swipes my card as 4 registers ring my purchases. I grab my loot, license and run. I have the scent now, it pours from the other shops. I run across the street and am struck by a Chevy with Florida plates pulling a 5th wheeler. The bumper wraps around my thigh. I’m unaffected. I am Fly Mall Shopper Man!
In the next shop, the story is the same. The first shop has sent out the alert. I’m greeted at the door by the whole staff. Oval stickers with river names, a gourd with trout painted on it, a wading staff that doubles as a whiskey flask. I move on.
Ah, there’s the microbrewery. Time to rehydrate. This also affords the local constabulary time to put up road blocks for all the streets I’ll cross and get the parade permit for my growing troop of bearers. I hit the streets again and find the specialty shop that sells custom dyed hackle, caribou, pine squirrel, even whole beaver pelts. As a bonus, they’ve cornered the market on Zelon. But no longer, its all mine. More peach baskets, the plastic begins to smoke. Time to go, time to rehydrate. Again and again, shop to shop.
Three hours later, the final shop, more flies. And then, there they are. My personal Holy Grail of Fly Fishing. Light falls on them through the skylight. It’s a religious moment. I approach, touch, fondle… A bin full of, dare I say it, size 8 Kauffman’s golden stone nymphs with Madam X-style rubber legs and custom angora/silk/Angelina fibre dubbed bodies (hook barbs pre-crimped). The credit card bursts into flame from the friction. My day is done. (WARNING: This is a work of fiction. It is a federal offense in most states and a hanging offense in Montana to attempt to explain the Yellowstone fishing regulations to another person. Do not attempt this at home.)
This has been The Full Reid, a guest blog series from Frank Reid. You can catch up with Frank on his blog or on Facebook@FullReid