Fly Fishing photo

The fly world has apparently lost an icon…not a person, but a shop. And not just any shop…arguably the most influential shop in the Pacific Northwest. Kaufmann’s Streamborn has closed its doors without any announcement. (Here’s a link to a story that ran on Oregon Live.)

The question now: is this a sign of things to come for more fly shops around the country, or just the end of the road for a tired family business? After all, the Kaufmann brothers (Randall and Lance) wielded considerable influence over the fly fishing world. The “Stimulator” fly was a Kaufmann creation, along with many others. International fly fishing travel…the Kaufmanns were the vanguard. As my friend Mike Michalak, owner of The Fly Shop in Redding, California said: “The fact that Kaufmann’s has shut (its) doors should give nobody in fly fishing any pleasure. The Kaufmann Brothers and their staff may have been the single most important shop in the history of the Pacific Northwest. Many of the current top manufacturers reps, quite a few of the other shop owners/managers, and a lot of the great fly fishing personalities in California, Oregon, and Washington were once part of their operation.”

But fly shops are hurting. Kaufmann’s certainly isn’t the only one to go away, and it won’t be the last.

I personally believe that there will always be a demand for a great fly shop…a place where you get quality information as well as quality product. Sure, there are people who gravitate toward cheap junk at Wal-Mart (that’s apparently the American way), but I think there are some anglers who value the specialty fly shop enough to pay a few bucks extra.

Some fly shops should go away…the ones run by inept, often pompous, business people. Some fly shops (the real “fly” shops, meaning they make most of their profit by selling flies, and are near a destination river) are virtually bullet-proof.

But I would have thought the same thing about Kaufmann’s. You have to wonder if the days of the classic fly shop are numbered, and if we’ll all be buying our bugs via the Internet and the big box store in the not-so-distant future.

I sure hope not. I like the convenience and value of the Internet and big box like anyone else. But I’ll always be a fan of the specialty fly shop.