Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bricks & Mortar, Heart & Soul

Downtown Flagstaff won't be quite the same without Babbit's fly shop.
Local fly shops are indispensable. From any perspective - angler, manufacturer, guide, rep, etc. - they're an integral part of fly fishing. Without them where would we be?

Anglers in Northern Arizona will soon have an opportunity to find out. Flagstaff's one and only dedicated fly shop, Babbit's Fly Fishing, is closing its doors.

I took the news hard. It was a shop that I frequented in college, when I was wet behind the ears. During my years at the Grand Canyon, Babbit's was still my local shop - being just eighty miles down the road. I was always on a tight budget, but I bought what I needed from them. In turn the guys at the shop were always there to answer my questions, provide beta on the local streams and swap stories with.

I tried calling the shop today, hoping to speak with Paul - the shop's longtime manager - about the store's closing, but the number had already been disconnected. It's purely speculation on my part, but it seems a pretty safe bet that the shop is closing for financial reasons. Between the recession and the fact that more and more anglers are making their purchases online, it'd be awfully tough to keep a fly shop out of the red these days - particularly in a non-destination location such as Flagstaff.

Local, independent fly shops are the heart and soul of the fly fishing industry. To those of you who are doing all of your shopping at the local big box sporting goods stores and online retailers - shame on you, support your local fly shop!


  1. It is so hard to lose a favorite shop. Kesel's here in Missoula played a similar role in my formative years as a fly fisherman. I was shocked when I heard the news that it was closing.

  2. I feel your pain Will, the local shop here in my home town closed the doors last summer.. I got nothin!
    They all blame the web, may be right, but if you cant beat them, you gotta join em!

  3. Tough to see those special shops go. With any luck, something new will pop up in it's place as the economy gets better.

    Like an old tree in the forest that finally falls. Hopefully a new one will take root and fill the gap.

    Thanks for the read.

  4. Yeah, it sucks. So many of these independent shops were able to survive for decades - when fly fishing was less popular than it is today. But there's no question that consumer buying habits have changed in recent years.

    I do see new shops opening on occasion (East Rosebud in Billings, MT comes to mind), and I wish them the best of luck. For many of these proprietors, opening a shop is a lifelong dream fulfilled.