While fly-fishing has traditionally been thought of as a sport for older men, there’s been a shift in the past couple of years. This shift, brought on by COVID-19 pushing everyone indoors, has sparked growth in a younger fly-fishing audience.
“There was a huge increase in the number of college kids picking up this sport, a trend that I haven’t seen,” said John Wolter, owner of ANGLERS Fly Shop, adding that his own college-age son just picked up the sport himself. “We always have a few of these guys who do it, but these last two years, there’s a lot of kids out getting after it.”
Wolter added that he has also seen an increasing number of women getting engaged with the sport, many of whom are in their 20s.
This growth was also noted by Tom Governale, fly-fishing guide and instructor at Idaho Angler, who noted that the increasing amount of remote work has brought many into Boise, bringing significant expansion in the local fly-fishing industry.
Whether you’re looking to get started in fly-fishing or an experienced angler, here’s how you can get set up.
Idaho Angler first opened in June of 1993 in downtown Boise. A move in 1999 brought Idaho Angler to its current location on Vista Avenue, where it continues to provide customers with an array of fly-fishing products and remains the largest fly-fishing retail store in the Boise area. Since opening, Idaho Angler has worked to expand, notably developing its educational offering as a full-service fishing retailer.
Classes are open to individuals of all skill levels and provide necessary knowledge for those looking to start their first foray into the sport, providing instruction on forms of equipment: lines, leaders, rods and reels as well as teaching how to tie knots. Those without the necessary equipment needn’t worry, however, as access to waders, boots, poles and all other equipment are included in the cost of instruction.
“By the time you’re done with the class, you have enough information to stay dangerous,” Governale said.
Idaho Angler also offers advanced instruction for experienced fly-fishers, including classroom and on-the-water instruction as well as specialty instruction for those who wish to learn how to fish in certain areas or with certain techniques.
There is also room for those looking for access to equipment outside of the classroom, with all the necessary equipment including float tubes and even small pontoon boats available for rent.
Guided trips are also a part of Idaho Angler’s expanded offering. An in-town tour of the Boise River starts at $595 for a full day and $350 for a half day for individuals or pairs. A guided tour of the Owyhee River, Snake River and Grande Ronde are also available.
Reflecting on the state of the industry today, Governale said the equipment is far beyond what it used to be, and that’s a good thing, especially for those looking to get started in fly-fishing.
“I’m always happy to sell a $1,000 rod,” Governale said. “But today, the graphite rod-making is so advanced beyond what it was 15 years ago…there’s not as much difference between the $200 and the $500 rod as there used to be, they both work really well, and both are going to serve their purpose.”
While the goal of fly-fishing is always to bring in a catch, Governale made sure to note that anyone can find fulfillment in the sport for a variety of reasons.
“Some are into the zen of it, just being outside,” Governale said. “I’ve got clients and there’s days that are just going to be slow…you get people that haven’t caught a fish in a couple of hours, and they’ll say this is great, I’m just enjoying nature. Then, all of a sudden, they hook a fish and then it’s even more fun.”
The shop’s clientele come from the eastern seaboard to the West Coast to shop the breadth of the store’s offering. Governale recounted customers coming from as far away as Germany to stock up for their fishing exploits.
“You get to talk to people and hear their stories and for me, that’s just a fun part of the work here.”
For those who may be new to fly-fishing and open to travel, Governale recommended the Owyhee River of eastern Oregon as a great, consistent fishery in the Northwest. For central Idaho, Governale recommended the Salmon River. Those looking to travel to the “fishing mecca” that is eastern Idaho, Governale recommended Henry’s Lake to Henry’s Fork.
Even those looking to integrate fishing into their backpacking can explore backcountry fishing in the Sawtooths.
“It’s pretty limitless,” Governale said.
ANGLERS Fly Shop
ANGLERS Fly Shop has served the Boise area for over 20 years and offers a range of services from fly-tying classes, equipment rental and custom flies as well as geographical knowledge.
“There’s a lot of good-quality fly shops along the Northwest,” Wolter said. “We’d like to think that we’re one of those, friendly and easy to get advice from.”
As an Orvis-branded shop, ANGLERS Fly Shop offers a range of gear from waders to poles with the Orvis name in addition to items from local brands such as Lamson Waterworks and Loon Outdoors.
Classes are offered through Vice Outdoors, which hosts all of the shop’s on-water instruction on the Boise River, as well as through Dreams on the Fly, which provides instruction on the Owyhee River. Guides are available to allow for both those with a lifetime of experience and those with no experience at all to get out on the water.
ANGLERS Fly Shop also brings in a number of individuals in Boise on business trips who find themselves with an extra day or two to go out and fish. While Boise doesn’t stand as a fishing hub in the same way that eastern Idaho does, the variety of water in and around Boise makes it an area worth visiting, Wolter said, adding that some of those who come in from out-of-state can be considering permanent relocation.
“We’ll have folks come in and their first stop isn’t the realtor office to go look for a home. Their first stop is here, in the fly shop,” Wolter said.
Wolter noted that, across Idaho, there’s a huge variety of fish, all species of trout, bass, bluegill, carp and steelhead salmon with a store offering supplies to meet the variety of fish the state has to offer.
“Within a relatively short drive of five or six hours, we have northern Idaho, Oregon, Montana and eastern Idaho,” Wolter said. “The diversity of water that we have within our backyard is astounding.”
This article was originally published in Idaho Business Review’s 2022 edition of Treasure Valley Living.