Thoughts about working in Fly Fishing – The last 16 years … 12 months … and a bit

I find it hard to believe that this will be my 18th year guiding and teaching fly fishing.  To be fair aged 23 I was only just getting started but 4 years later I was up and running on a full time basis.

Those were super exciting times that I vividly remember, even though I am now well past my 40th year on this extremely cool planet.  And still to this day I can hear well meaning relatives and friends (even clients) offering their advice.  Much of the counsel I received was very good, but sadly due to my youthful exuberance and passion to succeed as a professional fly fisher, I decided to continue upon my path and all that advice fell upon deaf ears!

But one thing really sticks in my mind and that was the comment made by virtually everyone trying to reason with me regarding my intended path.  “Be careful Nick, turn something you love so much into a way of making money and it might not turn out quite how you expect; in fact you may even end up not enjoying or evening hating the very thought of fly fishing

Yeah Right!

Where I am going with this blog post; the first I have uploaded in over a year?

Well I guess what I am about to say is that all those friends and relatives (and clients) were right, but also wrong and during the last 12 months I have been thinking long & hard about the journey during the last 10 years in particular.

First things first; I still love guiding fly fishing & teaching fly casting.  When one of my clients hooks a fish, pulls off a fly … fly cast … or suddenly has one of those light bulb moments when something I say helps them connect with their fishing even more … and it does nothing for me … well there is no other solution is there?  It’s time to hang up the waders and get a real job.

Two anglers pose with Trout caught during a 2 day fly fishing course hosted by Nick Hart in 2015

Guiding & Teaching – The most awesome part about working in fly fishing.

I am not about to give myself a P45 just yet because I reckon I get more of a buzz from guiding with each season that passes, which possibly explains why I am so goddamn miserable during the winter!

Fly Fishing P45

One bit of advice I have for anyone interested in earning their keep as a UK fly fishing guide is beware that you have a window of around 6 months to make some cash and if you really want to be full time, then the only way is to get on a plane and get the hell out of here when the increasingly common winter storms appear.  Either that or you need an off season regular job.  I was waiting on tables in the winter until I was 30.

Which leads me to the truth about those wise words that fell upon my large but uninterested ears all those years ago.  It didn’t take long for me to realise that even a busy guide in the UK will struggle to earn enough cash to make a living and so suddenly my vision became blurred.  While I began employing other people to do the job I loved my own focus became retail and Hart Flyshop was born.

Hart Flyshop in 2007

Hart Flyshop in 2007

The idea was to offer a specialist online fly fishing retail outlet, driven by information direct from a guide spending most of his waking hours on or in the water, using and abusing everything from a tippet ring to pair of breathable waders.  Blog posts, videos, reviews … I had it all in my head but there were three major flaws to my plan (there were probably more like 1003!)

Hart Flyshop - an interior view of the shop floor in the early days of trading

Spartan beginnings

Number One – Time.  100+ guiding days during the season doesn’t leave much time and during the off season the time that is now available in abundance needs to be filled with cash flow based objectives.  Guide + Manage Online Shop + Showroom = Disaster!

Number Two – Online is all about price.  I have had long discussions about this, especially with very loyal customers who have booked me for guiding over many seasons and spent 1000s of their hard earned pounds on the latest equipment that I have recommended.

In the flesh, in the moment, trying out gear, listening to my evaluation; that is very different to sitting at a browser, mouse finger at the ready wanting to make a purchase.  A good few of those loyal customers did use the virtual tackle shop but of course for online retailing to really work you need 1000 upon 1000 of customers ready to Add to Cart.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if the products shown are competitively priced and backed up with outstanding service that the business will grow & grow.  Which in other words means discounting, bundles, lots of staff, a warehouse and … Number 3.

The interior of Hart Flyshop during the busy years.

The nearest I came to my vision of a Montana style fly fishing outfitter

Number Three – Money … & lots of it.  A healthy bank balance is something no UK based guide starting from scratch is ever going to have unless hoards of Bonefish, GTs, Steelhead and Lakers suddenly turn up on the coast, in our rivers & stillwaters offering a year round income.  So although I don’t think my idea was entirely without good reason what I really did not bank on, no pun intended, is that a small independent, specialist online fly fishing retail shop in the UK will not be able to compete.  Back in 2007; maybe.  But in 2016; not a chance!

As of yesterday my own attempt at online retail, www.hartflyshop.com no longer exists but instead heads off towards something that aligns with my original vision once more, which is to offer entertainment to people in the form of fly fishing experiences.  Click here to see.

Hart Flyshop was a specialist online fly fishing retailer that opened in 2006 and closed 10 years later in 2016.

Hart Flyshop went offline on Monday 1st February 2016

Was this post just my way of announcing that I don’t sell tackle online any more? Definitely not. Instead I see it as an explanation of why I haven’t posted any entries to this blog during the last 12 months.  I needed to spend time thinking about my next steps, time to focus on my vision again and I needed to make time to go fishing again!

Anyway if you have arrived all the way at the bottom of this post, my sincere thanks for reading and if you visited the blog regularly in the past, my sincere apologies for the silence.  I am not going to promise weekly posts or another series of articles that just don’t happen because my time is being taken up where it should be, on the water.

Even so, if you feel like it please check back in sometime, because now that I no longer have to think about the virtual world of fly fishing sales I have a bit more time on my hands which I hope may become evident on the blog this coming season.

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6 Responses to Thoughts about working in Fly Fishing – The last 16 years … 12 months … and a bit

  1. Hi Nick,

    I wondered what had happened to you. That and having spent the last two years in South Africa!

    You gave it a go which is an incredible achievement and which you should be proud of. I am still using the skills that you taught me on my small chalk (ish) stream in Essex now that I am home again.

    Hopefully see you in the summer and well done again.

    Cheers

    Phil

    Phil Jennings | February 2, 2016 at 5:15 pm | Reply
    • Awesome to hear from you Phil and even better to hear you are still fishing, please do come and hook up in the summer. The guiding waders are staying well and truly on, but it was time to forget the virtual world of tackle. Thanks for your kind words and I hope to see you soon. Best fishes, Nick.

      Nick Hart | February 3, 2016 at 9:58 am | Reply
  2. It was over 9 years ago I made my first journey to your fishery, under the guidance of my late father in law. Wow I got to speak with one of the hallowed few who wrote the feature articles in a trout mag. Over the past years I would visit your fishery while on my 6 week summer shutdown camping at wimbleball, you would always stop, spend time and help me out with flies/tactics and times to fish anywhere and everywhere.
    I do hope you have only luck in what you do. Thank you for all of the advice over the years.
    As my father in law would say you are one of lifes true gentlemen !!!!
    Paul Sweatman
    Bristol

    Paul Sweatman | February 11, 2016 at 6:06 pm | Reply
    • Hi Paul, the main reason I ended up guiding is that when I was fishing in my mid teens it was such a buzz to help people out and sometimes see them succeed in catching or perhaps adding some distance or accuracy to their casts. The buzz has never subsided and long may it continue. Huge thanks for your kind words and I hope we catch up at the waters edge sometime soon. Have a great 2016, Best fishes, Nick.

      Nick Hart | February 12, 2016 at 11:59 am | Reply
  3. Hi Nick,

    What a great article on following your dreams and making what could have remained just a hobby into a good paying occupation. Just that part of it alone is enough to make many people envious. Even if you struggle, you’re still doing what you love.

    Obviously, with fly fishing being such a seasonal thing you need to have some sort of backup and I’d like to wish you the best of luck with your online endeavors too. Hopefully the people you see will be happy to recommend you to their friends too. Word of mouth is by far the best advertising!

    Keep up the great work of keeping other people happy.

    Regards,

    Steve

    Steven Swishaw | May 13, 2016 at 9:59 pm | Reply
    • Thank you Steve for commenting. Just checked out your online store, looks great!

      Nick Hart | May 16, 2016 at 11:19 am | Reply

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