The Wild South

Take an On-Screen Tour of Southern Fly Shops

A new online film series highlights the shops and people who keep waters healthy and anglers happy

A group of people standing behind the counter in a fly fishing store.

Photo: Courtesy of Flylords

The team at 239 Flies, a shop in Bonita Springs, Florida.

Whether the target is trout, stripers, tarpon, or shellcrackers, local fly shops are both culture keepers and a microeconomy common to every solid fishing region in the country. For the second year in a row, Flylords, the uber-hip fly-fishing multimedia company out of Colorado, is releasing an online film series showcasing great fly shops and the good work they do for conservation, and this time they’re turning south.

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Last year’s inaugural Fly Shop Tour was a month-long, 2,500-mile showcase of thirteen fly shops across five states in the American West. This year’s similarly epic tour stopped in at fourteen fly shops across North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia. Filmed in October and November last year, each twenty- to thirty-minute film tells the behind-the-counter story of classic fly shops in a particular state, and highlights both local fisheries and a local nonprofit organization working to keep waters healthy.

photo: Courtesy of Flylords
Fishing the Chattahoochee River in Georgia.

Fly shops, says producer and Flylords’ brand partnerships director Joseph Berney, are far more than a place to match the local mayfly hatch and stock up on the rain gear you mistakenly left at home. “These shops have evolved into centers of local community,” he says. The best bind a fishing community together with their alchemy of camaraderie, insider knowledge, and hyperlocal spirit. They also nourish new anglers and serve as training grounds for new generations of guides—those gnarly kids with the wide bewhiskered smiles who ring up your gear while hoping to piece together a few client trips on their days off.

photo: Courtesy of Flylords
Wes Bradley (left) and Jeff Wright of Alpharetta Outfitters.

The Flylords team has produced five film episodes from its Southeast tour. The first, focusing on two fly shops in Tennessee, debuts on YouTube this Wednesday, March 6, at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, with the subsequent episodes dropping over the next four weeks. The shops range from urban locations such as the Fish Hawk in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood to smaller shops such as East Tennessee’s Little River Outfitters, just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And since the best fly shops help provide the passion and muscle required to help conserve embattled fish habitats, the Fly Shop Tour threw fundraisers along the road trip route, raising more than $16,000 for local nonprofits such as the Crayfish Creek Restoration Project in Georgia and Charleston Waterkeeper.

photo: Courtesy of Flylords
Launching on the Chattahoochee.

“It was such a win-win,” Berney says. “The Southeast offers possibly the greatest diversity of fishing in the country, from wild brook trout to native bass and land-lock stripers, and tarpon and bonefish within sight of downtown Miami. The Fly Shops Tour is a way to break that barrier of just being a presence on the screen and serve the greater purpose of helping build these grassroots efforts.”

Follow T. Edward Nickens on Instagram @enickens and find more Wild South columns here.