The Job Interview: New owner seeks to help fishermen at Tight Lines Fishing Services
Dave Kittredge ties an "old-style" wooly bugger fly at Tight Lines in New London; Thursday, May 9, 2013. "The new style has a lot of flash in it," he says. "They don't represent or mimic anything, but the trout go crazy for them."
(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
Dave Kittredge sells flies and fly fishing equipment at Tight Lines in New London; Thursday, May 9, 2013.
(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
Soft hackle wet flies fill a case at Tight Lines in New London; Thursday, May 9, 2013.
(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
A year ago, just in time for the beginning of trout season in New Hampshire, David Kittredge purchased Tight Lines Fishing Services, where fishermen from novice to expert have been able to find fly fishing gear and guidance for 13 years, in the Elkins district of New London.
Kittredge, 61, reflected on his first year in business, his hopes for the future and what got him hooked on the hobby he has turned into a second career.
When did you start fishing?
I started fly fishing 20 years ago. But I’ve been fishing for 50 years, if not more. With fly fishing, I realized it was an art form. You gotta be able to cast a fly rod, which is a little bit more difficult than casting a regular spin fishing rod, and you have to understand the area’s entomology. You have to realize all the hatches that happen on a monthly basis throughout the trout season, how to mesh the flies up with the bugs and when to use streamers that represent bait fish when all else fails.
Why did you stick with fly fishing once you tried it?
It’s the sensitivity of the rod. You’re more at one with a being from a different universe. That’s essentially what a fish is, almost an alien to us. They don’t breathe air; they’re eating a totally different diet from what we would eat. They are just totally different creatures, but they’re beautiful creatures. . . . Once they catch a fish, the fish is hooked and also the fisherman is hooked. Once you catch a fish on a fly hook, you can feel the fight.
Why did you purchase the shop?
I became friends with the previous owner, (Jon Lockwood) and I learned a lot from him. . . . He’s moved to Pittsburgh, because of a medical procedure he has to face. . . . I presented the idea of buying the shop to him, and he said it’s a great idea, we’ll do it. . . . Jon has many, many friends, and Jon is very well loved in the community, plus being probably the best fisherman I know, and the best guide I’ve ever been with. He’s still part of the business because he’s still a guide. My casa is his casa.
But this is a second career for you. Why choose this, instead of retirement?
I was a stone mason, but I was getting a little bit long in the tooth so I decided I would take over this fly shop in lieu of stone masonry. And I want to see the art of fly tying continue in this area. . . . I didn’t think I was going to become rich doing this, it’s a labor of love mostly. We just try to pay the rent.
What’s your daily routine at the shop?
I spend my time tying flies, taking care of inventory, making sure we have product for the upcoming month, since the season changes throughout the year.
What have you changed since you took over last year?
We have more regular hours, because I’m there five days a week, the same hours every week. Jon is a very, very good fishing guide, and he’d rather be outside than do the retail end of the business. I fish early in the morning and then I’m here noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
How have you changed since owning the shop, from when you were just a customer?
Before, I didn’t talk too much in the fly shop. I listened a lot as a customer. I was listening to the banter about the area trout fishing. Now, of course, I’m expected to provide knowledge: People walk in from the street and ask, and, say it’s an elderly man who can’t get around, I’ve got to come up with a spot for him, and someone else asks, ‘Where can I take my 6-year-old child fishing?’
Or somebody with more expertise wants to know what are the salmon hitting on Lake Sunapee.
I thought fishermen were more proprietary with their knowledge. You just tell folks where to go and what to do?
When you talk to people on the river, some are very collaborative and some play things very tight to the vest, the fly fishing vest as it were. I have to be very open about it. . . . If people ask me the right questions I give them the right answers. I will try to find out their level of expertise and give them advice accordingly. . . .
If it’s a novice, I’ll explain to them, the woolly bugger is probably the most important fly to use in this area, and that simplifies things. We probably have 500 or 600 different flies in the shop. But even if you have a bad day and haven’t learned how to cast yet, if you just strip the woolly bugger down through a suspected trout hole and back toward yourself, that’s how children learn how to fly fish and it’s also good for the novice.
How will you judge if you’ve had a successful season at the shop?
By the number of people that come in. The new faces that keep coming back, the new faces I saw last year that keep coming back.
I have loyal customers that started catching more fish last year because of my advice and that brings them back.
But not everybody takes my advice, though, and some people just don’t want to listen to it, so you’ve got to be able to read that, too.
What else do you offer at the shop besides advice?
Flies, ingredients for tying flies, and not formal classes but if someone wants to learn, I show them how to tie a woolly bugger and a Mickey Finn. They decide then and there if they want to keep tying. I’ll still support them after that if they have any questions, I’ll be glad to answer them. That’s how I learned to tie. I had probably five different people I could talk to so I wouldn’t overwhelm one person.
Is that something that people are increasingly turning to the internet to learn, instead of shops like yours?
I don’t know if I could learn from YouTube how to tie a fly. I know I can go now and get a new recipe that somebody told me and figure it out with the videos, but I don’t think I can really do it from the computer media alone. You need books and you need a personal trainer to show you how to do some things, I think.
And you don’t charge for those lessons?
Nobody ever charged me.
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or
firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)