Fin City Fly Shop and guide service is in the heart of the Bitterroot Valley with upgrades, additions, consistent hours and the retail interest of Osprey Outfitters that was previously open in the North Hamilton location.
Owner David Brandos said his Fin City business is three-fold: providing education for beginning and intermediate fly fishers, equipment and services.
“Services are broken up in to two groups: local Bitterroot River services and international travel,” Brandos said. “We book trips to a lodge down in Chile, adventure fishing in Alaska and a brand-new lodge on the Madison River called the Madison Double R (Madison River Ranch) which was the original founder of Ruby Springs over in Alder.”
Fin City Fly Fishing has something for everyone from beginners to high-end.
The business is welcoming to folks new to fishing. Every Saturday Brandos offers a free clinic, currently at 1 p.m. He selects a topic each week or takes suggestions from regular customers and talks about what people want to hear. Topics are posted on the reader board outside. “All about Trout,” “Rigging and Knots” and “Nymph Fishing” are a few of the recent topics.
Brandos bought the business Dec. 31 and has been refurbishing the space and the business.
“We bought all the inventory and are leasing the same space because it was already set up as a fly shop and then we changed a few things,” he said.
Fin City Fly Fishing still books trips for the river with the added services of wade fishing, pontoon boat fishing and back country lake fishing.
“We still book all our trips through Osprey Outfitters,” Brandos said. “In the state of Montana, I’m a guide and my guide license is sponsored by Osprey. Osprey is an outfitter but he doesn’t have a fly shop so we need each other. It is an agreement that is mutually beneficial.”
Brandos said there are other river guides in the Bitterroot and most have a second job.
“It is a very seasonal job,” he said. “So is a fly shop but we’ve brought more gift-type items in.”
Fly Fishing motif wall art and metal sculptures are designed for home decorating. Art includes wood sculptures like “Out of the Myth” with Native American motif in the back and cutthroat trout in the front by Reel Trout Studios, Paul Barmore (The Parachute Fly — copper tubing and wire) and glasswork by trout and fish artist Derek DeYoung.
Rod displays allow customers to feel and operate the product before buying.
There are Montana products like Sweet Grass bamboo rods made in Butte.
“They are real works of art as well as functional,” Brandos said. “They used to be part of R.L. Winston Rod Company which is another Montana Company. Our high-end rods are R.L. Winston.”
Boots, waders, rods, nets and all the usual fishing supplies plus apparel like hats, sun shirts, T-shirts, Hamilton–motif shirts, Fin City Fly Fishing logos and Patagonia products.
Fin City Fly Fishing has more than 30,000 flies.
“We are really particular that our flies are durable and last,” Brandos said. “You can buy flies cheaper but they come apart. We only get flies from three companies — Montana Fly Company in Great Falls, Solitude and RIO which is a mainstay. We also purchase from local fly fishermen who tie flies specifically for the Bitterroot hatches.”
For a personalized touch, Brandos packages a box of current flies, for example a box with just the right flies and bugs for spring, then late spring, then another box for June.
“So, when someone comes in and says I’m new to this or new to the area they can just buy the box and it is at a discount,” Brandos said. “That way they don’t have to think too hard because this is daunting if you don’t know what all this means. If they just want to go fishing right now without me telling them all about it, that’s the ticket.”
Brandos has built displays for nine-foot rods in eight-foot ceilings.
Fin City Fly Fishing offers consistent hours open 9 a.m. every day and in the summer will move that up to 7 a.m. as it gets hot and people head out to the river earlier in the day. Brandon is a resource of knowledge like the current weather, river conditions and what just hatched that fish are biting. Local fish include brown trout, rainbow, westslope cutthroat, hybrids, brook, mountain whitefish and the occasional “river monster” bull trout.
Fin City Fly Fishing will be closed for a week during high water in May for Brandos to attend a Patagonia show.