Wednesday, March 1, 2017

So, you married a hardcore fly fisherman?

The postman has nothing on the fly fisherman.   photo credit: David Cannon

So, when I met Bill...I knew he was a fly fisherman.  In fact, on our first date we went fly fishing (technically the second date but this time around he actually talked to me *see introvert references and Bill being a man of very few words).

The early years...yes, I married this.

I did not think too much of it at the time.  I love fish.   I fancy myself a mermaid of sorts (*see 8-year-old at heart reference).  I enthusiastically professed to Bill that I was the "outdoorsy" type (I mean...I did own a pair of Vasque hiking boots)  and I spent much of my youth fishing in our suburb pond that was so polluted with yard perfecting chemicals that I once tried to rescue all of the brim by placing them in buckets and brought them home to be my pets.  We all know how that scarred me for life ended. 

From the beginning, it was clear that Bill had "fish brain". 

Every book he read, gift he requested, trip he coveted and thought beyond a basic need was about fish.  Yep.  I knew who he was and he made zero effort to conceal what can I can clearly now describe as being possessed.

Don't get me wrong...I have total respect for any passionate diversion from life.  I grew up in a family that celebrated any interesting avocation...namely hobbies.  Hobbies defined us in our household.  We were pushed to explore all that was available to us and "full immersion" into any extra curricular activity was a highly regarded behavior. 

I knew his kind. 

Or did I?  Most hobbies have an expiration of sorts.  You either evolve, master it or simply age out.  It appears as though that does not occur with the fly fishing thing.  It's the ever evolving sport in it's own right, impossible to master and well...I know more than one person that actually died of old age while fishing (it's true).

Let's just be honest...the signs were clear from the beginning (*see first date we went fly fishing reference).  And, did I mention that he "left" his fly rod in my car insuring another meeting? Oh, and he also left a copy of "A River Runs Through it" in my car (*see cliché reference...so be it).

There were other signs.  Some subtle and then the not-so-subtle.  For example...after being married only a few short months and our cat walked by me in the living room...shaved...shaved all of the way from his hind legs to his belly.  Bald.  When pushed,  Bill finally admitted that he needed orange tying material.  Poor Peanut.  That was only the beginning...

Here's my own personal collective of...

TOP 10 (okay 11)  WAYS YOU KNOW YOU MARRIED

A HARD CORE FLY FISHERMAN

#1  Your child learns to tie a fly before his shoes.  


#2  Waders have become acceptable décor (huge sigh here...).

#3  When four hours of a vacation day (any random vacation day)  is hijacked by riding around some random town looking for a random brim popper or whatever other random fly pattern may catch some random fish in some random golf course pond.


#4  His favorite activity at Disney is feeding the giant carp in the ponds outside of Epcot. 

Yep

#5  He cannot find his underwear in the morning yet mysteriously is able to navigate miles and miles of a primitive back country trail leading to a small stream...full of trout.  Or, how about this...he cannot find ANYTHING pertaining to everyday life but can find a tarpon/redfish/snook in the middle of the ocean!?!?!?  Am I right?


#6  When his insistence to share the love of fly fishing and the desire for you to catch trout with him is so intense that he straps you to his back with a belt and trudges in rushing chest deep water across the Frying Pan River to get to a honey hole full of Rainbows.  (editor's note:  I did indeed catch a lot of fish that day until the bear thing).


 #7  When you receive a text like this:



#8  When your 5-year-old little girl can double haul.


 #9 When you bring up the idea of buying a boat for the lake and he convinces you that a 17 foot flats boat is indeed family friendly.  So, when we go to the lake for "family day" we cram 4 adults, 2 children, one huge cooler and 2 paddle boards on this formidable vessel.  No really...it seems almost normal until I write this...


#10 When the hatch is on...Bill is gone.  Gone gone. Like so gone...


#11   Ummmm...when you live in the mountains in rural North Georgia to be close to fish and make bamboo fly rods for a living.




I would be remiss not to mention that because of Bill's said "excessive enthusiasm",  I am fortunate enough to travel to the most exquisite destinations on earth (except that one), meet some of the most fascinating people on earth (except that one), learn the most thoughtful sport on earth and live an unimaginable life...

...a life that I could have never even dreamt of on that first date sitting on a rock in the woods, starring at the my Vasque hiking boots being lulled into love while listening to Bill discuss the merits of a woolly booger pattern.


slo

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Space, Time and the Bamboo Fly Rod



word

It’s a new year…well kind of…

can we still say it’s a new year when it is almost 7% over

(I did the “mathish” on that). 


In usual form, Oyster lunged into the New Year with dust kicking up all around us oblivious to the inevitable reflection and pause experienced by most as a “New Beginning” was celebrated.

It’s just space and time, right? 


The Oyster Tribe Vibe

So, we exited 2016 completely shocked that it was already over dripping with gratitude that once again Oyster was able to flourish in every possible direction.  We dug in harder as a tribe, made several technical and creative innovations with our bamboo fly rods and explored new fly fishing destinations.   This inevitably led to a deeper understanding of ourselves, our business, our treasured clients and our beloved trade.


Oyster growth in the form of 3.6 OZ one piece and new Tibor reel collection


Of course, all of this growth exhausts me while trying to keep two children alive leads to my inevitable (yet humorous and heartwarming) reflection of another year gone.  Sigh.

If it’s just space and time and some form of inexplicable continuum of whatnot…then I really should feel privileged to remember any of it. 

fish, fish, fish, fish, fish, fish, fish, fish, fish


And while we have already dragged out the 2018 calendar and hung it on the wall for the imminent reference... 

I am present and grateful beyond words…

I am beholden to each and every moment…

Beholden to our American Dream.  It is such a privilege to have successfully taken advantage of the opportunities provided to us not only through our own grit but that of our ancestors...


Beholden to each and every moment spent with our bamboo fly rod making students.  You know who you are...your presence, stories and adulation for the craft of bamboo fly rod making and fly fishing rests forever within our walls...





Beholden to the curious who unwittingly stumble into our shop on Main Street in Blue Ridge, Georgia and have a visceral reaction to our small family business...


Beholden to every dinner invite, photo sent, thank you note, bottle of wine, thoughtful gifts and trips to the general store for Cutter and Veronica...










Beholden to our Oyster bamboo fly rod clients who trust us to preserve their legacy through Bill's hand engraving...



Beholden that we are able to raise a family and run our family business side by side...


Beholden to our clients who repeatedly choose Oyster.  YOU have no idea how much we will never take your faith in us and loyalty for granted...


Ummmm...it feels like 1997 2016 was yesterday.




But, it’s just space and time, right?





Sunday, November 27, 2016

Small is the new Big

Them:  "You should franchise Oyster or try and build your brand large enough to sell it."

Me:  "No."




20 years ago, we decided that making bamboo fly rods for a living was a good idea.  Why?  Why would we ever dream that our passage into adulthood commerce should be anything less or more than a simple choice regarding the direction of our lives?  Everyone else was doing it...not building bamboo fly rods necessarily but our "contemporaries per say" were getting out of school and jockeying for position obtaining jobs that seemed to make a serious impact on the remainder of their lives as well...at least it felt that way in your 20s. 

So, let's be brutally honest HERE.  Bill and I grew up in the 80s.  The honeymoon for "big, fast and cheap" was simply incubating with ambitions well beyond our imaginations.  By the time we finished college, disposable products that made an impression no matter how temporary dug in and enveloped our culture.

Bigger. Faster. Cheaper.

In some ways, the same mantra applied when most of us chose our careers.  It only made sense.   Following your dreams and ultimately doing what you love was just a bunch of bullshit told to you by well-intended strangers seemingly reserved for the three people we watched succeed at some obscure art in a documentary once and people with too much time on their hands the independently wealthy.  So, really...we were actually being guided all along not to explore our dreams but instead to ask ourselves..."What do we do to make as much money as possible as easily as possible so we can ideally pursue our true interests on weekends, paid vacations and just before we die if we are lucky enough to live that long?"
No memo here...


Except...we did not get that memo. And, honestly, we still do not know why we chose the smallest most ill-conceived hand crafted limited obsolete profession possibly on earth. And then MOVED to the smallest most ill-conceived ridiculous most obsolete little town on earth.

Bamboo fly rod making chose us. 


Blue Ridge, Georgia chose us.



Or should I say the overwhelming desire to pursue our lifestyle chose us. 




Small. Slow. Real.


We can all agree that times have changed over the past two decades.  Small businesses command more respect as does the craftsman and the virtuousness of the handmade item...not to mention bamboo fly rods in the fly fishing industry. 

In the beginning, fly fishing trade shows were the most effective way to reach potential clients.  The internet was still in its infancy and fly fishing was basking in "A River Runs Through It" Renaissance.  However, bamboo fly rods were not having any sort of "rebirth"...yet.   (see faster and cheaper reference...fly fishing was not immune either).

The "GO BIG" misconception mentality about our business was prevalent from day one.  We would sit at these trade shows in the 90s, 2000s and beyond and get giggled at receive (again) fatherly advice from the sympathetic (after they stopped giggling at our ambitions):


OLD school trade show photo!


Them:  "Hmmmm...you can only make money at this if you have the blanks made in China and use your name."
Me: "No."

Them:  "You should work for Orvis, Sage, Winston..."
Me: "No."

Them:  "You should move to Colorado."
Me: "That would be nice but...ummmm...no."

Them: "You cannot possibly do this on your own.  You should get a professional sporting or collectables representative."
Me: "No."

Them: "See...here is how you sell custom bamboo fly rods...make people wait...a really long time, limit their customization options because customers will kill you on those details.  You tell them what they want."
*editor's note* This sentiment was told to us repeatedly...really.
Me: "No."

Them: "Aren't you afraid if you share your knowledge of the craft with others...you will essentially be teaching your competition."
Us: "No."




And while this sounds like we say no a lot...we truly DO listen to our clients and have become a successful small business because we listen. 


You:  "Bamboo fly rod making...that looks cool.  Will you teach me how to make one?"
Us: "Yes"

You:  "Will you build a rod and tailor the taper specifically to the type of fishing I prefer?
Us: "Yes."

You:  "I need a very special rod built for a very special retirement/birthday/anniversary/holiday...but we need it soon.  Will you please try and squeeze us into your schedule?"
Us:  "Yes."

You:  "Is it possible to tell a story on my favorite bamboo fly rod?  Will you learn to hand engrave to forever preserve the legacy of such a heirloom."
Us: "Yes."

You:  "Will each and every one of your bamboo fly rods live up to your near "beyond reproach" standards aesthetically and performance related?"
Us:  "Yes."

You:  "Will you always push modern limits while preserving and respecting the tradition and heritage of the hand crafted bamboo fly rod?"
Us: "Yes."

You:  "Is it possible that you are exactly as you seem on your antiquated web site?  Are you indeed a small little shop on Main Street making awesome things while raising children underfoot in an absurd little mountain town in Georgia?"
Us: "Yes.  We are simply not savvy enough for smoke and mirrors."




Small. Slow. Real.


And while we do not aspire to have our logo cantilevered over any given highway peering out from any given strip mall...we do realize there is merit applied to starting a business alone for profit and growth.  We have just chosen lifestyle over a bottom line of any sort.  

Bamboo Fly Rods...

Unarguably the worst business idea ever.

However, the best lifestyle choice ever.

Small is the new Big.

Shannen


Friday, February 19, 2016

Career Day and The Bamboo Fly Rod


Career Day at Blue Ridge Elementary

Bill:  What is your favorite thing to do in the whole world?

Barrage of answers from the kids:  "Drawing!" "Hunting!" "Basketball!" "Writing!" "Hunting!" "Video Games!" "Horseback riding!" "Hunting!"

Bill:  Now, imagine that you are able to do that "favorite thing"  your entire life and make a living.  .www.oysterbamboo.com

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Main Street, The Bamboo Fly Rod and Love

"Find what you love and let it kill you."

 - Bukowski

Quinn, me (hiding), Roni and Cutter
 
My girl Michelle and her baked goods...that just happened to look like a heart today...really.

Bill and I don't celebrate Valentine's Day.  We have never properly observed this particular holiday...well...we did once...23 years ago.  While our memories of this fateful day are completely different vary just a bit, apparently it involved some rant on my part (say it ain't so) about commercializing love, delusional expectations and exploiting a woman's insecurities. 

I know, I know...I groan as well looking back on my 22-year-old self for a variety of reasons (think of an even more absurd version of my current self...now, think of an even more absurd quasi adult and my 22-year-old self starts to come into focus).  Give me a break please...I was in college.  I was in Athens, Georgia.  I was in the Journalism College.  I worked for the art paper...in Athens, Georgia while studying journalism...this response was completely clichéd and expected rational given those circumstances.

However, Bill refuses to let me forget how stupid I was we continue to ignore Valentine's Day year after year even if I want those new boots for a present have grown immensely.  In our defense, We honestly don't need any one day of the year to celebrate love. 

Wait for it...

Get ready to groan boorishly...

We celebrate our love every day.  We don't need a special day to single each other out.  We say it, show it and feel it every day. 

Okay...sorry...exhale...

However, except for my family and like 2 other people...ever...and the random dog...I personally do not show love to anyone else.  I feel it but do not express it.  And I don't feel like that's a detriment...just a "quirk". Or so I've been told.

But this year is different! 

 
This year I am DRIPPING with LOVE. This year my self proclaimed Valentine is Blue Ridge, Georgia...more specifically Main Street.  Okay, a paved surface is a relatively inanimate object but it's a start.

The back of our building on Main...below is the view from my office.  See the bucket truck in the background? This random moment was captured when our sign was being installed...

Yes...there is a train in our back yard.
 
Like any love story, the affection I feel for beloved Main Street has grown over the years.  When we moved Oyster "on the Main", I found myself unexpectedly caught in a deluge of memories from my childhood.  Typically, I grew up visiting the North Georgia Mountains on vacation to escape the Atlanta suburb's  lunacy "hustle and bustle".  My childhood was scattered with countless weekends "looking at the leaves" in the back seat of our family station wagon listening to my father ramble on and on about wanting to be a forest ranger John Denver and Willie Nelson music all while my father made long term plans to "leave it all behind" and "live in the mountains one day". 

Fast forward decades...it's 2008 and I am pregnant with Veronica.  The recession is in FULL swing and Bill impulsively decided we meticulously thought out our next preposterous logical move to Main Street.  After almost 12 years as a home based business, we opened our bamboo fly rod making shop in a fishbowl proper retail setting. 

Think Mayberry with churches and beer.

These few downtown blocks that encompass Main Street are genuinely and organically old school in terms of community.    We have found ourselves joyfully content within a square mile.  Seriously...within walking distance we have everything. 

 

We walk the kids to school. 

 

Bill started Blue Ridge's first chess club

 

The Chess Club grew so much...that we had to recruit Riley to teach...of course!

 
 
 
 

We eat our meals, pick up our prescriptions and dry cleaning, visit our doctors and dentist, go to Crossfit,  play on the playground and buy just about anything you can imagine that a tourist town has to offer within this city block.   And, while the shops and restaurants are obviously our main attraction, the people are undoubtedly the covert vibe that you feel...

We Crossfit...and make our coach and dear friend Robbie run with Roni!

 

Every holiday is honored.


Parades for....well...everything on Main!


So Merry

Main Street and our infamous Halloween

 

Our fishbowl



Tiny dancer...and bubbles

Visiting dogs...this one is named Oyster!  :)

 

Of course...bamboo fly rods

 
 
 


Another unexpected improvement in our lives upon moving here is the small talk...or lack there of...

Let me explain.  EVERYWHERE we go outside of this bubble, we get blank stares, awkward head tilts and even chuckles when people inevitably ask us "what we do" and "where we live".

It's different for shop owners and their trusted employees... we don't have to spend our first dozen conversations (if it ever gets to that) explaining the intricacies of entrepreneurship, impossibly long hours and living in a bubble.

Once our "career path choice" or lack there of is ingested by the morbidly curious, there is usually a barrage of innocent enough comments and questions:


1.  Wow!  That is really cool.  I really want to start my own business too.  How long did it take you to save enough cash to fall back on if it does not work out?
Ummm...I'll let you know when that happens. (see necessity is the mother of invention proverb)

2.  Your hours must be so flexible.
If by flexible, you mean having the ability to work all of your waking hours...then yes...super flexible

3.  Did you study this in school?  Do you have investors? Is your Dad rich?
No.

4.  If Bill can not engrave because he is hurt, traveling, sick...etc...who do you get to engrave your rods?
The engraving fairy!  Just kidding.  If Bill can not engrave...our wait list gets even longer...

5.  You can't ever get fired!
True...except that time I fired myself by text (long story).  I went in for rehire a day later.

6.  Who is your IT department?
Me.

7.  Who does the finances?
Me.

8.  Who does the marketing?
Me.

9.  Who is your ... ?
One of the three of us...Period.

10.  It's just business, right.
No.  It's all personal. If it was "just business", our end game would be money over lifestyle.   We love it that's why we do it.


We do not own these questions.  Each shop has their own adaptation.  It is comforting to have people right outside your door that share your same unique perspective on our life's ludicrous events.  It's lovely to have the luxury of eliminating the niceties and sincerely connect when we get a spare moment (not many of those...see #2).  It's understood. It's our own mysterious hamlet.

Have chess...will follow.  Chesters.  :)

Church

Father and Danny...Masseria...more church

Baby sitting services at the Blue Ridge Brewery


My Main Street.  My Valentine. 

My original intension was to single out those who have become like famiy and write some version of "roses are red" to each and every one but I am afraid that that's nearly impossible.  I honestly have such strong feelings for these people that words are inadequate. 

You all know who you are...

I must make the disclosure that our town's undertow is strong...nothing is perfect.  However...and maybe I am just in a good mood or delusional...I believe conflict is necessary to stay a veritable entity.  We are all bound daily by joy, tenacity and random bouts of grief.



Upon further refection oh shit...look out, it makes perfect sense that Main Street has become one of the greatest loves of my life.  If love is at the center of it all for us (which clearly it is...it's certainly not money, fame or power) then loving where we live is the perfect compliment to the love we feel for our family, friends and profession.

 

Moving Oyster's bamboo fly rod making shop to Main Street was strictly a business decision. 

 

Staying on Main Street is entirely personal.

 

These are my people.





I look so tired because this one (Quinn) wears me out.  Thank you.