RIP: Sports Chalet’s fly fishing expertise quietly fades to black
There’s nothing quite like being new at a sport and being in love with it. Everything, from equipment to practice, cries “potential” to the newcomer who dreams of being great: How great could you become? Maybe if you worked really hard, you would be as good as ________. Maybe better?
That’s the beauty of being in love with a sport, not as a spectator, but as a participant. It can pull you out of yourself, out of your comfort zone and show you a whole lot of possibilities.
Moments spent engulfed in your sport mean moments spend completely in the present. No worries, frets, dark clouds, nothing at all like that. Instead, you are purely “time in,” like K0be practicing without a ball for two hours before practice actually begins. Or the freeze-frame moment of the “Bush Push,” when quarterback Matt Leinart made sure USC beat Notre Dame in the last second of the 2005 game.
Besides lots of practice and a role model to chase, being in love with a sport also means finding a place of camaraderie.
Today, for fly fishers, that place is Orvis on South Lake in Pasadena. Fly-fishing manager David Wratchford and his staff , they’re in a groove. You’ll feel it. You’ll want a piece of it.
Or, for the valley folks, Fisherman’s Spot, where the energy isn’t quite as electric, but the expertise can propel you to look deeper into the sport. I mean they still carry flies invented by Gary Fontaine and featured in his 1984 classic “Caddisflies,” because, historically, these are important.
Once my place of sports awe and camaraderie was Sports Chalet, the original, in La Canada, Calif.
That was pre duplication-store mania, which ended badly with stores closing. That was when the mountain man and founder Norbert Olberz made sure that when you walked up the stairs to the fly-fishing area, you were transported into the world of your sports passion.
There was a big wooden box of flies, all sizes, types, full of mystery, mastery and wonder.
Alas, not anymore.
There were friendly experts who talked about water, and spots, and getting away for that weekend on the water, prepared. They dressed the part in fishing shirts and appropriate angling pants, and never seemed to care if you bought anything or not.
Alas, not anymore.
And there were magnificent fly rods with astounding prices — six, seven, eight hundred dollars — that made me want to save and save my money.
Alas, not now.
In fact, going into the “new” original Sports Chalet just makes me sad.
The wooden magic fly box has been replaced by cheesy, tiny cardboard boxes, sealed in plastic, a passable fly, visible within. It’s the difference between buying shrink-wrapped Romaine lettuce at Fresh and Easy, and going to the farmers market, where the sun shines on each healthy head.
The guys who used to hang out to spin fishing yarns? Now, they wear uniforms and want to “up sell” you on one of the dozen fly rods innocuously stashed in a rack above the countertop.
Guess that’s the good news … if you go to the SC in Arcadia, the store doesn’t carry any flies or rods at all. The “inventory” was quietly removed last month, according to an employee. Yet, take a look at its expert advice about fly fishing. You’d think that the magic fly box would have been there forever.
See you on the river, Jim Burns