Truck driving doesn’t leave much time for fly fishing. That’s a harsh reality of life out on the road. Jim Braun can tell you about it.
Braun is the owner of Montana Mystique Fly Shop on Airport Road in Kalispell. In his career as a truck driver, he had plenty of time to think about fly fishing, but little time to actually do it. Now he’s trying to make up for lost time.
Retired from truck driving, Braun has dedicated his life to fly fishing, but he’s discovering that running a fly shop produces the same dilemma as truck driving – when the work day is done, there’s not a whole lot of time left for the rivers.
“The shop has been busy and that’s a good thing,” Braun said. “But the bad thing is that I can’t fish anymore.”
Braun, a longtime fly fishing enthusiast, opened up Montana Mystique last summer after selling angling equipment online for about a year. Braun’s son, Tim, is the advertising and Internet guru behind the business. Tim also plays the role of mental health specialist for his father.
“I force him to go out and fish and do some floating,” Tim Braun said.
The Brauns have enjoyed steady business since opening Montana Mystique, mostly due to their online presence. They have done little advertising, but their business’ name appears high on Internet searches for Montana fly fishing and their Web sales are robust.
Customers have ranged from New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Japan, Venezuela and “some odd little countries we hadn’t heard of and had to look up,” Tim Braun said. The Brauns have also sold products to members of the armed forces, from camping supplies to fly-tying material.
Over the summer, the shop stayed busy with walk-in customers, both tourists and locals. Many had discovered the shop through its website. Others just happened upon it, perhaps as they were waiting for an oil change at a nearby automotive shop.
What customers find when they arrive at Montana Mystique is the same quality of fly fishing products as found on the website. Nearly everything is made in Montana or a neighboring Western state.
Everyday tools such as nippers, hemostats and lanyards are made by Belgrade-based Dr. Slick. Much of the fly-tying material comes from the Montana Fly Company in Columbia Falls. The bear spray is Counter Assault, made just down the road along U.S. Highway 93.
“Shipping’s cheap – we just hop in our car and go pick it up,” Tim Braun said of Counter Assault.
Montana Mystique’s rods are products of Ross Reels USA, a Colorado-based company. The Brauns say the shop may begin selling higher-end rods in the future, but for now they prefer to sell moderately priced rods that are more accessible to all income and skill levels.
“I like getting people into fly fishing,” Jim Braun said. “Once somebody tries it, I think they’ll put that spinning rod away for good.”
Jim Braun said he doesn’t feel comfortable selling products that he can’t vouch for, so everything in the shop has at least a passing grade from him.
“If I have a problem with a product, I’m going to shop around for something else,” he said.
The Brauns are pleased with the shop’s instant appeal and already plan to expand, even if they haven’t officially announced their grand opening. In the spring, they will formally hold a grand opening celebration.
Montana Mystique will offer guided float trips when the season starts up again. The guide is A.J. Coulter and he works waters throughout the western part of the state. The shop also does river shuttles.
The Brauns are holding free fly-tying classes at Evergreen Junior High School beginning Jan. 11. Classes may be full, but the Brauns recommend calling the Evergreen School District 50 for more information. Later on, they will host basic fly fishing classes as well.
“It’s been fun,” Tim Braun said, “as far as starting off as a hobby and turning into a business.”
For store hours and more information, call (406) 752-5331 or visit www.mmflyshop.com. Montana Mystique is located at 1404 Airport Road.
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