Flybrary

Jeff Wright, manager of Alpharetta Outfitters, checks on the Alpharetta Flybrary.

One unexpectedly pleasant part of fishing is the whole process of getting ready for a fishing trip. Rod? Check. Reel? Check. Waders? Check. Fly box?

The phone rings, and I answer a vaguely familiar number only to find yet another Medicare Supplement insurance solicitation. 

Though there are definitely some advantages to growing older, I can say with certainty that receiving fewer unwanted calls is definitely not among them.

Distraction over, it’s back to planning my trip. I think I have everything in order. So I put the gear in the car and head north, two hours or more, visions of this certain stream growing in my mind as I go.

I arrive…I put on the waders and the lucky fishing hat…I rig up the rod…I reach for the fly box…

Uh-oh. No fly box. 

In an instant I recall exactly where it is: sitting on top of the refrigerator, exactly where I put it so I could answer the stupid phone. Alas, I have to admit that I am streamside but flyless. I grumble to myself that I will never buy anything from any company mentioned in one of those calls, but though it vents a little steam it does nothing to solve my immediate problem. No flies. And to make matters worse, there are no fly shops within 40 miles. Besides, it’s a Sunday afternoon and they would probably be closed anyway.

What I need is a place to go and borrow a fly. What I need is a library with flies instead of books…a fly library, so to speak…a flybrary!

As it turns out, Flybraries are actually a thing. There’s even a website (flybraryproject.com) to tell you more about it.

“From the backside of signs at boat ramps in South Florida to river-side signs in Alaska,” notes the site, “the Flybrary Project connects fly fishers across the world with one another — educating visitors of the fisheries and promoting comradery amongst strangers who share the same passion.”

According to Castaway Customs, a company which actively supports the Flybrary concept, the idea is straightforward. It boils down to this: “Need a fly? Take one. Have an extra? Leave one.” 

“The Flybrary Project is designed to bring the already large fly fishing community a little bit closer,” adds the company’s website, “one fly at a time.”

To support the initiative, Castaway Customs offers a “Flybrary Kit” for $5 to anyone who wants one. With such a kit (and the permission of the landowner, of course) you too can set up a Flybrary.

In fact, Flybraries seem to be popping up all over the place, and they can be of immediate benefit to traveling anglers who may not know exactly what fly to choose.

“New to a particular fishery?” asks the Flybrary website. “A Flybrary will lend some insight into what’s working for that particular waterway. From crab patterns for redfish in North Florida to terrestrials on spring creeks in Montana, your local Flybrary is there to help.”

And — okay, I admit it — it’s also a good thing for forgetful folks like Yours Truly who might end up on the water completely sans flies.

Flybraries can be found from western Canada to southern Florida. You’ll find them closer to home, too, and at least one might be right in your backyard. It’s next to the front door of Alpharetta Outfitters, a fly shop in the heart of downtown Alpharetta.

According to Jeff Wright, manager of the shop, this particular Flybrary has been well received in the two or so months that it’s been in operation.

“Some folks will stop by it and pick up a fly or two,” Jeff says, “and some others leave flies there as well.” 

Jeff adds that a wide range of flies appear on the Flybrary board. Most are trout flies — not surprising considering the proximity of this particular Flybrary to the fabled trout waters of the Chattahoochee. But larger flies for bass or even an occasional fly for saltwater fishing show up regularly too.

“It’s cool to see the variation in the flies that folks leave on the Flybrary,” he says.

Jeff mentions that he hopes to set up more Flybraries at other key spots in the area — for instance, somewhere on the Chattahoochee. That’s a noble goal, and I applaud it. 

Jeff and I talk more about Flybraries and the generosity of anglers, but then we’re interrupted by the ringing of my phone. I look. It’s a vaguely familiar number. I turn the phone off. Take that, telemarketers! Then I pat my pocket — yes, my fly box is there. I’m ready for a little afternoon fishing!

But if that box had happened to be missing, I’d still have been okay.

The Flybrary was right there, ready to come to my rescue.

The Flybrary at Alpharetta Outfitters is outside the shop’s front door and is available 24/7. 

For more on trout fishing in the Chattahoochee River, check out Steve Hudson’s book “Chattahoochee Trout: The Definitive Guide,” available at local outfitters or from Amazon. Signed copies are available from ChattahoocheeMedia.com.

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