Blake and Allison Merwin never had a lot of money, but were always interested in fly fishing. Before moving to Gig Harbor in the early 2000s, they decided to start an online fly-fishing supply business that would make the hobby available to those without a lot of cash to spend.
“We discovered Ebay in 1999,” Blake Merwin said. “It was our side hustle, while I was getting my undergrad.”
After to moving to Gig Harbor from Sacramento, California to take a job, the couple decided to change their business from online only to a brick-and-mortar store on the historic waterfront. They changed the business name to Gig Harbor Fly Shop from Wilderness Angler and opened the doors in 2004. The store was originally based above Kuhn Jewelry, then moved to its current location in 2009.
Now the Merwins have a new way to bring in customers and help others learn how to create fly-fishing ties. In November, the company was granted a beer and wine license by the city council, allowing them to sell canned and bottled beer to be consumed within the shop.
The idea, Blake Merwin said, is to allow people a relaxing place to come talk, enjoy a local craft beer and make ties.
“I thought it would be great for people to come get a beer, buy some materials and tie a tie,” Blake Merwin said. “Or maybe they want to find a social place to tie ties or maybe they are new and want to learn. They can come after a long day of fishing and tell fish stories.”
There didn’t used to be so many people fishing on the sound. But now that there’s more people there has been a large impact on the local fish population. And people who love to fish want to conserve. They should at least, because you can love something to death.
Blake Merwin, owner of the Gig Harbor Fly Shop
Right now, there is only beer at the fly shop, but Blake Merwin said he hopes to have wine in the future. The beer comes from two regional breweries, Gig Harbor’s 7 Seas Brewing and Seattle’s Georgetown Brewery. Merwin said he wanted to support regional breweries such as Georgetown because the owners are supporters of fish conservation efforts.
“They are members of the steelhead coalition and stuff like that,” Blake Merwin said. “It’s nice to have someone from a reputable brewery, who is also a huge conservation supporter.”
Part of the Merwin’s goal as a local fly shop is to not only make the sport open to those who want to learn or can’t afford to shop at other stores, but to help conservation efforts to keep the sport alive.
“We’ve developed quite the community around here,” Blake Merwin said. “There didn’t used to be so many people fishing on the sound. But now that there’s more people there has been a large impact on the local fish population. And people who love to fish want to conserve. They should at least, because you can love something to death.”
To help with conservation efforts, the Merwins include these ideals in their fly-tying and fly-fishing classes. People come from both peninsulas and over the bridge to the shop’s classes. Up to 300 people a year take their intro to fly class. They also hold clinics on the different types of fish, how to catch them and where to find them.
Blake Merwin also takes people from Washington and surrounding states on guided fishing trips.
“We take about 100 to 150 trips a year,” Blake Merwin said. “We take regular trips to Montana. We are going to Cuba with seven anglers in the next month.”
Although the shop hasn’t made any announcements about the changes yet, they are hoping more people will casually stop by to learn about the sport of fishing and enjoy a local beer.
“We want to invest in our customer,” Blake Merwin said. “This is about opening the sport to everyone.”