Owner of tiny fishing shop loves his work

Posted: Friday, October 29, 2004

PECK, Idaho So long as there are no customers milling about, Mike Cummins closes up shop every day about 5 p.m. and heads to the Clearwater River.

After an hour or two in one of his favorite steelhead runs, he heads back to the shop to see if any anglers are waiting. When he's not there he says anglers are welcome to call him at home, which is just a long cast away from the shop.

''I feel like you should be open when the fishermen need you open.''

Cummins is the unlikely owner and operator of the Red Shed Fly Shop, which caters to spey casting steelhead fishermen. The tiny red building near Peck is packed with the normal trappings of fly shops.

The walls are loaded with fly tying material and stacks of plastic organizers are loaded with classic steelhead flies. There are a few books and videos for sale and accessories from waders to nets. But two-handed spey rods and reels are the focus of the Plain Jane shop, which isn't much bigger than a drive-through espresso stand.

Cummins started using the extra long two-handed fly rods about five years ago after running across a Web site about spey casting. He was fascinated and built a spey rod of his own out of spare parts.

''I had no money to buy a spey rod so I made this,'' he says, pointing to the rod he calls his junkyard spey. ''I just made it from junk. I got maybe 20 bucks into it.''

But he remembers those humble beginnings and how difficult it was to pick up the tricky cast. He learned by watching fellow anglers and picking the brains of the willing.

Many of them were happy to give him and other struggling anglers tips. He's taken that spirit of stream-side camaraderie and willingness to share pointers and made it part of his business.

''I can really relate to the guy who bought spey tackle and is struggling.''

He never imagined he would be in the fly fishing business. Cummins worked in construction for years before taking up long-haul truck driving. He loved that job. He liked the adventure of travel and the freedom of the road.

He loved that he could start work at 2 a.m. if he felt like it and drive all night. He says he loved the smell of the desert in the morning and being able to park his truck along promising water to fish for a few hours.

While driving truck across 11 Western states and Texas he always kept fly tackle in the cab and stopped when he had the time and inclination to fish. After a minor truck accident, his wife, Linda, convinced him to retire.

''I needed something to do and I got this bright idea to open a spey rod shop.''

This fall is the third steelhead season the shop has been open. He also sells a few regular fly rods and flies, but he says the heart of his business is spey rod, reels and other equipment.

He lets prospective customers borrow rods and take them down to the river for a few casts. He figures it's only fair to let anglers take his rods for a spin.

''You don't go and buy a car without driving it, do you? Well a spey outfit costs a lot of money, so you ought to be able to try it.''

His credo is to always have fun, and it appears to be an easy thing for him to do. When his shop is full of fisherman and he can't break away for a few casts of his own, he says it doesn't matter.

''I've fished a lot in my life. The shop is an extension of my fishing. It's not like I have the urge to go like I used to.

''It's not as much of a passion anymore because I can do this and this is as good as fishing.''

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