Father/son team find business success through hobby
After 30 years in the business, fly fisherman Doug Stewart has his fair share of fish tales.
But don't accuse this fishing guide of lying.
'Fishermen don't lie,' Stewart says with a gleam in his eye. 'They just embellish.'
Stewart should know. Thirty years ago this former middle school teacher switched careers mid-stream, so to speak, and spent the next three decades ensuring that Stewart's Fly Shop would be around for the next generation.
Jeff Stewart, one of Doug and Marsha Stewart's four sons, took over the business about three years ago.
Nowadays, the father-son team split the chores. Jeff teaches the rod-building and fly-tying classes and runs the Wood Village retail shop. Doug takes people out on the Deschutes or the Sandy to catch some fish.
It's been a pretty sweet life, Doug says.
'This was always something I'd thought about. I've been fishing since I was young. My dad was a great fisherman. He was my mentor,' Doug says.
When he decided, after 15 years in education, to switch careers, Doug was taking a big risk.
'I started this shop on a wing and a prayer,' he says. 'Not many people thought I had much of a fighting chance.'
The outgoing ex-teacher proved them wrong.
Doug opened his first retail shop off 172nd Avenue and Halsey Street in 1976.
He found the best fishing spots on local rivers, and after a few years, developed a popular fly called the Max Canyon.
He started teaching classes on building rods and tying flies, and took customers out for a day - or four - of fly fishing. Eventually, he moved to a larger space about 70 blocks east on Halsey.
'By being diverse like that, we were able to make it,' Doug says.
Doug's personality didn't hurt either.
As a teacher at Orient Middle School, the fisherman in him sometimes took over.
'There were some kids there who weren't ever going to be mathematicians,' Doug says. 'I'd take them out fishing and shared my love of the outdoors with them.'
Some of those students still fish - and some of them come to visit Doug at the shop.
'Yeah, it's depressing, they're getting close to 60 now,' Doug, 67, says chuckling.
His students weren't the only youngsters Doug mentored in the great outdoors. All four of his children - Mike, David, Chris and Jeff - grew up on the riverbank. Jeff, of course, took after his dad. He remembers being a teenager and hanging out at the shop that he now owns.
Another son works for Oregon Fish and Wildlife and all of them go out with dad sometimes to catch dinner.
Doug says he still enjoys teaching, and he thinks of his fly-fishing business as another form of education.
'I think I get more out of teaching someone, out of seeing them be successful or catch their first fish, than I do out of catching my own,' Doug says.
The walls of Stewart's Fly Shop are covered with pictures of the Stewart clan's conquests.
A young Doug holds up a trophy steelhead in one grainy shot. Nearby, a shot flashes forward 30 years to Doug, with gray beard and hair, standing in a gorgeous river off Chile's Tierra Del Fuego, holding an enormous sea-run brown trout.
Business hasn't always been easy, but after 30 years, Doug thinks he's figured out what makes Stewart's stand out.
'Our philosophy has always been, give personalized service and help out the customer in any way we can,' Doug says. 'I think that's one of the reasons we're still around.'
Stewart's Fly Shop
What: An all-purpose fly-fishing shop in Wood Village that offers everything you need to catch a monster steelhead. Stewart's Fly Shop celebrates its 30-year anniversary this year.
Where: 23830 N.E. Halsey St., Wood Village.
Classes: Owner Jeff Stewart offers classes on rod-building and tying flies. Shop founder Doug Stewart takes groups and individuals on fly-fishing trips on the Sandy and Deschutes rivers.
For more information: Call 503-666-2471.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and closed on Mondays.