Struggling economy leads to closure of popular fly shop in Montrose
With no more splash than a mayfly landing on a pond, veteran guide and fly shop retailer Bob Burke quietly closed the doors in September on a 20-year venture with Cimarron Creek Fly Shop in Montrose.
The surprise end (at least to those of us not in the retail business) to one of western Colorado’s premier fly fishing shops emphasizes the economic doldrums plaguing the region.
Burke was one of the more-knowledgeable shop owners in Colorado, particularly when it came to the Gunnison River and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
His shop’s closing leaves a huge gap in the information stream and also poses a challenge to Montrose-area fly anglers looking for rods, reels, flies and other equipment.
The realities of life, particularly cruel in an area hard-hit by the slowdown in construction, made the decision necessary but no less painful.
“We’ve been pushing it uphill for too long,” said Burke when reached by cell phone Wednesday. “We were hit hard by the building decline in Montrose and Telluride, and everybody is feeling the pinch.”
When the building slowed down, the workers started leaving town.
“We lost a lot of the worker bees, who were our bread and butter,” said Burke. “And people just don’t have the discretionary income they had a few years before.”
Burke said he had a record year in 2007, but everything collapsed when the recession began in 2008.
“We had a peak year in 2007 but 2008 was a huge drop and 2009 was below that and 2010 below that,” Burke said. “At some point, we had to throw in the towel.”
The phone still rings in the shop, but the answering machine simply says the shop is closed and no calls or e-mails will be returned.
On my second call Wednesday, former Cimarron Creek guide Marshall Pendergass answered the phone.
Pendergass was there working on some plans for Gunnison Gorge Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited, which has an office in the same building.
“Yeah, we’re going to miss him,” said Pendergass, who guided for Burke for the past four years. “We closed the shop the first week of September. Fishing season was over and that’s a critical time when you have to place your orders for next year.”
Burke tried to get some new owners for the business but couldn’t entice any of the other fly shops in the region to expand to Montrose.
“We always had good information and high-quality equipment and I would have preferred knowing my customers were taken care of when I left,” Burke said. “But after we couldn’t find anyone to take over the shop, the only option was liquidation.”
Some of his former customers have visited Western Anglers Fly Shop in Grand Junction but most of them, including Pendergass, had to think ahead during Cimarron Creek’s final days.
“We had to think long-term and buy all the leaders and other stuff we’d been needing in the near future,” Pendergass said. “This place isn’t going to be easy to replace.”
Burke, like many people who tackle fishing as a living, has many talents, including building high-end furniture,.
He built all the cabinets and display cases in the fly shop and since closing the fly shop has been concentrating on his woodworking business.
Still, it’s hard to leave behind 20 years of fly fishing.
“Yeah, it’s strange to think it’s all over,” Burke said. “I’ve been pretty much out of the business since I became a liquidator on September 8. But things change and life goes on.”
BLM pulls key habitat areas from energy leases – The Bureau of Land Management has withdrawn 10,364 acres of national forest roadless areas from an upcoming energy lease sale.
According to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Alliance, the five proposed leases provide key winter range for elk and deer and valuable habitat for native trout.
Had the leases been sold, roads could have been built within the Sugarloaf North and Black Mountain roadless areas near Craig and the Battlement Mesa roadless area south of Rifle. This would have violated the 2001 national roadless rule and a roadless-area management agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state of Colorado.