By Janet Wight
St. Anthony Park is the new home to Minnesota’s only store exclusively devoted to fly fishing.
Established in 1978, Bob Mitchell’s Fly Shop has been owned and operated by Robert and Rhea Hawkins since 2013. The store moved to its current location in Milton Square in May.
All kinds of gear are available at the shop including waders, boots, rods, reels, lines, packs and bags, flies, fly boxes, and fly-tying accessories. “If it’s not related to fly fishing, we don’t carry it,” Robert said.
A grand opening at the shop is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, July 7. Robert said anyone interested in fly fishing should stop by and learn more about the challenges and rewards of this popular hobby.
A sizeable variety of eye-catching flies are on hand. Some have been created by Robert and local fly fishing enthusiasts. The remainder were imported from large overseas manufacturers located in Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
Fly-tying classes are held at the shop during the winter months, Robert added.
Teaching is an integral part of the shop’s mission. Fly Fishing College is offered from April through September at a cost of $120, which includes all necessary gear. The course consists of a Thursday evening class coupled with a river outing the following Saturday. Additionally, private casting lessons and guided trips may be arranged.
Fly fishing requires significantly more knowledge, technique and finesse than regular fishing. There are many variables inherent to fly fishing that make it a difficult skill to master, Robert explained.
Many people associate fly fishing with mountainous western states, but there are over 100 great trout streams within a two-hour drive of the Twin Cities metro area, Robert said.
Lakes are also suitable for fly fishing. Largemouth and smallmouth bass, pike, muskie, bluegill and crappie are all found in this region, he added.
Young professionals seeking a challenging new pursuit have been drawn to this hobby in recent years, that contributed to its rapid growth during the pandemic, he said.
Before purchasing the store, Robert and Rhea had been looking for a change and a new opportunity. Robert, an experienced fly fisherman and guide, is a native of Bozeman, Montana., while Rhea is from St. Cloud. They initially learned about the opportunity to acquire Bob Mitchell’s Fly Shop from a friend.
Prior to the move to Milton Square, the store had been located in a building on Vandalia Street in an industrial area with limited parking. The recent relocation to Milton Square was intentional.
“We always wanted to be in St. Anthony Park,” Robert said. “This is our favorite neighborhood in St. Paul with its own little downtown,”
Robert said he appreciates the walkability of the area and the opportunity to attract new customers who are shopping nearby.
Janet Wight lives in the Como neighborhood and is a regular freelance writer for the Bugle.