Anderson: Alwin retiring to fish more after running fly shop for 19 years

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 15, 2013 - 12:51 AM

Mike Alwin is retiring soon after running Bob Mitchell’s Fly Shop for almost two decades.

hide

Mike Alwin, owner of Bob Mitchell’s Fly Shop in Lake Elmo, is retiring at the end of April and looking forward to practicing what he preaches: to work less and fish more.

Photo: Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com ,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Nineteen years pass by quickly when you spend your days talking fishing, selling fishing gear and talking fishing some more. In Mike Alwin’s case “gear” has meant flies, fly lines, tapered leaders, tippet material and fly rods, each needed by anglers who prefer to chase trout, northerns, bass and muskies not with bait or hardware, but feathered hooks.

The owner of Bob Mitchell’s Fly Shop in Lake Elmo, Alwin, 65, was waiting on customers Thursday in anticipation of Saturday’s Minnesota stream trout opener. Some years ago, when all fishing for trout began on the Saturday nearest April 15, whether catch and release or catch and keep, the event had more pizazz than it does today, when pre-opener catch and release trout opportunities abound.

“Either way, I’ve never seen weather like this a couple days before the opener,” Alwin said.

Nor will he again, at least not as owner of Bob Mitchell’s. In a couple of weeks, he’ll be selling out, retiring, hanging it up — hoping, as does, he’ll spend less time talking about fishing and more time doing it.

“We’ll have a party on April 27, when the new owner, Robert Hawkins, will be here to meet customers,” Alwin said. “That’s also the day the shop will celebrate its 35th anniversary.”

Founded in 1978, Bob Mitchell’s was the brainchild of a pipe-smoking, smooth-casting, easy-talking fly fisherman of the same name. An advertising guy whose last 9-to-5 gig was with 3M, Mitchell followed a 3M engineer named Dick Johnson out the door of that corporate behemoth.

3M was then and remains today the parent enterprise of Scientific Anglers, the fly-fishing specialty company.

Johnson had left 3M to build fly rods in a small Lake Elmo shop for resale under the Scientific Anglers brand. When the rod venture went south, Mitchell bought the overstock and assumed Johnson’s leased space.

“Bob’s was the first fly shop in the Twin Cities,” Alwin said. “Then, in 1994, a year after I bought it, there were three fly shops here. In 1997, there were six, and in 1998, seven.

“They’re all gone today except mine and the Fly Angler in Blaine.”

How that consolidation came to pass is unclear. What is known is that, despite the many pristine creeks, streams and rivers that course among bluffs and pastures in southeast Minnesota, the state remains, fundamentally, a haven for walleye, panfish, bass, muskie and northern pike anglers.

“You can catch virtually any fish on a fly, but fly fishing remains centered around trout,” Alwin said. “And trout in Minnesota come behind walleyes, crappies and other fish.”

With its Mayberry-like feel, Lake Elmo has been the perfect home for Bob Mitchell’s these past 35 years. People there are friendly and the pace is, well, not fast — a reflection of the atmosphere at Alwin’s shop, where a pot of coffee is always on and regular customers often gather around a table to tie flies, chew the fat and talk about fishing, past, present or future.

Alwin, who grew up in Minneapolis, wasn’t exposed to fly fishing until his mid-20s, when he traveled to Montana to backpack and fish with a friend.

“My friend was a fly fisherman, and I remember watching him hide behind rocks and sneak behind bushes to cast to trout,” Alwin said. “The process was so artistic, I was smitten by it.”

Soon a fly angler himself, Alwin became a customer of Bob Mitchell’s, and when Mitchell sold out at age of 73 to realize his dream of moving to Montana, Alwin took over.

“It was the perfect job for me, owning the shop,” Alwin said. “I had been coming in on Saturdays and after work to just hang around, and there were just so many interesting things in the shop to look at.”

That was then. This — 19 years later — is now.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
TX A&M-CC 70 FINAL
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close