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

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
Toronto 2:30 PM
LA Clippers
Boston 6:00 PM
Washington
Orlando 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Memphis 6:30 PM
Miami
Indiana 7:00 PM
Brooklyn
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Chicago
Atlanta 7:30 PM
Milwaukee
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
Utah
New York 9:00 PM
Sacramento
Minnesota 9:30 PM
Golden State
NY Islanders 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Detroit 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Carolina 6:00 PM
Tampa Bay
New Jersey 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Boston 6:00 PM
Columbus
Winnipeg 6:00 PM
Minnesota
Washington 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Dallas 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Nashville
Anaheim 7:00 PM
Arizona
Chicago 8:00 PM
Colorado
Edmonton 9:00 PM
Calgary
San Jose 9:00 PM
Los Angeles
Indiana 87 FINAL
Georgetown 91
Maine 43 FINAL
Seton Hall 72
UNC-Wilmington 82 FINAL
Minnesota 108
Georgia State 61 FINAL
Green Bay 78
Jacksonville St 43 2nd Half 7:59
Jacksonville 50
Kentucky 31 2nd Half 13:42
Louisville 26
Northern Ky 14 1st Half 9:17
Northwestern 15
UAB 3:00 PM
North Carolina
IUPUI 3:00 PM
Pepperdine
Santa Clara 3:00 PM
St Marys-CA
Oakland 4:00 PM
Maryland
Gonzaga 5:00 PM
BYU
Mercer 5:00 PM
Georgia
San Francisco 5:00 PM
Pacific
Wright State 6:00 PM
Ohio State
Presbyterian 6:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Brescia 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Tennessee St 7:30 PM
Tennessee
Kennesaw St 8:00 PM
Illinois
Colorado State 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
Portland 8:00 PM
San Diego
Wayland Baptist 8:05 PM
Utah State
Bristol University 8:05 PM
Weber State
Sacramento St 8:05 PM
Utah Valley U
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
UNLV
SD Christian 9:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 10 3rd Qtr 0:20
Virginia Tech 27
(15) Arizona State 20 2nd Qtr 2:06
Duke 10
Miami-Florida 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
SMU 45 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 96
UCF 14 1st Half 10:09
Houston 8
BYU 4:00 PM
Gonzaga
Pacific 4:00 PM
San Francisco
St Marys-CA 4:00 PM
Santa Clara
San Diego 7:00 PM
Portland
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