Moving Waters on the River’s Edge
Kathy Wojcik | Friday May. 30th, 2014
It’s spring in the Rockies and, despite all the recent flurries; our minds are drifting to all the activities that a bit of warmth and green provide. Southwestern Montana is a virtual mecca of all things outdoorsy. Let’s look at two businesses that play in that realm.
First, there’s fishing. Fly fishing to be exact. A sport that is enjoyed by many, not only in those states that are blessed with great rivers, streams and lakes, but by people who flock to the Bozeman area from around the world to take part in “catching the big one”. To learn more about the fly-fishing business, I stopped by the River’s Edge and talked with one of its three owners, Steve Summerhill.
Steve’s a great guy with an evident passion for people and fishing. If you are new to the valley or just visiting, you should know that the River’s Edge has been in business for 31 years! The building they occupy on the corner of 7th Avenue North and Griffin was once a dairy barn. The form, shape and infrastructure have been left intact and this by itself is enough to attract attention and make you want to poke your head in the door.
Once inside you’ll be greeted warmly by one of the River’s Edge six team members. Here you’ll find everything that you need for your fishing adventure. From rods and reels to waders, hats, sunglasses and, of course, those snappy colorful flies. In addition, you’ll find a full array of clothing, including golf shirts with fishing logos that will make a statement in any crowd.
The folks at the River’s Edge are definitely there to serve you. It matters not if you are a beginner, an expert or just lookin’ around. They will make you feel relaxed and at home.
Steve grew up in Alaska. He went to MSU, majored in computer science and because of his love for everything outdoors, it was just natural that he became a fishing guide. He worked in the Ennis area for a couple of years. Then, when he wanted to get back to Bozeman, he became a guide for… you guessed it… River’s Edge! When asked why he grabbed the opportunity to be a business owner and step away from being a guide, Steve told me “it was a natural transition”.
A sense of purpose and a way of life is how Steve describes what being a business owner means to him. Everyday he gets a chance to work in a business that reflects his passion. He gets to meet and talk with people who share his love for fly-fishing. In fact, the atmosphere at the River’s Edge felt like a brightly lit local bar (sans alcohol) or your community center, not a retail store.
Guided trips are part of the River’s Edge offerings. Sure, they go to the Gallatin, Madison and Yellowstone, but they get over to the Big Horn and they have ‘special’ access to lakes on private lands. Speaking of guided trips, River’s Edge is the only fly shop in the area to have employee guides. These experts work for River’s Edge year after year, providing consistency and a sense of community.
Although fly-fishing can be done during all but the fiercest winter months, the season really starts in May, peaks in August, ebbs in late September and then closes in November. During the summer, people come from all over the world to fly fish in Montana, where the water stays cool and wild native trout abound.
Steve said that a lot of people from the Ukraine and Japan are coming to Bozeman for fishing these days. Tourists also come from France, Poland, Russia and Germany. With a broad smile on his face, Steve told me that fishing gives all these people a “common passion”. There are challenges though. With all the language barriers, getting the needed information to issue a fishing license can be a real challenge. Somehow with patience and understanding, the staff at River’s Edge always gets it all figured out.
Steve and the entire River’s Edge crew deal with a lot of people. They take pride in treating everyone with kindness and respect. Even the big corporate CEO’s and famous musicians, actors and actresses are on a first-name basis at the shop. Fly-fishing seems to provide a respite from the rat-race and stress of life. It gives everyone a chance to get out to beautiful places and enjoy the quiet while pursuing an adventure.
Last spring, River’s Edge opened a second shop. It is located in the Four Corners area. This part of Bozeman is certainly seeing a lot of growth and it’s on the way to many fly-fishing waterways. The shop has 3,000 square feet of retail space and is equipped with a classroom. Yep, they’ll teach you how to cast and how to tie a fly.
River’s Edge is the largest fly-fishing shop in the valley. They have always had a close relationship to another strong Bozeman business, Simms. This synergy is a competitive advantage. When asked what makes River’s Edge stand out from other fly fishing shops in Gallatin County, Steve modestly shared that they have a wide product selection, personalized service, a great history and tradition, loads of repeat customers and they strive to provide great advice.
For those who can’t get out to our splendid area, River’s Edge has a vast array of offerings on its online store. Many online shoppers purchase River’s Edge items first and then schedule their fishing vacation here in Southwest Montana. Fishing our rivers, lakes and streams makes Bozeman a tourist destination. As Steve said, we are fortunate to live in an area so blessed with natural treasures and in a community that so eagerly supports those who come to visit each year.
River’s Edge is open from 9am to 5:30pm (M-F) and 9am-5pm on Saturday. They are closed Sunday (gone fishin’).