If you walk the cutting edge often enough, you get cut real good.
“I’m a small town guy.”
Mike Michalak walked away from city life and a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry in order to raise his daughter in rural Redding, Calif. With 700 miles of fly fishing rivers within an hour’s drive of Redding, Michalak founded The Fly Shop to feed the sport of the area.
After more than 30 years in business, The Fly Shop is now one of the top fly fishing companies in the country. In addition to a large supply shop in Redding and an online store, The Fly Shop’s 15 guides lead guests on fly fishing tours domestically, and connect fishermen with exclusive fly fishing travel destinations around the world.
The key to Michalak’s success is simple: “surround myself with really, really great people and not worry about it because good things will happen.” A few years ago, there were only about 65 fly casting instructors in the world, and 10 of them worked at The Fly Shop.
Despite their large reach, Michalak says it’s all a matter of scale. The entire fly fishing industry is equal to the sales of the Pro V golf ball – approximately $750 million. “I’m a real nice fish in a really tiny bowl,” said Michalak.
At 68, Michalak’s future goals for The Fly Shop are focused more on his employees’ happiness and retention than major growth.
As a small business owner, his key to happiness is simple: “What I’ve done is simply get up at the same time every day, and I think about what I can do today to make it the very best and most productive day that I [can]. Go to work and try to do it.”
Photos by Kike Arnal
The Fly Shop fishing guide and instructor Nick Fasiano takes a break from the oars to cast a line while Jason Quintero (seated) and Kara Tripp enjoy the magnificent Sundial Bridge on the Sacramento River.
The Fly Shop founder and owner Mike Michalak stands in front of his store billboard on Interstate 5, fifteen miles before Redding, California.
Outside The Fly Shop in Redding, Calif.
Fly Shop fishing guide Matt Dover and two clients drift down the Sacramento River.
Close to Redding, a Fly Shop drift boat takes two clients and a fishing guide down the Sacramento River.
Early in the morning professional fly fisherman Ross Wilkerson (left) and Matt Dover wait for their clients at The Fly Shop.
Two of the hundreds of fishing hooks on sale in The Fly Shop.
Sparks fly as a welder assembles one of Intex United's custom signs.
During a day trip in the Sacramento River with The Fly Shop, Kara Tripp momentarily leaves the boat and tries a different approach to the fish.