This week, the North Country Angler will celebrate a major milestone of 50 years of service to the fly-fishing community.
The North Country Angler is the oldest true fly shop in New Hampshire and may well be one of the oldest in the United States. There may be one or two tackle and bait shops in New Hampshire older, however the North Country Angler has been a full-service fly shop from the beginning.
Fifty years ago, Dick Surette opened the shop in a small building in front of his home in North Conway and, as they say, the rest is history. Over time, Surette attracted a loyal following of customers and gave birth to the Saco Valley School of Angling.
Several of the most influential anglers from this area either worked at the shop or tied flies for the shop. Dick Stewart, Bill Franke and Red Peckham all contributed to the success of the shop and the traditions of fly fishing in the valley. In addition to creating the North Country Angler, Surette also founded Fly Tyer magazine; still in print today.
In time, Stewart would acquire the shop and change the name from “Surette’s Fly Shop” to the North Country Angler. Many old customers will also remember Fred Abbruzzese and Mark Barlow, Stewart’s partners who worked the shop and left their mark on local fly-fishing history as well. Stewart would go on to own Fly Tyer and is credited with making it the national publication that it is today.
Both Surette and Stewart published several books on fly tying that have had a lasting impact on the hobby. Stewart’s “Universal Fly Tying Guide” would be the bestselling book on fly tying for years. Stewart would bring Farrow Allen into the shop and together they would co-author five fly-pattern guides that are some of the best in the industry.
Surette sold the shop to Nick Wilder, owner of Hunter’ Angling Supplies of New Boston. Farrow Allen, Jon Howe and Janet Thompson would all manage the North Country Angler over the years that Wilder owned the shop.
The Wilders, in turn, sold the shop to Janet and Bill Thompson, who owned and operated it along with their black lab for 15 years. In 2017, the shop was sold to Steve Angers the present owner.
There have been five different owners and six different locations over a span of 50 years, and it is still going strong. I think I can speak for all of the former owners without fear of contradiction that a great deal of the shops longevity is that we all loved the place.
This Saturday, Angers is hosting an open house at the shop. He is offering some special offers and some of the shops vendors will be on hand for special demos. And, of course, there will be cake.
If you’re an old friend of the shop, stop by and share you stories of the shop’s history, if you are a new fly fisher or new to the valley stop by and find out why the North Country Angler is the oldest fly shop in the state.
See you on the river.