The shop technically got its start in 1976 as the rod finishing facility for Minnesota’s own, 3M Scientific Angler. The rod-building era was short lived, and in 1978 the shop's name was changed to Bob Mitchell’s Fly Shop when Dick Johnson sold the shop to Bob Mitchell. Bob made two decisions from the start; the first to get out of the rod building business and the second was to become the place for fly fishing education in the area. Under Bob and Jean’s care, the shop nurtured a sense of community. It quickly became a gathering place where folks could spend a few hours on Saturdays talking, sipping coffee and making new friends. In 1994, Bob and Jean retired and moved to Montana, selling the shop to Michael Alwin.
When Mike purchased the shop, he not only moved it up out of the basement, but he settled it into its new home right on Lake Elmo’s main street. He increased the class offerings and stayed loyal to the store’s original intent- offering first-rate tools, materials, equipment and clothing. Mike’s passion for the sport, as well as his love of story telling have been a major factor in the store’s continued success and the main reason Bob’s dream is alive and well today.
In 2013, 18 years after buying the shop from Bob Mitchell so he could move to Montana, Mike and his wife Deb sold the shop to another Bob, this one from Montana. Robert Hawkins left the blue ribbon waters so many dream of to come to Minnesota and add his piece to the BMFS story. He plans to carry on the shop’s long-standing tradition of quality products and service. It's his goal to weave his knowledge and experience together to create the shop’s next chapter. In June of 2016, the shop moved to it's current location in St. Paul.
Robert Hawkins: I was lucky enough to have been born in Bozeman Montana, a place known today as the fly fishing capitol of the world. I was also fortunate to have parents that spent their spare time on the rivers and lakes of southwest Montana. My passion for fly fishing was born from these two facts. By a young age, I had logged a considerable number of days in a drift boat and was more than proficient on the oars age 15. My dad didn’t seem to mind that I learned to row at a young age, just more fishing for him. But I eventually decided it was time to leave my little home town and head for Seattle, where I studied commercial photography. I stayed in Seattle for a few more years, focusing on photography but I eventually the rivers called me back and I headed back to Montana.
I made up for lost time and fished like it was going out of style when I returned to Montana. I hadn't realized how much I missed being on the water. After a few summers of being a dirtbag fisherman and working at the local snowboard shop, World Boards, an ad in the back of the paper caught my eye. It said, “Land the dream job of a lifetime” and had a photo of a guy holding a monster rainbow trout. That's all it took. Make money doing what I loved? I was sold. Sweetwater Travel, in Livingston MT, had a guide school to mold punks like me to into respectable guides and they had a reputation for 100 percent placement. I enrolled that winter and went to the one week class that spring. I began my first job as a official fly fishing guide in Alaska that summer. For the next seven years I guided in Alaska for the summers and worked at World Boards in the winter. It was the perfect single guy lifestyle.
Upon returning home from my 7th (and what I though would be my last) year of guiding, I did what all Montana boys dream of. I met a midwestern girl. Having grown weary of the Alaska wear and tear already, this sealed the deal- I wanted to be closer to home. And so I began my Montana guiding era. My first call was back to Sweetwater Travel. They were in the business of finding homes for salty guides like me, and as luck would have it they needed a manager for their Montana outfit, based on the Yellowstone in Big Timber, MT. And to bring it full circle, they also were looking for an instructor for their guide schools, the very same one I had attended years before. For the next 5 years I guided through out the area: the Yellowstone, Boulder, Stillwater, and Bighorn rivers. And was fortunate enough to help instruct the next generation of guides along side the amazing (legendary) Ron Meeks and Tracy Peterson. I fell so in love with the area that Rhea and I were married at the lodge in Big Timber on October 25th, 2007. It was the best day of my life.
When our phone rang years later telling us about the greatest little fly shop who's owner would be retiring, it didn't take much to convince us it was time to move east and start the next chapter of our lives. This would be moving home for Rhea, and a new adventure with some new fish for me. I couldn't have been more excited. The rest, as they say, is history...
Aaron Przybylski: Aaron here. I grew up on the St. Croix River in Stillwater, MN. I spent most of my childhood in, on, or near water. The earliest memories I have of fishing are from docks with my Grandpa Rich. He liked using cane poles, so that’s what liked too. I remember him being particularly excited about a rock bass that I caught one day. It may have been the first time I baited a hook, caught a fish and released it all in my own. The thrill I felt that day is the reason I continue to fish.
It wouldn’t be until almost 30 years later that I picked up a fly rod. The decision to do so was either the best or worst decision of my life. Best because, besides my wife and two daughters, it’s my favorite thing to do. Whether its trout, musky, pike, bass, carp or even pan fish, it’s always on my mind and I like that. The reason it might be the worst decision I’ve ever made is because ITS ALWAYS ON MY MIND. Nah, it’s the best.
Today I’m lucky enough to be able to work for and be great friends with the shop owners, Bobby and Rhea. I get to guide people on local trout streams, give casting lessons and teach fly tying lessons to people who are genuinely excited to learn about fly fishing. You’ll see me in the shop quite often too.
I’m a darn lucky guy.
Evan Griggs: I have been fishing in Minneapolis and the Driftless area since I was two years old. When I was ten years old, I watched my father fly fishing a pool on Hay creek and suddenly realized, “I’ve been watching him do this for years, and he’s never caught a fish!” At that point I was determined to catch a trout on a fly. I taught myself how to cast in my front yard, mastered the hook-set catching sunfish on Lake Harriet, and practiced reading water on my favorite trout streams. It took three years, but I finally caught my first trout on a dry fly on the same pool where I watched my father and the first epiphany hit. From that moment on, fly fishing defined me.
When I was fifteen, I took a two week backpacking trip in Yellowstone. Around the campfire one night, the leaders of the trip said, “Why not get paid to do what you love?” That was my second epiphany. Right after high school I became a fish bum, working on the Bighorn River in Montana at Cottonwood Campground. I worked in the fly shop, mowed the campground, and ran guide trips on my days off for two seasons. I then went to school in Ely, MN getting an Associates degree in Outdoor Leadership, solidifying my dream making the outdoors my office. I’ve since finished my Bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Education and have guided in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, the Black Hills of South Dakota, and the warmwater rivers of Minnesota. I’ve also worked with many organizations teaching outdoor skills and environmental science lessons around the nation to people of all ages and abilities. I now live in St. Paul and work as a special education teacher with middle and high schoolers.
Within an hour and a half of Minneapolis-St. Paul there is a lifetime worth of fishing opportunities. My favorite fishing is for carp right outside of downtown, smallmouth bass from a drift boat, and trout in crystal clear spring creeks. As Bob Mitchell’s guide and instructor, I’m so excited to show off these waters and share my fifteen years of experience with other fly-crazed anglers. Be sure to look at our diverse offering of guided trips, our beginners’ classes, and one-of-a-kind youth camps!
Hazelnut: Hazel was born on a blustery Valentine's Day in 2012. After a stint in the Joplin clink (she doesn't like to talk about it), she migrated north to spend her days enjoying her new found freedom here at BMFS. What Hazel lacks in manners, she makes up for in spirit. She is working at the shop part time while she takes night classes to get her degree in business management. Hazel spends her days off fishing for sunnies and chasing bunnies. She is a life long believer of the health benefits of a strict paleo diet and has been doing it since before the crossfitters made it popular.
Sig: Sig came to us from the great north, also known as the North Dakota/Canadian border. He spent his early life backpacking across the north lands without the normal constraints of a civilized life weighing him down. His transition back to society has not been without it’s learning curve. He currently is helping us with some bookkeeping tasks in the back office while he gains the confidence needed to greet customers at a BMFS-standard level of service. He hopes to start his internship with Hazel in the upcoming months. Sig is a dubbing factory.