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Brookings Fly Shop: Matt Canter’s hospitality is the hook



 

By Charles W. Waring III     

 

The gift of hospitality is the first step in being a gracious sportsman — or in running a business. Matt Canter of Brookings Fly Shop knows that after his team sets the tone and puts visitors in a relaxed frame of mind, they are more than capable of developing the type of relationships that make their business a destination. It does not hurt that he also put a wine and beer bar in his attractive and spacious new facility in Cashiers. Now there is a man with a plan to lure in the Lowcountry visitors.

            Anglers are prone to tell tall tales, and liquid hospitality helps those fish to grow. Oh yes, the fish leap even higher and the river rushes a little faster; friendships are made as stories are swapped. Even if you are not a fly fisher, it’s easy to appreciate the bonding that takes place at a business that offers a complimentary keg of beer to all visitors on July 4. Before we call it happy hour, let’s go back to a young man’s teenage vision and how it grew to become reality.

            Just as a fly fisher studies a stream to plan the right cast, the exact spot to land and the proper fly to hurl gently, at the age of 14 Matt Canter told his parents that he wanted to own his own fly shop someday. He has embraced fishing of all types, but he has gravitated most often to a fly rod. From his home in High Point, North Carolina, where his father was in the furniture business, he traveled to cold water streams and grew to learn more of the nuances of fly fishing; with more appreciation for the sport, he garnered more confidence in his youthful plan.          

He went to college near the trout waters at Western Carolina University, where he met his future wife, Natalie. With college graduation in his creel of experience, he began serving as a fishing guide in 2006, landing a gig at Brookings, an institution that started back in 1988. After three years as a full-time fly-fishing guide, he took the reins as manager at Brookings and soon became married in 2008. In the wake of what he describes as “a very unique set of circumstances,” he was able to buy equity in the business at a patient fisherman’s pace. Brookings investor Stephen Zoukis of Charleston gave Matt this opportunity.

The former shop was just fine for the longtime customers who knew and enjoyed it, but it is hard to believe that the new shop was not always around — it has even more of what every angler can envision. It opened early this spring, and Matt says that the “extra elbow room” gave them spaces for the beer and wine bar situated on a screened-in porch with a fireplace and back patio areas overlooking scenic Cashiers Lake. “This allows us to enjoy and hang out with our customers, and it really makes us more of a destination versus just a fly shop,” he explains.


A glimpse inside WNC's peerless Brookings Anglers. IMAGE PROVIDED
 

While visiting with clients, Matt can explore their desires for destination trips, and he has plenty of experience with those — even a story about a nearly 30-inch brown trout he caught by the tail in Patagonia! He showed me a video to confirm it, as he knows that all fishermen are known to stretch the truth at times. He has also found that good fortune has put him with the right sorts; he agrees this was his most “interesting experience” with a client:

 

The one that I’ll never forget was when a customer had to carry me out of the woods for approximately 1/2 a mile. We were fishing a small wild trout stream in the backcountry, and as we approached the stream, I must have stepped right over a yellow jacket’s nest. After a minute or two of instructing my clients how we were going to attack the stream, I took one more step forward and was immediately covered up and stung more than 20 times. I had enough time to tell my clients that I had had an allergic reaction to yellow jackets before, and that we needed to get back to my truck where I had my Epi-Pen before I blacked out. Thank God one of my clients that day was a former Green Beret and was able to get me back to the truck, load me up and find his way to a hospital where they loaded me up with epinephrine. The nurse told me when I woke up that it wouldn’t have been much longer before my airway closed up. 

 

Bonds are forged in the circumstances created by outdoor experiences; not all of them are as life or death as the one Matt experienced, but all become memorable. Indeed, fly fishing is a lifestyle passion and one to pass on, as his children have embraced the sport. Emery Canter (13) and Tripp Canter (9) are in nearby photos, and they remind us that fishing with family is certain to elicit big smiles. After all, Matt and his team are in the smile business; let the Brookings team know when you can fish, and they will take care of you. Advise where you want to go, and they will set you up with the right flies. Had a big experience and have to tell fellow anglers all about it … the bar is open until six.

If you are blessed enough to be heading up to the High Country soon and are seeking some good fortune on mountain streams, Matt responded as to what would be his go-to flies early morning:  My dry fly would be a toss-up between a beetle (size 10) or a black parachute ant (size 12 or 14).  If I’m looking for quality versus quantity, I’m going with the beetle, but If I’m trying to maximize on number of rises, I’m definitely choosing the ant. For a nymph, I’d say I’d have to go with a Frenchie with a yellow hot spot (size 14-16). You are welcome, fishers; you have the inside scoop.

Matt is a year-round woodsman; in the fall and winter you will find him hunting grouse and quail behind his Brittany spaniels and trying a little bow hunting for deer; in the spring, the turkeys will tug on him, but you may be sure that the trout waters will be calling loudly. The brookie streams at high elevations speak the loudest to this angler, as does the bamboo rod he brings out for special occasions. If he hatches a notion about tying a new fly, which is a very time-consuming process, he will jump at this rare opportunity as tempus fugit. After all, he has a business to run — and two different sites.

The Brookings locations are strategically brilliant because of the preponderance of affluent outdoor sorts who frequent the High Country around both Cashiers and Highlands and their need for gear and a guide. When you have a sterling reputation in two of the most desirable locations in the Southeast, you have the opportunity to be an institution where a mere quick visit is a special experience. The trout are rising; you have made the time. What could dare hold you back?

When in WNC, visit Matt and his staff at these two locations:

Brookings Anglers — Cashiers:  (828) 743-3768; 88 Cashiers Lake Rd.

Brookings Anglers — Highlands:  (828) 482-9444; 273 Spring St., Highlands.

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