#HomeGrownStories – Ethan Smith
October 3, 2017
Ethan Smith is a Troy native and fly fishing enthusiast. He started his company, SmithFly, in 2010 to create customizable vest packs and bags for fly fishing. Today, SmithFly offers fishing lessons, design services and a variety of fishing gear. The shop sits on 210 East Water Street, just a short walk from the Great Miami River.
On his connection to Miami County:
I was born and raised in Troy. My parents ended up here when my Dad took a job at Copeland as their corporate counsel in the late 60s. They found First Presbyterian Church and liked Troy. So they found a house they liked in Troy and bought it.
I didn’t plan on living in Troy as an adult. I went to Ohio State University and lived in Columbus while attending. After graduation, my wife and I bought a house in Grandview and lived there until 2007 when we returned to Troy.
On his interest in the outdoors and fishing:
I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors. As a teenager, I skied and snowboarded as much as possible. I also enjoyed golf and being outside. In college, I took up rock climbing and backpacking. After college, I started fly fishing.
My family wasn’t really the fishing and outdoors family. Fishing was always part of things we did, but it wasn’t ever front and center. If we went to Florida like a lot of people we would go on offshore fishing trips. If we went camping we would fish for bluegills etc, but we never focused on fishing as an end to itself like I do now.
About his business, SmithFly:
I started SmithFly largely because of the economic downturn of 2008. The design firm I was working at was deeply affected by it. From one week to the next I never knew if I was going to have a job the following week. The firm went from 200 people to 75 and my department went from 12 to 3. I never ended up losing that job. My wife and I decided that if I lost my job I could work on SmithFly while I was looking for a new job. So I worked on it in the evenings and weekends etc. and built it up that way.
When SmithFly started, I was still doing a bit of graphic design work for clients. I felt like it would help to have a place to meet with clients outside my home office. So I started to look around and I found a great spot right on the river in an old building in Troy. Then 210 E Water Street across the street became available. It suited our growing needs with the fabrication business in rafts frames and boats. So I purchased that building and moved in there. It’s worked out very well. We have space to work and I have a small showroom. I have a select group of fly fishing gear like rods, reels waders jackets. I also have kayaks and inflatable rafts and paddle boards.
On the community response to SmithFly:
It’s been largely positive. Because fly fishing is a niche business, most of my customers are from out of town. At this point, I don’t depend too heavily on the local market. I do have a lot of folks from out of town come in to pick up their boats from the shop. So far I’ve had people from as far away as South Carolina, New York and Canada drive here to pick up their boats. There is a small, thriving, dedicated group of local anglers in the area. They are super supportive of what we are doing.
His favorite places for fishing and other outdoor recreation in Miami County:
With the shop being right on the banks of the Great Miami, it’s easy to take a few minutes at lunch or after hours to head over to the river and wet a line. The Stillwater and the Mad Rivers are also great places that I visit quite often.
We have over 300 miles of scenic rivers within a half hour drive of Troy. Ohio has over 60,000 miles of fishable streams and rivers, so there is no shortage of places to fish nearby. The only problem is that we need more access points to make sure the public can get on the water and enjoy it!
How Miami County inspires him:
Miami County is THE place that I know to be the best in the world. Part of getting the most out of any resource is knowing it and understanding as well as possible. The interesting thing about rivers and streams is that they constantly change with seasons, flow, and temperature. There is an old saying in the fly fishing world that goes, “you never set foot in the same river twice.” So even when you think you know a river, it is continually changing.
Being able to see the river in its many forms and living nearby is super important to fully enjoy the river. I’m inspired by having three fantastic rivers close enough to see and interact with on a regular basis. The Great Miami River is what lead to the development of Troy where it is. I’m inspired by the river and everything in it. From the smallest mayflies to the biggest pike and smallmouth. I’m regularly observing it and getting know it better, even though it’s constantly changing.
His Miami County favorites:
As far as restaurants go I’m a huge fan of Bakehouse, Winans, and Submarine House. They’re casual and easy places to go to — even if you’re coming off the river and might have a waft of river funk to you. You’ll never be turned away and will find a warm cup of coffee or a cold craft beer. Another place I wouldn’t miss is Three Weird Sisters. It’s super fun and you never know what you might find there. It’s just fun to check out all the wacky stuff they have in there.
I really like Stillwater Prairie Reserve. I’ve taught fly fishing 101 classes out there through the Miami County Parks District. Those ponds are always stocked with eager panfish. Anyone with a simple foam fly can go out there and catch fish just about any time there’s no ice on the water.
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