Fat Nancy’s Philosophy…
This past weekend son #2 and I took a hike to the great white north. I’m not talking Albany, Syracuse, or Rochester; I’m talking PULASKI, which, in Polish should translate to “the place where the snow flies” (actually, the village was named after General Casimir Pulaski of revolutionary war fame). Son #2 is a hockey player, and his Bantam Travel “B” Team was to face off against the Salmon River Storm at 11:30 am that day. We met only mild weather resistance on the trip north, which is a rarity. In fact, once we passed snowy Syracuse, the skies cleared up but the bright sunshine did little to lift the frigid cold. Indeed, when we left the southern tier the temp was an invigorating -1 degree F.
The village of Pulaski is famous for two things; fishing and snowmobiling. Situated on the western edge of Lake Ontario, it receives an average of 175 inches (over 14 feet) of snow every winter, but of more interest to the STFLYFISHER clan is the village’s location on the Salmon River. This geographical blessing makes it one of the best places, arguably THE best place in the lower 48, to catch big steelhead, monster king and coho salmon, and huge lake-run browns.
We arrived in Pulaski, took the exit off Rt 81 North, and at the top of the exit ramp, ran smack dab into Fat Nancy’s on our way to the rink, and with just one look at the interesting name (followed by “tackle shop”), I knew I had to check it out after the game.
We drove through the sleepy village and immediately got a sense for how much snow this part of upstate New York receives. The roofs of houses and stores were steeped high with the stuff, and the icicles were enough to make one think twice about passing under any roof overhang. The rink in Pulaski was colder inside than it was outside, but it made for fast ice and a great game, as the Binghamton Senators filleted the Salmon River Storm 12-5.
After the game, we were to head south to Cortland for a 5:30 pm game and lunch en route, but I took a little detour to Fat Nancy’s under the fatherly auspices of picking up a candy bar for my exhausted hockey player and filling the car up with gas in case we ever got stuck in some abominable snow drift.
Upon first entering Fat Nancy’s, you’re greeted by one hell of a king salmon, although legend has it that “Fat Nancy’ is not the mother of all king salmon, nor is she some gargantuan female tackle shop owner, burly and beard-growing, complete with camel hanging out of her yap, but instead, a huge sturgeon in Lake Ontario that has eluded anglers for years. Regardless, this big king, hanging in all its glory for all to dream wistfully of bent fly rods and backing on the reel, is just one of many Salmon River trophies mounted as testament to how truly great the fishing is on the Salmon River.
What happens after entry into this fly fisherman’s house of pleasure is sensory overload, as this tackle shop is more like a convenience store version of Cabelas than a Citgo Mini-Mart. While the shop does cater to the hardware guys, ice fishermen, and trollers, there is a nice stand of G Loomis, Scott, TFO, and some lesser known brands of fly rods to piqué one’s interest. Fat Nancy’s offers a broad steelhead / salmon fly selection along with a bountiful stock of line, terminal tackle, reels, waders, and clothing. Browsing around, I quickly spied the ultimate big river steelhead rod – a 10′ / 7 weight Scott ARC for sale at half price. I practically had to buy a hat just to catch the slobber that drooled from my mouth.
I picked up a chocolate bar for my very patient hockey player and stood at the counter while a big upstate good-ole-boy sidled up behind the cash register. “Is that it?”, he bellowed, jowls swaying. “Yes”, I responded, “although I sure would like to add that Scott ARC you have on sale, but the wife wouldn’t take too kindly to that”. I chuckled a little, thinking some sympathetic comment would soon follow. Instead I got a brash and baritone “tough sh*t”, followed by a lambasting that chastised my manhood and, would have put my tail between my legs if I had one. “You work for that money, don’t you?”, he scowled, “you can do whatever the hell you want with it, that’s what I say”. I grimaced and shriveled in the face of this dress-down and soon felt like I was looking up at the counter. “If you want the rod, buy it, and if she don’t like it, tough sh*t”. “Riiiiiigggghhhhhttttt…..”, as Dr. Evil would say.
I slithered out of the store, hockey player in tow, and thought long and hard about “the philosophy” as we sped down 81 to Cortland. And the more I thought, the more I realized this guy had a point. The counter-guy’s “pep” talk had truly given me a lift. Carpe diem, seize the day, strike while the iron’s hot, go for it – the “talk” had convinced me, if nothing else, that Fat Nancy’s was far more than a tackle shop. That week I had a new fly reel on order, with no apologies and nary a second thought, thank you very much.