By Brad Fauber
EDINBURG -- Ask Harry Murray if he ever expected his fly fishing shop to withstand the test of time and endure as long as it has, and the 73-year-old Edinburg resident will admit that he never thought the doors to Murray's Fly Shop would remain open for so long.
For 51 years Murray's Fly Shop, which is also uniquely combined with Murray's own pharmaceutical business, has been nestled in along Main Street in Edinburg, providing residents of the Shenandoah Valley and out-of-town visitors alike with all of their fly-fishing needs.
Murray says his fly shop was the first of its kind when he began the business shortly after graduating from the Medical College of Virginia in 1962. And even then the store -- which began solely as a pharmacy -- was just a fraction of what it would eventually become.
"I started out when we had the drug store across the street, I sat in the back and I tied flies professionally," Murray said. "I would get an order -- I don't even know how people would know about me -- but I would get an order on the phone and I would get on there and tie what he wanted, and then I went out and mailed it."
Since those early days of tying custom flies in his spare time, Murray's Fly Shop has grown exponentially. Anglers scouring Murray's store are sure to find just the right equipment for their trip to local fishing holes, with plenty of rods and lures to choose from, many of which were designed by Murray himself (he claims to have designed over 70 flies).
Murray has even written 14 books covering a wide range of fly-fishing topics and has created several educational videos, all of which are available for sale at his shop.
Murray said that while the pharmacy side of his business may be on the decline, the fly shop continues to grow. In fact, Murray said his shop is one of the biggest -- if not the biggest -- fly shops in the entire state.
"The fly shop keeps getting bigger and bigger," Murray said. "We still do a prescription department, but the Bayer aspirin and the toothpaste section keeps getting smaller and smaller."
Murray's Fly Shop goes beyond just selling equipment, however.
Murray has been an avid fly fisherman since first picking up the sport at 15 years old, and he has found a way to share the many years worth of experience that he has gained with anyone who is interested in learning the art of fly fishing.
Murray offers two different "On the Stream" fly fishing schools during the spring and summer, beginning with the mountain trout schools -- held in the Shenandoah National Park -- two days a week in April and ending with the smallmouth bass schools -- held in the North and South forks of the Shenandoah River -- in June. During both ventures, anglers get hands-on experience while learning everything from proper equipment selection to reading the water to proper fly selection and entomology.
Each school is limited to 10 anglers and two instructors, which guarantees that each student gets an individual lesson catered to their specific skill level.
"We work from person to person to person, up and down all day. So if the fellow is a beginner, when we're right at his elbow we're doing what he needs," Murray said. "Then up here is a fellow who has been fly fishing for 20 years, he may want to learn a specific type of technique, and we teach him. So by doing it one-on-one, we can meet their needs no matter what they are."
Murray also offers half-day schools, which are similar to the normal classes but on a smaller scale. Each half-day school, which is limited to four students, lasts from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from now until the end of September.
There are even workshops held inside Murray's Fly Shop every Saturday during the cold months from November through March, which cover a broad spectrum of fly-fishing topics.
"Each weekend is practically different. Some of them are on bass, some of them are on trout, some of them are on fly-tying, some of them I'm teaching them how to cast -- because some people are interested in trout but not interested in bass, or the other way around. The fly casting is always a big thing," Murray said.
Murray attributes the longevity of his store to the repeated business that he gets from loyal customers, some of which have been coming to his shop for gear and lessons for more than 20 years.
Murray said he has built many personal friendships through fly fishing and has seen plenty of friendships form among past students, which has made the running of his business that much more enjoyable.
"It's a lot of fun, it really is," Murray said. "We have people who come out and somebody will meet somebody here and they'll exchange business cards. The next thing you know they're fishing together in Montana. It's a real camaraderie-type thing."
Murray's Fly Shop is located at 121 South Main Street in Edinburg. For more information, visit murraysflyshop.com.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org