“That’s all I wanted to do,” said Jeff Davis.
YARMOUTH, Maine – When we lose a parent, it’s natural to step back and take stock of our own lives. It happened to Jeff Davis at a particularly emotional time: He was moving back to Maine after settling his dad’s estate and thinking about how much his dad loved fly fishing. What happened on that trip changed the course of Davis’ life.
“On the way back across the country with a trailer and its flying gear in the front seat for me to play with on the way home, a light bulb went on. And that was just something I I couldn’t get out of my head. Fly fishing. That’s all I wanted to do. It was a really deep connection that I found with him, oddly enough — after he passed away,” Davis recalled.
In the months following his father’s death, Davis couldn’t fend off a strong desire to find healing outdoors by standing in a river and casting a line.
Davis remembers his father’s love of fishing.
“He was always talking about salmon and fly fishing, but never really took me out. We didn’t really do it together…so I started making rods,” he said . “It has become an outlet.”
Over time, this point of sale has become a business. But there were no guarantees.
“Starting Maine Fly Company was probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. It was a huge leap of faith. It was a huge gamble. But for the first time in my life, [it was] one that I just knew I had to take,” Davis recalled.
He had just become the father of twins, which added to his determination.
“How do I want to raise these boys? Daddy comes home late and leaves early with a briefcase? Or daddy is living a dream and inspiring these boys to do the same,” he said. “It was very important to me.”
In the corporate world, Davis had helped businesses run more efficiently. It involved curiosity and problem solving. He applied these skills to building fly rods by taking them apart and figuring out how to build a better rod.
Maine Fly Company produces several small batches of fly rods each year. A batch can be anywhere from 50 to several hundred stems.
“I was really inspired by the breweries, the craftsmanship. The idea was that we weren’t interested in replicating mass production,” Davis said. “We don’t want to make ten thousand of anything.”
Davis sees her business as a tribute to the resurgence of craftsmanship in Maine.
“I’ve always been so respectful of the furniture makers and all those people, but even better, of the old bamboos that made the bamboo,” he said. “It’s an expiring generation.”
The company designs and manufactures all rods in a former brick mill in Yarmouth, overlooking the Royal River. Each batch of rods is named after one of Maine’s hundreds of waterways, such as the Magalloway River or the Roach River.
Fly fishermen and women know that different conditions require different rods. The weight, the feel, even the look of the upper – these qualities matter.
LeeAnne Conway makes rods for Maine Fly. It is meticulous work. In one phase of rod construction, she applies epoxy to the rod guides, then lets the rods spin for eight hours while they dry. She met Davis on a fishing trip and learned how to make rods. Once she learned the intricacies, she was hooked.
“Once I was able to make my own fly, make my own fly rod – I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Conway said with a smile.
Fly fishing can take you to some of the most beautiful areas in our state. For Jeff Davis, sport helped him heal.
“My thing is – first, to fall in love with standing in the middle of a river because that in itself is the passion… When you like the idea of hearing that sound going through your knees while disconnected from technology and just living in a postcard, the idea of a fish is a bonus.”
Davis feels a company like his is one of the silver linings of the pandemic. In recent years, people have kept people close to home, looking for ways to spend time outdoors. To learn more about Maine Fly Company, Click here.