A year and a half ago Sam Melner decided to beat the commuter rat race to New York City. The president of Liveright, a publishing house, he quit to start a new venture from the basement of his Westchester home: selling fly-fishing books at a discount by mail order. Perfect strangers told him he was crazy, but Melner took an ad in The Fly Fisherman magazine, and the response was such that he issued a small catalog. He is now doing business from a full floor over a local grocery, selling both books and fly tackle under the name of The Fly Fisherman's Bookcase Tackle Service. (Melner also sells discount bird books under the name of the Audubon Bookcase.)
The FFBTS 1972 Christmas catalog offers such new books as Art Flick's Master Fly-Tying Guide at $8.50 and Ernest Schwiebert's Nymphs at $7.75, plus previously published books, for instance, McClane's Standard Fishing Encyclopedia at $16.95. Under the imprint of Van Cortlandt Press, Melner has reprinted Hewitt's A Trout and Salmon Fisherman for Seventy Five Years, $6.95, and LaBranche's The Dry Fly and Fast Water/The Salmon and the Dry Fly, $5.95. The books have done well, although some older mail-order houses refuse to handle them. Cutting prices is apparently out of place in gently bred fly-fishing circles.
On average Melner discounts tackle at about 15%. For the comparison shopper here are some sample offerings from the Christmas catalog: Hardy "Princess" reel, $38.50 ($43.50); Scientific Anglers Fly Line DT-6-F, $9.95 ($13); Scientific Anglers System 6 Fly Rod, $59.95 ($75).
The catalog has some offbeat items, such as the incredibly fine Pezon-Michel split shot at 90¢ a box, very useful for tying weighted nymphs; an 18-pocket fishing vest for $12.95; and a custom-made fly-tying bench for $13.95. The selection of fly-tying materials includes "The Ultimate Necks!!!" priced, depending on color, from $3 to $4.50 each. Interestingly, the catalog carries the Phillipson Master Fly Rods, which some anglers might deem "cheap." They are literally cheap at $16.95, but Melner recommends them because he believes they are better than many higher-priced rods on the market. "We're trying to give as much value for the dollar as we possibly can and still maintain quality," Melner says. "If a customer is dissatisfied with anything, he can return it for a full refund."
The Christmas catalog can be obtained by writing The Fly Fisherman's Bookcase Tackle Service, 138 Grand Street, Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. 10520. If you are a bird watcher, write to the same address for the discount listings of the Audubon Bookcase.