PERHAM, Minn. -- Sometimes our biggest passions are the ones we least expect. The owner of Perham's Front 20 Outfitters Fly Shop and Guide Service, Doug Harthan, was introduced to fly fishing by a friend 20 years ago on the Straight River despite fly fishing not being popular in Minnesota. Since then, he's found a love for it.

After he discovered this passion, he opened his fly fishing shop on May 6, 2011. The 10-year anniversary is approaching fast.

"Economically, it seemed like a foolish idea, but we've survived 10 years," Doug said. "That's more than a lot if you consider."

He runs the fly fishing shop with his wife, Roxanne. The two started a guide service in 2007 before deciding to open the shop on a whim. On top of running the shop, the two started teaching fly fishing classes several years ago. Both are incredibly grateful to be able to do something they love for a living.

"It's our passion, to teach," Roxanne said.

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According to Doug, the two chose to start teaching classes because they love fly fishing, and when you love something, you want to share it with others. The classes also helped grow consumers for their niche shop.

These classes started out as women-only because, according to Doug, the fastest expanding demographic for fly fishing is women. But they soon expanded to include co-ed courses.

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"I had a couple of ladies come up to me and ask, 'Why don't you teach men how to fly fish? … My husband wants to learn how to fly fish,'" Roxanne recalled. After this, Roxanne and Doug started their co-ed classes. These women brought their husbands and came back several years in a row just for fun.

The classes are a day long. After being taught the basics of fly fishing, students are taken fishing for a few hours.

Doug makes the shop's fly ties himself (Elizabeth Vierkant)
Doug makes the shop's fly ties himself (Elizabeth Vierkant)

On top of teaching, Doug enjoys the challenge of fly fishing the most. Because of this, his favorite places to fly fish are rivers, even though the business is in the heart of lakes country in Otter Tail County. He says rivers are constantly changing. This creates a new challenge that he loves. Since discovering his passion, he's travelled all over the country.

"The only regret I have is I wish I'd started earlier," Doug said. Reflecting over his 20 years of fly fishing, he advises anyone who's interested in learning to take a class. He believes if he did so back when he started, it would have saved him a lot of money in the long run.

Roxanne and Doug have found it fun to watch their shop expand over the past 10 years. According to them, there are only about half a dozen specialty fly fishing shops in Minnesota, making their shop a rarity. Fly tying is specifically the shop's niche. Roxanne believes fly ties are one of the few things left in the world that people want to see before they buy.

"If an accountant looked at (the shop), they would say, 'do something else,'" Doug said. "But that's not always why you do things." He and Roxanne do what they do because it's their passion.

Front 20 Outfitters Fly Shop and Guide Service is at 138 W Main St. in Perham. On May 8, they will be celebrating their 10-year anniversary at the shop. Their upcoming fishing classes are on April 20, 21, 27 and 28 as well as May 4, 5, 12 and 19. The cost to attend is $75. If you have any questions or wish to sign up for a class, call 218-640-3163.

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