GREENVILLE – People have learned to fish there, been introduced to wild brook trout there, even traveled from Europe to experience landlocked salmon through the guidance of the Maine Guide Fly Shop.

But to Danny Legere, owner of this longstanding fishing shop, the street-front institution that was formerly a dairy barn has been a work in progress, an always-evolving challenge and a constant example of the changing times.

Funny, but that’s exactly what Legere’s guides say about this storied river guide, who turns 60 this year, just as his shop turns 30. He’s been at it a long time through tough times, but Legere’s guides say he has never been off his game.

“He’s just as excited as he was 50 years ago. He’s still fresh. And he is economy in motion. It’s stunning. On the overnights trips, he’ll be chatting with guests and cooking and making a fire, and it never looks like he’s moving. You’ll ask him what you can do and he’ll say, ‘Go have a beer with the guests,’ ” said Ian Cameron, who’s guided with Legere for nearly 20 years.

As mom-and-pop shops struggle through the economic downturn, Legere has kept the Maine Guide Fly Shop going strong in the heart of Maine’s trout district. His guides say as a team they offer customer service and share an abundant, nearly contagious enthusiasm for the rivers. But they also say, the Maine Guide Fly Shop’s longevity is because of Legere.

“If you want to go fly-fishing in Maine for landlocked salmon or brook trout, you call Dan. The Maine Guide Fly Shop has been an institution, but it’s also accumulated the wisdom of human capital that Dan has,” Cameron said.

Rows of flies greet visitors, along with rods, reels and a shellacked pine counter, where fishing tips are offered to all who enter. In the back of the shop, neatly packaged homemade flies tied by Legere create their own unique display.

But while the shop sits two streets up from Moosehead Lake, it has endured, locals say, because Legere has evolved with the times.

“He’s been able to adapt because he’s bright and conservation-oriented. There is no question about his knowledge of the river,” said Paul Johnson, the former state fisheries biologist in the region. “I remember when the shop first opened. We normally don’t have a close association with most businesses. But as time went on, we recognized Danny interacted with most fishermen. And he is concerned about the resource. That’s why his shop survives.”

When Legere started his shop in Greenville in 1982, he had a lake boat and three guides, and they spent their summers trolling. He also had canoes at remote ponds, but the big lake was the draw.

Then Legere saw a drift boat in Greenville 17 years ago and everything changed. He had never seen one in Maine, but bought one.

“When I discovered that with the drift boats used out West, we could access the East Outlet (of the Penobscot River) and the Kennebec, we now could access 90 percent of the river. Most of that is inaccessible to waders. We own the river,” Legere said.

The drift boat offered a casting platform that floats down the river. Fishermen could look down on the fish, making it easier to find them and cast to them. Now on his third drift boat — with four guides who all have drift boats — Legere’s guiding business is going strong. But that didn’t happen without constantly changing the way he did business.

In the 1990s, for example, he turned to sportsmen’s shows in the winter to sell his wares to new customers. But when the Internet started taking them, he built an online catalog.

“In the 1990s, life was good. People had money then. They didn’t squabble over price,” Legere said. “But one day a guy came into my shop and he had his buddy, and I heard his buddy say, ‘Don’t get it yet. We’ll check on eBay.’ I had never heard that word. But ebay changed everything.”

Twenty years into his business, Legere, an Alfred native who grew up fishing around Moosehead, didn’t roll over.

“I bought the book ‘EBay for Dummies’ and started to figure this out,” he said.

Legere built an online catalog and given the reputation of his flies, soon was selling around the country. And to those anglers who travel to Mooehead to fish the trout waters of northern Maine, Legere still has the storefront welcoming them to the are.

“We keep chugging along, keep changing. The videos on the website were the best thing I did. Now when someone calls they’ll say, ‘I just got done looking at a brook trout video.’ And they’ll book a trip,” Legere said.

Legere still leads as many as a half-dozen overnight trips, and said he didn’t know how much longer he will keep the shop and guide.

But his guides know.

“He’ll go until he’s slumped over behind the oars,” Cameron said. 

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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