If you’ll pardon the pun, it is safe to say that Rick Trayling was hooked on fishing from an early age.
Rick spent his childhood in Vancouver, a city not necessarily known for its connection to nature, but a trip to the central coast would end up changing his life forever.
“When I was 11, my parents shipped me off to a remote logging camp on a lake near River’s Inlet, so everyday there was nothing to do but go fishing. I just took to it and got good at it – in fact I got so good that even at that age the loggers would ask me to take them fishing on their days off. I had a line up waiting to go fishing with me,” recalls Rick, who would develop a passion for fly fishing as part of a school club in Grade 10 and never looked back.
“The first full-time job I had after high school was at a store call Woodworth’s running their fishing tackle section in the Oakridge location. I did that for four years, so right out of high school I was working in fishing tackle. That led to a long stint in wholesale fishing tackle sales where I would drive all over the province and sell it at a wholesale level. I’ve made my whole living since high school with fishing in one way or another.”
Rick eventually found himself in Whistler living a life many dream of: Working on the ski hill in the winter and spending summers as a fishing guide around the province. Soon word of the exceptional fishing on the North Coast made its way south and Rick thought he would try casting a line on the North Coast.
“Fishing brought me to Prince Rupert. I heard there was an opportunity in the late ‘80s to do some saltwater fishing guiding and I came up to investigate that. It panned out and I ended up really liking the area,” he said.
“After I spent two seasons guiding I decided to move up here.”
Shortly after moving to Prince Rupert, a night out on the town would spark a love that would carry on through more than two decades.
“I met my wife at a wine tasting and, oddly enough, I don’t drink wine. I was a single guy, new in town, and a friend of mine told me I should go to this event because we might meet someone. Sure enough, I met her and invited her for lunch, and changed that from lunch to dinner and then we dated and got married a few years after that,” said Rick.
Shortly after marrying the love of his life, Rick decided to take the plunge into the world of business, opening Trayling’s Tackle in its current Third Avenue location.
“This was the one thing I hadn’t done ... I thought there was a need up here for a tackle-only store because I had seen them sprout up in the Vancouver area and thought it could be done here,” said Rick.
“It was a big move.”
The early years of the store were admittedly a challenge. Rick, the store’s only employee, would keep a list of lures that were sold that day by the till so he could order more after the shop closed for the day. But eventually the store started coming into its own.
“It started out with very small inventory and I worked it up over the 21 years and made it profitable. I have employed lots of youngsters over the summer in 21 years, had my nephew here since he was six years old and Derek Ridgeway worked with me as the one guy I could pay to work full time and he was here for 11 years. It’s worked out really well,” said Rick, who attributes the longevity of the store to two key components.
“Customer service is number one. Selection and customer service are key ... you have to spend the time to share your knowledge, to show them how to tie a knot or rig a hoochie or tie a fly. If you provide all those things, they go out of here super happy and meet someone on the river who wants to know where they can get tackle.”
Now, after more than two decades in business, Rick has decided the time is right to close down shop and go out on a high note. Although the store won’t be shuttered until the end of the year, Rick said his priorities in retirement come down to family, friends and fishing.
“I’ve lost a lot of my fishing time. We’re open seven days a week from the May long weekend through to the September long weekend, so for 21 years I haven’t had vacation in the summer,” he said, adding a thank you to his long-time customers, long-time employees and his wife.
“I’m getting a little tired of that and that is one of the reasons I am leaving on a high note. I am close to retirement age, so I am looking forward to having free time. I had a lot of free time, but I sacrificed free time for 21 years and I want to get some that back now ... I’m sure it’s going to take me a while to wake up and realize I don’t need to come back here.”
Although Trayling’s Tackle won’t be a part of Prince Rupert for long, the Traylings say they have no plans to leave the North Coast.
“I love the people here, I love the pace, the air is cleaner and I just can’t say enough good about it,” said Rick.