The Tackle Shop History
Serving Madison River Fly Fishermen for 81 Years
Since 1937 fly fishermen have been walking through the same door in Ennis, Montana and finding the latest in fishing tackle and the hot fly of the day. Over this 78 year period hundreds of thousands of fishermen, covering five generations and 10 owners, have come to the same location. This rich tradition of serving fly fishermen on the Madison River continues today and it is just amazing to think that "the oldest fly shop in Southwest Montana" celebrated it's 75th anniversary in 2012. Just imagine the evolution of the fly fishing industry over this period of time and the stories that could be told if only these walls could talk.
Elwood Combs was a mechanic with a love for fly fishing the Madison River. In 1937 Elwood gave into his love and began tying and selling fly's at the current location of The Tackle Shop, on Main Street in Ennis. In addition Elwood started guiding fishermen and outfitting on the Madison River. Elwood was one of the first outfitters to bring the "Mackenzie River" style drift boat to the Madison River Valley and manufactured boats modeled after the McKenzie River drift boats produced by Keith Steele of Oregon. Elwood holds the record for length of ownership passing the torch in 1958 to Jerry Morgan.
The Morgan family, including their two sons, Jerry and Tom, had moved form Hollywood, California to Ennis to run the El Western Motel and Fishing Resort in 1945. Jerry grew up with a love for fly fishing and in 1958 purchased The Tackle Shop from Elwood Combs and then sold it to his brother Tom three years later. Tom, who had started guiding fishermen by the time he was 15 years old and outfitted on the Madison River for 14 years, owned the shop for three years when he had an opportunity to follow his passion and purchased the RL Winston Rod Company. Today Tom continues to craft the finest custom fly rods available with his new company Tom Morgan Rodsmiths.
Tom Williams followed Tom Morgan in ownership of the shop in 1964 and since that time the ownership progression has consisted of Ed Curnow (1973-83), Ray and Laurie Killian (1983-91), the Combs family, not related to Elwood Combs (1991-2006), Jeff Borsuk (2006-10), Gary Wood (2010-2011) and current owner John Way (2011-present).
National and regional recognition began in the 1970's and has continued to the present day as the shop has been the subject of several publications and television shows. The physical structure remains close to the original shop with cosmetic changes to the walls and siding and expansion in the 1970's and again in the 1980's. The identifying fly on the building first made it's appearance in the 1960's and has become a landmark on the main street of Ennis. The location and the front door has remained the same since 1937.
Orvis became a part of The Tackle Shop in 1983 and the shop became an Orvis store in 1991. Since then the shop has remained an Orvis Authorized Dealer and Orvis Endorsed Outfitter. The Tackle Shop was awarded the Orvis Endorsed Outfitter of the Year award in 2001 and again in 2017. Today The Tackle Shop remains the home to Madison River fishermen from around the world, a landmark in the fly fishing industry.