SHERIDAN — Jay and Melanie Araas hope to find success in the multimillion dollar fly-fishing industry. What was once a hobby they both grew up enjoying didn’t become a passion until they fell head over heels for each other. Fishing for date nights evolved into couple getaways to full family fishing trips. Now, they hope to earn a living promoting the lifestyle they love.

“Fly Fish Wyoming was really born out of our love for fly-fishing and Wyoming,” Melanie Arras, co-owner, said. “My background is in graphic design, and I felt like I was born to do both, so Jay really encouraged me to do both.”

Fly Fish Wyoming originated three weeks ago on a whim fueled by passion, love and creativity. The apparel store for fly-fishermen has artwork that was hand-drawn by Melanie Araas, who is also the owner and founder of 3 Willow Design, LLC, a local graphic design business.

“I’ve been thinking about creating something of my own in the back of my head for a few years, but there’s always kind of a fear of putting your own baby out there,” Melanie Araas said. “Fear has held me back for a really long time, and one day Jay asked me, ‘Would you rather do it and fail or see someone else do it?’”

Jay Araas said they want to be proud of their business and its products.

“If there’s something I can do to help her elevate the business, I’m there,” he said.

One of those ways of elevating the business is by giving back. The co-owners maintain that giving back to the youth and conservation in Wyoming were two goals when starting the business.

“We have every intention to pick one or two organizations or nonprofits that help in regards to conservation of river restoration, but we haven’t settled on one quite yet because we want it to stay in Wyoming,” Melanie Araas said. “One program we knew we wanted to connect with as soon as we started business was the Mayfly Project.”

The Mayfly’s project is a mentor program that fosters children in five stages that replicate the life cycle of a mayfly where they learn line management, casting techniques, knot tying, some etymology, river safety, mending tactics, hook setting, catch and release tactics and the value of conservation. Fly Fish Wyoming would be the first Mayfly project in Wyoming.

“We want to do anything to help kids, women, anyone who aren’t avid fisherman to not be afraid to try,” Jay Araas said.

By next spring, the couple hopes to offer fishing classes at different levels, whether it’s independently or through the Mayfly Project.

As the avid fishermen discuss controversies of Bristol Bay and regulations between private and public land owners, it’s clear the two are cognizant the health of the environment as they embark as Wyoming Wildlife advocates.

“I think a huge part of fly fishing is getting people to respect the land, respect our resources and respect the way of the land,” Melanie Araas said. “We aren’t just going out fishing, but hopefully we’re going out and improving the land from how we found it.”

As the couple continues to grow, they’ve kept local partnerships at the forefront of their operation. They have plans to work with Red Bison Pottery Studio and the Candle Shop soon. All printing and fulfillment comes directly from Bighorn Design. Melanie Araas said she was won over by the local business when they offered to handle all shipping fulfillments and local pickup. 

“They really made this possible because fishing is our lifestyle,” Jay Araas said. “We can’t be bound to a storefront because we’re in the mountains almost every weekend fishing with our kids.”