While fly fishing in the Blue Ridge and shooting photos for our Fall'18 clothing launch, we stopped into one of our retail partners, Headwater Outfitters.

We ended up cruising around the shop and catching up with manager Jessica Whitemire to ask her a few questions about the store, her North Carolina backyard, and Free Fly.

Describe Headwaters Outfitters in one sentence: 
Jessica: Headwaters Outfitters is a professional paddlesports and fly fishing outfitter dedicated to sharing our knowledge and passions with others within our North Carolina community and beyond. 

What makes Headwaters unique compared to other outdoor stores? 

Jessica: Headwaters is a unique outfitter, in many ways, but it is our foundation that sets us apart from the rest. Headwaters has been a family owned and operated outfitter for over 25 years. As our roots stem from our trail blazing paddling program, over the years, we've added several programs with our unparalleled staff at the lead. We've weathered hurricanes, floods, and droughts -- stayed creative, kept recreating -- and in turn have been an ever evolving outfitter that has proven to stand the test of time. We're proud to be family owned and family operated.

What's your favorite thing about specialty retail?

Jessica: We pride ourselves in 5-star customer service, and a big part of that is providing brands that we trust and use to our clients and customers. We want our consumers to be educated and connected to the products they invest in. I also love working with small top quality retail lines, because it fits right in line with our vision here at Headwaters. 

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How do you engage and give back to your local community? 

Jessica: Even before Headwaters was an official outfitter, our co-founders, David and Debi Whitmire have been leading the way in river conservation and protection. Along with a group of close friends, they created the Upper French Broad River Clean-Up. Today, it's an annual event that has over 75 volunteers. The health of the Upper French Broad has only increased since our inaugural year in business. Today, we work with several local community groups such as Pisgah Conservancy, Pisgah Trout Unlimited, the Town of Rosman, and more -- to support programs that protect our backyard and natural resources. We also sponsor programs throughout local school groups to help provide education and opportunities to get kids outdoors. 

What conservation groups have you been partnering with recently and why? 

Jessica: Sorry, kind of answered that above! Pisgah Conservancy and the French Broad River Stewards are the top two!

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What sets apart Free Fly from other brands in your stores? 

Jessica: Free Fly has become our front line brand. Not only does it look great displayed in the store, but it feels great and sets the tone for our shop. We pride ourselves in selling top quality gear and apparel, and when customers walk in they immediately feel that tone. 

How do you describe Free Fly to a new customer? 

Jessica: We describe it mainly by by wearing it. Most of our staff on any given day have some item of Free Fly on. We talk about how comfortable it is to work in, how sturdy it holds-up for our hard working guides, and how it doesn't get that river funk smell all of us river rats tend to get. 

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Favorite Free Fly item?

Jessica: The Bamboo Lightweight Hoody is our guides choice for both men and women, however, as a business with several women in the lead, we love the dresses! We can work in them and then head right to our favorite spot afterwards for a beer. 

Favorite Outdoor Activity to wear Free Fly? 

Jessica: We are very much about fly fishing and paddling around here. The quick dry qualities of Free Fly allow us to hop in the water at anytime, knowing that we'll be dry before we get back to the office. 

Free Fly's fabrics are softer than...

Jessica: Softer than Strung Marabou

Looking for an adventure in Western North Carolina? Be sure to stop into Headwaters Outfitters to learn about the best places to hike, paddle, and fish.