For 15 years, Tina Lewis worked at a pharmaceutical distribution company where she managed a proposal development process that landed the business $90 billion in annual sales. Now she makes fishing nets. Chalk up another jolting career change to the Great Resignation.
Lewis grew up fishing and competing at archery and gun clubs with her father and brother in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. She spent her weekends with her grandfather who worked in Philadelphia for the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. Her other pastime was art, but she never pursued it beyond a few community college courses. “I actually got into drawing by reading comics, drawing those characters and later, musicians, as I got into high school,” she told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Then, she went to Penn State. Then, she landed a prime corporate job. And, then, 15 years later, Covid changed everything. There was the national career shifting trend, and Lewis found herself a new life pursuit.
Lewis, a Fishtown resident, is now the proprietor of The Wayward Trading Post, where she specializes in handcrafting wooden fly fish nets. In a woodstove-heated warehouse under portraits of Bob Marley and Jerry Garcia, she works with walnut, cedar, hickory, and cherry wood sourced from Pennsylvania’s Amish country. In a process that can take weeks depending on the complexity of the art design, she renders the wood into strips, shapes and finishes it with a variety of power saws and sanders, engraves it, applies epoxy to it, and attaches silicone netting that offers gentle handling for the fish it eventually corrals.
Her lower-end nets, which cost around $100, feature her business logo on the handle—a trout with a bear in the middle. But she adorns her customized nets, which fetch up to $1,000, with engravings inspired by her customers’ wishes—whether they be a mountain scene, a beloved pet, or a Hendrickson.
In some cases, she embeds mementos from the customer’s past, like military medals or coins. The result: a custom product that a seasoned trout angler might one day bequeath to the next angler in the family line. “These are heirloom pieces, something the customers want to pass down from generation to generation,” Lewis said.