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the buzz on the flyfishing biz



Coaxing a Market Rise

The Monster Next Door / Affta Goes Large / The Catskill Artist / Fish ‘N Chips / Teaching Your Way to Success / Competitive Spike September 2007

the buzz on the flyfishing biz





26 The Monster Next Door

6 Editor’s Column

Is Cabela’s the 800-pound gorilla or the gentle giant of the outdoor retailing world? Maybe both, depending on your point-of-view. Angling Trade goes in-depth with the World’s Foremost Outfitter. By Charlie Meyers

36 Teaching Your Way to

Success Did we kill the goose that

laid the golden egg by not teaching A River Runs Through It wannabes how to use that stuff we sold them? How important is teaching to the success and health of this industry today? By Jeff Wagner

38 The Catskill Artist To create

Coaxing a Market Rise ... Welcome to Angling Trade, the magazine that’s all about growing the business of flyfishing through turbulent times.

By Charlie Meyers

Tom Bie Ben Romans Andrew Steketee

8 Currents What’s Going On in the FlyFishing Market? We have the buzz on the biz … from products to environmental winners and losers.

16 Special Section -The Rest of Denver Coming to the Fly Fishing Retailer show in Denver? Here’s the “guide’s guide” to what’s hot in the Mile High City. By Will Rice

24 Recommended Reading The Wal-Mart Effect by Charles Fishman. The lowdown on the dealings of the biggest of all big boxes.

30 Opinion Editorial Getting a handle on the “new media” world will separate the contenders from the pretenders in the flyfishing market.


Monte Burke, Will Rice, Greg Thomas, Jeff Wagner Art Director

Tara Brouwer Flies on the cover and page 40 by tying wizard, Malcolm Robertson Photos unless noted by Tim Romano Angling Trade is published four times a year by Angling Trade, LLC. Author and photographic submissions should be sent electronically to Angling Trade is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts and/or photo submissions. We ask that contributors send formal queries in advance of submissions. For editorial guidelines and calendar, please contact the editor via E-mail. Printed in the U.S.A.

43 Backcast Charlie Meyers asks whether or not “team flyfishing” might indeed trigger that market spike we’ve all been hoping for.

By Jeff Wagner

3 / September 2007

a niche away from flyfishing to key success and insulate your business from seasonal ups and downs.

Charlie Meyers

Contributing Editors

By Tom Bie

45 Niche Marketing Find


Sarah Warner

By Monte Burke

flyfishing connection is stronger than a shared demographic. The savvy fly shop knows how to tee up the crosspromotional opportunities for profits.

Tim Romano

Copy Chief

the perfect fly takes dedication … a connection to a region … and a bunch of broken hooks. At least that’s how it happened for Paul Weamer.

40 Fish ‘N Chips The golf-

Kirk Deeter Managing Editor

32 AFFTA Goes Large

After taking critical shots regarding the retailer trade show, and in light of pressure to grow the market, AFFTA decides to get aggressive and launch its own consumer expo in Denver, in 2008 … on the exact same weekend of the Fly Fishing Show. By Ben Romans



Charlie Meyers is the outdoors editor of the Denver Post. His flyfishing features have appeared in a wide array of magazines, from Field & Stream to Southwest Fly Fishing. We are proud to have Charlie’s services as the editor-atlarge of Angling Trade. He lives near Denver.

Monte Burke is the author of the highly acclaimed book Sowbelly, as well as other books and outdoors articles. An accomplished fly angler and outdoorsman, he also is a staff writer for Forbes magazine. He lives in New York.

Tom Bie is the editor of The Drake, which, to us, says all the good things you need to know about him. He’s also heading up A career publishing professional and lifelong flyfisher, his unique perspectives are always informative and entertaining. He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Ben Romans is a former editor turned freelance writer and photographer living in Boise, Idaho. He is currently working on a Montana flyfishing guidebook which is scheduled for publication in the coming months.

Will Rice has a real job, but he’s also making a mark as a freelance flyfishing writer. His articles have appeared in the Denver Post, Saltwater Fly Fishing, and The Drake, among other publications. He brings us “The Rest of Denver” with gritty detail only a Mile High local can deliver.

Jeff Wagner is a flyfishing and FFF fly casting instructor, guide, fisheries biologist, writer, and all around outdoorsman. He is also president of the Colorado Angling and Casting Club. He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.


Welcome to


It’s good to be back. You might recognize that many of us were formerly associated with . We plan to build on that tradition.

In fact, we’ve recently acquired that title, and have expanded our roster of writers, editors, photographers, and other industry insiders to help with this effort. I could not be more proud of the editorial team we have assembled, including pros who have worked for Forbes, Field & Stream, Fly Fisherman, The Drake, the Denver Post, SaltWater Sportsman and others. The flyfishing industry now has a consolidated and focused trade magazine that is vested in the effort to coax a market rise. We are personally committed to promoting this sport. And we are going to help you promote flyfishing, grow your business, and make money in the process. Here’s what else you should know about us: This is a business magazine that happens to focus on flyfishing, and not a flyfishing magazine that happens to include business. We’re going to tell the truth—what you must hear, and not necessarily what you want to hear, or what others in this industry (including some manufacturers) want you to believe. This quarterly publication will print and ship in September, December, March, and June. It is a free subscription. Angling Trade’s primary mission is to serve the business interests of the flyfishing specialty retailer in North America. We also will cover manufacturers, products, and key issues related to the flyfishing industry.

June 2008 will be the “Green” edition. Environmental issues directly impact this sport. We’re going to look at several key scenarios/case histories as they unfold. We’ll also delve deeply into the topic of cause-related marketing, how that works on the international level for manufacturers, as well as how it can work on the grassroots level among retailers. Angling Trade will feature consistent sections and departments as well. “Currents” will cover the latest news. “Backcast” will be a back-of-the-book opinion editorial. Each issue will have a retailer profile. (Interestingly, we decided to do our first profile on the “World’s Foremost Outfitter,” Cabela’s.) With every edition, we intend to kick the detail of our coverage up a level. For example, for this edition that coincides with the Retailer Expo in Denver, we give you a basic yawn-free overview of the show and its seminars; then we present the down-and-dirty guide to what to do in Denver (by Will Rice). You won’t see this anywhere else. We’re also including a “Recommended Reading” book review in each issue, and understanding that so much of flyfishing is culture-driven, we’ve chosen to do personal profile pieces. Our first, by Monte Burke, author of the acclaimed book Sowbelly and a staff writer for Forbes, appears in this issue.

This is a business magazine that happens to focus on flyfishing, and not another flyfishing magazine that happens to focus on business.

We will listen to you. Your input will help direct this magazine. / September 2007

March 2008 will be the “Made in America” edition. We’re going to cover from both sides how overseas manufacturing ultimately impacts the specialty retailer, as well as the manufacturer. Is cheaper better? Is “Made in America” an endangered species? Will fly rods and reels ultimately go the way of golf clubs, bicycles, and other products? Or is there a middle ground?

Every edition of Angling Trade going forward will have an overriding theme. Our December 2007 issue will be the “Media” edition, in which we will cover topics ranging from marketing flyfishing through the Internet, to direct mail, newsstand publications, websites, interactivity, DVD/video production, television, etc.

Two final notes: Our sincere gratitude goes out to the advertisers in this issue. It took a leap of faith—in Angling Trade, and in the industry. We will never forget this, and hope our readers will recognize their commitment. I also want to say that I am grateful to Joe Daniel for the opportunities he provided us in the past at Fly Fishing Trade. I appreciate his eloquent “passing the torch” editorial in the final (current) issue of that magazine, and I look forward to other positive collaborations in the future. To our readers, contact me directly ( if you have any questions or suggestions. We understand that good reporting starts with listening. at Kirk Deeter, Editor



The Product Buzz Orvis “Helios” Will Turn Heads

Issues like final cosmetic touches and suggested retail had not been finalized by press time, but the company will no doubt have the package dialed in at FFR. You’ll want to check this one out for yourselves. — KD

Kaenon Goes HARD KORE We were among the first to test a factory prototype of the new Orvis rod, called Helios, which will make its debut at FFR in September. For, I wrote: “This rod is unlike anything else I have cast before. It’s exceptionally light (with 25% blank weight reduction and a much lighter reel seat) and very responsive. I could feel the tip action all the way down in the grip, but it wasn’t “noodly” or flimsy. It turns line over with ease on roll casts, and packs tight loops together so you can laser-pinpoint shots, even when throwing gaudy western hoppers. It’s very “bright,” but also balanced … the rod casts the way a Martin OM-28 guitar sounds.” Over the subsequent three days, I shared Helios with seven other anglers, from guides, to pro staffers with other rod companies, to novice clients. Of the seven initial responses, I recorded four “holy sh@!s,” two “when can I get one?” and a “how much?” / September 2007

We pushed the limits on a number of large fish in heavy current, and the rod did not budge. Tom Rosenbauer, marketing director for Orvis Rod & Tackle, explained that the company apparently had the taper design in the works for some time, but recently locked in the right graphite material to make production feasible. In explaining why Orvis chose to launch Helios so soon on the heels of its Zero Gravity launch two years ago, he simply said: “We couldn’t wait.” 8

Kaenon Polarized, the Southern California-based eyewear brand, has pushed the boundaries of the performance sport frame category with its new HARD KORE style. Kaenon pins its reputation on “Luxury Performance” design and engineering, and HARD KORE is an athlete-inspired model that has already wowed pro bass anglers and fishing guides. Many of the guides we spoke with have gravitated to the copper-28 lenses for sight fishing. HARD KORE is now available in a new frame color, Tobacco. What is most impressive is the use of materials that make this half-rim style feathery-light yet incredibly durable. HARD KORE features enlarged, web-like temple tips that distribute the load for a more secure fit and buried Variflex rubber for a cushioned grip and all day comfort. Kind of like duck feet, the HARD KORE temple ends distribute the overall load of the sunglass better— for a more secure fit and greater allday comfort. At the end of the day, you get the sense that you weren’t wearing glasses at all, like your own eyes had been polarized. HARD KORE is offered in two lens shape options—normal for most face shapes and a larger lens for those who prefer additional coverage or require a bigger face fit. They retail for $199 with a protective metal hard case and are prescription-adaptable.

Scott Launches New Rods We have yet to personally test cast these rods, but the scuttlebutt from those who have is that Scott has landed on several new models that will make a serious impression when they hit the market later this year. Foremost will be the new S4 series, a high-end fast action taper that builds on the company’s S3 designs, yet is engineered to be super light—a mere 2.9 ounces in the 9-ft. 5-wt. 4-piece model, for example. While streamlined in structure, the S4s are decked out with smart custom components and features, including Fuji Concept strippers in real titanium frames, REC nickel titanium snake guides, REC custom titanium reel seats with burled buckeye wood accents. Standard Scott touches like alignment dots and measuring wraps are also included. Said Scott president Jim Bartschi: “The S4 is probably the most ‘custom’ high performance production rod in existence.” The company also will launch T2H, a new high performance line of double handers covering traditional, Skagit and Scandi style rods along with some two-hand assist models for single handed fisherman/crossover work. We’re giving Scott high marks also for launching a series of fly rods specifically targeted at warmwater specialty niches. These 8-foot limited edition concept rods in 6- , 8- , and 10-weights are made for fishing bass, pike, carp, and muskies. They handle large flies, load easily for shoreline casting, can throw 15-20 ft. under docks or cover, and have some serious spine to steer fish from cover. Anyone who wants to show the BASS nation how to get ‘er done with a fly rod will be happy to know that they also are tournament legal.

Hardy’s New Reel a Demon

Traditional international rod and reel icon Hardy and Greys will jump across the pond from England this September to unveil a cracking new reel innovation at the Fly Fishing Retailer show in Denver. The “Demon” is the company’s first reel designed with non-metal cartridge spools. As such, the company hopes it will fill a niche where an inexpensive spool can be combined with an aluminum reel frame without sacrificing on performance and quality. John Wolstenholme, marketing manager for Hardy and Greys, is confident the Demon will take over from the Sirrus as the affordable Hardy ‘must have.’ “Hardy has never had a reel in its range which incorporates inexpensive nonmetal cartridge spools and we have been working for some time to fill this gap. We are confident that the Demon is the one,” he said. Manufactured with 6061 Barstock aluminium with a GT4 Grivory composite spool, the Demon reel benefits from a Rulon multi-disc braking system with four pads. It comes in a custom reel case with two additional spare spools. Hardy also produced a Demon rod line to accompany the reel and aims to have them ready for sale in January 2008. Using new materials and designs, the Demon rods feature custom-designed reel fittings and 40-ton carbon blanks. It’s also worth noting that the company has slightly tweaked its highly popular Angel 2 reel, by increasing the porting in the frame and reducing overall continued on next page ...


weight to better match modern lightweight rods. The clutch housing was also altered to allowed a tool-less left-right conversion in seconds.

Ross Enters the Rod Realm

All rods are medium-fast action. All weights in each model cost the same. We’ve done some test casting, and found all models to be very forgiving and smooth. Ross’ Brad Befus noted that the company tried 27 design prototypes to land on the right taper for the 5-weight model alone. Look for the Essence series to be available this fall.

Smith Gets a Handle on Interchange

One of the hottest flyfishing news items from the recent ICAST show was Ross Worldwide’s entry into the rod market. / September 2007

Long known for its reel prowess, Ross has teamed with casting guru Mel Krieger to create a new “Essence” (playing off Krieger’s The Essence of Flycasting) series of rods that will specifically target an entry level through mid-pricepoint demographic.


Ross is using recently acquired graphite technology to build 3- , 5- , and 7-weight rods. The FS model is $99 and comes with a one-year warranty; the FC model is $149, and the FW, with slicker components including a maple reel seat, is $199. Both the FC and FW come with unconditional lifetime warranties.

Most of us have at least been tempted by different designs that involve interchangeable polarized lenses for sunglasses. The idea serves flyfishers perfectly: We start fishing on a bright afternoon, the clouds roll in, conditions change, and we want to switch from dark amber or copper lenses to a lighter gray or yellow, without fumbling for another pair. In practice, however, it’s never really clicked. Keeping those lenses from slipping, cracking when you try to install them, or falling out altogether (and washing away) has been the rub.

Playing off that introductory platform, Ross will sell certain models in complete packages. Consumers can buy an open stock version of the FS, with reel, line, and backing for $129. The Essence package in the FS will include rod, reel, tube, sock, reel cover, line, leader, and an instructional DVD for $199. The FC Essence package (with the same basic components) will retail at $249.

Smith Optics seems to have landed on a pretty slick solution. Called “Interlock” the system involves twisting the stems of the frames to open the sockets where the lenses sit ... then twisting them back to lock the lenses in place. Soon, anglers will see new models that include two lens colors, a copper or brown, and a yellow. Lenses are carbonic and polarized. Retail will be $139-149, which is consistent with other models.

Not a bad deal at all, considering the consumer gets, in effect, two sunglasses in one. When we twisted and pulled on them, the system seemed rock solid. As with other Smith polarized products, they are guaranteed for life.

Simms Launches Spring 2008 Lineup Simms Fishing Products is marking 15 years of partnership with W.L. Gore & Associates (which led to production of the first breathable GORE-TEX waders in the U.S.) by bringing to market new wader designs that will use a new generation GORE-TEX fabric. GORE-TEX Pro Shell fabric apparently takes breathable wader design to new levels in terms of comfort and overall performance. Simms will use the new fabric in its Guide Series of waders, including new G4 Pro models, G3 Guide models, and the G3 Guide Convertible Pant. Simms also will use GORE-TEX Pro Shell in its G4 Pro Jacket. Simms is launching four new boot styles for 2008 as well, all of which are designed to be lighter, and improve overall durability and fit. Several models will feature high abrasionresistant mesh from Schoeller. In addition, the company says it plans to expand its line of popular 3XDRY clothing, offer new base layer products, and a wider array of products that specifically target female anglers.

Scientific Anglers Smells Blood in the Water When 3M people spend two years tinkering in a lab (and on water) to solve a challenge, well … they solve it. Expect something special in fly line evolution this fall with Scientific Anglers’ new Sharkskin Precision Textured line series. These textured lines (engineered to actually mimic natural properties, like a shark’s skin) will be available in WF, 3-8F, in all-purpose trout tapers. SA fly line design engineer Brice Richards and his

team have been working on this project for two years. Now, using the company’s microreplication process, SA is ready to bring these lines to market. Angling Trade has heard some feedback on the prototypes, though the project has been kept under wraps in advance of the FFR show in Denver. The lines are extremely high floating, and they also apparently help to increase line speed and overall distance.

Imagine weighted woolly buggers and other streamers that sink as if wrapped with lead wire, patterned on a lead-free hook. BossTin also offers an array of non-toxic beads for nymph patterns. We had a chance to test-tie with a few prototypes, and they actually made

the process of building streamers less cumbersome. And yes, they sink, as advertised. Kudos to BossTin for a sensible solution to an environmental issue all anglers should keep in mind. continued on next page ...

Trivia: Do you know what conventional tackle company started out as the Zero Hour Bomb Company, and produced its first reel prototype as a spool inside a Stag beer can in 1949? See for the answer.

BossTin Weighs in with LeadFree Tying Hooks

11 / September 2007

The lead-free movement is gaining steam as many states have implemented no-lead restrictions. BossTin has long been working with lead alternatives for anglers, from stylers (cylindrical weights) to split shot, even jigheads for use in bass and warmwater environments. At FFR the company will unveil a novel new concept that makes perfect sense: Weighted hooks made with non-toxic (bismuth) alloys that can be used for fly tying.


Thingamabobber Strike Indicators Get Real

Petzl Creates Tactikka XP Headlamp for Anglers

Coming Soon to Your Shop?

Finally, someone has called a strike indicator what it really is—a bobber. Or, at least, a “Thingamabobber.” This new design from WestWater Products uses trapped air technology, and was inspired by western guides who use small balloons as strike indicators for extra buoyancy and sensitivity. We gave them a test, and they do ride high, they seem very sensitive, and they’re easy to cast. Unlike balloons, they’re durable, easy to fasten, and a packet only costs a few bucks. The Thingamabobber comes in a variety of colors and ¾” and 1” diameters.

Winston Unveils a New Rod / September 2007

New from Winston for 2008 will be a Boron II-MX Rod series. Built to maximize both power and distance, the rods will cater to anglers who fish in challenging windy, environs (saltwater or freshwater) and throw heavy sinking lines, large flies, etc. The rods will sell for between $655 and $715, and are available in four-piece models, 5- through 12-weights. They are made in Montana and come with an unconditional lifetime warranty.


Aficionados of the evening hatch might want to check out the new Tactikka XP headlamp from Petzl. Its oversized, high-output 1-watt LED with three lighting levels is much brighter and shoots a light beam farther than “clusters” of multiple LEDs found in other LED headlamps. The “boost mode” is so bright it rivals halogen bulb headlamps and illuminates out to 50 yards. It also features a red wide-angle lens that protects an angler’s night vision, thus he/she can tie on flies in the dark, switch off the light, and still see what’s going on. (Without a red lens, most people would be night-blind for 20 minutes or more.) Its most utilitarian features: It is submersible to 10 feet and has a 120-hour battery life. MSRP is under $50.

Highland Mills Raises Cane The Highland Mills Rod Co. (formerly the Tea Stick Rod Co.) has launched three distinct lines of productionbased bamboo rods that offer classic feel, aesthetics, and performance, at a lower pricepoint. The Company’s Original Series offers affordable bamboo options, while the Signature Series incorporates American-made components with classic tapers. After testing in Colorado, we took a shine to the American Series (retail $1299), which features hand-split cane, hollow butt, and all-American components. The American Series is available in 3- , 4- , and 5-weight models, and come with two tip sections.

The “Undercover Angler” You won’t know who they are, when they visit, or what they have to say … until we print their reports right here. Angling Trade is going to borrow a great concept from our friends at SHOT Business: For every issue, we’re going to send a consumer into a fly shop, and have them report on the total experience, from the service, to the atmosphere, to the inventory, to prices. Doing so in the shooting sports environment has really helped SHOT Business convey honest, candid insights that help its readers improve their businesses. After all, this is the purest form of consumer research; we aren’t sending ringers or insiders, we’re sending customers. In fact, we’ve already done a trial run. Here’s what real customer David Hill of Denver had to say when he recently visited a fly shop in his metro area: “I went in, and it was a nice store … seemed to have a good supply of gear … the shelves were neatly organized, and they had a good selection of different brands. They had a board with fly recommendations that seemed to be updated. I went in looking for a number of different things. The young man behind the counter greeted me when I came in, acknowledged I was there, but then sat back down behind the computer and started sorting through E-mails or something. After about 10 minutes, I got frustrated. I still bought a couple dozen

flies, but I left. I was ready to spend a couple hundred dollars, but I spent about $40. Guys like that shouldn’t complain when I go off to Bass Pro to buy a rod or a reel. I didn’t, but I might.” Don’t worry. We’ll make it a policy when a shop gets a “C” grade or worse, not to reveal its name or exact location. We don’t want to embarrass anyone. Conversely, when the shop hits a home run, we will single you out for a job well done. In either case, we’re going to get the straight scoop from the consumer on what worked, what didn’t and why. That’s info that everyone can learn from. Stay tuned for our next issue … our undercover angler is already on the job, somewhere in America.

Jarden Goes Fishing By Will Rice

Jarden announced plans to acquire Pure Fishing and K2 Inc. in April of 2007. Jarden Corporation is probably best known as the

So what is Jarden up to and is there a master plan to take over the fishing universe as we know it today? How does it view the traditional angling market vs. the demands of flyfishing consumers? Is Jarden going to try to replicate the Coleman business model and simply bring more low cost fishing equipment brands to big box stores like Target, Wal-Mart, Bass Pro Shops and others? Or, does Jarden plan to leverage its combined research-and-design budgets and go head-to-head with some of the smaller niche equipment manufacturers? The company is not saying at this time. At a media event during the recent ICAST trade show in Las Vegas (July 11), Tom Bedell, chairman of Pure Fishing (left), declined to elaborate on future plans, stating that regulatory issues prohibited him or the company from forecasting or discussing strategy until the acquisitions are finalized and implemented. This is not likely to occur sooner than Q4 2007. Angling Trade did receive a press release quoting Bedell: “Jarden’s expertise in growing leading brands and access to capital will build upon the expertise and innovation we have at Pure Fishing. We also are extremely proud to partner with Coleman under the banner of Jarden Outdoor Solutions.” Contrary to the bullish comments in Jarden’s press releases regarding future opportunities, a report released in June 2007, by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had a more sobering outlook at the fishing market. This study indicated that the total number of anglers in the United States has dropped 12 percent between 2001 and 2006. This represents five million fewer anglers on the water over this five-year period. If the number of people fishing has declined 12 percent over this

relatively short timeframe, does Jarden see something in the angling market that others equipment manufacturers do not? Or is this the right time to go bargain hunting in a soft market? Whether or not Jarden scores high marks with consumers and Wall Street via its market strategy and these acquisitions, or simply falls short, will be better understood in the months and years to come. Sink or swim? We’ll have to wait and see. Count on Angling Trade to continue chasing the story, and we will publish a follow-up in our next issue.

Media Moronics In every issue of Angling Trade we will highlight one spectacular example of how out-of-touch certain members of the mainstream media are when it comes to issues related to flyfishing, and/or outdoor sports in general. We invite you to send your nominations to This issue’s “Media Moronics” Award goes to Steve Tuttle of Newsweek, who opened a June 16, 2007, story on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service survey indicating a significant national decline in fishing and hunting participation levels: “If you’re a squirrel or a trout, we’ve got some good news for you: Americans are hunting and fishing less.” Never mind the fact that anglers who buy fishing licenses, fishing product manufacturers, fishing trade organizations, and interest groups like Trout Unlimited shoulder the vast majority of funding, lobbying, influencing, and implementing efforts to conserve, enhance, and protect watersheds and fisheries in this country. A severe decline in angler participation would, in fact, be devastating to trout, as well as other species. *See our report on the highlights of the USFWS survey in this section. / September 2007

If the $400 million acquisition of Pure Fishing can be likened to dipping a toe into the water of the angling market, Jarden Corporation (NYSE: JAH) made a proverbial cannonball splash in announcing its planned $1.2 billion acquisition of K2 Inc. These two acquisitions will combine angling products such as Penn, Pflueger, Shakespeare, Fenwick, Berkley, Hodgman, Trilene, Stren, and Abu Garcia all under a single corporate roof known as Jarden Outdoor Solutions.

parent company of behemoth outdoor and camping gear manufacturer Coleman Inc. This one-two punch is a sure-fire signal of Jarden’s plan to create a complimentary outdoor market focus, with angling playing a pivotal role. It may even signal a bullish stance on the fishing industry in general.


Report From Icast By Tim Romano From July 11-13, 2007, Angling Trade joined nearly 7,000 representatives of the sportfishing industry at the 50th International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST). Yes, it was big with 1,338 booths (up six percent from 2006) and covering 350,000 square feet of the Las Vegas Convention Center. That said, my impressions were somewhat mixed—especially in the context of FFR, and the yearly suggestions that the Denver venue be switched to Vegas. On the up side, I was impressed to see more flyfishing manufacturers there than I had expected, and every major outdoor media organization in the country apparently was represented. The American Sportfishing Association ran the event with smooth precision. Still, the rumblings we picked up from a number of exhibitors mirrored those we hear in Denver. Namely, the percentage of “blue badges”—buyers—wasn’t what it had been in the past. Some credited this to the impact of big boxes having been more pronounced among conventional tackle dealers than it has been in flyfishing (there just aren’t as many independents). One conventional tackle exhibitor even lamented how nice it would be to deal in a “more insulated market, with a stronger demographic, like flyfishing.” / September 2007

In 2008, ICAST will be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, from July 1618, 2008. ICAST 2009 will be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, from July 15-17, 2009. It’s also worth noting that there is some significant momentum building around the planned Tackle Trade World Fair, scheduled for August 9-11, 2008, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. At press time, organizer Tackle Trade World noted 14

26 American firms planning to exhibit there, raising the total to 100 exhibitors from countries ranging from China to the United Kingdom.

Not-SoGreat News Gas Prices to Slow Hunting and Fishing Participation High gas prices will negatively impact fishing and hunting participation. According to a poll of 2,481 sportsmen and women conducted by and in June, 2007, over half of all anglers and 40 percent of hunters indicated rising gas prices will cause them to reduce their outdoor activities or reduce their travel distance and boat use. The rest indicated that rising fuel prices would not hinder their outdoor activity, or were not sure of the impacts. Rob Southwick, an economist and president of and HunterSurvey. com, added: “We’ve seen in past research that rising gasoline prices depress fishing license sales in many areas, but the recent increases in fuel prices are unprecedented. Many anglers and hunters gradually accept higher prices and they will return and participate as they have before. However, until the effects of higher fuel prices can be moderated via higher efficiency engines and other solutions, we may lose some hunters and anglers completely.”

More Not-SoGreat News Preliminary results of the 2006 United States Fish & Wildlife Service participation survey showed a 12 percent decrease in the number of anglers in the United States between 2001 and 2006. The total number of anglers in America is estimated to be 30 million; they spend $41 billion on fishingrelated recreation annually. Among the reasons cited: Youth preference

for video games and the Internet over playing outdoors. The full report, which involved 85,000 households, will be released in November. USFWS conducts the survey every five years. Factoid … “In a typical week, only six percent of kids aged 9-13 play outside on their own.” Source: Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.

Environment/ Conservation Winner: The Colorado Division of Wildlife The Colorado Division of Wildlife recently secured a mile and a half of the Arkansas River for a perpetual easement, using funds generated by habitat stamps. It is the first project (hopefully of many) of its kind in the state, and a direct benefit to anglers. The easement, known as the Hardeman Property, runs along both sides of the Arkansas just north of the current site of the Granite State Wildlife Area. Previously, the Hardeman section was open to public access through a shortterm lease. The availability of funds from the sale of Habitat Stamps made it possible to secure a perpetual easement to ensure public access forever. The cost of the perpetual easement was $99,000. Funds collected from the sale of the habitat stamp covered $89,000 and Trout Unlimited pitched in $10,000. The upper Arkansas River is one of the finest brown trout fisheries in Colorado. “The Hardeman property is one of the few sections of the upper Arkansas that doesn’t ice over in the winter,” said Mark Cole, the president of the

Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “TU is proud to help fund a portion of this project to keep public a very productive fishery,” Cole said. Loser: The Pacific Legal Foundation The Pacific Legal Foundation, a property rights group, is appealing a U.S. District judge’s ruling that only wild steelhead and salmon be included in fish counts that determine the health of a species and influence development opportunities. The foundation contends that hatcheryraised steelhead and/or salmon should be counted.

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In a June ruling on Trout Unlimited v. Lohn, judge John Coghenour ruled in favor of TU, essentially saying that only wild fish comprised a true picture of the overall health of a species. “Under the Endangered Species Act ... you can’t pick and choose which members of those populations you are going to count,” said Sonya Jones, a lawyer with the Pacific Legal Foundation. The Associated Press reported that Jones’ group disagreed with environmentalists who have argued there are behavior differences between the hatchery and wild steelhead.
“Behavior differences do not count under the Endangered Species Act. The offspring between a hatchery fish and a wild fish is considered wild.”

15 / September 2007

The Felt Soul team (“The Hatch,” “Running Down the Man”) have just returned from Alaska where they were producing “Red Gold.” This project covers the Bristol Bay area, and confronts the issue of the proposed Pebble Mine, a copper and gold mine near Lake Iliamna some fear would have devastating impact on one of the world’s most important fisheries.


Winners: Travis Rummel and Ben Knight of Felt Soul Media

FFR Preview

By Will Rice

Photo: WIll Rice

A cultural guide to the Mile High City / September 2007

Are you looking for something new after your shift winds down at the Fly Fishing Retailer World Trade Expo this year? Are you interested in slipping away from the fishing crowd to bask in a bit of urban anonymity and local flavor? Never had your mind blown by a bowl of green chili? Starved for late night Thai food or Chinese delivery to your hotel room? Not afraid of a 15 minute cab ride? If you have spent most of your “off ” hours in Denver hanging out between Broadway and Blake, it is time to branch out. From sushi to burgers to bail bondsmen, this assortment of local picks will give you a look at what the rest of Denver has to offer (okay … we included a few downtown Denver favorites that you shouldn’t miss, and marked them ‘DT’). 16

Local Grub Tommy’s Thai 3410 E. Colfax Ave. (303) 377-4244 Do: Go here for some of the best Thai food in Denver (not to mention affordable, if you don’t have the company’s plastic). Don’t: Say: “I like my Pad Kra Prow wicked, wicked hot …” unless you really, really mean it. El Tejado 2651 S. Broadway (303) 722-3987 Do: Go here wearing a white Stetson and dingo boots if you want to fit in and be prepared for some of Denver’s best Mexican seafood and traditional dishes. Don’t: Pick a fight in this place.* *See bail bonds

My Brother’s Bar 2376 15th St. (303) 455-9991

Do: Go here for the old school cheeseburger wrapped in wax paper. Throw caution to the wind and order the legendary JCB —possibly the best in town. Don’t: Try to poach my carp hole on the nearby South Platte … no, seriously. Great Wall 440 E. Colfax Ave. (303) 832-6611 Do: Get York City Style Chinese (all the standard favorites) delivered to your hotel room. Don’t: Dine in and expect not be accosted by a Colfax critter. Mici (DT) 1531 Stout St. (303) 629-6424 Do: Go here and order the Molto Carne Calzone. Don’t: Pass this place up for lunch.

Lola 1575 Boulder St. (720) 570-8686 Do: Go here for Monday night happy hour (4:006:30) for $2 tacos and $5 shot-and-a-beer specials. You will swear you are fresh off a flat in Ascension Bay. Don’t: Forget that Lola was recently deemed one of the Top five places to drink tequila in the U.S. by Food

and Wine magazine (after reviewing their menu for the exact number of individual labels I lost count at 100+).

Cocktails Uptown Tavern 538 E. 17th Ave. (303) 861-3037 Do: Go here for the duck pin bowling, foosball, local Capitol Hill feel and best shot at finding a Denver local of the opposite sex who is out late on a “school night.” Don’t: Spend too long on the corner of Pearl and 17th. Pints Pub 221 W. 13th Ave. (720) 932-1700 Do: Go here if you’re looking for the largest selection of single malt whisky this side of

Sancho’s Broken Arrow 741 E. Colfax Ave. (303) 832-5288 Do: Go here if you want to groove out to a juke box full of great Grateful Dead bootlegs and shoot some stick with a bevy of patchouli-wearin’ locals. Don’t: Go here if you don’t like the Dead, Phish, Gov’t Mule, or Widespread Panic or if you mind drinking next to a Colfax porn shop.

Go here if you want to groove out to a juke box full of great Grateful Dead bootlegs and shoot some stick with a bevy of patchouli-wearin’ locals. Edinburgh, Scotland. Don’t: Show your friends the flies you tied after drinking scotch at Pints. Apaloosa Grill (DT) 535 16th St. (at Welton) (720)932-1700 Do: Go here any night after 9:00 p.m. for live music, good drink specials and an always-stiff pour. Don’t: Go here with an attitude. continued on next page ...

17 / September 2007

The Hard Rock Café (DT) 500 16th St. #120 (303) 623-3191 Do: Not go here. Don’t: Let someone talk you into going here.

Sushi Hai 3600 W. 32nd Ave. – D (720) 855-0888 Do: Go here if you like technically creative sushi rolls, super fresh sashimi, and a hipster environment. Don’t: Miss the nearby Coral Room or the Swim Club for a cocktail before or after.

FFR Preview

Gentlemen’s Clubs

(Ed. Note: It has come to our attention that certain FFR attendees have been known to visit such establishments in the past, and while we do not condone this behavior, we asked Mr. Rice to offer tame insights.) Shotgun Willie’s 490 S. Colorado Blvd. Do: Go here for the professional talent and friendly girls. Don’t: Touch the professional talent and friendly girls.* *see bail bonds PT’s Gold Club 4451 E. Virginia Ave. Glendale Do: Go here for a screening of the ‘The Full Monty.’ Don’t: Mmmmm ... You should probably not go here. / September 2007

Diamond Cabaret (DT) 1222 Glenarm Place (303) 571-4242 Do: Go here because it is the best club in walking distance to the Convention Center … and it is the only place on this list where you can get a shoeshine. Don’t: Forget about the tasty lunch buffet that runs from 11:00am-2:00pm and costs a meager $4.95! This deal is easy on your eyes and your wallet! La Boheme Gentlemen’s Cabaret (DT) 1443 Stout St. Do: Go here because it is the closest club to the Convention Center… and only if there is a long line at the Diamond. 18

Don’t: Go here if you want to see hot chicks … actually we’re not sure you should go here at all.


Late Night ‘Soak it Up’ Diner Eats

Metro Taxi (303) 333-3333

Pete’s Kitchen (24 Hours) 1962 E. Colfax Ave. (303) 321-3139 Do: Go here late night for the supreme breakfast burrito. Don’t: Be afraid of a greasy spoon.

Also Consider …

Denver Diner (24 Hours) 740 W. Colfax Ave. 303-825-5443 Do: Go here for breakfast, lunch and dinner menu served 24/7. Don’t: Walk out on your bill.* *see bail bonds

*Bail Bonds

Bail Bonds Anytime 1321 Delaware St. (303) 825-2245 Do: Have faith that your buddies also have this trusty list in their wallets. If you missed the late night eats and ended up in the klink, they’ll be able to get you back to your booth early enough in the morning that you don’t get fired. Don’t: Skip out on your bail and end up on an episode of “DOG the Bounty Hunter. “ Unconfirmed rumor has it the Duane Lee “Dog” Chapman once worked here … or not.

Yellow Cab (303) 777-777

Cherry Cricket 2641 E. 2nd Ave. (303) 322-7666 Do: Go here for the locally acclaimed cricket burger, frings, and foos table. Don’t: Go here and try to hang out in Cherry Creek for an entire evening—leave after the burger. Tell your cabby to head elsewhere— stat. Mexico City Lounge 2115 Larimer St. (303) 296-0563 Do: Go here for the hard taco plate with a side of green chili. Don’t: Go here if you are taking any type of prescription medications that warns against mixing with greasy tortillas. Benny’s Restaurant & Tequila Bar 301 E. 7th Ave. (303) 894-0788 Do: Go here for the tacos el carbon and huevos brunch served until 2:00 p.m. Don’t: Go here and expect to be wowed by the tequila menu. Samba Room (DT) 1460 Larimer St. (720) 956-1701 Do: Go here and order the Paella and a pitcher of Mojitos. Don’t: Go here and try to smoke a big fat cigar at the bar (I know it is tempting).

Patsy’s 3651 Navajo St. (303) 477-8910 Do: Go here for Sopranosstyle atmosphere, homemade noodles, and old school Italian favorites. Don’t: Wander off too far into the neighborhood. Carmine’s on Penn. 92 S. Pennsylvania St. (303) 777-6443 Do: Go here and order anything off the menu. Don’t: Try to eat an entire plate by yourself. Pho 79 781 S. Federal Blvd - B (303) 922-2930 Do: Go here for the best Vietnamese noodle bowl in town. Especially if you like tripe, rare brisket, tendon, and a mountain of basil, dandelion sprigs, lemon, and whole jalapenos. Don’t: Go if you are trying to impress clients with ambiance, music, or view of Denver. Nallen’s Irish Pub (DT) 1429 Market St. (303) 572-0667 Do: Go here if you’d like to relax in a pub and partake in a perfectly poured Guinness, colorful conversation, and a shot of Jameson’s. Don’t: Go here if you’ve recently been to an AA meeting. The Irish Snug 1201 E. Colfax Ave. #100 (303) 839-1394 Do: Go here for the hightraffic Colfax patio, another Guinness, and the bar food

(shepherd’s pie, lamb stew, and waffle fry nachos). Don’t: Go here if close patio encounters with Colfax dwellers makes you uncomfortable. Sam’s Number Three (DT - Open until 10:00 p.m. most nights) 1500 Curtis St. (303) 534-1927 Do: Go here for the best diner in walking distance from the Convention Center. Don’t: Miss the Greek omelet or the supreme breakfast burrito. at

V i s i t w w w. h at c h o u t d o o r s . c o m f o r c o m p l e t e s p e c s o r c a l l t o l l f r e e 8 7 7.6 3 4 . 4 3 4 3 . Ava i l a b l e at d e a l e r s i n t h e k n ow.

19 / September 2007

M o d e l s ava i l a b l e f r o m 3 t h r o u g h 12 l i n e w e i g h t s.

FFR Preview

The 2007 Fly Fishing Retailer World Trade Expo EXPO DATES & HOURS Sunday, September 16 . . . . . 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday, September 17 . . . . . 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, September 18 . . . . . 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. EXHIBIT HALL LOCATION Colorado Convention Center 700 14th Street, Denver APPOINTMENTS / EXHIBITOR HOURS Exhibitors scheduling meetings with buyers or media prior to or after show hours are allowed in the building during the following times: Sunday, September 16 . . . . . 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday, September 17 . . . . . 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, September 18 . . . . . 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The hall will be cleared at 7:00 p.m. Sunday and Monday, NO EXCEPTIONS. (For all pre-show appointments, an exhibitor must meet the individual/ group at Main Registration and escort them to the exhibitor’s booth.) BUSINESS CENTER A full service business center is located in Lobby B of the Colorado Convention Center. Faxing, copying, computer services, and small package shipping are a few of the services offered. The business center will accept faxes at (720) 904-0796. / September 2007

BADGES Exhibitors/Attendees must wear their show badges at all times while in the exhibit hall. There will be a $20 charge to replace lost or forgotten badges. To avoid waiting in line, register online at or call (800) 486-2701.

CHILDREN Children under 16 are not permitted in the hall during move-in and move-out. There is no age limit during Expo hours. EVENTS AND SEMINARS SCHEDULE Sunday, September 16 7:00 AM - 09:00 AM Industry Breakfast Kick off the 2007 Fly Fishing Retailer with your industry peers and a full hot breakfast. This year’s industry breakfast will feature a preview of exciting new show elements and discuss industry-wide challenges and opportunities. 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM Workshop 1 – Competing for Share of Wallet The Real Learning Company has conducted a research project exploring the strategic marketing tactics nontraditional specialty shops have been deploying to create growth and expand their share of their customer’s wallet. Come and learn the best tactics for success. 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM The Art of Giving Great Service – How Zingerman’s Treats Customers Like Royalty ZingTrain acts as “keeper of the corporate knowledge” within the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. This workshop is on combining an innovative service philosophy with practical working systems. 1:00 PM - 02:00 PM Award Winning MerchandiZing! How Zingerman’s Creates Retail Theater This workshop will be informal and interactive, providing opportunities for discussion and hands-on practice and it promises tools, tips and techniques that can help you make your sales go up without having to spend a lot of money. 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM Industry Party Come party with industry pals at this year’s FFR 2007 Industry Party. The party is held once again at the historic Wynkoop Brewery in Lower Downtown Denver (LoDo). 
Directions: From Colorado Convention Center, walk two blocks to 16th St. and hop on the free Light Rail. Get off at Wynkoop St. (the last stop), walk two blocks on Wynkoop to 1634 18th St. continued on next page ...

20 / September 2007


FFR Preview

Monday, September 17 8:00 AM - 9:00 AM What Keeps You Up at Night? For over a decade Bret Gardner was a manufacturer, retailer, lodge developer, outfitter and flyfishing guide. 
This seminar is geared to owners of closely held manufacturing and retailing companies in the flyfishing industry. 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM Workshop 2 – Selecting and Growing Sales Stars Another workshop presented by The Real Learning Company and based on research funded by many of the world’s leading sales organizations. 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Aquatic Nuisance/Invasive Species – The Next “Catch and Release” Movement Joe Starinchak hosts a free lunch seminar focused on preventing the spread of aquatic nuisance/invasive species. 1:00PM - 2:00 PM Two-handed Casting with Dec Hogan 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM Get Out: Growing Your Customer Base in Your Community David Phares and Mario Mangiamele show you how to get out of your shop and tap the vast opportunities for customer base growth though outreach programs to retirement communities, local resorts, service clubs, local outdoor shows, schools, and parks departments.

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Proactive No Pressure Selling; A Guide to Improving Your Retail Sales Staff Dean Taylor explains how to give your employees the skills necessary to handle all of your prospects and existing customers, and ensure that all of their needs are met when they visit your store. EXPO HIGHLIGHT Simms Fishing Products and The Drake magazine are proud to present the Flyfishing Photo Gallery showcasing the finest photographers in the field. The Simms/The Drake magazine Flyfishing Photo Gallery will display 16 to 24 of the premier flyfishing photos from the past several years at the top of the escalator at the entrance to the Denver Convention Center during the Expo. The photos will be auctioned off throughout the course of the show via a silent auction. All proceeds will be donated to a worthy fish-related conservation organization. Any photos not auctioned off will be donated to conservation organizations to help support their fundraising efforts. at ANGLERS_1X4_04FLY 11/20/03 *Source:

10:16 AM

Page 1

Fisherman’s Gadgets for Lake or Stream

Tuesday, September 18 / September 2007

7:45 AM - 8:45 AM Retailer Roundtable Always a lively conversation, the roundtable has been one of the standing highlights of the show for several years. Check it out for the straight “what people really think” scoop on the state of the industry. 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM Internet Marketing: Explode Your Business Online This session is presented by D. Roger Maves, producer and host of “Ask About Fly Fishing” – Internet radio. 
Here’s what you’ll learn at this presentation: what Internet marketing is, what works and what doesn’t, how to get your website listed in the search engines, online vs. offline marketing, and much more.

15353 E. Hinsdale Cir., Unit F Centennial, CO 80112

Your one-stop supplier for over 425 different streamside gadgets and terminal tackle. We offer a full inventory and selection of forceps, scissors, retractors, nippers, strike indicators, split shot, and many other accessories. We are a full stocking distributor of Loon Products. Any gadget on a river you may need, we will have or we will find it.

Please give us a call: 303-690-0477 or fax: 303-690-0472 E-mail: Nippers



Strike Indicators

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4-piece rods in 9ft #7 to 9ft #12 weight options. Reels in WF7 to WF12 options. Lifetime warranty.

23 / September 2007

Light and well-balanced in the hand, narrow in profile to cut through the wind with an anodized aluminum reel seat, the Zane rod is a perfectly evolved predator for the saltwater environment. Especially when balanced with its aerospace-grade aluminum reel (giving you a huge strength-to-weight ratio), carbon-fibre disc-drag braking power (even under water) and easy maintenance.


by Charles Fishman, $15 in paperback, (Penguin Books, 2006)

Depending on your point of view, Wal-Mart is either the greatest thing since night baseball, or a scourge on American society. From the consumer’s point-of-view, the savings are the blessing. Thanks to Wal-Mart, author Charles Fishman explains, we’re no longer paying for things like cardboard boxes around deodorant sticks, and the light bulbs we paid $2.19 a piece for five years ago, now cost less than a buck. It’s no wonder that savings-hungry consumers flock to Wal-Mart or that Wal-Mart has blossomed into the largest economic force in America. “Each year, 93 percent of American households shop at least once at Wal-Mart … sales are equal to $2060.36 for every U.S. household.” And to underscore how Wal-Mart is driven by the high-volume, low margin paradigm, Fishman points out that, on that $2060.36, Wal-Mart is content with a profit margin of a mere $75. Who, of you, wants to sell $2K in merchandise to clear $75? There is no denying that, in ascending to amazing heights, WalMart has left in its wake thousands 24

of destroyed independent retail businesses that were unwilling or unable to play that game. Dealing with (or working for) Wal-Mart means playing by the company’s stringent rules, which also means you absorb the profit “sacrifice.” This book is alarming … fascinating … impeccably researched … and ultimately very candid and fair. I’ll admit, I’d given up “economics” books early in college (even when they were required reading), and I borrowed a copy of this title only after a good friend prodded me to the point of submission. I have since bought and handed off several copies, insisting to friends and family members, “You have to check this out.” While flyfishing, admittedly, is not in the crosshairs of Wal-Mart (at the most, it’s an aisle in the store, and Fishman eludes to the fact that Wal-Mart’s Achilles’ heel is aisleby-aisle competition), it strikes me that, as we all try to grapple with the “big box” issue, what makes a better lesson than understanding the granddaddy of them all?

There are specific anecdotes in this book relating to specialty independent retailers, and the companies that either stayed true to them, or abandoned them to the Wal-Mart influence. I was particularly intrigued by Chapter 5, “The Man Who Said No to WalMart,” which details how Snapper, Inc. (lawn mowers, now part of Simplicity) stuck by the sides of its independent retailers in the face of a 20-percent business loss. Pressed on the question of whether independent lawn equipment dealers could survive the pressures that killed many small, independent hardware stores, former CEO Jim Wier said: “That is a legitimate question and a legitimate concern. I think we have a part in that outcome. Can Snapper, as a major supplier, continue to supply (the independents), with great product, and a product different than you can buy at Wal-Mart?” That’s a question many of us (manufacturers to themselves, and retailers to their manufacturers) might also ask, because that’s what the big box question boils down to. After reading this, I wondered if the shop owner who complains about the big box influence on his business might think twice about buying all his guide lunches at Costco.You’ll understand why that’s a fair question 20 pages in. Parts of this book will inspire you, and others will terrify you. But, in the end you’ll come to understand that a lot of the same issues we, as an industry, are talking about— overseas manufacturing, volume discounting, niche marketing, service-based differentiation— aren’t isolated topics. They’re par t of the same picture. at Kirk Deeter / September 2007



Monster Next Door By Charlie Meyers

The beast sitting across the table didn’t look so terribly ominous. No fangs or claws, not even a menacing growl. “We don’t want to be the 800pound gorilla,” said Fred Neal, looking in his casual garb for all the world like an ordinary human and sounding like he meant it. / September 2007

Neal is director of fishing and marine products for Cabela’s, the biggest, baddest outdoors big box on the planet. His is the company that gains more revenue from the overall sale of outdoor gear than any other. More to the point, Cabela’s currently sells as much fly-related gear as all the specialty shops in the country combined, a balance that becomes more tilted each year.

What started with two brothers selling flies from their basement has evolved to a mega-store empire.

With 18 stores scattered across the country at the end of 2006, the company will open eight more this year, coming soon to three or four city blocks near you. These new stores are notable for geographic diversity: Hazelwood, Mo.; Gonzales, La.; Hoffman Estates, Ill.; East Hartford, Ct.; Hammond, Ind.; Reno, Nev.; Post Falls, Idaho and Lacey, Wa. “We do a good job identifying our markets,” Neal said. “Our direct sales (catalog) tell where those are.”


As he says this, Neal is seated in Cabela’s corporate headquarters in Sidney, Neb., a 3-story facility the size of several football fields. It houses 1,200 corporate employees, 7 complete photographic studios and an in-house television editing studio. Another 11,000 people toil at various warehouses and at those 18 showrooms, a figure that will grow exponentially with the eight additions. Look closely at all the Cabela’s locations and you’ll find lots of people—and not a few fly shops—nearby. All occupy strategic positions in a grand plan of continenthopping that finds Cabela’s locked in high-wire expansion battle with Bass Pro Shops, the other really scary player in what has become a national stampede toward mass merchandising. In their breakneck battle to gain dibs on the most juicy outdoor markets in the country, the two giants have been opening big boxes at a rate that might make Wal-Mart blush. Bass Pro currently has 40 big boxes, with another 21 on the planning board. If you’ve also been watching the sine-wave action of Cabela’s stock, hoping that such mass expansion somehow might cause the beast to falter, perhaps even implode, save your energy. The cost of all this growth is more than offset by a revenue mill grounded in the world’s largest catalog sales operation and an equally impressive bank. “We’re reporting record earnings and revenue,” Neal declared. “We’ve never had a down year. It’s the bank and direct sales that keep us in the game.” If raw numbers are your meat, chew on this: The total 2006 revenue for Cabela’s Incorporated was $2.1 billion. That’s with a large “B,” up $300 million from the previous year. A breakdown shows that $1.1 billion came from catalog sales, $820 million from retail sales and another $137 million from financial services.

You can use your Cabela’s Visa card to buy the groceries or a new TV set while earning points toward product purchases. No matter how fast Cabela’s chooses to move, expansion isn’t likely to break the bank.

values are sound and whose ethics are solid.”

Since Bass Pro is a privately held company, a precise comparison can’t be made. “Industry analysts tell us our catalog and Internet operations are much bigger,” said Neal, a 23-year veteran who began as a buyer when the firm had just 4 of them. Apart from the fact that Cabela’s went public in June, 2004 as a way to get the necessary capital to stay in the game, the two companies bear dramatic resemblance. Both were started in small towns—Cabela’s in Chappell, Neb., Bass Pro in Springfield, Mo., by outdoor enthusiasts who remain active in operations. Founder/owner Johnny Morris continues at the helm of Bass Pro. Jim Cabela, 67, stays actively involved in day-to-day operations. Brother Dick, 70, participates as a company ambassador. continued on next page ...

27 / September 2007

Not only does Cabela’s issue its own credit card, it processes them through its own bank, an arrangement that sets it apart from the crowd and accounts for that added $137 million in revenue. In keeping with the corporate slogan of “World’s Foremost Oufitter,” the financial arm naturally is called “World’s Foremost Bank.”

“These are people whose


Monster Next Door continued ... The history of the firm, detailed in a 2001 book, Cabela’s: World’s Foremost Outfitter, written by David Cabela, Dick’s son, tells a classic story of two Depression-era brothers who began by selling flies for $1 a dozen, postage paid, from the basement of the family home. Apart from its tale of hardscrabble beginning and dramatic growth, the book is notable for two things: David Cabela appears on the dust jacket dressed as a flyfisherman and the introduction is by Chuck Yeager, who praises the firm as a pioneer in shipping products to servicemen

overseas—an early manifestation of the catalog compulsion to ship anything, anywhere, anytime. “These are people whose values are sound and whose ethics are solid,” Yeager gushed. Others apparently agree. In 1999, Fortune magazine named Cabela’s one of the top 100 companies to work for. Conversations with employees at headquarters in Sidney, Neb., just 30 miles from the ancestral home, reflect an uncommon dedication and loyalty. “Most of the people who work here (the firm employs approximately 1,200 at its 120,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in Sidney) are from Nebraska, but we increasingly attract outside applicants who simply want the experience of working for this company,” said James Powell of the corporate communications staff.

It’s from this solid platform that Cabela’s launched a transcontinental expansion that has specialty shops shaking in their waders. While incursions by Bass Pro Shops, Sportsmen’s Warehouse, Gander Mountain and other mass merchandisers clearly is cause for concern, it’s Cabela’s that causes the most panic. “Perhaps its because we got our start as a fly company,” Neal suggested. Or that Cabela’s seems to truly understand that part of the business better than its big-box rivals. Monte Malzahn, product manager for flyfishing, recently concluded a six-year term on the AFFTA Board of Directors, a posting that substantiates Cabela’s immersion in the fly sport and the industry’s recognition of that fact. When it comes to fine tuning its market, Cabela’s leaves little to chance. “We go to the various lakes and streams in an area and to the local sports shows to get the flavor of the customer,” Neal said. “Each of our stores is individual and regional, with different dioramas, flavor and gear. “For example, flyfishing will be huge in Denver,” Neal said of a scheduled 2008 opening in which his firm will go headto-head with Bass Pro. The location also is indicative of Cabela’s tenacity during a 2-year sparring match with suburban officials over a highway interchange in which it refused to be bullied. / September 2007

When they’re not poking through the bushes or battling bureaucrats, don’t be surprised if Cabela’s sleuths show up in your shop—unannounced, of course. “Most are easy to comparison shop,” Neal said, expressing a general disdain for the lack of awareness certain retailers show to those who pass through their doors. “You could take pictures and they’d never notice you.”



33 eason S

The Cabela strategy in a new market is to pay close attention to what store managers and sales associates recommend, information that may be more personal and accurate than competing shops might like. Neal explains things this way: “When we go into an area, some individual shops close their doors. The people who work there come to work for us. We get the benefit of their expertise. I think we have a more knowledgeable staff in charge of our fly departments than any other retailer.” Asked how he’d like his fly operation to be perceived, Neal spoke straight to the point. “We certainly don’t want the reputation of being just a discounter, of being a bubba organization or just playing at flyfishing.” At the same time, he insists it’s not Cabela’s aim to put fly shops out of business, stressing that the Big Box can’t possibly carry all the patterns or fine tune merchandise they way they can.

recommendations, unwilling to place its reputation in someone else’s hands—that service fixation again. Does the arrival of a Cabela’s in the neighborhood signal a death knell for specialty shops? Certainly that has been the case for many. But others have survived—even thrived—with tenacity, key adjustments or even some form of cooperative arrangement with the beast. Survival demands a degree of belttightening and more attention to detail, particularly where it concerns service.


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Neal puts the challenge in complete perspective. “We want to keep the competition on its toes, but we don’t want to destroy anyone. If we succeed, it’s because there was room for us.” at

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“There’s definitely a place for these shops.”

Jan. 17-20

“We’re not afraid to tell people we don’t have something and refer them to the specialty shop.” If you don’t believe a company as big as Cabela’s can score with service think again. Business Week magazine recently named it among the top 25 service company, an accolade that in part tracks directly to founder Jim Cabela.

Perhaps the most obvious arena in which Cabela’s leaves plenty of wiggle room is with guide service. While the firm operates an expansive global travel arm, it neither provides local guide service nor makes specific

Jan. 24-27

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“He reads every single customer complaint, then sends it off to a team to make it right,” Neal said.



Media Matters

which site you’re interested in, are generally wary of posters pushing a particular brand.

Marketers Beware: The Time to Adapt is Upon Us By Tom Bie Editor’s note: He won’t say it, but I will. Anyone who has read The Drake in the last few years knows full well that Tom Bie has tapped into something special. Not just a fad, or a cute angle, his magazine cuts to the “soul” of flyfishing. He knows where we’re going. Now, as content director of, he’s also showing us how to get there. We asked for his perspective on the “new media scene” in the U.S. market. His candor might shock you, but we weren’t surprised at all. Back in the good old days of media buying—circa 2001 or so—anyone looking to promote their flyfishing gear or services had a few basic

Today, among the blogs and vlogs and magazines and message boards and podcasts and videos and events and a seemingly endless supply of crappy TV shows, how’s a media buyer to choose? We’ve got blogs about blogs. And the emerging flyfishing film scene is developing faster than you can say, “Check out my teaser!” It’s hard to get your head around it all, in part because there are inherent strengths and weaknesses to each outlet. Take website forums, also known as message boards or bulletin boards. They’re tough outlets to begin with because you have to invest a substantial amount

Then there’s the influencer— authenticity vs. beginner—reach issue. I own a magazine called The Drake, which has a fairly active forum on its website. A good percentage of knowledgeable guides and anglers are among the 2,500 or so active members, so a beginner coming onto the site should be able to learn any bit of information he/she ever dreamed of learning. Problem is, if this beginner asks a simple, innocent question about strike indicators, he/she runs the risk of being ridiculed into oblivion and possibly traumatized for life., on the other hand—a site I just recently took over as content director—has the opposite problem. It has fantastic numbers for first-time visitors, almost solely due to its great name. But hardcore anglers are rare on its message board because they’d have to put up with an almost daily dose of “What color reel should I get?” or “How deep should I wade into the river?” The good news is that many of these new marketing options, especially on the digital front, present far superior methods of measurement than ever before. But you’ve still got to know where to look for the numbers, and you’ve got to know what those numbers mean when you find them.

choices on where to invest their marketing dollars: point-of-purchase displays, a trade or consumer show, or maybe an ad in one of the 700 flyfishing magazines. 30

of time lurking just to figure out the make-up of that “community”—the favorite branding buzzword of marketers everywhere. And these communities, regardless of

Secondly, because of almost limitless online options, it’s easier than ever before to come up with and implement new promotional campaigns. Consequently, if I were looking to hire a marketing director/ media buyer in this modern age, I would want that person to have two seemingly contradictory traits: An endless supply of original, creative ideas, and a healthy appreciation for analytics. I’d also want monthly

Google analytics pages posted on the wall, and someone who understood the meaning of Web 2.0. If we were investing in print publications, I’d want newsstand sell-through rates memorized. If I were on the other side of the equation, and wanted to produce a flyfishing magazine (who doesn’t?), I would stop thinking of myself as being in the publishing business and start realizing that I’m in the media business. If, say, Union Pacific had realized that they were in the shipping industry and not in the railroad industry, then we’d all be receiving packages today from Union Pacific instead of from Fed Ex. (I stole that analogy from somewhere, but I can’t remember where.)

. y a w a t o g t a th e n o e th e B

All that said, mountains of analytics and crunched numbers still can’t measure that most intriguing of marketing genius— buzz. Are people talking about you or aren’t they? Know that producing a single viral anything online about your product or service—an ad, a video, a story—can be ten times more meaningful than a larger staff or a bigger marketing budget. It doesn’t need to be fancy or wellfunded. It just needs to be good. The worst problem facing any product— magazine or mansier—is having no reason to exist.Yet sometimes a niche is filled that nobody even knew was empty. The recent film work of Felt Soul Media, AEG Media, Howard Films, and R. A. Beattie, among others, has revealed what the showcasing of new ideas can mean to an industry.




Good buzz and creative approaches can lead to substantive sales and market growth. But will manufacturers—and retailers—recognize and adapt to the “new media” of flyfishing? Some will. Some, in fact, already have. Others will not, and will be left wondering, ”What happened?” So keep an open mind. Understand that the media realm is not what it was, even 10 years ago. You can find success by understanding the new ins and outs of how media matters. Not doing so may render you a relic of those “good old days.” at


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AFFTA Announces First Consumer Show By Ben Romans

In an effort to pump new blood into the sport of flyfishing, AFFTA is organizing a consumer show—but not without some controversy. / September 2007

One of my favorite scenes from the movie O’ Brother Where Art Thou? takes place in a well-todo restaurant somewhere in the Deep South. The character Governor Pappy O’Daniel is running for re-election and despite the efforts of his lethargic campaign team and apathetic son, the polls show him losing. Slamming his fist on the table he yells “Languishing! We need is a shot inna arm! You hear me boys? Inna goddamn arm!”


For some reason, I can’t help but think of the current state of the flyfishing industry without thinking of that scene. There’s no doubt a variety of factors over the last few years (gas prices, travel restrictions, a slow economy, and possibly a generation gap) has caused the number of flyfishing participants and popularity of the sport to taper off from its golden days in the 1990s. Just take a look at the number of fly shops closing their doors in the last ten years or the declining fishing-license sales nationwide to see what I’m talking about. What we need is a shot in the arm.

The confrontation between Furimsky and AFFTA led to the formation of the United Trade Association for Fly Fishing (UTAFF). Furimsky says his goal is to create a trade organization where decisions are made democratically by members as opposed to an elected board.

The American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA), the sole organization in charge of promoting the flyfishing sport and industry, is a firsthand witness to our “slump” and is trying to do something about it. In early January, 2008, AFFTA will organize and promote its first consumer flyfishing show in Denver, Colorado. Their goal: to promote the flyfishing sport and industry through a different medium. The idea to convert from a trade-focused organization to one that also dabbles in the consumer market is not a new one. Robert Ramsay, President of AFFTA, says there is no doubt the organization is mimicking the move made by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) a few years ago. And like the debate over AFFTA’s new consumer show, the ASA was presented with a mixed reaction from both its constituents. Since then, many of those that were against the ASA entering a consumer market have come to embrace the shows that continually increase in attendance.

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“We are looking at this as a way to promote the sport and industry and recruit new anglers at the same time,” Ramsay said. “This is our chance to advance the mission of AFFTA through a different avenue. We want to attract the new flyfishing participants so we’re attempting to do something that’s more hands-on and unique than has ever been done before.” Ramsay went on to say AFFTA plans to hold the event at an extremely spacious venue (the Colorado Convention Center), include several large casting ponds, create a ‘carnival-like atmosphere,’ and allow attendees to have direct contact with angling celebrities and key industry personnel they may never be able to meet otherwise. His goal is to make the event as interactive as possible to attract new anglers to the sport. As exciting as the prospect of a new consumer show may be, the announcement does not come without conflict. The weekend AFFTA plans to hold their show is traditionally the weekend flyfishing show guru Chuck Furimsky holds his consumer event on the other side of town. This not only means Colorado residents will have two competing flyfishing shows on the same weekend to choose from, it means manufacturers and retailers have to gamble on where they think they’ll receive the most traffic.

consumer shows—introducing fly fishing to attendees through the Discover FlyFishing program—and that this event is simply another way they’re trying to recruit new blood into the sport. “We realized some people are going to think we’re targeting Chuck—but we’re not. We just think there’s a way to make shows more meaningful to consumers and the sport.” Since AFFTA made the announcement last May, hundreds of opinions from retailers and industry players have been aired, but one common concern is that the same organization placed in charge of protecting and fostering the sport of flyfishing is now in a position to put “one of its own” out of business—a move described in one flyshop owner’s letter to the AFFTA board of directors as “. . . illconceived, if not spiteful.”

The question that begs to be answered is ‘why Denver on the same weekend as Furimsky’s show?’ According to Ramsay, the availability of a high-quality venue like the Colorado Convention Center, and an attempt to avoid confusing consumers with multiple shows on different dates was what led the AFFTA board to their decision. “When the AFFTA board decided to sponsor a consumer show, we looked at cities across the country trying to decide where it could be held. Ultimately we decided on Denver because there are more fly shops, outfitters, manufacturers, lodges, and anglers in that specific geographic region than anywhere else. This makes it easier for us to attract exhibitors and people.” Furimsky doesn’t see it that way and feels somewhat stabbed-in-the-back by the industry he’s contributed much of his life toward promoting.

Ramsay says that just isn’t the case—the organization’s direction is not a new one and it falls completely in line with the mission objectives of AFFTA. For years AFFTA has participated in general sporting and fishing

For the last 20 years Chuck Furimsky has promoted hundreds of flyfishing consumer shows across the country and his Denver event (launched in 2001) is consistently his largest. But because of the new AFFTA show, he’s not only faced with losing retailers and manufacturers, he may lose flyfishing celebrities to their contractual obligations with manufacturers attending the AFFTA affair—and those celebrities without ties are being forced to choose between the two. continued on next page ... 33 / September 2007

“I don’t want to count the millions of dollars we’ve helped manufacturers and retailers make at our shows. We’ve established a great following in Denver and for AFFTA to choose the same weekend as our show is an obvious attempt on their part to kill us,” says Furimsky.

“I believe AFFTA—in a desperation move to generate money—has decided to start a consumer show,” Furimsky said in a letter distributed to manufacturers last June. “They have visited my shows and seen the crowds and compared it to the tradeshow success they’ve had. I’m guessing they want to switch directions . . . A trade organization like AFFTA should be promoting the trade and business of flyfishing, not dividing it and competing with it.”

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Rod Patch, owner of all three ArkAnglers stores in Colorado, is one retailer that’s on the fence about where to exhibit, but admits he’s strongly considering the AFFTA show. Patch annually reserved the most floor space at Furimsky’s Denver show since its inaugural year and said this isn’t a decision he takes lightly. For him, it’s simply a question of good business and wherever manufacturers are exhibiting and pushing their products, he wants to be next to them. “For me, the decision to change shows has to do with one main reason—the suppor t of our primary manufacturers,” Patch said. “All my key reps and manufacturers have already committed to AFFTA so it wouldn’t make much sense for me to exhibit across town. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve always done very well at the Denver Mar t, but as a retailer I don’t see Chuck’s shows being as successful for us as they have been in years past without the reps and manufacturers present.” / September 2007

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out whichever event is able to secure the most exhibitors, seminars, and attractions will most likely secure the most visitors. For AFFTA, this may not be a problem. Many of the major rod, reel, line, and clothing manufacturers are AFFTA members, familiar with the Colorado Convention Center, are excited the organization is trying to foster growth, and eager to try anything that may pump new blood into the sport and industry. In early June, Furimsky typed letters, issued statements, and did anything else he could from a public relations standpoint to keep exhibitors from jumping ship. In fact, he’s the first to admit that some people in the industry are not fond of him or his business practices, and that this may be a time when burned bridges come back to haunt him.


“There’s a certain faction of people that would like to see me fail—those people that are mad at me are usually the ones that broke the rules at my shows in the first place. But this situation is making me find out who my true friends are,” said Furimsky. Having to choose which show to support has inadvertently created some division within the industry. On one side are those that sympathize

drum-up enough support, I have no problem exhibiting at both shows that weekend,” Pope said. Paul Johnson of Sage also said he sees value in both shows, and though the company will exhibit at the AFFTA location in January, they are planning to attend a handful of Furimsky’s other events. Though Sage doesn’t sell product from the

has essentially created a rift in the “AFFTA industry when they are the ones in charge of bringing it together.”

with Furimsky’s plight or feel AFFTA has not done much to help them in the past. On the other side are those that see the new consumer show as a welcome and much-needed change. Furimsky says “AFFTA has essentially created a rift in the industry when they are the ones in charge of bringing it together.” Less than a week after AFFTA’s announcement, some people were drawing a line in the sand and saying you’re either on one side or the other. But other individuals, like Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) president Rick Pope, are straddling both sides waiting to see what direction will benefit them the most. He said if he has to, he’ll make sure he has representation at both shows. “I can honestly say AFFTA did little to help me when TFO was getting started—that’s why I haven’t renewed my membership in years. Chuck’s shows have a reputation for drawing people and traditionally we’ve done well there. People don’t go to these things to buy $600 rods; they go to find deals on fly tying materials, reels, lines and rods. I’ve got a wait-andsee attitude and if AFFTA is able to

— Chuck Furimsky

booth, the opportunity to discuss rod materials and design one-on-one with customers often proves just as profitable according to Johnson. “We’re still going to do Chuck’s shows,” Johnson said. “For us it’s a lot like advertising—people come to our booth to be educated. We want to help them understand what they’re ‘feeling’ in a rod, not show them how to cast 10-feet farther. If they like what we show them, we refer them to one of our retailers in the next aisle.” AFFTA has already budgeted for the show and plans on contracting with a professional promoter for their public relations and advertising needs. Since AFFTA is a nonprofit organization, any revenue generated by the show must be reverted back into the industry they serve. Some ideas on the table are promoting resource conservation and restoration or investing in consumer-development programs that increase flyfishing participation. If AFFTA’s first consumer show is successful, Ramsay eluded that the board of directors will consider other cities and future dates. Furimsky

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is adamant the organization will continue to directly compete with his 10 other shows in the East and West, but Ramsay said the board is occupied with making the Denver show successful before concerning themselves with other markets. “When this is successful as a tool for reaching fly fishers, we’re going to look at other markets. This doesn’t mean we’ll compete with every one of Chuck’s shows. I’m sure there are other untapped areas in the country perfectly suited for the type of event we plan to host,” Ramsay said. When asked if Furimsky would someday try to form a truce or partnership with AFFTA—one where he would concede Denver as a show venue in exchange for a non-compete agreement regarding his other established shows—his reply was swift and direct.

opportunity to occupy more space on the Convention Center floors and avoid what one shop owner called a “flea-market atmosphere” is appealing to some exhibitors. Even those that

A New Trade Organization? In an effort to “turn the tables” Furimsky is using the attention from his clash with AFFTA to launch his own trade organization—one that he hopes will rival AFFTA in membership and influence. This past summer he formed the United Trade Association for FlyFishing (UTAFF), produced a constitution outlining the organization’s goals, began planning an annual retailer trade show, and even launched a website (

have never exhibited at a consumer show are reserving space with AFFTA saying the attention and controversy over the event is bound to influence a substantial turnout. at Furimsky said he plans to hold an annual trade expo (at the Denver Mart) similar to the AFFTA Retailer Expo held every year and offer all members equal or greater benefits than those offered by AFFTA. Other items outlined in his constitution include democratic voting by all members on the direction of the organization, making transcripts of board meetings available to members, and dividing show revenues into 1/3 portions so it can be devoted toward things like conservation projects or attracting new anglers.

“Absolutely not! Denver has become the largest of all my shows and for me to give it up would be idiotic. It’s like when you’re fishing a great spot on a river and someone walks down and rudely jumps next to you, then says ‘we’ll share this hole, you catch one fish and then I’ll catch three.’” Furimsky said he won’t bear any grudges towards those that decide to exhibit with AFFTA, and he welcomes any retailers or manufacturers at his other shows. However, he did add he won’t be inclined to “pull strings” for some like he’s done in the past.

Without a doubt, it seems AFFTA has the upper hand in this competition. Not only do they represent the majority of flyfishing manufacturers (many of whom have already committed to the show), the 35 / September 2007

“No more favors like trying to arrange booth placement near high-traffic areas. What you get is what you get. I’m not going to bend-over backwards anymore because as this situation proves, I’ll just end up getting screwed,” Furimsky said.

• Bob Petereit who manages the flyfishing department of Cabela’s in Lehi, Utah, has worked out a program with Brigham Young Universtiy to offer flyfishing classes. Students enrolled in the courses get discounts at the store. Other stores are doing this also. In some cases, utilizing local flyfishing clubs or other institutions that teach flyfishing pays dividends. Petereit also has recruited Lance Egan and Ryan Barnes, both of Fly Fishing Team USA, to help (so much for the myth that big box sales staff are unqualified).

Teaching Your Way to Success By Jeff Wagner

I had an interesting conversation recently with Hutch Hutchinson, southwest regional business manager for the Orvis Company, regarding the boom years and subsequent slide after the movie . Yes, the good old days may be gone, he said, but it might be our own fault. In many ways, we as an industry may have dropped the ball by not teaching the newcomers to the sport how to use all the gear we so eagerly sold them. We let the big one get away. “We missed it. We did not teach when we needed to, and we pushed away our own clients,” he said. “That’s why we need more teaching. Not just any teaching, quality teaching.” / September 2007

The Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF) has been pushing that agenda for years now. But how about retailers? Do they understand how to leverage teaching to realize bottom line success? Some do: • For The Blue Quill, in Evergreen, Colorado, teaching defines that business. Owner Jim Cannon emphatically outlined his position: “Since the Blue Quill Angler was founded in 1988 teaching has been at the heart of all we do. We teach every kind of class that we think will be helpful to people and they want to sign up for. Customers who are more educated become better flyfishers, and the bottom line is they stay in the sport longer and spend more money.” 36

• Guiding is often considered a synonym for teaching. Those who do both understand a subtle difference. A good guide is also a great instructor, but many guides are not both. Many of us overestimate our understanding of flyfishing and ability to teach as a guide. As Dave Gross, a guide on the Green River in Utah for eight years and now a flyfishing buyer for Jax Outdoor Gear in Fort Collins, Colorado, points out: “Being able to convey your point to a client puts them on more fish. Being able to describe what a client should do in multiple ways and not get frustrated is key to a successful day on the water.” • What about the client who doesn’t want to be taught; they just want to be on the water? Hutchinson has the answer: “Even if a client says they don’t want instruction, a good guide can make suggestions of flies to use, indicator placement, casting tips without the client being offended or even realizing he is being taught.” Classes and schools make up the core curriculum for retailers, but offering classes often takes an investment in time and capital. Manufacturers can sometimes pitch in. It’s often hard to peg a return on investments, especially when adding tuition dollars alone. The benefits are often not immediate, but they can be substantial in the long term. Many of the shops that we spoke with did not have hard figures on their success, indicating that it would be difficult to track, but they definitely believed in the value. The shop owners and managers attributed a strong portion of their business to teaching. Woody Woodland of The Fly Shop admitted: “This is where we have the opportunity to help clients understand the reason why some equipment is more expensive than others. This allows the client to make more informed decisions ... I can not think of any of our schools that did not involve substantial equipment sales following the conclusion (of the class).” So here’s the lesson: Teaching can be a key to long-term viability in this market. Do your homework. Make a plan. And while the bottom line might not show immediate returns, the more customers you “graduate” through the levels of flyfishing, the better off you’ll be. at

collected from the Beaverkill on his first trip to that river 15 years before. He told me that he owned a vintage E.F. Payne rod—an 8 for a 5—that he fished only on his birthday. Hell, he’d been so infatuated with the Catskills that he’d actually moved there. He was the perfect example of someone who had pictured himself as part of a certain place and its history, and through the potency of that dream, began to live it.

Written by Monte Burke

The Catskill Artist By Monte Burke / September 2007

I first met Paul Weamer in 1998. He was working the counter at Wild Rainbow Outfitters, a fly shop on the banks of the West Branch of the Delaware River. The shop was usually the first stop on every Catskill fishing trip, thanks to my buddy, Charlie Ernst, who had the habit of forgetting some crucial piece of gear in our mad dash to get out of New York City for the weekend (a running joke in the shop one year was that the newly-paved parking lot had been christened the “Charles Ernst Memorial Parking Area” after its biggest benefactor). So while Charlie canvassed the store for a new pair of wading boots or polarized glasses, I stood at the counter and shot the bull with Paul.


I quickly discovered that Paul was an unabashed flyfishing geek, especially when it came to the lore and history of the Catskills. I appreciated that. I, too, had spent an inordinate amount of time immersed in the literature of the region. But Paul had obviously taken the hook a bit deeper. He could identify the exact rock that a certain famous Catskill angler of yesteryear— say, Sparse Grey Hackle or Thaddeus Norris—stood and cast a fly. He admitted—somewhat sheepishly— that on a bookshelf back in the fly tying room of his house sat a vial of slowly evaporating water that he had

Within a few months of our first meeting, we all started to fish together. Charlie and I would flail about during the day on the West or East Branch of the Delaware.Then in the evening, after Paul got off of work, we would meet up somewhere, share a wee dram of scotch, and fish the hatch until dark. I knew Paul had become a good friend when one evening he showed us a secret pool (well, as secret as any pool can be within 150 miles of Gotham). The pool was a pain in the rear to get to—it required a dozen delicate hop-steps down a treacherous hill off the railroad tracks—but it was always worth it, full as it was of big, eager rainbows that had been blithely passed over by driftboaters during the day. Over time, Paul began to show Charlie and me some of the new flies he had been tying. “Here, try one of these,” he’d say, handing us some strange concoction that, more often than not, worked wonders on these finicky Catskill trout. It didn’t take us long to figure out that we’d befriended one of the most innovative young fly tiers in the country. Catskill fly tiers are artists. Their “galleries,” so to speak, are the rivers of the Catskills, and they are demanding: crystal-clear, heavily pressured and home to a diversity of insects unmatched in the East, if not the entire country. The history of fly tying in the Catskills has gone through a set of different eras, a sort of condensed version of the history of art in the Western world. At the

turn of the 20th century, a recluse named Theodore Gordon—known as the father of American dry flyfishing—holed up in a shack on the banks of the Neversink River and created simple, delicate flies tied to imitate mayfly duns. His art was later mastered in the 1950s by two Catskill fly tying couples, the Darbees and the Dettes, who produced precise, sparsely hackled, upright-winged flies, like March Browns, Light Hendricksons and Quill Gordons. Their flies, known now as the traditional Catskill tie, are grounded in realism, akin to the works of Leonardo Da Vinci and other great painters from the Renaissance era. A quarter of a century later, a Delaware flyfishing guide named Al Caucci trimmed down the Catskill tie to develop the emerger-like Comparadun. From a distance, his flies look realistic. But on closer inspection, they deviate from reality like the dots on a painting of the Impressionist, Claude Monet. Like great art, traditional Catskill ties and Comparaduns are still appreciated—and always will be—by both fishermen and fish. But with his new Truform fly patterns, the 35 year-old Paul Weamer has moved the art of Catskill fly tying into its abstract era. Truform flies bear little resemblance to real live mayflies; the hackle is in some unusual-looking places. But like Picasso’s Guernica, they have the desired impact of reality and beauty. “I’m obsessed with bugs and fly tying,” Paul says.

He figured out the answer by accident. In the spring of 2002, while visiting his mother in central Pennsylvania, Paul’s car broke down. As he whiled away the afternoon on her porch while his car was in the shop, a mayfly landed on the railing. He stared at the bug and realized the problem with his upsidedown flies: the mayfly’s body was curved. “It hit me that when mayflies are on the water, their abdomens touch the surface film but their thoraxes don’t,” he says. When he got home, he immediately started bending hooks with the aim of placing the abdomen, but not the thorax, on the water. With one pair of pliers, he held the eye of the hook stationary. With another, he bent the shank. “It was a pain in the ass,” he says. “I broke hundreds of hooks.” He tried all sorts of different degrees of bend, painstakingly tracing and recording each in a notebook. Then he’d tie on some hackle and fish it. For an entire season he experimented with different hook bends. He finally settled on a 27-degree bend. When he tied the parachute-style hackle on the bottom hook just below the eye for the legs, added some CDC on the

back for the wings and a wisp of antron shuck for the tail, he had his Truform fly, the latest entry in the ceaseless evolution of Catskill fly-tying. The flies, from size 16 Blue Winged Olives to size 10 Green Drakes, have received acclaim from anglers all over the world. (Both Daiichi and Montana Fly Company now sell the hooks.) Sadly, the major flooding of June 2006 took a severe economic toll on the Catskills, something from which the region’s flyfishing industry was not immune. Paul was forced to move. He’s taken a job at Tulpehocken Creek Outfitters in central Pennsylvania, an area of the country with its own rich flyfishing history. But his link to the Catskills remains strong. His book, Fly-Fishing Guide to the Upper Delaware River (Stackpole), was just released. And Paul, Charlie and I have already planned a few Catskill trips together this year. And my money says that when he’s good and ready, and the call of the Catskills once again gets to strong to ignore, he’ll be back, ready to move us into the next great phase of Catskill art. at

Paul Weamer’s new book is published by Stackpole,

39 / September 2007

When Paul first arrived in the Catskills, he apprenticed under Mary Dette, who still ties traditional Catskill flies, a skill passed down to her by her parents, Walt and Winnie Dette. Paul soaked up her expertise. He also studied Caucci’s patterns. And as promising prodigies are wont to do, he interpreted their styles his own way to come up with creations that are derivative yet new.

The Truform patterns took six years to perfect. When he first came to the Catskills, Paul used all sorts of flies: traditional ties, parachutes and Comparaduns. “I liked to use those flies, but I kept wondering about the legs. Most of these flies had them on the top. I knew that real mayflies have legs on the bottom,” he says. In 2000, he began to experiment. He started with an upside-down fly, with the hook pointed skyward and legs tied underneath the body. (To be sure, other tiers, most notably John Goddard, had put legs on the bottom of their flies, but their creations were complicated and difficult to replicate, requiring various glues and monofilament.) Paul says he had decent success with that fly, but something about it didn’t seem quite right.

FISH ‘N CHIPS By Charlie Meyers / September 2007

Quickly now. Name America’s most famous flyfisherman. Lefty Kreh? Good deduction, but not quite correct. Flip Pallot? Not even close. Gary Borger? Guess again. The answer, of course, is one Eldrick Woods, better known to all by his stage name, Tiger. When not piling up golf victories, the Tiger man often can be found on one of the world’s famous trout streams, fulfilling what for years has been a major obsession. “It’s something about going out on a river and just watching the river and hanging out,” Woods was quoted in a recent article.


Check out the Professional Golfers Association biographical sketches and you’ll discover that Woods has lots of company on a long list of golfers who list flyfishing as a primary passion.You want more examples? Jack Nicklaus is an official spokesperson for the Federation of Flyfishermen. Mark O’Meara, Tiger’s unofficial angling guru, is even more zealous about the sport, often taking casting practice at the driving range. Among O’Meara’s notable quips: “At least you can’t shank a salmon.” “Golfers who flyfish have won a combined 57 major tournaments,” observed Alan Gnann, president of REC Components and a recent facilitator of a signal golf-flyfishing event. “Of course Woods and Nicklaus won 30 of those, but there’s still 27 more.” The point here is to illustrate the close link between two sports with a remarkable commonality of philosophy and setting. A match made in heaven. Fish ‘n Chips. How are they alike? Let us count the ways. Both sports are played in beautiful places. Each involves a personal challenge under changing conditions. Where flyfishing is practiced with catch and release, it ranks with golf among the most honest and ethical of sporting endeavors. Both demand total focus, separate from the distractions of life. Neither activity ever can be mastered, each demanding a lifelong quest for improvement.

Need proof? Let Gnann relate what transpired last year at his Longmeadow Country Club near Springfield, Mass. “I got a call from the committee responsible for putting on dinners and lunches, largely to stimulate interest for the restaurant during slow periods, which is winter,” explained Gnann, whose firm in nearby Stafford Springs, Ct., makes rod cases and various components for the manufacture of fly rods. “I thought I knew what would work—a good dinner and a little talk from me about how it would benefit golfers to have a secondary interest.” Gnann’s next brainstorm was a call to Orvis vice-president Jim Lepage, who offered a natural emissary in Steve Hemkens, product development specialist who happened to be a golf caddy in his youth. “Orvis is just a couple hours away and they had this huge catalog of photos. Steve knew just how to fit into that crowd.” The dinner sold out and Hemkens, as well as REC’s Dan Lanier, who tied flies during cocktail hour, proved to be huge hits. “During a question and answer period, people were eager to get gear and learn to cast,” Gnann continued. “I volunteered and evening of casting and fishing at one of the ponds on the golf course.” When 49 people, men and women, signed up, Gnann knew he needed more help. Naturally, another call went out to Hemkens. This time the Orvis posse arrived with a van full of fly outfits and 7 instructors.

The club stocked 400 trout in the pond, unaware that hordes of bluegill also were spawning in the shallows. “Most people didn’t know what the hell they were catching, just that they were having a grand time,” Gnann chortled. “Steve and I saw something we hadn’t seen in a long time, which is what a grown person does when he catches his first fish. “They got absolutely giddy and stayed well into the night talking about fishing. We had to break down 40 rods in pitch black.” Hemkens recalled that some older members brought kids and grandkids, all potential recruits to the sport. Apart from the sheer satisfaction of it all, Hemkens noted that Orvis made several travel bookings and reservations to its flyfishing school from the two Longmeadow events. “Golfers are used to that level of interaction with professionals,” he explained yet another element of connection between the sports. Nor did the Longmeadow love-in end there. With plenty of fish left in the pond, club organizers later booked family fishing derbies. “They actually charged for it and made a lot of money,” said Gnann, who came to be hailed around the club as “the flyfishing guy.” “Now they want me to do another program, this time with the Orvis shooting school,” he said. Getting the ball rolling at a local golf club shouldn’t be difficult, Gnann opined. “If you call a club in your area and offer your services, they’ll probably take you up on it.” continued on next page ...

41 / September 2007

Most important, we’ll demonstrate how fly shops can tap a fertile field of ready customers. If you’re searching for clients with lots of money, an eye for the best equipment and an inclination toward a lifetime sport with just a nip of snob appeal, chances are you’ll find them strolling along a nearby golf course. They may be more eager to take hold of a fly rod than you think.

If the most competitive golfer on the planet needs a break from the links, think of all those millions of hackers out there who might want to add a 5-weight to their golf bags.

If, as Tiger Woods suggests, every golfer needs a change of pace, then Hemkens believes flyfishing is the perfect companion. “You go to Nassau, play a few rounds of golf and then go bonefishing,” he describes the perfect vacation. For yet another wedge into the world of golf, we hear from Bret Gardner, financial advisor with the Theodore Financial Group of Northwestern Mutual and an avid angler. Gardner’s great notion was to sponsor a hole at the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce golf tournament. As a twist to make client contacts, he hauled out a fly rod and a hula hoop, offering to subtract a stroke for anyone who could hit the target. / September 2007

“We said if they enjoyed casting, drop a card in the hole and we’ll put together an event about flyfishing.” “We got 55 women signed up to do a flyfishing only event,” he said of an upcoming affair that will double as a fund-raiser for the Casting for Recovery cancer initiative. Gardner’s message is that fly shops can do the same to promote their shop, along with the sport at large. Play the game right and you can attract a wonderfully fertile new customer base. You might wind up with a real tiger by the tail. at 42

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“Think things through and have a program in mind. Survey the area and know something about the potential customer,” Hemkens advised. “Then call the person who handles member events and explain the crossover potential. Offer the program for free and put together a good power point presentation. If it’s successful, offer a casting clinic, also for free. If this sticks, you’ll get a lot more out of it than a hundred bucks for a casting lesson.”

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He further suggests that every fly shop has a few customers who also belong to golf clubs and might serve as intermediaries.

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Fifteen years may not seem such a long wait if we’re talking Second Coming or, even less certain, a Chicago Cubs World Series title.

But if you’re a fly shop owner anticipating another of those magical motivations that send trade tripping up that musical scale of cash register chimes, that period since the 1992 release of A River Runs Through It seems like an epoch in geologic time. So is there really a new sales spike on even a distant horizon? Will there ever be another quite like it? All of which brings us to Fly Fishing Team USA, a loose-knit collection of very serious and highly skilled anglers whose identities are known only to their mothers’ best fishing buddies. They come from such diverse locations as North Carolina and Idaho and they wouldn’t get a nibble Can Team USA help win new anglers?

on “What’s My Line” if they showed up wearing chest-highs holding a dead fish. So what causes us to think that a team that only last year began to seriously choose and train its members someday may spark the next big jump on the profit meter? Flyfishing competition—or at least the variety that pits the boys from the Red, White and Blue against a bunch of haughty Europeans—may be the coming thing. It’s all about youth and America’s youth is all about competition, whether it’s a video game or the Big Horn.

40—there’s reason to believe, or at least hope, that contests may be the trigger that incites a receptive younger generation to take up the long rod. At the very least, it could be the impetus to get the sport on TV. Before you make the valid argument that TV fly tournaments have tried and failed, it should be suggested that that two key ingredients always have been missing: National pride and personality. The pride part is easiest to muster. It’s our boys against theirs. Americans vs. the French. If you think that won’t work, remember

McDowell agrees that the team’s ultimate success hinges upon coverage in the media. However you might feel about trout tournaments—and a highly unscientific survey seems to indicate that you hate them if you’re over

that people actually are glued to their TV sets watching rowing and curling when the Olympics roll around. Robert Ramsay, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association and a member of the under-40 crowd, firmly believes competition is a key to grabbing public interest. “You look at all the activities in the outdoor arena and the ones that have mushroomed all include some sort of competitive element. Competition is part of human nature. It’s what evolution is all about.”

continued on next page ... 43 / September 2007

The key, Ramsay believes, is expanding sport beyond the narrow boundaries of the flyfishing community.That’s what the movie accomplished in a time that now seems so very long ago. Whether competition, particularly of a kind with an international flavor, can provide a similar spark remains to be seen.



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“I think Team USA competing in a global environment can offer exciting elements and help achieve some growth initiative. The question is how we as an industry help the media cover this competitive element?” Whitney McDowell, marketing manager of Simms, a team sponsor for a half decade, finds a separate value in her company’s involvement. “We want to see our team in Simms products out there among 30 countries,” McDowell said. “It’s great exposure to the international market. Lots of other teams are wearing our products as well.” McDowell agrees that the team’s ultimate success hinges upon coverage in the media. Anthony Naranja is a Grand Junction, Co., dentist and U.S. Team captain who, for one delicious day, held fifth place at this year’s World Fly Fishing Championship. He is articulate, dedicated, superbly skilled but, alas, completely unknown. “This is a very impressive group of people,” McDowell enthused. “We need to find a way to expose them to the public.” Ramsay believes he knows one way to do it—enter team members in high-profile bass tournaments, where the mere presence of a serious flyfisher might grab the attention of the TV crew. Insiders long have suspected that, given the right conditions, a fly rodder could do well in certain bass events. Whatever direction it takes, an industry boost for Team USA just might pay real dividends someday. In any case, getting behind the nation’s team just plain feels right. at Charlie Meyers

Finding and Filling Niches Can Key Success By Jeff Wagner

Flyfishing retail shops are often as eclectic as the people who work in them.

Find a niche your market needs, and fill it, says industry insider and long-time Orvis company man

Mike Clough. He outlined several examples—some that worked, and some that didn’t. “As reps we have all seen the coffee shops in the fly shop, the clothing stores and much more,” said Clough. “The most important thing (when branching out into niches) is to not be in a marginal market from the beginning, as a number of shops often are.” Clough contended that the most important approach is to give the customers in a market area what they want, and let the market tell you what it is looking for. Often this means testing the waters continued on next page ... 45 / September 2007

As each faces its own geographic and demographic challenges, they employ many varied (and sometimes odd) tactics to keep customers coming or to make ends meet during slow periods. A number of factors beyond the retailer’s control can have an effect: Seasonal peaks and valleys, the health of the local and national economy, local fishing booms or busts, drought, and much more often create difficult challenges. So how do you insulate your business from the ups and downs?

with certain products to judge what will and will not sell. Some of the once specialty shops that have taken this approach have become more successful businesses, in fly tackle retailing and otherwise. For example: • Kirks Fly shop in Estes Park, Colorado, run by Kirk and Laurie Bien started out as a flyfishing specialty store, yet has now expanded its reach to products that fill new niches. Playing off its proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park and some of the most heavily visited tourist regions in the state, Kirk’s Fly Shop now offers multi-day horseback and llama flyfishing trips, backpacking trips, and hiking trips. They also offer camping and survival specialty items for those going into the backcountry. A new pursuit for Kirk’s is offering snowshoe trips in the Park to offset the fishing downturn in winter. • Henry’s Fork Anglers in Last Chance, Idaho, seems to fit that perfect combination of fly shop, coffee shop, and outdoor clothier. They offer quality coffees for the morning outing as well as to local aficionados who need that grande non-fat double espresso macchiato with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a touch of whipped cream. It

seems like a good fit and it fills a void during certain times of the year, plus it is an extra bonus to their customers.

But what about shops competing in a more suburban setting?

• East Slope Anglers in Big Sky, Montana offers skiing rentals and gear, as well as flyfishing equipment and lessons. They have been able to mold the two into a cohesive unit that offers great sales and caters to a wider demographic. Not only do they get the flyfishers and the skiers, they also get the crossovers, those who do both or could potentially do both. You have solved part of the equation when you already know that the people coming in love the outdoors whether they are anglers or skiers.

Again, diversification is key, understanding that it is possible to diversify within flyfishing, beyond traditional products and services. The Blue Quill Angler in Evergreen, Colorado, began as a flyfishing retailer only selling products. Jim and Martha Cannon have since expanded the Quill’s offering into an extensive array of flyfishing classes and schools, guiding, fly tying classes, and other services related to the industry. In doing so, they have expanded into niches within the industry, which has proven very successful.

The most successful operations, according to Clough, are able to increase the variety of outdoor gear they carry. Jack Dennis Fly Shop, Ski and Bow Rack, and Jax Outdoor Gear are great examples of this. All carry a wide variety of camping, flyfishing, backpacking and outdoor gear. In doing so, they sell a great deal of flyfishing equipment and have cultivated a dedicated clientele. Of course, proximity to premier outdoors destinations helps in this regard.

The key to success in finding areas to expand is to make sure you have the resources to dedicate to the new pursuit. Also, to know what the customer wants. In each case mentioned the business started from a core and built on to it after finding an area that the customers showed an interest in. Start at the core, and build out on a path of success. Adapt and change, as necessary. But the old adage, “nothing ventured, nothing gained” has never been more appropriate. at

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Angling Trade Magazine September 2007  

Coaxing a Market Rise

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