Angling Trade Issue #18

Page 1

the buzz on the flyfishing biz


the 2011 Year End Issue

Winning New Products for 2012/Update Your Business Plan/Train Your Staff/A Profile of The Stonefly in Butte, Montana/Pro Guide Direct/ Trends We Saw in 2011/And More November 2011







2012 . /





® S I M M S F I S H I N G P R O D U CTS / 2011 / TH E C H O I C E O F P R O F E S S I O NAL G U I D E S WO R LDW I D E



the buzz on the flyfishing biz





22 Be a Man (or Woman)

6 Editor’s Column

Managing Editor

Fantasy football and fantasy fishing. They’re both fun. They grow attention and generate interest in their respective sports. But do they keep attention focused away from the “real game,” and is that a risk the fly fishing market should take? By Kirk Deeter

Tim Romano

with a Plan Is your business plan out

of date? Goodness knows, the fly fishing business environment isn’t what it was even a few years ago. You should be on top of the times, and that starts with a sound business plan. Here are some tips for helping you relaunch your business, and keeping it on track. By Steven B. Schweitzer

26 Trending Up 2011 will no doubt go down as a soggy year (at least in the West). But that didn’t dampen sales for some, especially those who knew how to tap into market trends. Here’s a look at a few things that have been hot, and offer sales potential for dealers. By Geoff Mueller

8 Currents Currents 2012 New Gear Spotlight Angling Trade Reports on the Best Products for 2012, as voted on by attendees at the International Fly Tackle Dealer trade show in New Orleans.

20 Recommended Reading Fifty More Places to Fly Fish Before You Die and The Blitz. Reviewed by Kirk Deeter

By Kirk Deeter

30 Celebrating Survival... the Stone Fly in Butte, Montana

Tara Brouwer Copy Editors

Mabon Childs, Sarah Warner Contributing Editors

Tom Bie Geoff Mueller Ben Romans Andrew Steketee Greg Thomas

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.

38 Backcast

Attitude adjustment: Can we make our own breaks? By Tom Bie

By Paul Vang

Advertising Contact: Tim Romano Telephone: 303-495-3967 Fax: 303-495-2454

Street Address: 3055 24th Street Boulder, CO 80304 iStockphoto

3 / November 2011

Mail Address: PO Box 17487 Boulder, CO 80308

34 Training Days We’d like to think that the people we hire are there for the right reasons (love of the sport... interest in the business), but do you really know and trust what’s happening with customers when you’re not right there? Is employee training a worthwhile investment? By Lance Gray

Art Director

Tom Bie, Lance Gray, Steven B. Schweitzer, Paul Vang

or a Bane for the Fly Guy?

Angling Trade has revisited its popupar fly shop profile serires by honing in on the Stone Fly in Butte, Montana. Here’s an indepth look at what keeps one “labor of love” fly shop plugging away in tough times, and a competitive business environment.

Kirk Deeter


28 Pro Guide Direct: A Boon Well, that depends on who you ask. We take a closer look at the business platform that has some guides seeing green, and some fly shop owners and outfitters seeing red.


WHICH IS BETTER? THE TIGHT, ELEGANT LOOPS OF A SCANDI HEAD? OR THE HEAVY-TIP, BIG-FLY POWER OF A SKAGIT? For years, two-handed anglers—being who they are—have nearly come to blows over the superiority of one or the other. But with our new Scandi Short VersiTip, you get the best of both worlds in the easiest-casting Spey line ever made. Better yet, the short head and 10-foot tips load up and fire out of even the tightest quarters, opening up miles of previously unfishable water. Designed for today’s shorter, faster two-handed and switch rods (not to mention single-handers), the Scandi Short VersiTip excels on tree-lined coastal rivers and brushy Great Lakes streams.

Ready to stop arguing and start fishing better? Fish the new Scandi Short VersiTip.





Because It’s NEVER Too Early To Think About Accessories!

Tom Bie

Tom Bie is the publisher and editor of The Drake. This issue marks his last “Backcast” column in Angling Trade, but it certainly won’t be his last story in this magazine.

Lance Gray

Lance Gray owns Lance Gray & Company, a Willow, California-based guide service. He also provides consulting services to fly shops, outfitters, and other small businesses. Staff training is a specialty, and his story on that topic is his third written foray in Angling Trade.

15353 E. Hinsdale Cir. Unit F Centennial, CO 80112 ph 303-690-0477 fax 303-690-0472 Geoff Mueller

Geoff Mueller is the senior editor of The Drake, and starting next year, he joins the staff at Angling Trade as an editor-at-large. He is collaborating with AT’s own Tim Romano on an underwater-focused trout book, and he has written for a number of other publications and businesses in fly fishing.

I nt ro d uc e s t he World’s Firs t


Steven B. Schweitzer

Steven B. Schweitzer is Angling Trade’s resident bird dog reporter, who sniffs out the latest on trends and issues that impact the retail side (like hair extensions, Groupon, and so forth). He’s also the author of A Fly Fishing Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park.

24 Piece Display

Available in: Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout, Golden Trout and Brown Trout Support catch and release

Paul Vang

Paul Vang is the newest contributor to Angling Trade. A seasoned outdoors writer who has reported on a wide range of hunting and fishing topics, he lives in western Montana, and fittingly makes his first AT contribution a profile of his local fly shop.

Keep accurate count of your daily catch Track up to 100 fish Artwork by Joe Tomelleri Please visit our website for a list of fly shops Fly shop/distributor inquiries welcome 942 Quarry Street, Petaluma, CA 94954 707.763.7575


Fantasy Trout, Fantasy Football, and a Reality Check Now, let’s get this straight: There’s little wrong with fantasy football (beyond the fact that I stink at it), and there’s actually little wrong with fantasy fishing. Both generate interest in their respective sports that grow interest and participation. The fantasy realm is a business spark.

I am, by far, the worst player in my “fantasy football” league. In September, I was talked into joining a fantasy league after years of assuming that fantasy football was for geeks and dweebs who never played competitive sports. Now I realize that fantasy football is indeed for geeks and dweebs, who clearly don’t know anything about sports. I’m just a terribly unskilled and unlucky dweeb. “Fantasy fishing” is a lot like fantasy football. / November 2011

What is fantasy fishing? Well, fantasy fishing is where you choke a river with oversized, stocked trout, have rich people pay a fee to catch them; you take pictures and record the score, and go from there. You protect the boundaries around that stretch of water like an NFL GM guards his roster, making trades only when necessary… only when you think it will help you post more points down the road. It’s also as much a fantasy believing that those trout might actually exist in the wild, and the pay-to-play angler might catch them if they did, as saying said angler might be able to quarterback the Green Bay Packers. 6

But even NFL brass will admit that fantasy is a quandary. For every diehard football fan the league has in a stadium, they’re losing minions to couch sitting and watching the “Red Zone” on flat-screen TVs. I’d suggest that for every fantasy angler this market cultivates and capitalizes on, we might be losing an aficionado of real, authentic fishing. We’re losing the kind of angler who realizes it takes years, not minutes, to catch a two-foot rainbow trout on a dry fly. We’re trading instant gratification for devoted anglers who will toil and sweat (and buy product, travel, and education) to get themselves through that threshold. And, by the way, we’re also breeding the type of guide who lives for the photo-op at any cost (literally), yet wouldn’t really know a wild fish if one swam upstream and bit them squarely on their butt. That’s sad, in and of itself, but I also wonder how loud and strong the collective advocacy voice behind wild fish, and water conservation is these days, especially given the fantasy environment. Who, among us, is really going to “draft” the Colorado River strain cutthroat trout into their league? Who’s behind the wild steelhead in Oregon, or the native brook trout in Maine? After all, all of those species are poor bets in a fantasy league.

To an extent, it is what it is, and we should all be thankful for the fish we catch, wherever we hook them. And success on the water breeds interest. I certainly get that. But “all in good measure” should be the attitude, not “big fish at any cost.” I worry that, as an industry, we’re taking our eyes off the prize, in favor of some fantasy reward. The real game that’s being played is happening up in Alaska, where a proposed copper and gold mine (The Pebble Mine) threatens the last, largest, wild salmon fishery in the world. It’s happening in western Colorado, where oil and gas drilling now threatens some of the last viable native cutthroat trout populations on the planet. It’s happening on the Delaware, where fracking could threaten good trout water. If we want to get in this game and make things happen in a way that matters to our businesses now and in the future, we need to play some real football. We don’t need any more fantasy leagues. If you’re a pay-to-play outfitter, fine. Do what you need to do. I fish for, and guide for, stocked trout all the time, and have a great time doing so. But for goodness sake, don’t forget what the essence of fly fishing is all about. When all is said and done, this industry should be on the same team, wearing the jersey of the native trout, and tarpon, and bonefish, and salmon, and any other wild fish that can be caught on a fly rod. Kirk Deeter Editor


Great fly fishing doesn't have to be expensive. Access Rods — Cast this rod once youʼll question the low price. Cast it twice you wonʼt fish without it.


Currents Angling Trade was the host of the New Product Showcase at the International Fly Tackle Dealer trade show in New Orleans. We’ve also partnered with MidCurrent to produce a comprehensive online 2012 Gear Guide (see www.midcurrent. com) that features over 140 different brands and 160 products... and it’s growing by the week. Do check it out. Here are some highlights of the “Best in Show” product winners from IFTD:

IFTD Best of Show (From

the 2012 MidCurrent/ Angling Trade Gear Guide...)

Simms Takes Top Honors at the Fly Dealer Show With ProDry Rain Suit The curious thing about the product that took the “Best of Show” overall award (as well as the “Best Outerwear” award) at the International Fly Tackle Dealer show last week is that… well… it really isn’t a product made specifically for fly fishing. Developed with the input of bass professionals, and designed to help Simms Fishing Products tap into the bass nation, the ProDry GORE-TEX Jacket, Bib, and Pants line is clearly a

step beyond anything the company has made before. We talked with B.A.S.S legend Gary Klein during the testing phase for the product… he assured us that ProDry is the “real deal.” This, from a man who has qualified for more Bassmaster Classics than anyone, and has spent more than his fair share of time ripping across lakes in rainstorms, chasing fish for money. Those who know Klein also know he’s not the type of angler to put his name behind a product for endorsement fees alone. But will fly shops really sell these things, at $400 for the jacket, and $300 for the bibs? “I voted for this because of all the products I saw, this one was the ‘game changer’ in my mind,” said one IFTD voter (unnamed, as all voters for all products are). “I can sell these to boaters, and conventional (tackle) fishermen… if we’re looking to make fly fishing a bigger part of all fishing, this product will do that.” / November 2011

Performance-wise, ProDry is smartly designed in all aspects. That starts with GORE-TEX Pro Shell fabric that has a proven track record. What we liked were the pockets—large enough to hold boxes, tools, and so forth, but not overdone to the point of being cumbersome. The hood is designed to fit over a cap securely. There’s even a clear watch window inside the sealed cuff on one sleeve… a nifty detail if nothing else. Now, are there bona-fide fly fishing applications for ProDry? Of course there are. The striper anglers fishing the blustery fall months will eat these up… Anyone who does a lot of boat fishing (salt or fresh) will appreciate a durable, dynamic full-length rain suit. It seems perfectly suited for the roughest squalls continued on next page... 8


in Alaska or on the Great Lakes. Heck, I’d even have no hesitation wearing this through a car wash. And the jacket alone (in line price-wise with other premium rain shells) will no doubt be a standard for many guides who still opt for waders on the bottom.

different. When you think about it, the best measure is gauging how much it costs to stay dry, per day on the water. We’re guessing that the average “return on investment” for the average recreational angler will be pretty solid with the Freestones.

Best Wading Gear:

Best Accessory:

Simms Freestone Stockingfoot Waders

Loon Outdoors Wins with “Nip & Sip”

Simms completely redesigned its Freestone Stockingfoot line of waders for 2012, but if we’re being perfectly honest here (and we are) the best attribute of all is the price… $229.95, in the full range of 15 Simms sizes. These waders are made with Toray breathable fabric instead of GORETEX. What’s the difference? Well, Toray is less resistant to substances like diesel fuel. If you’re not planning on wading the urban corridors, you should be fine. / November 2011

The bottom line is that waders are the simplest of all products to judge, because it’s a PASS-FAIL test. Keep you dry: PASS. Spring a leak: FAIL. These are going to pass in 99% of all fishing environments. Of course, things like comfort and durability matter too. On the comfort side, the Stockingfoots are simple, with articulated knees, and a handy (not over-cooked) chest pocket. On the durability side… well, every angler, and every pair of waders is 10

What’s the product you have hanging on your fishing vest (or pack, lanyard, etc.) that you use most often in a typical fishing day? Nippers. If that’s not number one, it’s probably close. What’s the product that many anglers most often fumble through their pockets… their boats… their trucks, etc., to find, but end up using a belt buckle, their teeth, the gunwales of their boat, or other surface to get the job done? Right… the bottle opener. The Nip & Sip from Loon Outdoors won hearts and minds of IFTD voters in the most entered and hotly contested category—accessories— because it combines both tools in one. That’s an award for ingenuity. But the performance aspect is not to be ignored… the nippers do cut through thick tippets. They’re made from durable stainless steel, and the textured grip helps too. At $19.95, they’re a good option in your arsenal of fly gizmos, and a solid gift option also.

Best Salt Water Reel: Nautilus Cranks in IFTD Award for “Monster” Nautilus has launched the newest member of its popular NV reel series, and this one is appropriately called “The Monster.” Sure, this thing is a beast at first glance. With a hefty five-inch diameter, the Monster cranks up nearly a foot and a half of line with every turn of the spool. But here’s the thing that won the hearts of voters at the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show: Monster weighs 9.9 ounces, which is pretty much in line with what a lot of the saltwater reels designed for 8-weights tip the scales at. In other words, Monster proves that your tarpon or tuna rod doesn’t have to feel like it has a bowling ball hanging from the reel seat. The real beastly part of the reel, however, is what you don’t see—the fully sealed NV CCF drag system. I’ve spent a good amount of time fishing the Nautilus NVs in saltwater and freshwater (as well as tying the reels to motorcycles, ATV’s, trucks, and so forth), and the drag system has never once disappointed. It’s easily one of the best-engineered systems in fly fishing. And because the drag is impervious to the elements, salty residue, sand, and dust, the only thing you really have to do to keep the NV well maintained is to dry out your backing now and again. Retail is $850 for the reel, and $365 for the replacement spool… and believe it or not, even at those prices, you get what you pay for. continued on next page...

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NV Spey The other new Nautilus models for 2012 are the Monster’s little brothers, the NV Spey in 400-550 and 450-750 models. Well, “little brothers” is a relative description, because they’re not all that much smaller than Monster. And they are also surprisingly light for the frame size. As light as the frame is, it has proven highly resistant to dings and dents. What’s unique about this reel is that it is designed specifically to hold new Spey lines with the ultra-thin running line sections, fat bellies, and shooting heads in a way that feels balanced on two-hand rods. And the drag is the same NV drag that gear-head anglers appreciate. Retail is $690-$790 for the reels (400-550/450-750, respectively), and $305-$335 for their spools.

Best Freshwater Reels: Hardy UltraLite / November 2011

The Hardy name is synonymous with classic fly tackle, and perhaps in no single product category has that iconic brand carried more weight than in fly reels. Thankfully, Hardy is still producing revamped classics like the “Bouglé,” the “Cascapedia,” and the “Marquis.” But the company has really been pushing boundaries with new models in recent years, both on the “performance” side of the equation (durable disc-drag models), as well as with “pricepoint” models for more budget-minded anglers. Hardy’s new UltraLite series took “Best of Show” at the International Fly Tackle Dealers expo in the freshwater reels category, because it 12

offers both classic looks and performance at a decent price. The reels are machined of barstock aluminum (in Asia) in both click and pawl and disc-drag options. They all feature fast-retrieve large arbors with a narrow spool configuration. We test fished them, and they did react smoothly (they have fiber composite drag systems) as the fish pulled line away, and were equally impressive on the uptake. They’re sturdy in hand, but by no means bulky… an all-around solid option for someone looking for polish and performance, without emptying the checking account. Available in weights 5-12, retail is $169-$199 for click and pawl models; $199-$349 for disc drag models.

Best Fly Box/Storage System: Montana Fly Company Boat Boxes Offer Waterproof Organization When it comes to storing and managing flies, there are three types of anglers: 1) The utterly disorganized, who stick bugs in no particular order in many little boxes (and on hats, in car visors, etc.), 2) The “little box for every situation” people, who have containers for mayfly dries, nymphs, caddis, streamers, and so on, and 3) Those who want a “mother ship” to put everything inside and sort things out from there.

I won’t admit to which group I’m in. The “mother ship” types will have a great resource in the form of the Montana Fly Company Boat Box, which won top IFTD Best of Show honors in the fly storage category this year. As the name implies, it is perfect for storing patterns on any boat, from dories to flats skiffs, because it is 100 percent waterproof. And this system offers custom foam leaf inserts to handle whatever size and shape flies suit you best. If you want to put as many as 4,000 flies in one place, you can do that in this box. They’re made out of durable plastic, and are available in four different colors for a very reasonable $49.99, though the leaf inserts are sold separately.

Best Eyewear: IFTD Voters Hail the “Chief ” from Smith Optics

When you look at performance eyewear for fly fishing, the truth is, a lot of companies come and go. They say they’re going to make a big splash… sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Scant few stand the test of time. Smith Optics (formerly identified by its Action Optics brand) has always been true to this market, because Smith people fly fish. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why Smith was rewarded by fly tackle dealers with top honors for its new “Chief ” style in the “Best Eyewear” category at IFTD.

Books & DVDs

Affordable impulse items for anglers of all types & budgets

As with all Smith frames, they’re comfortable and light. The Chief is designed for medium to large face sizes. And they’re stylish… Italian finished and sporty, they’re also great for driving, skiing, or just hanging out. Depending on frames continued on next page...

Hardcover: $24.95 SRP

DVD: $29.95 SRP Bluray 39.95

I’ll personally vouch for the “Chief,” because I’ve been fishing in them all summer. In terms of optical clarity, there are only really a handful of lenses that can compete with Smith’s Techlite TLT glass lenses. I’ve been wearing the “Polarchromic Copper” tint, but I’m also very high on the “Ignitor” tint. If you fish mostly in cloudy environs, or in changing conditions, I’d go with the “Ignitor.” If sight fishing is your deal… you can’t go wrong, either way.

Signed by the Author

ANGLER’S BOOK SUPPLY 800.260.3869 Featuring the very best books, dvds, calendars & gifts that fly-fishing has to offer. / November 2011



and lens choices, Chief models range in price between $179 and $219.

With that in mind, here’s a summary of what’s new in the fly rod world for 2012…

density and precise alignment while simultaneously fusing the 50 percent lighter all-carbon fiber inner core.

Best Fly Rods:


The question more and more fly anglers are asking themselves these days is, “Do I really have to spend $700 for a great fly rod?”

Dealer “Best in Show” Winner)

The ONE offers exceptional tracking with virtually no lateral or torsional movement, resulting in what Sage claims is unparalleled casting accuracy. Based on our test casts, we’ll confirm that Sage is… well, on the mark with that claim.

The answer, of course, is no. In the hand of a great caster, any rod will catch fish. After all, rods don’t cast themselves. It’s always been that way, and it always will be. That said… if you ask whether or not some rods are made better than others, and can optimize performance the answer to that question is also a big “yes.” It’s actually a good situation for the fly fishing consumer, because, on the one hand, we’re seeing more and more imported product utilizing the same (or similar) designs and materials as domestically made “performance” rods, available at a much lower costs… with equal warranties. On the other hand, the premium brands that want to stay relevant are pushing the technology, performance, and craftsmanship boundaries harder than they ever have before. They’re making rods that compel anglers to want to spend more for better performance. / November 2011

Think of it like cars. Are there no-frills, reliable options that get you from point A to point B for a reasonable cost? Sure. And are there “muscle cars” and high-performance vehicles that redefine the experience of sitting behind the wheel? Of course there are. Our job isn’t to tell you what’s best for you. That’s a purely individual decision. But we can tell you what’s new, what the value propositions are, what the “buzz” is, and how we think certain rods perform (for us). 14

ONE (International Fly Tackle LET’S BE PERFECTLY HONEST, it takes some serious chutzpah to name your new rod series “The ONE,” especially in the Orvis Helios, G.Loomis NRX, and Hardy Sintrix era. But judging by the fact that the ONE made a clean sweep of the EFTTEX (the European fishing tackle trade expo) best fly rod honors, and then followed up at the International Fly Tackle Dealer show with wins in both the saltwater and freshwater fly rod categories (as voted on by retailers, guides, and media pros from throughout the world), it’s hard to argue the ONE’s appeal. The One rod is the first fly rod to take advantage of Sage’s new Konnetic technology. Konnetic technology uses new materials combined with pioneering manufacturing methods and processes. This technology incorporates an optimized ratio of Sage’s proprietary resin to exclusive high modulus aerospace-grade carbon fiber. The latest construction methods include Sage’s Advanced Modulus Positioning System (AMPS); a process that precisely aligns and positions carbon fiber materials to exacting tolerances for the greatest blank strength, delivering extremely efficient energy transfer throughout the shaft. Using Sage’s High Compression Molding process, carbon fibers are compacted for optimum

The inherent strength of Konnetic technology allows ONE rods to have a smaller diameter as well as weigh 25 percent lighter than comparable Sage rods. These attributes combine to provide augmented aerodynamic efficiency. Further innovations are the 70 percent lighter, low profile ferrules that help direct and carry energy through the rod without sacrificing strength, critical action, and feel. “The ONE rod becomes a true extension of the angler’s arm,” notes Sage chief rod designer Jerry Siem. “It offers a more fluid transmission of energy from the arm to the fly. The eye sees the cast it wants to make and is translated to the hand through the rod instantaneously.” The fast-action ONE rod family is intended for all fishing conditions thanks to a list of high-end features. A custom cork handle is fashioned in a snubnose, half-wells grip on the 3- through 6-weights and a full-wells handle with fighting butt on the saltwater capable 6- through 10-weights. Each handle is designed to match the exact taper of the rod providing even greater sensitivity and feel. Other details include the Sage-designed round eye tip-top which never pinches or binds the line, allowing the caster to mend and cast in any direction with full control. continued on next page...


On the 3- through 6-weights, the elegant walnut insert is perfectly married with the bronze anodized aluminum reel seat. Saltwater weights feature all anodized reel seat components.

8-foot, 10-inches long (to match shipping specs from UPS) and are available in 4-7 weights. For many years now, rod companies have been perfecting designs and materials that make ferrules irrelevant. In other words, you can pick up many 4-, 5- or even 6-piece rods these days, and not feel a discernable difference in the rod action versus the single or two-piece models that predominated the market in the past.

The One rod comes in a new “black ice” color, which has a translucent finish and is complemented by black guide wraps and bronze trim wraps. Admittedly, it’s not a catchy or flashy look. It’s more an all-business aesthetic (think in the context of early-career Mike Tyson’s ring apparel: black trunks, black shoes, no socks, all punch). Each rod comes with a powder-coated aluminum rod tube with Sage medallion and a hand-made rod sock. “The ONE rod is smooth and precise with an intentionally forgiving ‘sweet spot’ that complements widely diverse casting styles,” says Eric Gewiss, Sage’s Marketing Manager. “This helps the angler make a full range of close-in and long-distance casts that hit the mark with equal ease. Being able to feel exactly what the line is doing through all stages of the cast gives anglers ultimate control so they can make the microadjustments needed to place the fly precisely where it’s wanted.” / November 2011

The One rod is already available at most Sage authorized retail locations with a selection of 22 single-hand models. ONE rods range from 3- through 10-weights and will be priced from $715 to $740.

Built from Hardy’s proprietary Sintrix material, Zenith is very light and very strong. But it’s the silky smooth, feelrich action that tells you where your line weight is headed during all aspects of the casting stroke that will get your attention and respect. If you’re looking for a boat rod, or a rod you want to leave assembled (you have no choice but to do so) and/or carry transport in a rack in your car or truck… yes, there is a difference, and the Zenith is exceptionally pure. Retail price ranges between $639-$679. Greys


XF2 Saltwater Rods

Zenith One-Piece

Greys is the lower-pricepoint complement to the Hardy line. We just took a new Grey’s XF2 rod on a week-long northern pike fishing trip to Lake Athabasca in Saskatchewan, Canada—as part of a beefy quiver of other rods from other manufacturers—and XF2 quickly became the favored stick in the arsenal. Sure, it’s billed as a saltwater rod, but when it came to

Hardy made a huge splash last year with its rod series that use “Sintrix” technology. They cast like a dream, are very responsive, and they have incredible reserve power for fighting fish. New for this year, the company has come out with a Zenith line of onepiece freshwater fly rods. They are 16

But cast the new Zenith, even for a few minutes, and you can’t help but think, “Yeah, there’s a difference.”

hoofing big streamers at distances up to 70 feet or more… then fighting and landing 40-inch-plus pike, XF2 simply didn’t budge on performance. It was accurate. It was light. It was versatile. And it didn’t break (which is more than we can say for some of the others). They’re all fourpiece rods, ranging from 7to 12-weights, and they cost between $299 and $329. Also from Hardy and Greys, you’ll want to check out a new lineup of twohanders, like the Zenith DH, and the XF2 DH. We haven’t cast those yet, so the review is pending. Hardy is also going back to its roots with a classic “Gladstone” cane series… a “Moran” cane series, crafted in England by Tom Moran for $4000… a spendy ($1300 to just under $2000) “Artisan” Sintrix series… and a lower-priced ($400) “Marksman2” series. G.Loomis NRX Pro 4X G.Loomis also made big waves last year by introducing its NRX rod series. Designed by legendary casting guru Steve Rajeff, NRX offers an exceptionally solid all-around appeal. This isn’t a basic rod. It’s a casting tool. But it’s definitely forgiving, with a fairly large “sweet spot” in terms of enhancing timing and accuracy, and it’s versatile in terms of handling a variety of conditions, from nymphing in heavy water, to delicately presenting tiny dry flies on glassy spring creeks. The new twist for 2012 is the NRX Pro 4X series, which earned the company a repeat “Best Fly Rod” award at the ICAST (all fishing tackle) trade show.

Pro 4X leverages all the research and development put into its highly successful NRX rods, and creates an 11-rod series designed for both ‘new-to-thesport’ and intermediate anglers. That means they cost less (retailing in a range between $325-$350), with fewer frills and accents, but basically the same blanks. The series includes rods for trout, salmon/steelhead and saltwater fishing.

features new tapers (very closely matching the Helios, which more or less set the standard for “new generation” fly rods and materials a few years ago), as well as new blanks, and new hardware. The resulting action is a near match of the Helios action, but the price is significantly less at $225. Available in 6-12

weights or saltwater models, Clearwater is a rock-sold value as an entry rod, the extra stick that falls outside your normal range, or the travel rod. The redesigned Clearwater freshwater series features what the company calls a continued on next page...

All of the new PRO-4X fly rods are backed by the new G.Loomis ‘Wild Card’ program, a popular option first offered on the NRX rods to provide anglers with a one-time-only free replacement should they accidently break it - no questions asked. In addition, like all other G.Loomis rods, they feature a limited lifetime warranty for the original owner. Orvis Clearwater

Its new Clearwater series has been completely redesigned for 2012. In the saltwater array, Clearwater now / November 2011

Orvis followed a similar vein for 2012, utilizing its high-end technology to create performance product for the “pricepoint” realm.


more “progressive taper” which, again, more closely mirrors the Helios action. You’ll find a similar price break on the freshwater side with Clearwater. Our test casts told us that Clearwater does indeed feature a silky, yet forgiving, action… one that allows the angler to “will” casts to targets, and spend less effort thinking about mechanics. Ross FS Series 9’-6” For 2012, three new FS 9’-6” rods will be available—5, 6, and 7 weights. They are medium to heavy action, and designed for big rivers. We could immediately sense the value for applications like European style nymphing, drift boat fishing and bombing long casts in stillwater situations. All of these four-piece rods have titanium guides, alignment marks, half wells handles, and they include a cordura rod case as well as a lifetime warranty… for $145. St. Croix High Stick Drifter

rods. They’re perfectly functional, and supremely cast-able, without costing an arm and a leg. St. Croix also is one of the first rod companies to delve into the relatively young “technique-specific” realm of fly rods, for example, by creating the “Bank Robber” series in concert with streamer maven Kelly Galloup, which proved to be another home run with angling consumers. This year, St. Croix introduces its “High Stick Drifter” rod series, designed to perform best in “high stick nymphing” situations. And why not? Since 99 percent of most anglers in the Rockies (and more and more in the Midwest and the East) rely on high stick nymphing techniques to catch trout… that only seems natural. The “Drifter” rods feature 3M’s nano silica resin (like many of the new generation rods), but they’re designed to have a lightweight tip section that enhances sensitivity, and also reduces angler fatigue (when standing in a river, in the “Statue of Liberty” position for hours on end. The lower sections of the rods are where you find the reserve power, and overall, St. Croix pulls it off with excellent balance. If you fish below the surface more often than not, St. Croix has made an appealing option (in Park Falls, Wisconsin) for $430. They’re slightly longer than the norm (another benefit for nymph applications)… 9’6” for a 4 weight, a 10-foot 4, and a 10-foot 5. Scott / November 2011


Since opening a production facility in Fresnillo, Mexico, St. Croix has made some serious waves on the lower-pricepoint side of the market with rod series like “Rio Santo” and its newer “Imperial” 18

Scott Fly Rods has come out with a new “A4” rod series. The company described casting A4 on its IFTD entry form: “Like the first time you heard Iggy Pop, only better.” A4 has the typical, not-overdone-by-speed casting action that Scott aficionados have come to appreciate over the years. It also

features some nice accents, like REC components, Scott’s signature low-profile sleeve ferrule, and a good warranty. The real appeal is the multi-modulus graphite blanks. Priced in the mid $300s (for a wide range of sizes and applications, from spring creeks, to the tarpon flats), if you are a Scott fan, and you want a fair reason to buy another rod, this is a good one. Winston Boron IIIx 5-piece Rod Like all Winston rods, this one is stunningly beautiful, with a high-grade reel seat, guides, and accents, but the real story is the Boron III, applied to a fivepiece rod. While some rod companies are trending retro toward two-and even single-piece rods, Winston is on the forefront of making the multi-piece rod overcome ferrule-induced rigidity. And the BIIIx pulls that off with aplomb. Available in three sizes, 9-4, 9-5, and 9-6, these rods all pack down to fit in a tube 24 inches long, which makes them appealing for the backcountry hike-in trip, or the carryon stowaway for someone who might want to steal a little time on the water on the next vacation. Retail is $895. As such, we have to guess that if there will be a race to top the $1000 mark for a U.S.-made production graphite rod, we’re pretty sure Winston is going

to win. But Winston rods are indeed among the prettiest, purest-casting rods an angler can buy, at any price.

thanks to the carbon fiber weave in the butt section and ferrules for added durability and strength. We think it is a solid entry-level saltwater rod, or backup/add-on rod for the seasoned angler who wants to put another line weight in the bag, but doesn’t want to drop several hundred bucks to do so. The predator will get you through plenty of Bonefish jaunts to the Bahamas. Available in 6- through 14-weights, the Predator comes in a blue fabric rod tube with dividers for an MSRP of $249.95

Redington Redington has been through a few industry incarnations over the years, but it now rests solidly in the Far Bank Enterprises fold, along with Sage and Rio Products. As such, Redington is Far Banks platform to design and offer lower-priced (import) rods, that draw from the company’s deep technology well. This year, Redington is offering three new series: Torrent

Predator The “Predator” saltwater rods have reserve power to fight large fish,

Voyant We thought “Voyant” was smooth on the cast, thanks to the powerful tip section that not only allows the angler pick up more line, but also helps accentuate line speeds via the double-haul. The lightweight 3- through 6-weights have a half-wells grip and are well suited for ultra-sensitive species. The 7through 10-weights feature full-wells grips. Voyant rods come with a cloth tube with zippered closure. Four sizes are paired with Surge reels and RIO Mainstream line as turn-key setups. MSRP is set at $189.95 for single rods, and $299.95 for outfits.

Best Watercraft: The Water Master Kodiak Loaded Package The Water Master Kodiak has been around for a bit… the new twist this year is that it is offered as a complete package. And that’s what won in the continued on next page...



Pat Dorsey, Pro Fly Fishing Guide & Author

This reuseable tungsten putty is environmentally friendly, easy to use, and the choice of the pros.

15353 E. Hinsdale Circle, Unit F Centennial, Colorado 80112

303-690-0477 / November 2011

Redington designed the “Torrent” to be an allaround rod for anglers of all skill levels. We cast it, and felt it packed some punch, without overshadowing the finesse and feel... perhaps that’s thanks to the premium Toray graphite Redington uses to make these blanks. They’re not flashy rods; the focus is on function and value, with the 3- through 6-weight models equipped with a carbon fiber reel seat insert, and the 7- through 12-weights offering a simple anodized aluminum reel seat. You can choose between three different sizes of fighting butts for the various line weights, in effect matching the end-size of the rod to to the fishing application you like most. Each model comes with an aluminum tube and rod sock. At $249.95, the value factor makes this rod an appealing option.

Now you can offer the finest personal water craft in the world. Dealership opportunities now available.


“Best Personal Watercraft” category at IFTD. This package includes the single-person raft itself, as well as a boat bag, soft seat, foot pump, patch kit, fins, stripping apron, rod holder, mesh storage bag, cargo net, drag handle, 303 UV protectant, anchor system, motor mount, and heavy-duty river oars. That’s actually a very good thing, because many anglers who want a boat see only the boat sticker price, and several hundred dollars (or more) later, after they’ve bought all the stuff it takes to actually fish from that boat, are left wondering what happened. Here, it’s all in one place. Buy the package, go fish. Simple. And the Water Master Kodiak has proven reliable in many environments, from flat water, to small streams, to large rivers. Retail is $1995.

Best Eco-Friendly Product:

to the spread of aquatic invasive species that ruin rivers (things like mudsnails, didymo, and the like), a lot of consumers are choosing their boots carefully. The Korkers Metalhead wading boot won “Eco-Friendly” award honors at the International Fly Tackle Dealers show recently because the boots’ interchangeable outsoles can be treated, switched, frozen, or dried in a way that helps protect the waters. Let’s be clear: No product is, purely by design, a cureall to the threats posed by aquatic invasive species. But, if you have a choice to wash your boots, and then pop off the soles and freeze them overnight (versus freezing your boots entirely), the process of fishing eco-smart becomes a heckuva lot easier. The boots themselves are hydrophobic, meaning they absorb less and dry faster (and shrink less when they do dry). And the forthcoming “Svelte 2” sole material offers a reliable alternative to felt. Metalheads are easy to slip on and off too. Retail for the boots is $159.99-$179.99.

Recommended Reading Books: Fifty More Places to Fly Fish Before You Die Wins “Best of Show”

Korkers Metalhead Wading Boot / November 2011

As many anglers become more and more eco-conscious (an undoubtedly good thing) in an era when we know felt-soled wading boots can contribute

Chris Santella’s “Fifty Places” series is a sales machine, and Fifty More Places to Fly Fish Before You Die is a rare sequel that’s better than its predecessor (which was wonderful). The picks 20

for this book are more seasoned, and a tad more off the beaten path, and the writing is consistently informative and entertaining. This is a no-brainer option for any fly shop (retail $24.95). Another Book Worth Reading, Selling: The Blitz; Fly Fishing the Atlantic Migration Written by Pete McDonald; Photo Editor, Tosh Brown

The idea of following animals on a natural migration that spans geography and seasons isn’t exactly a new formula… even when it comes to striped bass and other nearshore pelagics on the Atlantic Seaboard. I’m just not sure I’ve ever seen it packaged as well as it is in The Blitz. That starts with author Pete McDonald. The more I read his work, the more I genuinely admire the clean, efficient prose, and the authoritative yet never assuming voice of a real pro. (McDonald’s blog, fishingjones. com is one of the most consistently entertaining and informative blogs for anglers.) Tosh Brown’s photo edit and contributions are equally compelling. The total package is one of the finest fishing books I’ve seen in recent memory, certainly one that transcends the how-to standards of the day. The project also has a conscience. Five dollars from every copy goes directly to support coastal conservation causes. at



Is Your Business Plan Out-of-Date? It’s time to relaunch your fly shop... Written by Steven B. Schweitzer / November 2011

Sales are stagnant. Your customers are more fickle. Competition is growing. Your fly shop just seems in a rut. What should you do? Consider relaunching your business. (What?! Isn’t that expensive?) Not at all – read on to learn how to create an agile business plan and relaunch your business as frequently as you desire. If you are one of the thousands of SMBs (small-to-medium businesses) that have created and are operating by a business plan, you are ahead of the game. However, it may be time to take out that old plan, dust it off, think through your assumptions when you created it, update the out-of-date assumptions, add a few 22

new tweaks, and relaunch your business. Here’s the trick: Treat your relaunch like a grand opening. Not only will it add a breath of fresh air for your customer base, it will also put a giddy-up in your step – which is likely what is needed most. Relaunching is a way to set new expectations in a formalized

manner. It’s another way of thinking about how to update your business plan. Take this quick test to see if you are operating out-of-date and can benefit from a business relaunch. Without any extra effort, off the top of your mind, can you answer... MARKET AWARENESS • Can you name your top 3 direct competitors? • Do you know where your customers shop when they don’t buy from you?

SALES AWARENESS • Can you list your top 5 (and bottom 5) selling products? • Can you list your top 3/bottom 3 customers? Do you know why? INNOVATION • Can you list 3 things you’ve done this year to make your business more profitable? • Can you list 3 things to be more efficient? • Can you list the number of successful new products you brought into inventory this year? EXECUTION • Can you list 3 things you’ve done to successfully attract new customers? • Can you list 3 things you’ve done to retain existing customers? If you’ve answered NO to any one of the questions above, you are operating outside of your original business plan and most likely need a business plan make-over. Breaking down a business plan make-over is as easy as three simple steps. There’s no need to revamp the entire business plan, just the parts that aren’t relevant or aren’t working anymore. First, you have to be AWARE of what’s wrong. Secondly, you have to get creative and INNOVATE some nifty ideas to make the “wrongness” perform better. And finally, you have to know how to EXECUTE your newly hatched ideas. Let’s explore each in more detail below. 1. AWARENESS

common problem of how to generate more foot traffic as a prime example. A simple and common idea many of you do now is to make your shop the “place to be” with social events, tying demos, book signings, etc. But that may not be enough now. Mimicry is a form a flattery - look at what other retailers outside of the fly fishing industry are doing to attract customers. What are the golf courses doing? Team up with the local Parks & Recreation departments who, by the way, spend a considerable amount of bandwidth publicizing their events year round (tag along for the ride by offering fly fishing classes). There are plenty more ideas all AWARENESS IN PRACTICE: How around you – just be observant to the do I figure out what’s broken? innovation others are doing. Most likely, For each bucket, ask yourself these four those tactics will work for you too. questions: INNOVATION IN PRACTICE: Thinking About Your Customers 1. Are my original assumptions still in a Different Way. applicable? If not, change them to be more realistic and attainable. Rethink how you segment your 2. Am I better than my competition? If customers. Instead of breaking them down along the traditional not, step it up! demographics like age and sex lines, 3. Think about two to three things you segment them in terms of their can do to change your approach or behavior. How do your customers use tactic. your product? How do they want to pay for it and when? When they don’t 4. Can I implement changes quickly buy from you, do you know why? Once and with acceptable capital draw? If you establish what they want, you can not, rethink your tactics. remake your sales strategy. Today’s Awareness is the first step in recustomer base is clearly telling the seller launching your business. But it will that they want more for less. They all be for naught unless you become want more product information. They innovative and pace yourself through want more product selection. They execution. Let’s look at innovation want competitive prices. The key is to next. completely understand your customers and sell the way they want to buy. 2. INNOVATION Turns out the Hokey-Pokey IS what it’s All About... Innovation comes from inspiration. You become inspired by an extremely positive or negative event. Ho-hum everyday run-of-the-mill businesses don’t inspire anyone. Let’s use the

OK, so now you are A) aware of the changes needed and you’ve B) brainstormed some innovative tactics. The last thing to deal with is execution. Just exactly how do you implement innovative ideas effectively? continued on next page... 23 / November 2011

The very first step in business plan re-engineering is knowing what’s out-of-date. Fortunately, a proper business plan is comprised of sections of planning information to make the re-thinking exercise easier. The most common sections of a business

plan are: Mission/Vision Statement, Overall Strategy, Products, Market & Competition Analysis, Financial Projections & Plan, Staffing Plan, Operating Plan, Location & Presence, Branding & Image, Marketing Plan, Sales Plan & Implementation Approach. Thinking through each of these buckets and answering a few key questions will fast-track re-launching your business. This exercise will take some time and may not feel intuitive at first, but after stewing on it for awhile, you’ll quickly be able to highlight areas of your original business plan that need an oil change.


3. THE ART OF EXECUTION The easiest way to think about executing on your newly minted business plan is to treat it like a business re-launch. Why a re-launch? – simply because you aren’t starting a new business from scratch. Chances are that there are facets of your business that are operating just fine. Those areas don’t need a make-over, but some other areas do. But first, let’s side-bar a moment and look at the top five business planning mistakes. If you exhibit any of these characteristics, go back to AWARENESS and start again. Top Five Business Plan Implementation Mistakes 1. You say too much. Your marketing website and literature cram in too much info, much of it irrelevant to what you are selling. 2. You aren’t different. Do we really need another pizza joint? Be different and think hard on how to be so. 3. You are too optimistic. All business owners are too optimistic about sales – be realistic and use history to project trends. / November 2011

4. You don’t discuss the risks. You think it will all go according to plan and don’t account for the unknowns or inherent risks of operation.


5. You are out of touch. You actually don’t know what your customers want. EXECUTION IN PRACTICE: Your re-launch will be a success if you follow a few simple execution guidelines. 1. Implement change in bite-sized chunks. Tackling too much at one time sets the stage for failure. If you experience too much failure, you will be hesitant to implement any other changes going forward. 2. Start with the low-hanging fruit first. Your over-hauled business plan may include several new tactics that will take either time or capital to implement. Size them up and choose the quickto-implement items or ones that take the least amount of capital investment. Getting a few quick wins under your belt does wonders for you and your customers will start noticing too. 3. Change with cognizance. Don’t alienate your existing loyal customers; target communication to them first. They will be your best disciples. 4. Monitor Progress. If the changes you are implementing aren’t yielding the results you planned for, do you know why? Monitor results religiously. 5. Don’t be afraid to change direction on the fly. That’s called being

nimble, or “selling at the speed of the customer.” The bottom line is if a tactic doesn’t work, don’t fear changing it quickly to see if the outcome can be better. 6. Make a big splash. Make every tangible change to your business known to your customers. Make a big deal of it. You may wait for a few tactics to be implemented and announce them all at once, or you may announce each time you implement a game-changing approach. Either way works, but be sure to make it a big deal. Where Can I Get Ideas For My Relaunch? There’s no better place to start than your existing customer base. Ask them first. Is your shop solving your customer’s needs, or are you just another retailer? Once you’ve prepared a list of business overhauling re-launch items, discuss them with selected savvy customers. Not only will they become more loyal because you thought highly of them for input, they will also give you what you need – valuable vetting on your approach. SUMMARY All business plans are wrong once they are printed. Plans are about the future--and nobody gets the future right very often, so keeping the plan fresh and close to reality is key to good strategic planning. A planning process constantly watches the difference between the plan and actual results. Reality swallows our assumptions and we need to keep track of where, why and how we were wrong. This kind of tracking becomes the key to innovation. Building into your business plan awareness of opportunity and knowing how to execute against those ideas will help you re-launch your business as frequently as you desire. at

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Toweling Off & Trending Up Written by Geoff Mueller

Tucker Ladd, at Trout’s Fly Fishing in Denver, Colorado, agrees. He tells us customers are coming in and casting Sage Ones based on a curiosity factor that the shop has subsequently converted into dollars. “It’s been the biggest new item we’ve seen in a long time,” Ladd says. Trout’s is also witnessing a spike in top-shelf reel sales—an indicator that high-end good are starting to claw back after the economic implosion of 2008. The Spey/Switch Revolution / November 2011

Across the country, 2011 will go down as one of the soggiest years in recent retail memory. But when the weather finally subsided this fall, hatches turned on and consumers, popping heads out from under manhole-covers and oversized golf umbrellas, could taste their fate. The time had come to fish. This exodus from indoor to out has been felt at fly shops. While some of the less fortunate have boarded windows in the bust before the boom, several Rocky Mountain region shops are claiming 2011 as their best year on record. For this article, we surveyed seven businesses still afloat, shops 26

spanning east, west, north, south, salt, and fresh… and asked them: “What’s trending?” and “Where are consumers spending?” Searching for “The One” Sage has done plenty right with the recent launch of its “One” series fly rods, including building huge hype and engineering a product that delivers on it. When asked about retail trends coming into the New Year, most shops queried for this article were quick to spit the words “Sage One” as leading a high-end rod category that is trending up. Grant Houx, who owns and operates St. Peter’s North and South fly shops in Fort Collins, Colorado, says, “From what we’ve seen from the Sage One already, the momentum and the interest is strong.”

Spey fishing and the equipment poured into making it click—rods, reels, lines, tips, heads, floaters, sinkers, cheaters, tweeners, and more lines—remains a trend with teeth. And it’s one with an expanding geographical girth that reaches beyond the Pacific Northwest. In fact, this once dusty English pastime—Alfred, come see Phillip’s “super groovy” Perry Poke!—has become de rigueur across much of the former colony. At the Caddis Fly Shop in Eugene, Oregon, owner Chris Daughters says the Spey line category, with a steady influx of new technology, continues to gain momentum. “The Spey line phenomenon has been going nuts,” he says. “It seems like every week there’s a new line with an added improvement or a new sales pitch. And I think they are legitimately getting better and better. There are many offerings out there today and for me it gives a lot of saleable options.” Lines to watch for? Daughters has his eye on Airflo’s new Rage Compact—

basically what’s been dubbed a “tweener” by the Spey community because it’s not quite a Scandi, or a Skagit. Instead it falls in between— short enough to lob medium-heavy flies and tips, and long enough for a less clunky delivery. In San Francisco, Leland Fly Fishing Sales Manager Keith Westra says: “The big push for us is still switch and Spey gear.” And in Virginia, Rich Farino at Urban Angler Fly Shop reiterates the Spey sentiment. “Companies like RIO are making the products more accessible and easier to understand,” Farino says. “And anyone that’s picking it up are going to surprisingly different places—from the Great Lakes to British Columbia to Tierra Del Fuego… everywhere.” East Coast: Staying Dry and See-Thru Lines Consumers with less ambitious fishing plans than Tierra Del Fuego for 2012 are more interested in just staying dry, Farino adds. Urban Angler’s New York City and Virginia shops have been “selling the crap out of ” waterproof softgoods and accessories, such as roll-top bags, duffels, and packs from Simms, Patagonia, and SealLine. Farino says, “Anything that’s waterproof and functional, guys have been jumping all over it and that’s been a big plus for flyfishing sales… because lately we’re constantly getting wet. It’s also hitting a nice crossover market with consumers who are going kayaking and boating.” In Key West, where customers are also going boating, high-quality foul weather gear is another rising category. According to Nathaniel Linville, owner of Key West Angling, the impending launch of Simms’

new Pro Dry Gore-Tex suit has created a strong in-shop buzz. But as far as longstanding trends in the Keys are concerned, they continue to revolve around tarpon, and how to catch more of them. Although Linville remains stingy about his secret tarpon flies, he says that increased angler interest in clear tarpon-line technology is another trend worth noting. In particular, he likes Airflo’s new Ridge Tropical Floating Tip and Cortland’s Liquid Crystal series. “On the ocean side during tarpon season there are days, an increasing number of days, where the clear line is an advantage,” he says. “That’s becoming the case more and more. And anglers are taking note.”

Hair Hackled In the world of not-so-fishing fly fishing trends, quality hackles are still hard to find. The hair-hackle salon craze, which began exploding about a year and a half ago, continues to leave shops (and fly tiers) in short supply. In Eugene, Daughters tells us that although supply remains short, it’s a phenomenon that’s simmering: “I think it’s definitely trending down and while Tom Whiting is building his farm up he’s going to be [expletive] begging us to take his stuff back in about three months.” Predictions for 2012’s next big fashion/fishing trend? Our analysts recommend watching chap-stick and tinsel sales very closely through the next quarter. at


Pro Guide Direct: The Program that Has

Guides Seeing Green Green, and Some Dealers Seeing Red Commentary by Kirk Deeter

If you want to start a heated debate in a room full of guides, outfitters, and fly fishing retailers, all you have to do is utter three words: Pro. Guide. Direct. That’s essentially what someone did at the LinkedIn Forum hosted by Angling Trade. (For those of you unaware, there is a dealer’s-only group where retailers share tips, gripes, ideas, and other thoughts; if you’re a dealer you’re more than welcome to check it out and join via Of all the comment threads in this forum, non have lingered, nor generated such passionate response as the one on Pro Guide Direct. So we thought we’d flush the topic out a little more here. Let’s start off one word at a time. / November 2011

Pro. That’s what we all are, right? We make our livings by dealing in products and services attached to the sport of fly fishing. Some of us do it better than others, but I think it’s fair to say that nobody is making the kind of money in this market than they would, say, as an investment banker on Wall Street. The real issue is how the pie is divvied up, and we’re all scrambling for small pieces. Guide. I’ve been on record for years saying that the guides are the sport’s ambassadors. The sun rises and sets in this industry where guides say it does. The industry needs guides, and must do more for guides. In Pro Guide Direct, guides have a program where they refer the client who asks “What rod do you think I should buy?” (as well as other outdoor 28

gear) and earn a commission for doing so. Nothing wrong with a guide scratching out a little extra coin, right? Well that depends on who you ask. Direct. Ah… now there’s the hot word. There’s the elephant in the room. Mere mention of the word “direct” to a retailer in this day and age, and the veins on the neck bulge and the face turns red. Mention “direct” to a manufacturer, and they get a little twinkle in their eye, then they shuffle off to conference with their PR people to figure out what to say on the record. Mike Michalak of the Fly Shop is one of those retailers who sees red over the Fly Shop Direct program. Michalak says he doesn’t mind having another competitor (that is, after all, what Pro Guide Direct is, an online retailer of sporting goods). He just doesn’t like the notion that someone might be hijacking a dealer’s staff to sell product through another avenue. “Guides and shops have an important relationship, and that’s built on trust,” said Michalak. “If I found out one of my guides was selling product through someone else, that would be a deal killer, and the end of not only the relationship, but also the friendship. It’s a stab in the back, plain and simple.” Yet Fletcher White, who started Pro Guide Direct after a 23-year career as a retailer (WorldCast Anglers), a guide, owner and outfitter, says that’s a double standard. “The Fly Shop is as big a big box as any other retailer,” said White. “They have

an aggressive online and catalog business, and they’re attracting business from throughout the country.” White also points out that 75 percent of guides in the U.S. are independent contractors who work alone or through various shops. If a guide has to work through an outfitter, White agrees that the outfitter should be rewarded for guide product referrals. In fact, he invites shops to submit Pro Guide Direct their list of guides; any product sales that come through those channels are credited to the shop, and it’s up to the retailer to divvy up the proceeds. As for manufacturers, some are in, some are out, some were in then out and some of them are thinking of jumping back in. The one thing all sides can agree on is that the business climate is not even close to what it was 20 years ago, when brick and mortar retail dominated fly fishing, almost exclusively. “All you have to do is look at conventional fishing to see where the fly market is going,” said White, who added that with every public outcry by a dealer over his program, he ironically sees an incremental spike in guide sign-ups. And those guides, interestingly, now find themselves in the nexus position—the proverbial “cat bird’s seat” when it comes to influencing sales. But then again, they’ve been there all along. Now we’re starting to figure out where the loyalties really lie… only starting to figure it out. at










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Shop Profile: The Stone Fly— Celebrating Survival what they were doing right and what seemed to be mistakes.” A critical asset was convenient: the log cabin that houses the business. The building previously housed “John’s Log Cabin Guns,” a business operated by Mike’s father, John Marcum, until his death in 2001 from multiple sclerosis. Mike recalls his father spending two years in the mid-‘80s personally cutting every tree, shaping every log, and putting them in place, one at a time. “It was a place where people liked to come in and B.S. about guns,” Mike recalls fondly. The building was vacant and listed with a realtor until Mike and Chris started planning the flyshop. It turned out to be a good choice.

Written by Paul F. Vang / November 2011

May 21, 2011 was a big day for Chris Bradley and Mike Marcum, owners of The Stone Fly, a flyshop in Butte, Montana. With an open house and grilled burgers and hot dogs, they celebrated a milestone: they successfully survived five years in business. According to the Small Business Administration, 69 percent of business startups survive two years. That survival rate drops to 51 percent at the five-year mark, meaning that when Mike and Chris opened their doors in April 2006 the odds were just 50/50 they’d make it this far. 30

Mike Marcum is a Butte native and graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in parks, recreation and tourism. Chris Bradley is from Great Falls, Montana. He graduated from the University of New Mexico and previously worked in international finance for American Express in Phoenix, Arizona. Chris married Mike’s sister and the two guys became fishing buddies. On outings they talked about starting a flyshop back in Montana. Conversations got serious, a process that evolved over a year of discussion, planning, developing contacts and trying to figure out how the business works. “We did the research, we investigated vendors,” Mike says. “We did the business plan.” Chris adds, “We scouted the competition to see

A frequent customer comment is, “A great building for a flyshop.” While the business is succeeding, Chris concedes, “It definitely took longer than our original projections,” adding, “It takes a long time to build up a customer base. Word of mouth is definitely the best way to get known but it’s not necessarily the fastest.” Looking back at what worked right, the most important factor, Chris says, is, “Treating every customer as if they were our most important customer. Customer service is our most important priority.” Mike says, “We made sure we had products here that our customers want.” Chris picks up the train of thought, “A lot of people mention that. They’re shocked when they come in and we have a product they had talked about. We actually listened.”

He explains they often go the extra mile. “We spend a lot of time getting things for customers, even if we don’t carry the line. We may even buy it at retail somewhere else. We may not make any money but hopefully we’ll develop a business relationship.” The conversation pauses as a Florida resident, who spends summers on the nearby Big Hole River, comes in to buy some hooks. “I’ll see you guys next year,” he says as he leaves. A passion for flyfishing is an attribute Mike and Chris share. “I’d rather be here talking about fishing or researching new products rather than waiting until 5 p.m. to get out of an office,” is how Mike looks at the business, though he cautions, “There are sacrifices.” continued on next page... / November 2011


That passion goes into building an inventory. “Most everything we sell are things we either use or believe in,” Chris says, with Mike adding, “We have to use the products to know them.” They recall early difficulties in getting merchandise. “Most companies are

reluctant to sell to new shops,” Chris says, adding; “Now company reps are knocking on our door and looking to get more floor space.” Not everything went right when they started. Chris explains, “Business schools talk about advertising, but I

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don’t think that applies to a flyshop. The rate of return for our advertising dollars was almost zero. Now, I think we’d spend more time doing events to bring people in.” They also established a website at the time they opened the business (, and Chris says, “That’s how most people find the shop.” The website also links to social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Mike expands, “It was really important, here in Butte, to build a reputation as a flyshop—a high end flyshop.” He also remembers that the most frequently asked question that first year was, “Where are you from?” As Chris observes, “It’s a tight-knit community and they want to support local people.” Mike looks back at growing pains in developing product lines. “Maybe some items weren’t really bad choices but might have been products that hadn’t been in the local market before.” Chris adds, “Inventory management is a constant struggle; what to have and when to get it in.” With a shudder at a bad memory, Chris states, “We won’t ever carry a $1,400 pontoon boat again. We thought we had it sold several times before we actually sold it and got it out the door.” Still, Mike says, “I think we’ve done a fairly good job in avoiding some really bad decisions. We know our target market now and 5-6 years from now we’ll know it even better. You have to have the patience to figure whether something will work.” They make a point to be involved in community activities. Chris has served on the board of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited for three years and Mike joined the board earlier this year. They get involved with

since 2010. Mike acquired a guide’s license in 2011. Mike also does custom flytying, including designing flies. Chris Bradley and Mike Marcum sum up their formula for success in these core values: • Customer service • Community involvement • Vendor relationships • High quality merchandise (though not necessarily the most expensive) chapter activities, such as women’s or children’s flyfishing classes. Chris says, “It’s fun to share our passion and help others get started.” He adds, “Between TU and other events we spend a lot of time out-

side business hours—and it doesn’t feel like work.” Another growth factor is that Chris has been a licensed fishing guide since 2006, and a licensed outfitter

Mike also emphasizes, “We have good communication between partners. We did this to have fun and to live the dream. We’re still having fun.” Chris echoes, “Absolutely.” at


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Training... Should You? Written by Lance Gray

A couple of days ago, I went into a local fly shop I had not been in for some time, and I was surprised to see a stranger behind the counter. So I extended a hand to introduce myself. The stranger looked up at me from the cash register and simply said, “Yeah, nice to meet you.” He didn’t offer a hand, smile or even tell me his name. He just went about his business of working on the cash register. I walked around the shop, looking at this and that. Finally, I asked him a question about a fly box (I already knew the answer). / November 2011

His response was, “I think so.” I went on to ask if the fly box came in different sizes in the same configuration. I got the same “I think so” response. At that point I was concerned and somewhat curious about what was going on. I asked him where the usual person was. “He’s not here.” I looked around the little shop and I almost said sarcastically, “Wow, I didn’t notice,” but I didn’t say any more. 34

He added, after a long pause, “He’s on vacation”. To make a long story extremely short, I bought a couple of items, asked other questions and pretty much got the same type of answers. I left the store thinking to myself, “That person has no training.” I didn’t leave the shop upset (a lot of potential customers would have, with their money still in their pockets). However, I was concerned about the lack of customer service and product knowledge. What would have happened if I was new to fly fishing and that was the first time I’d gone into that shop? Customer service and product knowledge combined with fly-fishing knowledge, are required to work in a shop... at least any shop that wants to make money. Mind you, I don’t want to be smothered to the point that I can’t look around (the used-car salesman routine). There is a line to be drawn when it comes to customer service. I do want a staff member to know what he or she is doing, be aware of customer service etiquette and aware of the product line – know what is or not available. That person should be confident, educated and trained. Training can solve the vast majority of bad situations. It makes your staff better, which makes you better,

which translates into the shop doing better. Successful shops make money, educate the public and are stewards of the sport. Preventing problems from happening is a proactive approach that all shop owners should practice. It saves time and money, and most of all, customers. A good customer is hard to find. Customers can shop anywhere. It isn’t like 20 years ago when they only have the local shop, or mail-order catalogs to choose from. (Editor’s note: That’s really the crux of the issue, isn’t it? We talk about over-distribution, online threats, and so forth, but minus a quality fly shop experience, it really is all the same, isn’t it?) You now have fly shops, bulletin boards, eBay, E-stores, box stores and a host of others I know I’m forgetting. Customers can buy anywhere and at any time. You want them to shop at your store. A well-trained staff will hook and retain customers for your shop simply due to the fact that they (staff) knows what the heck they’re doing. They’ve been trained! Have you ever wondered if your staff needs training? Or have you thought to yourself; maybe I should give the guys and gals some training on customer service? Maybe I need some training on how to train my people. Is there anyone on my staff whom I could leave in charge and not worry about anything? I want the best-trained staff working for me... but where do I to start? How do my customers perceive my staff (a big question)? All these should be asked of yourself and your staff. Staff members want to be trained, they want to be better salespeople and above all, they want to be better fly fishers. Training The definition of training is, “The process of teaching or learning a skill or job.” Is fly fishing a skill? Is customer service a skill?

Training is imparting knowledge and skills and educating staff members. Remember, your staff is what stands between you and your customers. Make sure they are prepared. Training solves problems before they even occur. It helps the customer get the best bang for their buck and makes a customer become a patron. Other businesses wouldn’t dare think of putting a staffer behind the counter without training. The corporate world trains its people. It trains them in every point of a job task. It trains people so everyone in the organization is at a high level of service. Law enforcement, fire departments, the military and McDonalds all train their employees. Are you a professional? Is your staff professional? The box store guys are training their staffs, as they should. For you, the independent specialty shop owners/managers, it’s easier than you think.

Types of training What kind of training is out there for shops to utilize? Truthfully, not a whole lot... there are professional trainers who offer programs in customer service, customer marketing and retail training. I know of no true

training professionals for retail fly shops. This is the point where you, the shop owner/manager, need to stand up and be the leader. Train your people. Get creative in your training. Utilize what you have. continued on next page...

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What training can do for you Training enhances your staff, which in turns enhances your place of business. A well-trained staff can head off conflicts with customers, before they start. They sell, inform and educate your clientele on products that are in your store and available from vendors.

Everything comes down to your staff. You might be the owner, but the staff is what makes you an owner. Without them, you will be a former owner of the shop. / November 2011

The staff comprises the educators of the fly-fishing community in your neck of the woods. They need to be top-notch individuals and instructors so you, the shop owner, can benefit in the form of sales and return patrons.


You have yourself, other (qualified) staff members, manufacturers’ representatives, manufacturers, guides and local fly fishing instructors. Turn to them. These resources are all free, or at least reasonable in price. For example, I went to a shop in my area and did a two-hour presentation on the Feather River. I taught the staff what the customer needed to know to fish and hopefully have some success on the river. The shop owner and his staff have fished the Feather many times, but they wanted a professional view. A guide has professional knowledge on products, fishing techniques, rigging setups and insight. Manufacturers’ representatives are also great people to utilize. These professionals have insight on products, price points and more

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than a few pointers on how to sell the product to the public. In fact, the representative gets out just as much as your staff does; with feedback from you and your staff that they can send to their manufacturers to make the products better. Use other staff members who exhibit excellent skills in categories that other staff members need to be trained on and develop in-house training programs. First and foremost, the staff and you, the shop owner/manager, must be a team. Team dynamics are the key to shop survival. There is no “I” in team and everyone needs to help the team. Build training sessions for your team. Have team training, team building and bonding. If they fish together, they can work together. Everyone must work together in the training to make the training successful and when implemented inside the shop, it will succeed. I was on the phone recently talking with Gary Merriman, owner of the Fish Hawk in Atlanta. I asked what he does with his staff when it comes to training issues. Gary explained that he doesn’t do formal training, as the corporate world does. He trains his people individually. / November 2011

He also utilizes manufacturers’ representatives to help train the staff. Gary makes sure that everyone is available when the rep is at the shop. He spends time with each one to get them to the professional level he expects from his people.

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Gary also told me a story about a customer who came into the shop to look at rods. The customer told the staff member about the rods he wanted to look at. The staff member being professional, showed him the rods, explained the differences and even had the customer cast each one.

Eventually the customer picked the rod he wanted to buy.The customer then told the staff member that he just wanted to cast the rods, to figure out which one he wanted so he could buy it on eBay – he said it was cheaper there. The staff member, being professional, just told the customer that if he had any other questions about the product call or stop back in. Now that is professional. Some staff members in fly shops probably would have lost their cool and said something stupid. The staff member at the Fish Hawk realized that the customer would be back. Maybe not to buy that rod, but maybe a line, a reel, flies or some other sort of product or even a service (schools). Training helped the staff member become professional. Gary spent time mentoring, training and showing the staff member what Gary (The Fish Hawk) expects and demands when dealing with customers. It all comes back to training. There are fly shop owners and managers out there who might be a little, let us say, skeptical about training. They might even think that staff members either have it or they don’t. I totally agree, some staff members have good skills already but like everyone else, they need a little fine-tuning. Everyone does – owners, managers, staff members, guides, and manufacturer’s representatives. All have had training either formally or informally and continue to need training in the future. Have you ever heard someone say, “I learn things every day?” Well, that is training. Train yourself and your staff. And most importantly, train the public to be fly fishers. Training is not an inconvenience, and it is not a luxury. It’s the key to keeping your business afloat and prospering. at / November 2011



the fate of dealer networks is not going to help lure newcomers to our sport. As U.S. economist Chris Christopher said to USA Today last month: “Pessimism is as much a cause as a result. Businesses aren’t going to hire more people until the consumers spend more, and consumers aren’t going to spend more until they see the unemployment rate drop.”

Moving the Needle

Is economic pessimism keeping our industry down? Written by Tom Bie

We’ve all heard a hundred causes for our country’s housing collapse: deregulation; lax lending standards; tax code; greed; gullibility. But deep down, most of us know what built the bubble: unbridled optimism. Too many people believing that the value of their home would keep rising. Forever. / November 2011

As fly fishers, we understand this. Optimism is a natural state of mind for us. Believing that you’ll catch a fish is half the battle. If you’re a winter steelheader or a permit fisherman, it’s probably more than half. Which is why I’ve been a bit surprised and disappointed at what feels like an unreasonable level of pessimism in the fly fishing industry lately. This isn’t a rah-rah celebration of the Pollyanna principle. Our industry has real problems now. But we can’t ignore one of the inherent dangers of unbridled pessimism: it is self-perpetuating. Relentless bitching about our trade shows, our consumer shows, Big Box beatdowns, environmental destruction, uninterested youth, fishing pressure, or 38

The housing industry has now swung too far in the other direction. Banks are just sitting on their money, being too conservative, too pessimistic. And this mindset is partly to blame for our dragging recession. But we’re different. Fly fishing is not helplessly tethered to all the broader forces at work. We can use our smallness to our advantage, to be more nimble, to adapt, to create our own demand. What we can’t do is just throw our hands in the air and resign ourselves to pessimistic paralysis. So, in the spirit of generating new ideas, here are five little ones, aimed at growing your business, Here’s to a prosperous holiday season. 1. Find a young, hip designer to design your shop a shirt. If someone under 30 walks into your store, do you have a cool T-shirt promoting your business that this person will actually want to wear? I’m not talking about a “The way to a man’s heart is through his fly” shirt. I’m talking about something unique to your store, something that says “Charleston Angler” or “Charlie’s Fly Box.” Or something that celebrates a city, like “Chicago Flyfishing” or a small town, like, “Headhunters Fly Shop, Craig, Montana.” 2) Buy a house for your business. Forget what I said about the current difficulty of borrowing. If you can get out of an expensive lease at a strip mall, and move your business into an underpriced place with style, why wouldn’t you do it? Ask Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures how much better their current arrange-

ment is than the one they had before. And if you’re ever in Fort Collins, Colorado, walk into Saint Peters Fly Shop to see what an old, characterfilled house can do for the feel of your business. 3) Form an alliance. Take one look at the ski industry to see how important alliances can be. Season-pass wars in Colorado have largely come down to who is aligned with whom. Do you choose Vail/Breck/Beaver Creek or do you go with Winter Park/Copper/ Steamboat? If you need an edge, reach out to a big name, as Winter Park and Steamboat just did with Aspen. Many shops have formed partnerships with the Fly Fishing Film tour in order to draw discount-holding customers back into their stores. Others have teamed with private landowners or lease-holders to access private water. Barter with the local brewery. Host an event with a vineyard. 4) Become knowledgeable about, and involved with, state and local government entities. I recently attended a conference in Florida hosted by the impressive Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. One of the things I took away from the conference is how easy it is—especially in an election year like this one—to get wrapped up in Washington politics and lose focus of how much difference you can make in your own community or with a statelevel organization. 5) Embrace the Boomer. Our industry, like many industries, tends to obsess about “getting more young people involved.” But there are now 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring a day, and this will go on for the next 19 years. While this group took some heavy losses the past four years, they still represent half of all consumer spending in this country, and nearly 80 percent of all leisure travel. Let’s get fly rods in their hands. at

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