Angling Trade Issue #16

Page 1

the buzz on the flyfishing biz





Proprietary Products Heating Up Market/ Burke on Hair and Hackle/Is Groupon for You?/ Icon Closes its Doors/Undercover Fly Shop Guy/ Costco and the Trust Factor/Travel Tips, and More June 2011

the buzz on the flyfishing biz


Features 20 It’s a “Proprietary” Deal

Who’s really the middle man? We’ve seen manufacturers sell direct for ages... now we’re seeing fly shops decide that the manufacturer might be expendable... that is, for those who have the guts, marketing moxie, and contacts to produce their own goods... and then sell them, en masse. By Jay Cassell

28 A Hairy Situation So, the

ladies like to wear hackle feathers in their hair. Depending on who you are, that’s either mannah from Heaven, or the Devil’s work. What are fly shop guys gonna do? Resent fashionistas? Horde tampons for retribution? Or just roll with it, deal with it, cash in (as possible), and wait for the proverbial worm to turn? By Monte Burke



36 Adventures in Fly Fishing

Costco concerns, direct sales, and the tenuous retailer-manufacturer relationship... Do you really have to wonder which companies are behind the fly shop? After all, actions speak louder than words? By Kirk Deeter

Tim Romano

8 Currents The latest people, product and issues news from the North American fly fishing industry, including forecasts for ICAST, Outdoor Retailer, and a preview of IFTD... where AT will, for the first time, host the “New Product Showcase.”

Art Director

Tara Brouwer Copy Editors

Mabon Childs, Sarah Warner Contributing Editors

Tom Bie Geoff Mueller Ben Romans Andrew Steketee Greg Thomas Contributors

Monte Burke, Jay Cassell, Michael Gracie, Bill Marts, Will Rice, Steve Schweitzer Photos unless noted by Tim Romano

18 Travel Be a client advocate. After all, the traveling angler might be looking at you to help them make the “trip of a lifetime” happen, without any hitches. Who better than you, to offer fair, honest planning advice? By Bill Marts

30 Recommended Reading A hot threesome of relevant and worthy printed works... on Rocky Mountain National Park, small stream fly fishing, legends of the Florida flats scene.

savvy, business consultant out of the whitecollar board room world, and slapped him smack-dab into fly shop retail. Here’s what an ideal target customer-turned fly shop guy has to say about working the other side of the register. By Michael Gracie

Reviewed by Kirk Deeter

40 Six Ways Groupon Can

46 Backcast A post-mortem look at a former retail icon-- Kaufmann’s Stream Born. What happened? Are there lessons to be learned? By Tom Bie

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. Advertising Contact: Tim Romano Telephone: 303-495-3967 Fax: 303-495-2454 Mail Address: PO Box 17487 Boulder, CO 80308 Street Address: 3055 24th Street Boulder, CO 80304

3 / June 2011

in Internet marketing (at least for now... that changes every day). Some fly shops are cashing in big on the opportunity. But will others be left holding orders they can’t honestly fill? By Steve Schweitzer

Kirk Deeter Managing Editor

Retail We took a highly decorated, tech-

Stoke (or Wreck) Your Shop Business Groupon is the hottest thing


6 Editor’s Column

32 Do (Fish), on the Magic Bus

Our writer delves into a niche marketing concept for fly shops that’s somewhere between “high-end destination travel” and guiding on the home river. But does this “in-between” destination fishing idea really have “wheels?” By Will Rice


a picture should say a thousand words. / June 2011

“ummm, where’s the fish?” adds up to only four. if Your photo album onlY mumbles things like “the scener Y was fabulous,” then You’re clearlY not fishing rio leaders and tippets. In order to get a proper, look-at-this-thing, trophy-shot, grin-’n-grab, braggin g-rights, fish-photo – you have to actually land the darn thing. Whether it’s a small spring creek, a skinny bonefish flat or a swift steelhead run, the true advantage is where the fly line ends. RIO’s constant drive to perfect everything from the reel forward results in over 16 leader types for any fish species or strategy. All featuring perfection loops for easy rigging, so you’ll spend less time rigging and more time fishing. And with 9 tippet series available— from silky and supple to rugged and abrasion resistant— you’ll have the confidence of not only fooling that fish, but landing it too.

©RPI, Inc. All rights reserved • 5050 S. Yellowstone Hwy • Idaho Falls, Idaho 83402 USA • 800-553-0838 • • Made in USA



Monte Burke

Monte Burke is a staff writer for Forbes. His personal passion for fly fishing has been welldisplayed in articles for Field & Stream, The Drake, Garden & Gun, and elsewhere. He is a frequent contributor to Angling Trade.

Jay Cassell

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

Jay Cassell earned a lifetime “Excellence in Craft” award from the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Even the most novice fly angler has experienced Jay’s expertise in the countless articles and books he has written, edited, and produced.

Michael Gracie

Michael Gracie has a “day job,” consulting for a number of high-tech, Fortune 500 clients on various matters. Fortunately, he lets us see his “fish bum” persona through the popular blog This is his first foray in Angling Trade.

Bill Marts

Bill Marts is a fly fishing and travel expert who works for The Fly Shop, based in Redding, California. In this issue, Bill offers a “been-there-done that” perspective (his second AT piece) on the keys to making traveling anglers satisfied.

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

WADING STAFF Safe and Stealth!

Will Rice

Will Rice (the Colorado Will Rice) holds a highly respectable position in the corporate world, yet, for some reason, he still publically admits that he’s a contributing editor for The Drake, and a frequent writer for Angling Trade.

Wood design provides for quiet, stealth wading Sound travels 5 times faster in water than air Unique handle design promotes stability Retrieves flies from overhead branches Field tested on the rugged Pit River Beautiful white ash staff floats

Steve Schweitzer

Steve Schweitzer is a fly industry insider, business maven, and author of the new Fly Fisher’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park. He’s Angling Trade’s best source for “hot scoops” on issues that affect shops. All we can say about Schweitzer is, “Read… and learn.”

942 Quarry Street, Petaluma, CA 94954 707.763.7575 w w w. p i t r i ve r c o m p a n y.c o m Dealer/distributor inquiries welcome


Let’s Get Real… Really showing up in Costco locations… about Pro Plan Direct, and all of that, is that all of this is really a deeper reflection of the tenuous manufacturer-to-retailer relationship. It’s about direct sales… more to the point, it’s about if certain manufacturers are willing to sell out the specialty retailer for the sake of profit. That’s really the gorilla in the room. So let’s talk about it. photo by Conway Bowman / June 2011

We’re pumped up at Angling Trade now because we’ve recently launched a revamped website (www.anglingtrade. com), where we are reporting on issues that affect the fly fishing industry as they happen, when they happen. You should check out the website if you haven’t already. That’s where we first ran stories on the thefts affecting fly shops, where we originally hit the “hair hackle” craze (you’ll see more on that in this magazine), and we also broke the whole “Costco” deal there. I think it’s great to have a vehicle that allows us to do some investigative work and run stories in “real time.” Based on what I’ve seen by way of feedback, you want that substance. You got it. We’re on it. We’ll keep the throttle down. But there’s also something to be said for the print forum, where AT can delve deeper into those topics (and others), and write features that serve the interests of the specialty fly retailer in detail. We have the best writers in the business bringing that to you also. You know… the one thing that strikes me about the stories we ran on hair extensions and hackle feathers… about Sage rods and Simms waders 6

As for the Costco situation… yeah… Simms waders and Sage rods showed up at Costco locations (16, by my last count) for substantially lower prices than a fly shop offers those products. And, after they figured out what was going on, Simms and Sage went out and repurchased the products, at retail prices, to protect the sanctity of the manufacturer-dealer relationships they had cultivated over the years. By any account, that’s bold action, and a tough stance in favor of the independent dealer. I admire that level of commitment. What I don’t admire is how other companies have been allowed to slide, for years, with no tangible explanation to the retailer for the doubledealing, or the false promises. Here’s an example: A couple years ago, an unnamed rod company had the audacity to ask me to a meeting at the FFR trade show (back when it was the AFFTA-sponsored FFR, before IFTD), and the “schtick” was: “Well, we don’t have any new products to show, but what we’re all about now is our revamped relationship/system for working with dealers.” And in the months since, there hasn’t been an ad in this magazine (targeting dealers), nor a scant press release, talking

about exactly what that company is doing for dealers. Oh, we’ve received press releases from them since, about new product, and film award programs. But what’s in it for you, really? How many times do I have to stop in a gas station in Alabama, see the sunglasses sold there, and then get a press release about how “Company X” is committed to the specialty fly dealer, before I feel like calling “bull?” Actually, that’s not my’s yours. Say what you want about AFFTA and IFTD. I’ve seen more good things from AFFTA and more positive mojo about IFTD than I have seen from our trade organization and about the trade show, than I have in years. Many of us are angry at the “establishment.” But the establishment isn’t the enemy. The enemy is all those hangers-on, the self-anointed… all those blood-sucking leeches who, when all is said and done, don’t do much for the industry as a whole. The companies that are clearly in it for themselves, and make the dealer a pawn in the process. Maybe we should all wake up and smell the coffee. It isn’t about hair salons, or Costco, or even big box stores and direct sales over the Internet. It’s about who really cares about fly shops, and who backs words with action. Any action. Think on that, and you already know who has your back, and who doesn’t. Sell the products from companies that do the most good for fly fishing as a whole. Don’t sell the rest. It’s that simple. at Kirk Deeter Editor




Pro Guide Direct Some say the sun rises and sets on the fly industry where guides say it does. Now guides have a way to cash in on their product expertise and client connections. Pro Guide direct (, an online retailer of fly fishing and other gear, offers 15% of a transaction to the guide who refers it. But not all in the fly shop world (understandably) are jazzed up about that. Read the message boards on Angling Trade and elsewhere, and you’ll see Pro Guide Direct accused of everything from poaching guides and sales to being a “virtual big box.” As such, some manufacturers have shied away from involvement, while others (namely Orvis) are firmly behind the concept. To get to the bottom of things, we spoke with Pro Guide Direct CEO Fletcher White (a former guide) and here’s some of what he had to say: On the rationale: “We created Pro Guide Direct as a platform for guides, outfitters, destination travel companies and destination shops to compete against the big box stores. Specifically, we help manage an inventory, because it’s difficult to tell what demands will be at any given time.” On guides as product ambassadors: “We believe the relationship between the guide and customer should stay solid.” On perceptions in the market: “We started on the East Coast, and as we expanded, the wave of information got ahead of us. We’re not an online discount retailer looking to undercut fly shops.” On future plans: “We started in fly, and we’re going (into) conventional gear next. Then hunting, then snow sports. Any sport where a guide/expert is important, we see mutual opportunity.” / June 2011

Nation’s Best Sports Creates Specialty Independent Fly Shop Group Nation’s Best Sports (NBS), a retail buying group organization located in Ft. Worth, Texas, has started forming a free-standing buying group comprised of independent retail fly shops in the United States and Canada. 8

According to NBS, the purpose of this group will be to organize the independent fly shops into a professionally managed buying cooperative, and to use the knowledge and strength of the dealers to create collective buyingpower. This Fly Shop Group (FSG) will also investigate creating its own private label brand(s) by manufacturing product in Asia, Europe, and Central America, and importing for distribution through the collective. The group says it has identified existing vendors for this purpose. (Editor’s note: also see the AT story on private label branding, written by Jay Cassell, which appears on page 20 of this magazine.) Interested parties in search of additional information are encouraged to contact FSG coordinator John Pinto at 586-218-4433 or by e-mail at NBS is a not-for-profit cooperative dedicated to strengthening the independent retailer in all categories of sporting goods. For more information on NBS membership, please contact Stuart Snow at 800-379-0155 or by e-mail at Simms Wading into the Conventional Market Simms Fishing Products brings forward a slate of products to consumers in 2012 that are designed for conventional anglers. The “crown jewels” of Simms’ conventional line are the Pro Dry GORETEX Parka and the Pro Dry GORE-TEX Bib, which, until now, have been available only to members of Simms’ pro staff. These two GORE-TEX products were worn by a number of anglers

at the 2011 Bassmaster Classic and were tested on the tournament trail. They are the result of years of on-the-water testing and product refinement with Simms’ partners at W.L. Gore & Associates. The two companies have been partners on rain wear and waders for years, and are excited about the opportunity to put the Simms brand in front of more anglers. The Simms conventional collection will also include sportswear, footwear and layering items. For 2012, the Pro Dry items are available to consumers in either red/black or blue/black color schemes. MSRP for the bibs is $399.95 and for the parka it’s $499.95. Also from Simms: More on the Boot Regulations “Anglers across the country are gearing up for the start of a spring fishing season that will likely be different than past seasons – at least where gear is involved. From Maine to Alaska, anglers wading into waters in 2011 will have to contend with regulations and advisories concerning the use of feltbottomed wading boots. Maryland and Vermont have banned the use of felt-soled waders and wading boots starting this year and Alaska is set to follow suit in 2012. At least three other states – Oregon, Montana and Maine – are considering bans on feltsoled boots that have been implicated in the spread of aquatic nuisance species like Didymo (or “rock snot”). Simms Fishing Products took the initiative on this issue in 2009 – volcontinued on next page...


Photo © 2010 Bonnie Harrop

FEATURING A COMPLETELY NEW FRAME AND SPOOL DESIGN The reels are protected with a Type II grey nickel anodize finish with silver accents. Each reel is sequentially numbered and engraved with Rene’s signature, the TroutHunter osprey, and the House of Harrop icon logo. They come packaged in an embossed leather pouch and rich cedar box.


Visit to learn more about the history of the project and see additional photos. Retail price: $1000


untarily removing felt-bottomed wading boots from their product line. As an industry leader in Vibram-soled wading boots, Simms offers these tips and tactics for anglers figuring out how best to go felt-free this year as the ‘rubber meets the rowed.’” * ALL RUBBER IS NOT CREATED EQUAL: Manufacturers have been making rubber-soled boots for years, but recent advancements in rubber-making technology have produced new rubber compounds designed for maximum grip in aquatic environments. Simms was the first fly fishing manufacturer to partner with Vibram to produce a rubber compound that provides ultimate traction. * PICK A PATTERN: The lug pattern on the sole of a rubber boot can greatly affect how much traction a boot affords an angler. Look for aggressive tread patterns that provide grip in multiple directions. * STUD AND CLEAT OPTIONS: Felt soles provided maximum grip when they were studded. The same holds true for rubber boots. Many of today’s rubber-soled boots are equipped to handle screw-in studs and cleats. Simms offers HardBite Studs and Star Cleats, as well as molded AlumiBite Cleats that are easily inserted into the sole of the boots. / June 2011

* WHAT TO DO WITH OLD BOOTS: Some cobblers are equipped to resole old wading boots with new rubber soles. Check www.simmsfishing. com/site/streamtread.html for a list of cobblers authorized to resole boots with Vibram soles. Additionally, old boots loaded with a few flowers make for nice centerpieces on tables at Trout Unlimited banquets or in fishing lodges. * KEEP IT CLEAN: While felt soles have been implicated in the spread of aquatic nuisance species, simply switching to rubber-soled boots does not make the problem go away. Now, more than ever, anglers are urged to “Inspect, Clean 10

and Dry” all fishing gear – not just wading boots – after each use. Anglers are encouraged to log on to for more information, as well as cleaning and drying tips. * KNOW THE LAWS: Maryland’s felt ban goes into effect March 21 of this year. Vermont’s felt ban begins April 1. Alaska goes felt-free across the state on January 1, 2012. New Zealand has been felt-free for several years. Other states and provinces are expected to follow.” -Written by Matt Crawford Fishhound Spreads its Reach Through Guides In April, California-based Fishhound relaunched its website featuring fishing reports from guides, shops and

real-time fishing reports

lodges around the United States. It is intentionally heavy on fly fishing, with more than 600 contributors providing information. Fishhound has also recently introduced smart phone apps for its fly fishing reports and this summer - using feedback from professional bass anglers - is beginning to post bass fishing reports as well. The bass reporting platform was built in part using feedback from bass pros, including Scott Martin and Dion Hibdon. The company says it is beefing up saltwater reports also. While much of Fishhound is free, it is the premium membership portion of the website that helps generate revenue for shops and guides. In that respect, guide participants at the Simms “Ice Out” event were offered incentives to provide fishing reports. Guides who agreed to provide two fishing reports per week through a 90-day period were given $300. “We want to ensure when people log on to Fishhound they get real-time, on-the-water reports from people who

know their stuff,” said Rick Patri, vice president of operations for Fishhound. “These guides at Ice-Out know their stuff. There’s a huge value in having them contribute to our site. We recognize that and we’re going to pay them for that.” Anglers can log in to Fishhound and obtain important information they need on where and when to go, what flies to use and even get weather and water conditions. And they have the ability to customize it to specific waters and spots they’re interested in. A Fishhound report gives anglers information on water flows, temperature and water clarity, plus updated trip reports on the size and number of fish caught and what was used to catch them. Additionally, Fishhound visitors can access the site’s database of lures, flies and fish species. Premium memberships at Fishhound ($9.99 a month) provide much deeper fishing information including specially designed apps for phones, exhaustive search capability of fishing spots, detailed section reports, hatch and fish migration reports and discounts on selected gear. See for more information. Angling Trade is very interested to hear impressions from guides and shops working with Fishhound. Is it helping your business? Please e-mail your feedback to has expanded to include Texas and Florida (freshwater)., an interactive website featuring news, reports, audio, maps, blogs, and photos on various fishing topics (including fly fishing), has expanded its regional footprint from Colorado to now include Texas and Florida (freshwater).

Books & DVDs

Affordable impulse items for anglers of all types & budgets

Do check out if you are in those states, and stay tuned for updates from Angling Trade as FishExplorer expands further.

Products Worth Checking Out Howler Brothers Clothing Howler founders Chase Heard and Andy Stepanian spent their adolescent summers haunting the waters and fish of Florida and Virginia and riding the ripples those states call waves. Both Heard and Stepanian now live in Texas

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

where they raise families, work hard, make music together, chase fish with fly rods and make runs to the nearest coast or river when the opportunity arises. Their vision for Howler – and the name Howler Brothers – was inspired by a sound they each heard on surf trips to Costa Rica: the call of the loudest animal in North America, the Howler Monkey.

With this emotional connection as a base line, Heard and Stepanian formed

AT Managing Editor Tim Romano’s take: “Unpretentious, super-high-quality clothing that doesn’t automatically scream “angler.” Their clothing could be worn right off the flats boat or river straight to dinner. The Aransas is one of the better looking and innovative button-down shirts I’ve thrown on in a while. There’s a built-in sunglass microfiber pocket, retro stitching and the poly-cotton blend is perfect for fast drying. The 100% Polyester Loggerhead Longsleeve is a bit more technical with thumb holes at the cuffs, a side stash

pocket with built-in microfiber glass cleaner, and UPF 45 for all-day sun protection.” Check out more information at

Did You Know… That Angling Trade has beefed up its website to include more fieldtested product skinny, as well as breaking news that impacts the fly industry? So, while we love the fact that you’re reading our print edition, you don’t have to wait every three months to get news that’s relevant and useful for your work…

Revo Fixes Its Gaze on the Fishing Market Revo, a prominent name in the sunglasses business, recently announced the launch of its “Water” lens. The company claims that the lens offers industry-unique high-contrast polarized lens technology that’s optimized for the color profiles of open water. continued on next page... 11 / June 2011

“If you’ve heard it, you know how loud and startling the sound can be. But, after hearing it a few times, the sound becomes a part of the collective feeling of being in Central America and serves as a constant reminder that you’re in a good place, doing something you love,” said Heard.

Howler Brothers to craft limited-run, high-quality clothing and goods that draw inspiration from the style and tradition of surfing and coastal sports. They set out to make gear that works in the water, on the boat, and around the fire pit when the stories are told. Clothes you might wear when you’re hearing Howler Monkeys from your hut after a day well spent. Or clothes to wear when you’re wishing you were.


The ambient lighting conditions in ocean-water environments have an overabundance of blue and green light due to the light reflected off water. While some lenses address this problem by blocking this entire color range (resulting in color distortion and the inability to accurately recognize colors), the Revo Water lens filters only specific wavelengths, resulting in accurate color that eliminates the blue haze without color distortion. The result is clarity, accuracy and overall visual enhancement – perfect for applications including fishing, boating, travel, or spending time in water environments. We have field tested the Revo “Guide” model glasses (MSRP $179) in both freshwater and saltwater environments, in cloudy and bright conditions, and were impressed by their lightness, and fit, as well as optical clarity that is in line with the company’s claims.

Writing, Editing, Consulting Ever wonder why your carefully typed press releases don’t make it into print? / June 2011

Try turning your press release into a News Release by using a professional public relations person with 50+ years of fly-fishing savvy, an understanding of angling products and the catch words that make people buy them; countless articles published, and full knowledge of what publications are looking for. All inquiries in strict confidence. Bennett J. Mintz PR/Adv. 818.718.8566 phone 818.648.6168 mobile 12

Korkers Files for Patent Update Korkers Products has filed a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for

an updated version of the outdoor footwear company’s Interchangeable Outsole System. Korkers has designed a new version of its unique OmniTraxInterchangeable Outsole System. This new technology dramatically improves the use of the system, which provides a variety of traction options for shoes, so no outdoors spot is out of reach, while allowing the product to become lighter weight and lower profile. “This new, updated technology allows Korkers to expand into markets beyond those that we are currently serving in fly fishing and winter boots,” said Sean Beers, CEO of Korkers. “Adaptable traction technology is in its infancy and opportunities abound. This latest version of the OmniTrax Interchangeable Outsole System will help Korkers establish itself in the broader footwear market as a leader in innovation and technology.” PEAK Fishing Reports Record Quarter Fly Tying product manufacturer PEAK Fishing announced that its first quarter 2011 sales were the top quarter in the company’s history. This is a continuation of a steady increase in sales PEAK has experienced since the beginning of 2009. Following record

sales in 2009 and then again in 2010, PEAK is positioned for a third consecutive successful year after the completion of the first quarter of 2011. “We feel very fortunate to have seen the increase in success we’ve experienced over the past 27 months” said PEAK owner and President Allen Schultz. “At the same time we don’t confuse good fortune with luck. We’ve worked very hard to bring a reliable and well-thought-out product to the market at what we feel is a very fair price, making PEAK the best value in the fly tying market. A great deal of our success can be traced back to the support and knowledge of our professional dealer network as well. We’ve come out with several very convenient and affordable fly tying packages, a top quality non-rotary vise and this year we’re very excited about the reception our LED tying light has received. Besides our fly tying vises and accessories we’re also seeing great interest in our bamboo rod planing forms. Rod making is a market we will be exploring further as we work on new introductions for later in 2011.” For more information about PEAK Fishing, PEAK’s contract fabrication and manufacturing capabilities, or becoming a dealer visit the company’s website at, contact them by phone at 970-622-9601, or e-mail them at

PEOPLE NEWS Greg Thomas Named Editor of Fly Rod & Reel Angling Trade contributing editor Greg Thomas has assumed the full-time editor’s role at Fly Rod & Reel. He has been that magazine’s managing editor since 2009. continued on next page...


Thomas assumes his new position after the departure of former associate publisher Joe Healy in December. Since that time, Thomas and former editor-in-chief Jim Butler have co-produced Fly Rod & Reel’s Spring issue and a contemporary newsstand annual publication, titled Angling Adventures. They will continue as a team, with Butler handling specifics from the magazine’s headquarters, in Camden, Maine, and Thomas overseeing day-to-day editorial issues from Missoula, Montana. Prior to joining Fly Rod & Reel, Thomas was the managing editor of Big Sky Journal. In addition, he was the founder and publisher of Tight Lines, an annual publication he sold in 2007. Thomas also operates Angler’s Tonic, an edgy fly fishing-specific website. He plans to enhance Fly Rod & Reel’s digital efforts, adding additional subjectspecific digizines to the media mix, along with e-books and timely reports from the field.

Miscellaneous / June 2011

Midcurrent Launches Redesigned Site If you haven’t checked out the newly revamped and redesigned, do so. The project was many months in development, and the end results are impressive. For one, the sheer girth of the site is more than formidable. More than 700 articles, 150 art and photo galleries, and 6,500 news stories 14

(all related to fly fishing) now live at Publisher Marshall Cutchin also added: “What’s new on the site? Much larger art and photography galleries, expanded video collections, more features, excerpts and interviews, and a brand new design that we hope will make your visit more worthwhile.” Angling Trade editor Kirk Deeter (also an editor-at-large with Field & Stream) is penning a weekly “Fly Fishing Jazz” column on improvizing fly fishing approaches... one of many edgy columns on the site. Do please sit in when you can. Redington Selling in Yellowstone Stores Far Bank Enterprises entity Redington recently announced a partnership with a selection of Yellowstone National Park retail stores. Four stores throughout Yellowstone National Park will sell Redington’s active outdoor apparel to park visitors. They are: Yellowstone Adventures, Grant Village General, Old Faithful General, and Fishing Bridge. Each of these four stores will have a mix of men’s and women’s apparel throughout the summer season. “We are very excited to have such a valued retail partner in a place that fits perfectly with what Redington is all about,” explained Jennifer Gish, Redington Marketing Manager. “Redington is a brand that loves every part of the outdoors and Yellowstone offers just that. Campers, hikers, and fisherman alike will appreciate what we have to offer. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get our brand in front of new customers, especially those with an active outdoor lifestyle.” “Our partnership with Redington is another exciting example of our commitment to offering high quality, brand name products to our guests,” said Karen Tryman, Assistant General Manager of Yellowstone General Stores. “We

appreciate Redington’s commitment to outdoor gear and their support of the Yellowstone Park Foundation through the Ranger Jacket program.” Yellowstone Adventures is the first store to open in the park for the season and the remainder of the stores will open once the snow melts. Reminder: Angling Trade to Manage New Product Showcase at IFTD Angling Trade and the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, organizer of the International Fly Tackle Dealer trade show planned for New Orleans August 18-20, 2011, recently announced award categories for the “New Product Showcase” section of IFTD. They are: • Overall Best of Show • Best Wading Gear • Best Eyewear • Best Chest Pack/Vest • Best Outerwear • Best Youth-Specific Product • Best Women’s-Specific Product • Best Eco-Friendly Product • Best Rods – Freshwater & Saltwater • Best Reels – Freshwater & Saltwater • Best Personal Watercraft •B est Fly Lines – Freshwater & Saltwater • Best Fly Boxes/Storage System •B est Fly Tying/ Materials/Equipment •B est New Fly Pattern – Freshwater & Saltwater •B est Accessory (Dressings, Tools, etc.) • Best General Apparel That makes 20 categories, plus a “Best of Show Award.” We are considering other categories (books, gifts) and will announce how we intend to handle those on in the near future.

The New Product Showcase will occupy a prominent position on the exhibit floor at IFTD. Awards will be voted on by attending retailers and media. Only products from ITFD exhibitors are eligible for consideration. Awards will be presented on Friday evening, before the final day of the show (so that attendees can see winners on the exhibit floor on Saturday).

“Sportsmen conservationists were mad about some of the provisions included in HR 1, the first draft of proposed spending cuts,” Moyer said. “Even though it’s spring and the outdoors are calling, we put down our rods and firearms and took up our phones and computer keyboards to talk to our members of Congress, and our voices were heard.”

Angling Trade is also planning a full array of New Product Showcase reporting at, including webcast videos, and written reports.

HR 1 would have devastated stalwart programs such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, State Wildlife Grants, and Farm Bill conservation programs. Its ill-conceived policy riders would have undercut the protections of the Clean Water Act, overturned landmark salmon restoration programs on the San Joaquin and Klamath Rivers, and curtailed OHV management on federal lands.

Do stay tuned to in the coming weeks for more guidelines and information. Manufacturers can submit any inquiries and information to, starting now.

Environment News Congress Drops the Ax, But Federal Bill Less Damaging Than It Could Have Been Sportsmen’s voices heard in Congress; cutting conservation programs would have been bad policy Congress apparently heard the outcry over deep proposed cuts to vital conservation programs from Trout Unlimited and other sportsmen’s conservation groups, as the fiscal year 2011 spending bill approved this spring included much-needed funding for important conservation work.

Sportsmen depend on these programs to help sustain the fish and wildlife bounty that yields huge economic benefits to the nation each year. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, sportsmen generate $22 billion in hunting expenditures and $42 billion in fishing expenditures annually. “We appreciate deeply the tremendous efforts invested by many members of Congress and the Obama Administration to soften the blows administered by HR 1’s conservation provisions,” said Moyer. “And we

Final FY2011 spending for some priority conservation programs: • Land and Water Conservation Fund – $301 million, a 33 percent reduction from 2010, but an increase of $244 million from what was proposed in H.R. 1. • North American Wetlands Conservation Fund – $37.5 million, down 21 percent from 2010 but slated for elimination in HR 1. • State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program – $62 million, a reduction of 31 percent from 2010, but was set to be zeroed out by HR 1. • Farm Bill Wetlands Reserve Program – down $119 million. • Farm Bill Environmental Quality Incentives Program – down $80 million from 2010. • Riders proposed to undercut the Clean Water Act, salmon restoration programs, and OHV management on federal lands, were removed. Cheeky Fly Fishing Debuts Reels In May, Cheeky Fly Fishing, a Bostonbased fly reel manufacturer, launched a new line of fly fishing reels. Machined in the U.S.A. and incorporating in-

novative proprietary technology, the company says its reels are “designed specifically for progressive fly fishermen pushing the limits of the sport.” continued on next page... 15 / June 2011

That said, the spending bill does, indeed, scale back conservation funding from previous levels, and these cuts will be felt on the ground, said Steve Moyer, vice president of government affairs for Trout Unlimited.

While fiscal year 2011 appropriations levels are superior to those of HR 1, they still represent levels that are far below last year’s levels for some programs, such as the State Wildlife Grants program (see the brief summary below). Thankfully, Moyer said, most of the riders, including all of the Clean Water Act and salmon restoration program riders, were removed in the bill approved by Congress.

salute all sportsmen and women who responded to HR 1. But our work is not yet done. Upcoming Congressional debates on raising the debt ceiling and FY 2012 appropriations bills will have more threats to our hunting and fishing heritage, and we will be ready.”


Cheeky comments: “Progressive fly fishermen are chasing bigger, faster, more obscure species around the world and in their backyards alike. Cheeky Fly Fishing has identified and brought to market exactly what progressive fly fishermen demand: fly

(AFFTA). The collaborative efforts of AFFTA and IF4 will see the festival included as one of the many exciting features at the International Fly Tackle Dealer show, scheduled to run from the 18th – 20th of August this year.

IF4 is a co-production of Fly Max Films and Bird Marketing Group. Its purpose is to act as a catalyst in efforts to promote the sport of fly-fishing to new audiences as well as generate excitement among the sports core consumer base.

“We can’t wait to introduce IF4 to our industry friends down in New Orleans,” says Bird Marketing Group President Chris Bird, “We arrived at

For more information about the International Fly Tackle Dealer show please visit:

Check This Out… reels for every situation, from bluegill to shark, that are incredibly strong, lightweight and durable, feature a super-large arbor design, hold a ton of line and are maintenance free. To ensure the highest quality craftsmanship, all Cheeky Fly Reels are made in the U.S.A. Fully machined from 6061-T6 aerospace-grade aluminum and titanium and anodized to endure the gnarliest elements fly fishermen face, Cheeky Fly Reels are built to last a lifetime – guaranteed. The reels incorporate proprietary features such as Cheeky Fly Fishing’s KarbonEVO sealed synthetic disc drag system, TiLock Mating technology, B2 Channel and MAX arbor. The reel’s industry leading strength-to-weight ratio and revolutionary features make it the ultimate weapon for progressive fly fishermen.” For more information on Cheeky Fly Reels, please visit / June 2011

Fly Fishing Film Festival Screening Planned for IFTD The International Fly Fishing Film Festival (IF4) recently announced a special trade screening in New Orleans in association with the American Fly Fishing Trade Association 16

last year’s IFTD show in Denver with a three-date festival concept and after several meetings left with a multimarket product. Without the platform AFFTA provides through IFTD the festival would be nothing more than small market brand extension for Fly Fusion magazine and Fly Max Films. Because of the opportunities provided at last year’s show in Denver IF4 is now the largest event of its kind in Canada with independent screening expansion programs in place for both the United States and Europe. IF4 is a very small example of why IFTD is so important and we look forward to attending for years to come.” “We are honored to have the IF4 film tour represented at the 2011 International Fly Tackle Dealer show in New Orleans,” says AFFTA President Randi Swisher, “During the ‘Party on the Pond’ event on Friday night, the IF4 film crew will be highlighting some action packed fly-fishing scenes from their film tour. In addition, AFFTA will be announcing the new show location for 2012 and will also be providing live music and beer at the party. It is great to have industry support from IF4 at the fly fishing trade show and also be able to promote the sport of fly fishing at our fun evening event.”

From Kirk Werner, author of the Olive the Woolly Bugger children’s book series and Sarah Lonigro, Executive Assistant at the Wild Salmon Center: We’ve recently launched a new website project, Take Kids Fly Fishing. At this point it is simply a service we felt was terribly necessary -- a hub of information to help parents to get their kids outfitted and started off in fly fishing. We just launched officially yesterday, and feel that it’s going to grow quickly with support from everyone -- the industry and participants.

Croakies Intros Cochran Belts Croakies recently announced the addition of the Vaughn Cochran Belt Collection to its line of belts. Croakies has teamed up with noted artist and fly fisherman Vaughn Cochran to create the Vaughn Cochran Collection as a new addition to the wide array of Croakies belt offerings. The new Black Fly Belt with the composite Travel Buckle is

sure to be a hit as it can be used in water, is completely adjustable and can be worn through security lines at the airport. For many years Vaughn was a well known and well respected fly-fishing guide in the Florida Keys. He found his artistic inspiration observing nature while guiding his clients to meet the challenges of saltwater fly-fishing. This is where the iconic “’Black Fly” was born. Cochran has been an integral part of the Tropical fly fishing world since the 1970’s. He has worked as a guide, fishing lodge manager, a travel consultant, and a retailer. He currently owns, manages or endorses Blackfly Outfitter, Blackfly Bonefish Club, Bonefish Bimini at the Bimini Big Game Club, and Vaughn Cochran’s Fine Art Gallery. Cochran is a proud member of the Croakies team and lives in Jacksonville, Florida where he works with his wife Jean, fishes and paints.

be able to cast a sight fly 50 feet with a 7.5’ leader. Leaders and sight flies will be provided. This contest was created by Hardy USA and CFFCM to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the introduction of the Hardy C.C. de France Fly Rod by Hardy Bros. Ltd. The overall point champion will receive a Commemorative 100th anniversary C.C. de France hand-crafted by Hardy master rod makers, Tom Moran and Callum Gladstone. Second and third place finishers will receive a Hardy classic fly reel. The winning caster’s name will be engraved on the Tiffany-designed “Hardy Bros. Cup” that will remain on display in the Catskill Fly Fishing Museum. An award ceremony will take place

at 6:30PM on Saturday, August 6, at a complimentary barbeque hosted by Hardy at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum. This annual event has been designed to share in the pleasures of casting bamboo fly rods. No fee or advanced registration required. A casting field will be laid out at upcoming CFFCM events: May 21 & 22, Woodstick- a field show devoted to the classic fly fishing tackle and accessories by today’s traditional craftsmen. May 28 & 29 for the CFFCM Annual Dinner Weekend. For complete details on scoring and handicaps, please visit at

Hardy Creates Bamboo Casting Competition

17 / June 2011

On August 6, 2011 Hardy USA and The Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum (CFFCM) will hold the first annual Hardy Bros. Cup casting competition, at the 29th Summerfest and Anglers Market at the CFFCM. This annual casting event will be open to all individuals and the only requirement is to use a bamboo fly rod 9’ in length or smaller. This casting contest will be based on two distance casts and one accuracy cast. Handicaps will be applicable to rods under 8’ in length and a tie breaker will be determined by the age of the rod. Casters should



Be Your Client’s Best Advocate...

Written by Bill Marts, The Fly Shop, Travel Department

This can only be done (to positive mutual effect) by asking key questions and listening to the answers. Typically, a client will first make contact and ask questions through a phone call or E-mail. Listen or read closely to get as much out of this initial contact as possible, then start asking questions. Try to get the name of the person as soon as possible, and use it a couple of times during your conversation. Then an agent needs to know: 1. How many people are planning to go with the caller (inquirer), and how many are anglers vs. non-anglers. If non-anglers are involved, an agent needs to know what their expectations are of the trip. Do they need activities every day, like horseback riding, hiking, birding, kayaking, touring Mayan ruins, etc.? Once that is known, the number of possibilities for the angler has been automatically fine-tuned.

It is imperative that a fishing-travel business be its client’s best advocate in finding the ideal destination at which they spend their hard-earned vacation time and money. A fly shop in the travel business has to do its best (110% effort) to find that perfect place. Yes, a shop is being paid a commission by the lodges for sending guests to them, but its fiduciary responsibilities truly are, or should be, dedicated to its clients. Lodges depend upon repeat business to keep their doors open each season - if they are sent “unqualified” guests, they will not be happy. Worse, the guest will not be happy, and will most likely bad-mouth the lodge (and probably the booking agent, as well) to others, resulting in a disaster for all concerned. So, it is always in the best interest of the agent to know what his/ her client is looking for. What is the simplest way to do this? Ask questions, and listen to the answers. Make sure your conversation is as black and white as it can be. No gray areas. A booking agent must: 1. Narrow down destination possibilities. 2. Understand exactly what it is the client is looking for. / June 2011

3. Peg down the desired price range. 4. Suggest an appropriate outfitter/lodge. 5. Remember that every time an agent makes a reservation, his or her reputation is on the line with both the client and the lodge. This is a reputation built upon mutual trust that keeps the long-time agents around and thriving, especially in economic times such as we currently find ourselves. 18

2. For anglers, there are several considerations that must be addressed: What kind of fish are they after, their level of fishing experience (if beginners, they may need guides with teaching experience and patience), are they fly fishers or gear fishers (just because you are a fly shop doesn’t mean that every call you receive will be from fly fishermen), and when are they available to travel? This final bit of information is critical if specific fish species are targeted. You get the idea. The more an agent can find out about his client and what he/she wants out of a fishing trip, the better he will be able to pinpoint the best time and place for them. 3. What price range are they considering? Knowledge of price specials and constant communication with destinations helps greatly with this part of the equation. When checking lodge availability for a client, always ask about any special pricing going on. This never used to be a factor, but in this economy it is, and lodges are constantly trying to find the perfect “special” to entice anglers to their place. This is important these days. 4. Find what a client is looking for, specifically, in a lodge. Some may tell you that gourmet meals are just as important as the fishing, while others will eat corn dogs from a wading staff as long as they can fish long and hard, and have shots at lots of fish. To some, a freshwater swimming pool is mandatory, for others a rinse with a hose is satisfactory. An agent needs to know who is asking for what, and what the real expectations are. I think it should be clear what I’m getting at here. Every reservation is not just a sale for the successful agent/fly shop; it is, more importantly, the client’s vacation/free time. If it is done right, and the client gets what they ask for and experiences meet or exceed the special plan they have in mind... then the client will go out of their way to call the same agent back in the future, because he/she trusts them. The key word is trust. And the key “agent” for trust is the fly shop. at

No inner tubes No crowds Just you, the trout, and a Parachute Adams Make sure you have a Superfine Touch rod, the only fly rod optimized for short, precise casts. Download a free small stream trout podcast at (June 9, 2009 episode)

Scan. Explore. Find your Superfine rod.

feature / June 2011

The Private Label Factor... As a way to increase profits, some fly shops are now selling their own proprietary gear. Others are dwelling on service. Still others are branching out into areas such as guide services and fly fishing schools. The question is, what will work for you? Written by Jay Cassell 20

It’s no secret that times have been tough for fly fishing shops. In fact, a seminar conducted by Patagonia four years ago predicted that almost 20 percent of the nation’s shops would go out of business within five years. Their prediction hit the mark almost exactly. Of the 600 that remain, some are in trouble; others, however, are thriving. How do they do it? continued on next page... / June 2011



I recently spoke with Mike Michalak, owner of The Fly Shop in Redding, California. The Fly Shop is one of the largest privately owned shops in the country, regularly shipping out 335,000 catalogs per year. Michalak estimates he has an active client base of 90,000 customers. “The playing field has changed dramatically in the past few years,” Michalak told me. “Nowadays, I’m seeing competition not just from big box stores and catalog companies, but from online gear sellers as well. And it’s tough; everything else being equal, are you going to buy a $400 reel from me and pay sales tax, or are you going to buy a $400 reel online and pay no sales tax? I think we all know the answer to that question!” / June 2011

To compete, Michalak not only stresses personalized service at his shop, but has branched out into a number of different areas, one of which is selling his own “Signature” brands of rods, reels, waders, lines, hooks, and clothing. “Nationwide, I believe there are only two other shops that are doing what I’m doing,” said Michalak. One is Leland in San Francisco, the other is Dan Bailey’s in Livingston, Montana. (Bailey’s sells wholesale as well as retail, different from what Michalak is doing. And, for the record, Leland Outfitters refused to be interviewed for this story, asking this writer to check back in a year, 22

once they had their program fully underway.) Michalak explained that all of his gear is produced in Asia. “They build everything to our specifications,” he said, stating his gear has to meet his standards or he won’t sell it. “The research that goes into these things is huge, because the consequences are even greater. It takes a long time to develop a reputation; it doesn’t take very long to destroy one.” Having used some of The Fly Shops’s gear, including their

Signature Series breathable stocking-foot chest waders, 9-foot four-piece weight-6 graphite fly rod (comes with an extra tip and case) and L2a fly reel, I can attest to their good quality. Frankly, it’s difficult to tell the difference between the action of a Fly Shop rod and a similar, pricier rod made by a name-brand competitor. The difference, of course, is in the price, with a Fly Shop Signature rod and reel combo retailing for a reasonable $329. Michalak explained that, by eliminating the “middle-man” (in this case, the manufacturer… as

opposed to certain manufacturers who are doing similar by selling direct via the Internet, minus the fly shop) he’s able to pass savings on to his customers. “I wouldn’t recommend this to most fly shops, however,” he cautioned. “Unless there is enough volume to justify it, it doesn’t work. The fly shops that are having to close their doors, part of their problem is that they’re just overwhelmed with inventory, inventory that hasn’t been paid for. “This was a commitment that I just felt was necessary,” he concluded. “To get into the hook business, for example, I had to buy in the neighborhood of 14 million hooks. “You have to buy huge amounts just to make it cost effective,” he said. “I mean, I have a huge inventory right now, but I’ve invested in staple items, things that are not going to get outdated quickly. “Take waders… there is no new breathable technology on the horizon that’s going to happen before my inventory of breathable waders is exhausted. And our fly rods. You know, we have really, really great fly rods, and they’re every bit as good as rods with known brand names that cost several times what’s on my price tag.” And once a brand is established, the volume continues to grow. “Okay, so we got the rods established. Customers knew what they were

getting, Then we came out with reels. We sold 1,200 of them in the first year. That’s huge!”

their sales staff to push them obviously takes away from the traditional brands.

Michalak was quick to point out that he doesn’t consider himself to be competing against the name brands; all he is doing is creating a niche for his own gear. “We certainly don’t sell down,” he said. ‘Well, here, look, you’re going to buy a $400 rod, and why don’t you buy this $125 rod instead?’ We’re not about that. If I did things like that, I wouldn’t have been in business for 33 years.”

“Our strategy has always been to source the finest components, develop the highest performance materials we can get, and cut no corners to build the best rods we know how to build. The price is developed based on market penetration, competitors’ prices and comparable products for target prices. The bottom line is providing the angler with a product he can depend on, succeed with, and still come back with the rod in the same number of pieces he started with.

On the surface, however, one might construe proprietary labels as infringing on name brand territory. I asked Bruce Holt, director of communications for G.Loomis, what his take on the matter was.

“We have wonderful relationships with hundreds of dealers across the country and

around the world, but they need to make a living too. In the end it’s the consumer who makes the choice, and the dealer who can affect their opinion. Proving a product that does everything you say it will is what truly makes the difference. That’s what has made G.Loomis so successful.” Holt went on to say that every rod with the G.Loomis logo on it is made in Woodland, Washington, “something we are all very proud of and something our customers appreciate, right along with the incredible performance and edge of the envelope product development on which we’ve built our reputation.” continued on next page...

“This is a curious situation,” he said. “With the access to Chinese manufacturing, there are a lot of shops sourcing private label products now. Not just shops, actually, but individuals as well. Anyone who has the financial wherewithal to source these products can do so.

23 / June 2011

“It’s a difficult balance for a number of companies (such as G.Loomis),” he continued. “Do you lower prices, source your own imported product, or cut corners on components and accessories for these products? It has to affect their sales. It has an impact on ours. One problem that is often overlooked is the relationships between these shops importing their branded product, because they certainly need to recover their investment and I’m sure intend to make a profit, so putting them in key store locations and instructing


K.C. Walsh, president of Simms Fishing Products, also acknowledged that fly shops need to make a living. But, when some shops are selling gear that competes with his company’s products, it does change the relationship somewhat. / June 2011

“Cabela’s did a long time ago what Mike (Michalak) and others are doing now,” Walsh said. “It’s vertical merchandising of product direct from the manufacturer to the retail consumer. And, obviously, it allows them to knock out the wholesale margin, and they also knock out the sales and distribution commissions required to distribute product. They knock that out, so for sure it changes the nature of our relationship with those retailers who are now competing with us. At this point, that’s Cabela’s, Bass Pro, LL Bean, and The Fly Shop. We would categorize The Fly Shop with those other retailers who are either in the big box category or are direct-consumer retailers. Is there going to be retribution? Certainly not. I greatly value my relationships with all those retailers, but the relationship is different than it is with an independent specialty shop that’s supporting our brand. “I think the most important thing is that the market environment right now is very dynamic,” Walsh continued. “Most of our competitors are selling direct to consumers and I kind of get the logic on why a larger retailer would want to sell manufacturer direct for fly rods or waders or fleece garments, because the minimums on many of these products coming out of Asia have dropped significantly over the last five years. It’s now possible to buy very low 24

quantities of particular fly rods and hard goods coming out of Asia. However, with that said, from our experience in the last year and a half, the better factories are actually increasing their minimums and extending their lead times and becoming much more difficult for small customers to work with. So I would say that the jacket factory that we work with on GORE-TEX garments would be completely out of reach of any of our independent fly shops. Most of them are willing to work with the large direct-retail customers that we have, including Cabela’s and Bass Pro. On the other hand, what we see is lower quality factories in Asia dropping their minimums, offering terms, doing a lot to become flexible to work with smaller customers. From Simms’ standpoint, we don’t see a viable threat when it comes to quality and the performance of the garments that we make. “The thing that I guess is most challenging for us – the thing we watch with all of our competition – is that we really spend a lot of money on design and development. The challenge is when people copy our products and try to make their products look like our products. And that’s something that’s not acceptable.” To Walsh, Simms has always been a market leader in terms of quality and innovation. That’s what has helped build Simms’ solid reputation, and that’s what will enable it to remain strong. “We’re known for high quality and innovative products, and that’s what we’ll continue to do,” he concluded. “We think that there’s a strong market out there among

fly anglers for top-quality, durable products. And we know for sure that we make the most durable, most breathable wader on the market. And we’re going to keep doing that, whether it’s boots or wading jackets or wind-stopper garments or fleece or Merino base layers. Our job is to create the best possible products in each category, and then to support our specialty accounts as much as possible to help them sell through.” Michalak acknowledged that marketing has a lot to do with how brands sell. And that is an area where it’s difficult to compete with the big names in the field. “If I can get customers that think about The Fly Shop quality, and say ‘Hey, if they’re putting their name on it, it’s got to be pretty good,’ then that’s great. The problem is that because I don’t advertise in magazines and because we don’t spend a jillion dollars on all of the blog sites, the (Fly Fishing) Underground and all that, the only promotion that we get on our product is internal.” It’s also about giving the consumer a good deal. “We sell a lot of Fly Shop leaders,” he went on. “And this is a situation where, yes, it has impacted the sales of some of the competitive name-brand products. But the fact is that our margins are better, and our customers get a much better deal.” Glenn Blackwood, owner of the Great Lakes Fly Fishing Company near the Grand and Muskegon Rivers in Rockford, Michigan, admitted that his shop doesn’t do a volume that’s large enough for him to go the proprietary route. Blackwood’s 2,500-square-foot store is packed with name-brand continued on next page...











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gear, including Sage, Thomas & Thomas, Scott, R.L. Winston, Redington, and Temple Fork Outfitters rods, and Abel, Bauer, Hardy, Scientific Anglers, Gavlan, and Ross reels. “If a smaller shop like mine could band together in a buying group to do some of this and gain economy of scale, it could be viable, but without that I would say it will be the larger shops that can take advantage of the numbers and have the capability to invest not only the dollars but the time to make an opportunity like this work,” he said. Blackwood’s store is in a part of the country that’s been particularly hard hit by the recession. “Business has been down the last few years,” he stated. “It’s a combination of many factors. First is the Michigan economy. We still have a sluggish manufacturing base here in Michigan. In our county alone, we have lost not only blue-collar jobs but white collar as well. One office furniture manufacturer at one time employed over 12,000 workers. They are now down to less than 2,000. / June 2011

“We have lost a large number of customers that have relocated to find work. When Delphi closed a factory here in western Michigan, I know of 50-plus customers that relocated. Place an annual dollar spent value on these customers at $300 per customer, and gross sales fall $15,000 annually.” Blackwood also felt that we’ve lost a generation of anglers, people between 35 and 55. People older than that generally have all the gear they need. “The generation below that is my age group – I’m 48 – and they are just upside down on 26

homes, credit cards, lost their jobs, or are afraid to leave the office and take time off. They’re fishing less.” And that, of course, translates into fewer sales. So how does Blackwood keep in business? “Service, service, service,” he said. “Plus, knowledge and education. I know they are all buzzwords, but they do mean something in the long run. I handwrite thank-you cards. I personally call clients with new products. Personal relationship selling is what seems to work best for us. We have also diversified into sporting books, new and used, as well as used equipment. Finding these niches has really helped.” David Leinweber, owner and president of the Angler’s Covey in Colorado Springs, Colorado, also stressed the importance of service. “Customer loyalty is key,” he said. “If customers do not find value in doing business with us, then we need to close our doors and go sell burritos. We are constantly looking for ways to provide value to our customers. This is in every aspect of how we do business. The better we know what our customers are looking for, the more profitable we will become.” Leinweber admitted, though, that “Just offering better service is not enough these days. “Fly shops need to find more ways to compete in the marketplace,” he continued. With big boxes and the Internet crowding us out, we have to find value items or risk losing our customers.” One thing Leinweber is trying is selling his own branded rod. “We partnered with another fly shop and sell just one rod, one size, that we can

promote for $100. We’ve sold it for over six years now. “The advantages of doing this are clearly margin. Making 60 to 70 points on anything is awesome. The disadvantages are the large minimum orders required, plus warranty issues. “The minimums are usually around 250 rods per style. If you can justify that quantity, then you can buy your own private label from China.” Michalak, of course, has found a solid niche with his proprietary gear. But that’s not all he’s doing, either. His guide service handles “in excess of 2,200 guided days a year on our local rivers. And that’s two people at a time.” Michalak is also expanding a travel business, in conjunction with a number of other fly shops. Among them, they have exclusive access to top-rate lodges in prime fly fishing locales, from Alaska to Argentina. Then there is the Bollibokka Club, a private fishing club in the Shasta National Forest, just 36 miles from Redding. Membership is limited; the cost of fishing for a week is $7,000 (which can be divided between up to 10 guests). The Fly Shop also has access to private waters throughout the area. Then there is the fly fishing school, FishCamp for kids, plus Signature Properties, the real estate arm which sells vacation and retirement homes, usually near good fishing, throughout the area. It’s all about making opportunities for yourself, whether it means private label gear, good service, or branching out into different areas. It’s a balancing act… but that’s how the good shops are thriving. at

Photo by: Brian O’Keefe

The EPA is conducting a scientific assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed, and starting a public process about how mining would have an impact on Bristol Bay’s world-class fish and game habitats. How can you help? Go to:

Join other sportsmen and women in the fight to protect Bristol Bay. Trout Unlimited • Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska • Federation of Fly Fishers • Dallas Safari Club American Fly Fishing Trade Association • American Sportfishing Association • Izaak Walton League of America Wildlife Forever • Delta Waterfowl • Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance • Backcountry Hunters & Anglers • North American Fishing Club North American Hunting Club • Campfire Club of America


On a Hairy Situation in the Fly Fishing World... Written by Monte Burke

There was a rumor flying around the Internet that The Fly Shop—that venerable Redding, California, retailer—had recently taken a $20,000 order from a fashion industry buyer for the store’s entire stock of fly-tying feathers. I had to find out if this was true. I called the shop and a man named Cory Williams answered the phone. He sounded out of breath. Turns out there was no $20,000 order (damn Internet). / June 2011

“But I literally did just get off the phone with a woman who bought $2,000 worth of hackle,” Williams said. “She wanted to return it all. Apparently it wasn’t exactly the right kind for hair extensions.” This kind of return had to be a pain in the (rear) for a shop like his, I offered. Not really, Williams said. Not now in this crazy time in the world of fly shops. “As I sit here talking to you—I kid you not—there is a lady standing at the register who is buying half of that return.” Williams expelled one of those half-laugh sounds we 28

humans make when faced with the incomprehensible. “This has all been kind of goofy,” he concluded. Goofy indeed. You’ve heard about this by now, right? Surely you have. (If you haven’t, may I share whatever you’ve been smoking to get into your purple haze?) THEY ARE TAKING OUR SADDLE HACKLE! They—these attractive, well put-together, good-smelling, young females—are buying all of our fly-tying feathers to use as adornments in their hair.

Williams told me that I had to talk to his colleague, John Dietz, another store worker at The Fly Shop. Dietz picked up the phone. “I’m bald, but I have good stories,” he said, by way of introduction. Apparently a woman had recently called from San Francisco to ask if the store had any saddle hackle in stock. She wanted to go to Asia to capitalize on the hackle trend, which was zooming its way east. A day later, she drove the four hours from San Fran to Redding, spent three hours meticulously going through every feather in the place, then bought $1,2000 worth of them. She then drove four hours back to the Fog City and hopped on a redeye, enroute to Asia. “This is funnier than hell,” said Dietz. This fad which has terrorized our industry started in the fashion hotspot of Boulder, Colorado. There, a salon owner started selling what she called “Feather extensions,” which are, essentially, feathers bonded to hair by carotene wax. It gives the wearer sort of a quasi-Native American look. Supposedly Lady Gaga horned in on the trend. (She has also worn a meat dress…carnivores beware!) Then, a few months ago, came the dagger: Steven Tyler, frontman for Aerosmith, wore a Feather extension on American Idol, the uber-popular TV show where he now acts as a judge. All hell broke loose. (Side note on Tyler: So, this is a man who spent the first years of his adult life trying to look like Mick Jagger, with his saucer-sized mouth. And now

he’s trying to look like a teenage girl? Really? Come to think of it, Rod Stewart attempted the same sort of transformation, but he ended up looking like a 65 year-old woman.) So now flyshops, fly tiers and the general fly fishing public are all in a tizzy. It’s the biggest crisis since “the movie.” There is no hackle left in stores. Salon owners are buying packets of feathers for $40, then turning around and putting in singlefeather extensions for $40 (at least in New York City). Tom Whiting of hackle supplier Whiting Farms has raised his prices (well, of course he has. Wouldn’t you?). And all of this is because of these girls who are waltzing right into our flyshops—those last refuges of guydom—and buying all of our hackle. Want outrage? Check the Internet. Folks are talking about spreading the rumor that these feathers carry the bird flu. They talk about going to bars to pick up women with feathers in their hair, not to score, mind you, but to get back their tying material. It’s even been suggested that flytiers raid Walgreens and CVS’ stores and buy up all the scrunchies and, um, tampons. Who would have thought a bunch of teenage girls could have made a bunch of crusty flyfishermen act like, well, teenage girls?

feathers. It’s the closest contact he’s had with pretty young women in a decade. Maybe forever.” I called Paul Weamer, who manages the TCO Fly Shop in State College, Pennsylvania. He told me about a phone conversation he had with one salon owner. “She sounded like Sally Struthers,” said Weamer. “She didn’t want to pay full retail, she said, because she was doing this for kids.” Weamer didn’t bite (cold-hearted, dude). But overall, Weamer says the fad has been great. “Anytime you get an actual human being to walk into a flyshop in this economy, it’s a win. We’ve had triple the amount of female customers this year.” Weamer paused. “You know, I kind of hope this trend catches on with men,” he said. “I’m going bald. I could use a little Zap-a-Gap and glue a cape to the top of my head. I’d have that Eddie Munster peak thing going. It would be cool.” He’s on to something here. Instead of viewing this as a siege on our way of life, maybe we should view these hackle-buying beauties as an opportunity (not in that way, you dirty-minded bastard). Shop owners

can upsell. Fisher says some of the women who’ve come in for hackle have bought other items, and two of them signed up for tying lessons. Shop owners can encourage new fads. That Swiss straw that’s been sitting in that dusty corner for decades? Tell these young ladies about the material’s jewelry and embroidery possibilities. And that mucilin? You’ve been waiting for that dude who still uses silk line to walk in the door for a long while, haven’t you? Guess what? He ain’t coming. So sell these ladies on how this natural animal fat product is the new Botox. And you fly tiers? Sure, you’re getting hit hardest. But you can make it. Why not sell your extra hackle on eBay and make some cash to help out with rent, buy a new moped or upgrade your brand of beer? Fads come and go. This one will soon subside, and Steven Tyler will be dyeing his hair red to look like Carrot Top, and the dye industry will be up in arms. Offer these women free casting lessons. Be nice to them. Don’t buy all their tampons. Take advantage of this stream of potential new converts while you can. at

29 / June 2011

But Williams and Dietz at The Fly Shop seemed bemused by the whole thing. I needed to see if that was the case elsewhere. I called Jon Fisher at Urban Angler in New York City, a fashion hotbed like Boulder. Here’s what he said: “It’s been cool. I have the most fun watching Edwin, my store guy. The young ladies walk in and Edwin just appears by their side from out of nowhere. He ushers them carefully over to the flytying section and walks them through the different


Recommended Reading (And Selling) Good books, by subject, seem to ebb and flow throughout the years. In this editor’s humble opinion, 2011 is definitely seeing a “high tide” in terms of the quality of printed product… especially in the niche realm of fly fishing. Here are three new titles worth checking out yourselves, and selling to your most literate customers:

tions of fishing in RMNP… season by season, hatch by hatch, stream by stream. It really is a marvel, by way of technical acumen, and certainly worth stocking for any shop near RMNP, and for those who send traveling customers to the purest, most protected regions of the Colorado high country.

The Orvis Guide to Small Stream Fly Fishing By Tom Rosenbauer (Universe, $35)

A Fly Fishing Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park By Steven B. Schweitzer

(Pixachrome, $29.95) / June 2011

There have been volumes written about some of our National Parks—Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Everglades included. And while some authors have dabbled with Rocky Mountain National Park, nobody has nailed that locale—perhaps the least understood and most under-appreciated fly fishing mecca in the National Parks system—as insightfully and thoroughly as Steve Schweitzer has with A Fly Fishing Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park. Schweitzer, a regular AT contributor, spent 10-plus years hiking and fishing the terrain and waters in RMNP to complete this project. Anyone who has read his work in this magazine knows what we already do… Schweitzer is the consummate “details” guy. True to form, he leaves no stone unturned in his descrip30

Let’s be honest, Tom Rosenbauer has done more to impart practical wisdom on fly fishing to the masses than anyone, this side of Lefty Kreh. In his latest tome, Tom gets honest about what AT thinks is the “real deal” of this fly fishing age… reconnecting with, and re-appreciating what happens on small streams. Most of us started on intimate waters… and the future of this sport relies, by and large, with our collective ability to show other anglers the wonders that can be had on the “home stream.” Thing is, some of the most important fly fishing lessons of all are best learned in the tighter confines of a babbling brook. Whether the passion leads the angler to the flats, or the classic tailwater… the lessons to be transposed from the creek are permanent and practical.

In this book, Rosenbauer shares plain-spoken insights in a very readable, enjoyable, informative voice (as usual). If you care about growing the sport and increasing opportunity and interest, you’ll be an advocate for small stream opportunity. And this smartly produced, visually appealing book does more to maximize that opportunity than anything else out there.

Florida’s Fishing Legends and Pioneers By Doug Kelly

(University Press of Florida, $26.95) Those who truly appreciate the culture of fly fishing, and share a fascination with the personalities who established the “roots” of the sport… especially in the legendary salt waters around Florida… will be enthralled to read Doug Kelly’s poignant homage to the personalities (and places) that defined the golden age of salt water fly fishing. The baseball fanatic longs to read the “inside scoop” about Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Ted Williams. Oh… Ted Williams is in this book also, as are Curt Gowdy, Billy Pate, Stu Apte, Joan Salvato Wulff, Ernest Hemingway, and Jimmie Albright, among many others. My favorite chapter in the book is focused on Bill Curtis. I had the



chance to fish with Bill a decade ago… and it was the most eye-opening fly fishing experience I’ve ever had. Kelly nailed his Bill Curtis chapter, capturing the essence of the man and the experience of fishing with him, in spades.

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The forward-looking future of fly fishing, no matter how you slice it, depends on proper respect and appreciation for those who cleared the path for all of us now. And the best stories, and characters, inevitably revert to the waters of Florida. MAX I




Books reviewed by Kirk Deeter

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Do Fish, On the Magic Bus Written by Will Rice

“Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat.” / June 2011

—Origin Unknown

Q: What do you get when you combine six guys from Denver, nine fly rods, a 33-foot Coachmen recreational vehicle, the Big Horn river and a brown trout? A: Innovation. In today’s ever changing economic and business environment, innovation is not only important, it can mean the difference between survival or extinction. Coming up with new


By no means is this a new or revolutionary thought in business. Harvey Firestone, founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber company, said it best back at the turn of the last century: “Capital isn’t so important in business. Experience isn’t so important. You can get both these things. What is important is ideas. If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need, and there isn’t any limit to what you can do with your business and your life.” Innovation is exactly what brought the Fish Bus to market in central Colorado. Minturn Anglers is a full-service fly shop and guide service located just west of Vail, and less than 2 hours from Denver. The shop runs a fleet of three luxury motor-homes and takes groups of four to eight anglers to a number of world-class fishing destinations in the West. Road trips range from two to nine hours from Denver. Fish Bus combines a multi-day guided fishing experience with shortto mid-range distance travel opportunities.

The longer-range destinations in the 2011 line up include trips to the San Juan River in New Mexico, the Big Horn in Montana, and the

North Platte in Wyoming. Shorter range trips to rivers like the Yampa, Blue, Eagle and the Roaring Fork are also available for those who are looking to spend more time in the water than on the road. continued on next page...

Florida’s Fishing Legends and Pioneers Doug Kelly “The famous characters of Florida fishing live again in these pages. Kelly’s is the best kind of writing about angling—the kind that you want to take your time to enjoy, that at the same time compels you to go out fishing immediately.” —David Conway, managing editor, Florida Sportsman Hardcover $26.95

randy Wayne White’s Ultimate tarpon Book The Birth of Big Game Fishing Edited by Randy Wayne White and Carlene Fredericka Brennen “Full of rich historical stories of great fish and even greater fishermen. Masterfully edited, a joy to read, Randy Wayne White’s Ultimate Tarpon Book is a must have for every angler’s library!”—Hilary Hemingway, author of Hemingway in Cuba Hardcover $34.95

secrets from Florida’s master anglers Ron Presley “Unique in that it includes a variety of approaches to inshore saltwater fishing, provided by a broad selection of some of Florida’s finest fishing guides. There is something for almost everyone who fishes the Florida coast.”—Richard A. Davidson “There isn’t one of our readers that doesn’t have something to learn from this book.” — Paperback $24.95

University Press of Florida | 800-226-3822 | Gainesville, Tallahassee, Tampa, Boca Raton, Pensacola, Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville, Fort Myers, Sarasota

33 / June 2011

Each four-day excursion is all-inclusive and ranges in price between $1085 and $1985. Included in every Fish Bus adventure is an experienced guide on the water, transportation and

lodging, equipment if needed, flies and terminal gear, beer/beverages, and three meals per day.

catch some great stories ( and some great secrets! )

ideas and doing things differently shouldn’t be reserved for idle downtime. On the contrary, innovation should be in the forefront of the minds of everyone who owns or manages a business.


with local outfitters at their targeted destinations. “Each of our senior guides and owners have their favorite rivers and they will represent two of the four guides on a Fish Bus trip,” explains Sprecher. “The other two guides are local guides depending on where we are going.”

So how has all this panned out from a business perspective? At this point, it is too early to tell but the shop is bullish on the program. “We knew when we got into the fly fishing business that we would never be millionaires. But making our mark in fly fishing and bringing new and

The inspiration for the service was fairly simple. / June 2011

“My partner and I are avid fly fisherman and travel frequently to destinations in search of world-class fishing. We have never had a lot of money so we often take road trips to fish as opposed to flying,” said Matt Sprecher, one of the owners of the Minturn Angler. “Offering new and innovative guided trips is a way to keep our shop fresh. Our customers know that we are always working to provide them with the best fishing opportunities and new adventures.” But what about the issue of “bootlegger” guides bussing in on other operators’ waters? As part of their business plan, the Fish Bus decided to partner 34

“We all work well together and have a great time and it is infectious to our clients,” said Sprecher. ”All the guides and Fish Bus clients ride together, have dinner together, tie flies, talk about their day and share stories.”

innovative ideas to the industry is worth more than money to us” said Sprecher. “Part of the allure of the Fish Bus is that we can’t wait to see what the future holds. The money will come, we are just happy to be where we are today.” at


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Adventures in Fly Fishing Retail Written By Michael Gracie

My nemesis the fly shop... / June 2011

In 1999, I received an invite to chase golden trout in the Desolation Wilderness above Lake Tahoe. I had never seen a picture of one until that point, let alone touched one, so I dove into research hoping to get a leg up. There was a dearth of information on the Internet, but I did also identify a local fly shop – as such, I put a visit to that shop high on the “to-do” list.

Photo by Michael Gracie


Upon arrival, I went straight to that establishment. While my fishing buddy scurried over to the liquor store, I perused the walls for some tippet, and then moved to the counter to inquire about fly patterns. The first question out of my mouth was, “Do you guys carry a cheap float tube?” The clerk stared back blankly, and then pointed to a pile of half-opened boxes in the far back corner of the shop. Before I made my move to the area, I made the mistake of mentioning where I was headed, and then

inquiring, “What are those fish eating right now?” The answer from the shop hand… “Bugs.” I kid you not. Needless to say, I immediately tucked my wallet back into my shorts, engineered an abrupt about-face, and walked right out the door. I caught a few fish that weekend, even without Joe-Brilliant’s help. And it wouldn’t surprise me if that shop is no longer in business, and Joe is now lounging in his parents’ basement. There is a fine line, drawn across the front-door threshold, between angler and shop employee. The fly fisher rolls in, often attempting immediately post-greeting to display his or her expertise through the ensuing discussion. Meanwhile, the “help” must endure the stories, sometimes bordering on arrogance, in order to make the sale. It’s a constant trade-off between ego and economics. I’m as guilty as anyone of showing my plumes, but that incident in Tahoe left me jaded. Enter stage left...

While my conclusions are somewhat preliminary –– I believe shop success comes down to two elements: Being extremely wellorganized, and having people that understand and are driven to help other people. I don’t think one point, individually, can hold the fort either... they must coexist. Passion should be job…1,422,685. Many have heard the story: A fanatical fly fisher is given the opportunity to buy their home shop, and subsequently mortgages the

farm to do so. A few years down the road, the establishment is in disarray and creditors are calling daily. Customers slowly move down the street, and pretty soon a permanent “Gone Fishing” sign shows up on the front door. The presumption is that fly fishing retail is just a bad business to be in. “Trout’s” owner, Tucker Ladd, has been fly fishing since he was in his teens. General manager Jim Kanda first picked up a rod at age 10. While the duo is as “fishy” as they come, they also have college degrees in Natural Resources Recreation from Colorado State University. Add a combined 15+ years guiding, working in, and managing fly shops (Tucker at Gorsuch Outfitters and continued on next page...


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37 / June 2011

Last November, I was invited to try my hand at the fly fishing retail trade, and subsequently became a [very] part-time employee of Trout’s Fly-Fishing on 6th and Marion in Denver. Initially a winter weekend gig, now morphing into more of an “on call” arrangement, everyone I talked to about it was quick to mention the employee discounts I was going to get! Frankly, discounts were the last thing on my mind – I’ve got more gear than I know what to do with, as it is. I was more interested in understanding the business itself – what makes a shop

economically viable, as well as how one competes successfully with the big boxes, Internet marketers, and direct sales. And most importantly, what keeps patrons coming back (or keeps them from just walking out)?


a client/server enterprise resource planning (ERP) system stealthily runs the show. Inventory comes in the door, is immediately recorded down to the hook, and a point-of-sale terminal lets it go when the customer decides it’s a “must have.” GM Kanda reconciles everything to daily reports, and an annual inventory count supplements those controls. Trout’s knows what’s selling and what’s not, and to whom and when. It gives the business unique insight as to what is happening within this shop, as well as the broader industry, and allows them to make more informed decisions, faster. Trout’s recently announced they’re launching a new website, one significantly more timely and informative. It will also place additional emphasis on E-commerce. With orders from across the country (and world) growing in frequency – I know, as I’m often asked to fill them – they are already moving to the inevitable next stage in the business’s competitive development. That job hasn’t been easy, but it’s destined to pay off because the shop was prepared to begin with. As for that whole “passion” bit, well it needn’t be lost. Trout’s hosts a now annual trip to New Orleans for its crew. Despite the shop’s name, the search is for redfish. Par for the course, they bring back good stories, plus additional knowledge on gear and techniques that are outside their namesake realm. / June 2011

Jim at Gore Creek Fly Fisherman) and you have a recipe for understanding anything and everything that can go right and wrong in the business. The Trout’s formula begins with that experience, but it certainly doesn’t end there. After purchasing the shop in 2005, Tucker moved it to the present location less than two years later. The location is prime – a significant base of career professionals live in the area, and the 6th Avenue position makes it a prominent weekday afternoon drive-by reminder for any local angler who might be fishing on a given weekend. Management leverages that curbside appeal through consistent updates to their website blog, as well as social media venues such as Facebook and Twitter. It’s an investment of time, but one that is paying off – Trout’s is thriving in the face of difficult economic times. Marketing is great, but if you don’t have a solid back office, the situation can quickly spin out of control. Mr. Ladd was quick to realize that, and early on, made the investment in sophisticated information technology 38

It’s the people, silly... Rick Mikesell exemplifies the new breed of fly shop employee – dedicated to the sport, and willing to go the extra mile to make sure clients are well served.

“Being knowledgeable means better serving our customers, which has the added benefit of helping me as angler,” he said. “I get first-hand knowledge on successful tactics, and I also get to learn from other fly fishers’ mistakes as we attempt to overcome new angling challenges together.

As the de-facto assistant manager at Trout’s, Rick has committed to memory all the brands the shop carries, and what’s coming down the pike in terms of new products. He’s put in the time to understand the shop’s inventory system from the ground up, checking in what’s been received, resolving discrepancies, and pricing SKUs prior to display. He often knows what is in stock without pulling up to a keyboard. But developing a loyal client base isn’t always just about the sale.

Rick caught his first redfish in February, and is willing and able to talk about it with everyone who stops by.

Rick rises early even when he isn’t headed fishing. After large doses of caffeine, he begins perusing the web-based stream flow reports to see what’s trending up and down, then hitting the local chat boards for clues into what might be “hot” on any given day. Then he heads to work, where the information he has collected is disseminated to each and every Trout’s guest who inquires. Since joining the shop staff, Rick has also taken an interest in saltwater rigging, technical European nymphing techniques, and two-handed TFS_AnglingTradeMag_HalfPageAd 5/13/11 11:39 AM Page 1 casting. The extra effort, as he puts it, pays off:


Trout’s hasn’t sacked me (yet)... As mentioned earlier, I thought this adventure in fly-fishing retail would be a short-term opportunity, ending with the start of spring. Now I am sticking around (if only to cover for the occasional late night). I won’t be making a career out of it, but I have seen that with the right ideas and the right people, it is possible. Like with any other well-run business.



Join The Fly Shop’s new Angling Travel Network and gain instant access to a cross-section of some of the most famous and sought after fly fishing lodges and camps in the world.

Most successful fly shop owners host a few trips each year, wading into travel in their off-season, generating a few commission dollars for the business while, at the same time, realizing a dream trip that otherwise might not be affordable. Having fun and getting paid for it is what our customers think we’re all about. But the fact is, a well-planned and well-executed strategy dovetailing angling travel in any shop requires experience, and time that can pull you away from focusing on your core, bread-and-butter profit centers. More than that, many in the fly fishing business have learned that venturing beyond our comfort zone to endorse or promote products (or places) we aren’t familiar with can be catastrophic without help. If you’ll give us a chance, we’ll help you integrate travel into your shop and show you how to build and maximize the ancillary tackle sales and the customer loyalty a travel business can generate. We’ll make it easy and profitable for you.

Paradise Lodge on the southern Mexican Yucatan, just above the Belize border, is a perfect example of what our new Angling Travel Network is all about: Paradise is easy-to get-to, in the safe, rural coastline below Cancun. There are dozens of nearby, tarpon-filled lagoons and Paradise is within easy striking distance of the isolated flats of Chetumal Bay, and Bahia Espiritu Santo, both great places to fly fish for bonefish, permit, tarpon and snook. Paradise is modestly priced in 2011 at only $1,995 per week. It’s a point that resonates in this economy and makes sales easier. It’s the ideal-sized operation for small, easy-to-fill hosted groups. Five paying anglers qualifies a shop for a host and a healthy commission of $300 per guest.You do the math, it’s a no-brainer.


800-669-3474 39 / June 2011

Get in touch with us today!


Six Ways Groupon Can Help (or Hurt) A Fly Shop Written by Steven B. Schweitzer

The previous decade was the decade of the i-device and Google. The current decade is already coined as the decade of social media. Early entrants such as Facebook and Twitter are well known and established players. Recent entrant Groupon went from $0 valuation to a purported offer from Google of $6 billion in just over two years – the offer was declined, by the way. Google was interested in Groupon’s core model, which depends upon small businesses. Question is, is Groupon good for a small business like a fly shop? Let’s explore. The Groupon Model / June 2011

Groupon is credited with creating “social commerce,” a blend of e-commerce, collective buying power, and social media/marketing. By recent accounts, Groupon has 37 million plus subscribers and is growing. Groupon delivers over 700 “groupons” world-wide daily, taking in 50% of the purchase of each groupon sold. (A groupon is nothing more than an online coupon delivered to subscriber e-mail inboxes.) Subscribers sign up for the daily e-mail in hopes of getting a killer deal in their area for a product or service. If the minimum amount of groupons are purchased, the deal is on. Groupon encourages businesses to offer at least 50% off the standard retail price and honor the offer for at least six months. So, for example, if a round of golf at a local golf course costs $80 for 18 holes, a groupon might offer the same round of golf for $40 and throw in a free electric cart. Groupon rakes in 50% of the sales price, taking in $20 for each groupon sold. If 500 groupons are sold, that adds up to some serious scratch (now you can see Google’s interest). Of course, there can be fine print to the offer as well, 40

What Groupon Offers making groupons somewhat less of a deal and more of a hindrance to cashing them in. So, if groupons are profitable for Groupon and a crap shoot for the customer, is there value to the small business, particularly the fly shop? Six Ways Groupon Can Help (or Hurt) Your Business To a small business, Groupon delivers a compelling value proposition, namely: 1. A platform to generate new customer leads 2. A platform to deliver geographic-centric deals 3. A “pay-for-performance” model. A small business pays continued on next page... / June 2011



nothing if the minimum amount of groupons aren’t sold. 4. A pure e-mail marketing/advertising medium 5. A way to generate buzz and leverage word-of-mouth marketing 6. A way to create a “purchasing sense of urgency” with the customer

8. Generating buzz and new clientele for new or relocated businesses.

This all sounds like the perfect companion to a small business, right? Well, maybe not.

9. Promoting commoditized services or products.

What Groupon Tells You Groupon delivers a compelling case about bringing a small business the most important asset: a new customer. And it touts the immediate cash infusion that can help a small business (although you may not see all the cash until 90 days after the coupon runs). But how can a business model be effective when you get only 25% of the normal retail value (Retail value – 50% discount coupon – half of the remainder goes to Groupon, the other half goes to you). Groupon does offer several benefits to a small business as seen in Table 1 (below). Groupon appears to be very transparent with a set of decent demographics as well, providing age, education, marital status, gender, employment status and income levels. The Grouponer is young – between 18 and 34, a prime demographic for a fly shop. They tend to be educated, with 80% having a bachelor’s degree or higher. Half are single and a third married. Three-quarters are employed full-time and 70% make $50K or more annually. But here’s the most telling statistic: 77% are women. For fly shops then, crafting Groupon deals should appeal to women to create the most bang-for-the-coupon. Table 1. - When Groupon is Good for Business 1. G etting rid of excess or discontinued inventory that wouldn’t otherwise sell 2. Generating repeat customers (with a caveat, however) 3. When add-on or complimentary sales occur 4. Getting rid of excess capacity (think hotel rooms or services) / June 2011

the demographic the coupon is being delivered to…a paradigm shift in the way traditional marketing is done – where you create an offer and then pick your demographic. With Groupon, you don’t get to pick the demographic, you have to create an offer around it.

5. W hen traffic is more important than profit (such as an event, film tour, etc) 6. Generates cash flow and keeps the lights on 7. A ttracts a new younger demographic (68% are 18 to 34, 77% are female). Key takeaway: be sure your offer reaches 42

10. If your deal cost is fixed and you can calculate a clear ROI. 11. C o-Marketing products and services together, even across small businesses (eg – A hotel/guided fly fishing package). 12. Acts as a good gift purchase. What Groupon Doesn’t Tell You Groupon, however, does not go beyond the top line in exploring if a Groupon deal is good for your business. Yes, cash flow is good, but in many cases, a Groupon coupon can tank a business as fast as it boosts it. Table 3 summarizes how a Groupon deal could hurt your business. With Groupon, it pays knowing what to expect beforehand. Groupon pays in installments up to 90 days after your deal goes live, so don’t expect immediate cash inflow. Groupon charges a small fee for any credit card transaction. Groupon’s agreement prevents you from using a similar deal-of-the-day service for 12 months. Groupon takes a minimum of 50% of the sales, sometimes higher. Current Groupon demographics don’t favor the fly shop. You may not have control over the copy points in the offer – for better or worse, Groupon prides themselves in preparing the online advert. You must consider whether that’s good for your brand or not. And finally, plan ahead. In some markets, there’s a several month waiting list to get your coupon distributed online. A Coupon or a Gift Card? Is a Groupon coupon considered a coupon or a pre-paid gift card? A coupon can have an expiry, but in most states, a gift card cannot. (Check with your local and state level regulations.) Giving somewhat ambiguous guidance and in defense of their growing list of lawsuits against them, Groupon issued this statement: “Law doesn’t really specify if Groupon is a gift card or a coupon. Gift card law is more stringent, so that’s what we adhere to. A Groupon is good until its expiration date; at that time, the merchant will still have to honor what you PAID (NOT face value), for five years or in accordance with state law. It’s five years in Illinois, and that’s the strictest in the country, so that’s what we ask merchants to abide by.”

Groupon essentially tells retailers to consider the purchase as a gift card. Knowing gift card law in your state becomes essential. Gift card processing watchdog, ScriptSmart, summarizes gift card law by state: Is Groupon Good for You? The most obvious way to calculate a Groupon deal impact on your business is by doing a simple ROI analysis. But calculating ROI can take many forms, be confusing and can be daunting, to say the least. Fortunately, we have created the Angling Trade Groupon Decision Maker spreadsheet, a tool that calculates ROI and provides key decision metrics to consider before entering a Groupon deal. Download it at, under Categories - click “Downloads”. Download Bonus: download a 1-page summary of Groupon’s 6-point value proposition including what advocates and contrarians say about each. Examples Using the Angling Trade Groupon Decision Maker Tool Using the Decision Maker tool, we’ve modeled some common examples and analyzed two real-life Groupon deals, one insanely large and one modestly in control (Figure 1). Figure 1. – Two Groupon Deal Examples: Sky Diving and Outdoor Gear & Apparel

Table 2. – Groupon Deal Comparison Summary

What did the model tell us? Table 2 (above) summarizes the output of the Decision Maker tool. The message becomes clear when unemotional figures and math are framed around the deal. Running the numbers delivers five clear themes: 1. Big value deals carry high risk and can tank a business’s bottom line in a hurry. 2. To the retailer, service offerings are less appealing than product offerings. Delivering service offerings requires expensive and limited human capital, and of course a finite amount of time to perform the service. 3. Product offerings are easier to manage and are less labor costly. Smaller dollar items generate the same foot traffic as large ticket items; limit your ROI risk by offering smaller dollar items. 4. High value items are often high margin items are often 1x-3x lifetime sales = bad for Groupon deals. Does it make sense to discount your high-margin product (rods, reels, waders) away in order to generate new foot traffic that has no other choice than to buy commodity lowmargin items?

Of course, there are situations where Groupon is not good for business – particularly when you can’t deliver on what you’ve promised. Table 3 (next page) summarizes when it’s not advised to use Groupon. continued on next page... 43 / June 2011

5. High value deals + high volume coupon sales = recipe for disaster. Age-old adage: You can’t make up margin by selling more volume.


Table 3. - When Groupon is Not Good for Business 1. G roupon’s agreement is not a win-win: the online agreement locks in a business for 12 months, preventing them from using another daily deal website, and Groupon starts the negotiations at their take being 100% of the sales price. 2. G rouponing tends to cheapen a brand – be cautious you don’t hurt your brand that took eons to build. 3. C oupons train your customers to shop only when you offer discounts. And they train your customers to shop around – defeating customer loyalty. 4. B eing unprepared or understaffed to deal with a potential large take on the offer; phone calls, dealing with angry folks who didn’t read the fine print, etc. 5. W hen you never get repeat sales; you have sunk customer acquisition costs; Groupon customers tend to only spend the Groupon value. You are forced to make up the profit loss on the backs of your loyal customers. 6. S tudies have shown delivering products or services have very little effect on add-on sales or generating repeat customers. 7. W hen you have to back out of the offer because of a supply issue (you’ve just acted as your competitors’ best marketer). 8. W hen you want to promote exclusivity or a unique product/service. 9. When promoting new products or hot selling items (why discount?!) 10 When your deal costs are variable or unpredictable. 11. For most small businesses, Groupon’s deep discount model is not a sustainable marketing practice. 12. A potential negative effect on loyal customers: How do you handle the loyal customer who feels like a chump for missing out on your special email deal? 13. You still have to convert the new Groupon customers into long-term loyal customers. This is easier said than done (coupon clippers don’t tend to be loyal customers to begin with). / June 2011

14. Discounting high margin items take away your only opportunity to boost the P&L. High margin items are often 1x-per-lifetime purchases. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Current Research is Thin. Early Results Mixed. Research shows only 22% of customers come back to the business for repeat sales. Uptal Dholakia of Rice University conducted a survey – he found 42% of small businesses that used Groupon would not do it again. “If things continue the 44

way they are, I would be very surprised if it’s sustainable,” says Dholakia. He surveyed 150 businesses that ran promos in 2009-2010. About a third had not turned a profit as a result of the deal. His study found that businesses that sold more than 1,000 groupons were less likely to turn a profit (ahem… our Decision Maker tool supports that data point). Being unprepared for the overwhelming volume was the culprit. The study goes on to share that only 25% spent money beyond the Groupon deal and less than 15% came back for repeat business. Other think-tanks are chiming in as well - The Wall Street Journal reported that 78% of Groupon customers don’t return. An Accenture study showed that 78% of Groupon customers want mobile coupons, not emails. Comparing the independent research with what Groupon states on their website – the storylines don’t match. Groupon states 95% were satisfied with the Groupon experience, 95% would use them again, and 96% recommend Groupon to other businesses ( Industry Early Adapters Share Experiences For a new start-up, Groupon can be an overwhelmingly good thing. Rob Snowhite, the Fly Fishing Consultant, runs a one-man start-up guide business servicing Metro D.C. and Northern Virginia. He was struggling to fill his appointment book until his wife tipped him off about Groupon. His first deal ($40 for 2 hours of guide service) netted 514 2-hour trips sold. He ran it again and attracted another staggering count of 1,353 deals sold. “I thought I’d sell like 40 to 50 coupons” Snowhite said, “Groupon told me I had over 6,000 unique coupon views the first day alone.” Now comes the hard part – filling the demand. Snowhite says “I’m not taking lunches or bathroom breaks, I am guiding from sunup to sundown, 7 days a week. Scheduling is insane, it’s just me, I wish I had an assistant. I can’t schedule while I am on the water.” Despite the long hours, Snowhite says he would do a Groupon again, but this time, wait until all the coupons expire. “I don’t have a storefront and I am a startup business, so attracting new customers is key,” says Snowhite. He estimates 99% of the coupon buyers are new customers and 10% will become repeat customers. There’s a high probability that many will not take advantage of the deal before it expires. Snowhite projects upwards of 50% breakage, stating a positive of the Groupon experience is he gets paid whether they show up or not. Snowhite does fear the procrastinators will wait to the last minute to cash in on the deal. How will Snowwhite handle this? “Most likely,” he said, “I’ll have to extend the expiry date to fit everyone in.” If Groupon is considered a gift card purchase, he will have to. Small value Groupons do attract new customers, but abuse too David Leinweber of of the well-established Angler’s Covey in Colorado Springs, CO, ran a Groupon in June of 2010 pro-

moting a $10 coupon for $25 worth of merchandise. He was after what he terms the platinum prize for a retailer – a new customer. “I was looking to attract new money walking the aisles. There’s no other reason to do it [run a Groupon promotion],” said Leinweber. Three-hundred and forty three takers grabbed his first Groupon deal. He decided to run another six months later, attracting 535 grouponers. Much to his surprise, they weren’t all new customers, however. If fact, Leinweber estimates 70% of the deals were sold to existing customers. And of those existing customers an estimated 10% were abusers buying multiple deals for themselves, despite clear terms against it. “One guy signed up under every email address in his house and used all the coupons himself. So much abuse soured me on the experience,” stated Leinweber, “I probably won’t ever do it again [run another Groupon promotion].” Leinweber estimates that 30% of the existing customers would have purchased from him anyway; effectively giving away profit. Lesson Learned: Leinweber believes his first Groupon campaign brought in all the new traffic and the second go-round added little incremental value. As for turning the 30% new customer base into repeat visits, Leinweber says it’s still too early to tell. Tips For Using a Collective Purchasing Service Even with the high probability of a negative ROI and current research giving the Groupon model a sour look, there still might be reason to use Groupon for your business. From the mouths of those who have done it come some sage advice on using a service like Groupon: • Consider offering a loyalty rewards program in place of or in conjunction with a groupon discount. • Sign-up for Groupon and follow it religiously for 30 days before thinking of using it for your business. • If you decide to use Groupon, introduce a small ticket item, where you manage the price-point and potential loss. Limit the deal scope and tenure. Make sure you can deliver on 100% of what you offer. • Train your staff ahead of time for the incoming rush of deal seeking mongers. • Since Groupon doesn’t dole out email addresses of those who bought your groupon deal, be prepared to gather that info at every chance possible. This is your only connection to bringing them back in your store for repeat sales. • There’s no way around it, Groupon boils down to an advertising cost…consider it as such and nothing more. • Don’t expect to make money on coupon breakage, that is, the

• Forget about expiry dates. Honor the coupon no matter when it’s presented. What’s Next for Collective Purchasing Services? I’ve been lurking Groupon since late 2010, and social media coverage for a few years. As Groupon matures, it seems Groupon “deals” appear to have less value and are becoming less attractive to the general consumer. Here are my four predictions for the future of collective purchasing services, namely Groupon: • Prediction #1: Fraud and coupon/gift card theft will rise. Obscure and off-the-wall entrants will use Groupon for pure lead generation – which leads to more Groupon ad fraud and more coupon/gift card theft. The new entrants will outsmart and outpace the delivery of anti-fraud solutions for the foreseeable future. • Prediction #2: Groupon’s 50% cut is not sustainable. Groupon will reduce their cut to attract new and more attractive Groupon participants and deals, which in turn supports Prediction #1. That will essentially be the beginning of the end for Groupon. Maybe they should have jumped on Google’s purported offer. • Prediction #3: Groupon (& Groupon-like services) will be reduced to just another online avenue to liquidate excess capacity or overstock commodity items. Expect less attractive deals to continue. Anyone for $0.50 spools of expired leader material? This is not the business model for a specialty retailer. • Prediction #4: Groupon will be sold to an established customer acquisition engine and the coupon model will shut down or migrate into a new business model. Let’s face it, Groupon excels at customer acquisition, not product sales. The value of Groupon to a potential suitor is 50+ million subscribers which are mostly affluent, educated 20-35 yr old females. It’s not farfetched to think of Groupon in three years as the best online portal to shop women’s shoes, apparel, house wares, home care and baby accessory deals. The Acid Test Not every marketing solution works for every business. Using Groupon means you’ll take home no more than 25 cents on the dollar of retail value to get new customers. Converting those new customers to loyal repeat business is the key to using Groupon. Ask yourself, “If I don’t get new repeat business, have I made money with the deal?” If you answer ‘no’, then run fast, there is such a thing as bad sales channels, and this just might be one of them. at 45 / June 2011

• Send coupons direct to your customers’ phones instead.

number of coupons that go unused. Social coupon redemption rates hover around the 90% mark (10% breakage).


“As with any venture that’s a great success or a great failure, it’s never just one thing,” says Oregon-based reel manufacturer John Bauer, who was a Kaufmann’s supplier for the past 14 years. “You could point to a crappy economy, you could point to financing their new store, you could point to a lot of things.”


What lessons can be learned from the Kaufmann’s Streamborn disaster? Written by Tom Bie

I was maybe 12 years old the first time I walked into Kaufmann’s Fly Shop, just off 99W in Tigard, Oregon. Living down the road in Newberg, I remember walking in, finding a Kaufmann’s Stimulator in the fly bin, and thinking to myself how cool it was that this guy had a store and a fly named after him—the very definition of success to a tweenager just entering the sport. / June 2011

As most people in the flyfishing industry know, Kaufmann’s wasn’t “this guy” but two guys—brothers Randall and Lance Kaufmann. Together, the two of them ran Kaufmann’s Streamborn as one of the most successful fly shops in the country for the better part of 40 years, until Lance bought out Randall four years ago and Kaufmann’s shiny reputation began to fade. The fall from grace—by one of the only fly shops in the country with a truly national “brand,” culminated with the announcement in early May that Kaufmann’s planned to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. Regional message boards lit up with rumor and innuendo about what had caused Kaufmann’s demise, but the truth is that the downfall didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t caused by one factor, but many. 46

But for Bauer, as with other Kaufmann’s suppliers, many of whom will likely go unpaid as a result of the bankruptcy filing, the closing magnifies some larger problems within the industry. “Every time something like this happens, it has a tremendous impact on the viability of the specialty fly shop in this country—no matter where you are,” says Bauer. “It’s just one more event that’s going to cause customers to go to a Bass Pro Shop or Cabela’s. The immediate ugliness is the money we’re owed, but even harder is that Kaufmann’s was one of the few shops in the country that could turn a lot of product. And there is nobody to replace that in the Portland market.” A few will try. In October of 2010, after a decade as a Kaufmann employee, Joel La Follette opened Royal Treatment Flyfishing in the Portland suburb of West Linn. He says the Rose City has always had the ability to support more than one shop. “The Portland market was underutilized by the industry,” LaFollette says. “And if you wanted to open up a fly shop, it was pretty much impossible. Because they [Kaufmann’s] had all the product lines, and they definitely kept people from getting certain things.” Like Bauer, LaFollette agrees that many factors contributed to Kaufmann’s closing and his decision to move on. “I don’t know what the final tipping point was, but as an employee, there’s only so much you can do,” he says, “I had to make a decision about what I was going to do. And since other individuals had to make the same decision, it should have been pretty obvious that there were some issues.”

Two of those “other individuals” are Jerry Swanson and Randy Stetzer, each of whom worked for Kaufmann’s for 30 years. Swanson left last year to form his own travel agency, and Stetzer now works for Vancouver, Washington-based Rajeff Sports. One of the biggest factors for Kaufmann’s demise, mentioned by both Stetzer and La Follette, is the decision to stop publishing the company’s print catalog. “That was their identity—no question,” says Stetzer. “And as soon as that was gone, they were no longer in the public eye. I fought tooth and nail to keep it. I know it’s expensive, but in the grand scheme of things, it pays for itself manyfold. Once it was done, none of those customers ever heard from Kaufmann’s again. And you just can’t do that. You’re sinking yourself.” “That was the beginning of the end,” adds LaFollette. “That catalog was one of the things that helped establish them as a large player in the industry. It would be really hard to duplicate that now, because print media and mailing costs are so high, but if your customers come to depend on that as their source of information, then you’ve got to keep it going—that’s your lifeblood.” Still, despite the fall of Kaufmann’s being bad news for the industry in general and Portland in particular, Bauer, Stetzer and LaFollette all say they have no ill will toward the Kaufmanns, and all still believe in the future of the specialty fly shop. “It took a long time for me to get up enough guts to do this,” La Follette says, in reference to opening his own shop. “And I’ll be the first to admit: Without the experience I gained at Kaufmann’s, this wouldn’t have been possible. I started off at a little Orvis shop before I went to work for Kaufmann’s, and I got to see good decisions and bad decisions made at both places. I’ve received a 13year business education. And for me to commit to doing this, I have to believe that this is not a stupid thing to do, this a smart thing to do. This is a good business decision.” at

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At some point in your life someone stuck a fly rod in your hand, changing the very trajectory of your existence. Certainly they had the best of intentions, and perhaps even a pretty good inkling of where all this would lead. Either way, here you are jumping around this planet trying to cram as much saltwater spray and moss-covered solitude into your life as any fly fisher could ever hope for. Some don’t understand your addiction. Maybe you should stick a fly rod in their hands.