the buzz on the flyfishing biz SM
Made in America
Bowhunting v. Flyfishing/ The Case for Imports/ Filson Wades In/ The Best of Both Worlds/ Americaâ€™s Fish/ Great Lakes/ Back to School Profits/ True to the Red, White & Blue March2008AnglingTrade.com
the buzz on the flyfishing biz
Kirk Deeter firstname.lastname@example.org Managing Editor
20 Sticking True to the Red,
White and Blue You can sell American because your heart tells you to… but that’s not going to cut the mustard. Here are the real reasons it makes sense to keep at least a portion of your inventory made in the U.S.A. By Kirk Deeter
6 Editor’s Column What does “made in America” mean to your business? The answer is likely different for every shop in the country.
Tim Romano email@example.com Editor-at-Large
Charlie Meyers firstname.lastname@example.org Art Director
Tara Brouwer email@example.com brouwerdesign.com Copy Editors
Mabon Childs, Sarah Warner Contributing Editors
28 Made in America – NOT
You make the same thing, for less money, and sell it at a lower cost. How could that be wrong? It’s not. The import ship has sailed, and smart retailers know how to cash in. By Charlie Meyers
The latest people, product, and issues news from the North American flyfishing industry.
24 Opinion Editorial Great (Lakes) Potential In terms of flyfishing potential, we’re barely dipping below the surface of the greatest freshwater resources on the continent. By Jerry Darkes
DESIGNED TO SELL
If flyfishing were to fishing what bowhunting is to hunting, nobody would complain. What makes bowhunting the one facet of the outdoors market that’s booming? By Ben Romans
40 America’s Fish Brown trout?
/ RIVERSHED BOOT TM
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An import. Carp? Haven’t heard of the “Carpmaster Classic.” There’s only one true choice… the largemouth bass.
By Monte Burke
43 Filson Wades In One of the
most respected outdoors labels in the world has decided to jump into the river with a new line of waders. Question is, will they live up to the “might as well have the best” reputation? By Greg Thomas
45 Backcast What’s it going to be, a dunce cap or a mortarboard? Because going “back to school” might just be the ticket for flyshops to graduate to more profit. By Charlie Meyers
Monte Burke, Ellie Childs, Ben Romans, Will Rice, Jerry Darkes Photos unless noted by Tim Romano Angling Trade is published four times a year by Angling Trade, LLC. Author and photographic submissions should be sent electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com Mail Address: PO Box 17487 Boulder, CO 80308 Street Address: 3055 24th Street Boulder, CO 80304 AnglingTrade.com
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
34 The Stick and the String
Tom Bie Ben Romans Andrew Steketee Greg Thomas
PAT E NT
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Nate Matthews is the editor of fieldandstream.com. He lives in a tiny apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that’s crammed with books, fly tying materials, and fishing rods. On weekends when the stripers are in town (and he’s not in the office) you’ll find him dodging jets in a skiff out on Jamaica Bay. Otherwise he’s exploring the Catskill and Adirondack mountains on his motorcycle with a 4-weight strapped to his backpack. Jerry Darkes is a fly tackle sales rep, instructor/ guide, and writer based in northern Ohio. He has over four decades of flyfishing experience in both fresh and saltwater and is recognized as an expert on Great Lakes steelhead and warmwater flyfishing. He is also a member of the Scott Fly Rod Pro Staff. Darkes has been featured in several books and video/ DVD productions about Great Lakes flyfishing and has authored numerous articles about the region.
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Mabon Childs is a creative director at McKinney in Durham, NC. His favorite prey: Native brook trout caught on small flies between 2,000 and 3,000 feet above sea level in the Adirondacks, western Pennsylvania and Surry County, NC. Nothing too tough. Which may explain why the graphite he sees most is attached to a golf club. We’re extremely grateful, nonetheless, that he performs the “tough edits” on Angling Trade. Tim Romano is the managing editor of Angling Trade, and the co-editor of Field & Stream’s Fly Talk weblog. He’s also well recognized for his photography pursuits; his work has appeared in Field & Stream, Fly Rod & Reel, The Drake, Wild on the Fly, and a variety of other publications and ad campaigns. We put him on the contributors page to call attention to the nifty images he produces to support the stories (see “The Stick and the String”). He lives in Boulder, Colorado.
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Kirk Deeter is the editor of Angling Trade.
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This issue marks his first bylined feature in the publication. He is also the author of three books, and an editor-atlarge for Field & Stream. His articles have appeared in various publications, ranging from Fly Fisherman, to Big Sky Journal, to London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. He lives in Pine, Colorado.
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AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
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Tara Brouwer is the art director/graphic designer/ illustrator for Angling Trade. She’s produced work for many companies in the outdoor industry including Pearl Izumi, Warren Miller, La Sportiva, and Sharp End Publishing. Her flyfishing street cred: obtained first fishing license in 2007 for the fine state of Colorado. She’s a Lake Michigan area native and now resides and plays in Boulder, CO.
I couldn’t believe my ears.
There I stood, in a fly shop in the heart of the Great Lakes region—tried and true U.A.W. country—
and the guy behind the cash register said: “If it weren’t for Temple Fork and other foreign-made rods, we wouldn’t be selling any rods at all, and we might not even be in business. We stock (imports) because they sell. Period.” Several weeks earlier, I’d heard the flip-side perspective from a Colorado fly shop owner. “Cheap Chinese and Korean rods will kill the industry,” he lamented. “They basically make price the only factor, and forsake the specialty fly shop for the big box stores. It’s Wal-Mart thinking at its worst.” No matter where you stand, you should know that the “made in America” debate has already placed you, the retailer, neck-deep in a tug-o-war that will eventually shape the course of this industry. How you position your business in this regard may very well determine its fate. Is it margins or volume that you’re after? Maybe both. Can you play to the base demographic (that white, Baby Boomer male with disposable income), or are you hoping this market finds some new blood? Likely both.
We recently dangled a few carrots in front of a large consumer audience by offering some free flyfishing starter kits to readers of fieldandstream.com, thanks to the support of Scientific Anglers. Of course, the word “free” is a traffic magnet, and our response was predictably off the charts. The lesson though, was that there are plenty of people out there who are hungry to get started in flyfishing. Some of the comments we received: “I have lots of buddies starting out, and I’d like to help them;” “I’d like to start flyfishing... my employer is crazy about it... I live in Ohio;” “I’d like to get my dad into flyfishing... he loves to fish and I know he’d enjoy it;” “I am a 58-year-old (female) school teacher, thinking of retiring, and would love to pick up a hobby... flyfishing seems perfect.” 6
On the other hand, one shop owner recently told me that he has a base clientele of die-hard, dedicated anglers who say issues like quality, craftsmanship, and tradition (at any price) are paramount. They buy American. Which, said the shop owner, is not a bad thing, considering he makes the same profit on one domestic rod as he does with three imports. So where do you stand? More importantly, where do your customers stand? Odds are the answer to this questions is slightly different for everyone. The last issue of Angling Trade was all about answers… straight-up strategies for marketing your business. In many ways, this issue is more about questions. We cannot answer them for you, but we can share opinions from all sides that help you find your bearing. You’ll also notice in this issue that we’re expanding our focus beyond the trout and saltwater world. Ironically, as much of this industry centers on the chase for imports like brown trout, Monte Burke points out that “America’s Fish” is, in fact, the largemouth bass. Jerry Darkes chimes in with a related Op. Ed. on the warmwater potential. And Ben Romans gives us an insightful glimpse at the one facet of the American outdoors industry that has grown as others have shrunk— bowhunting. (If the fly rod were to be perceived in the fishing world what the bow is perceived in the hunting market, I don’t think many would complain.) We’re pleased to include a feature by Field & Stream online editor, Nate Matthews, as well as return engagements from Greg Thomas, and, of course, Charlie Meyers. As always, I want to thank our advertisers, and encourage readers to take note of the companies represented in this magazine. They are here because they believe in supporting a resource aimed at helping your business. at - Kirk Deeter, Editor 7
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
Truth is, in the globalized economy, there aren’t many products that are totally “made in America,” or made in China, or Korea, of Japan for that matter. There’s a good chance, for example, those T-shirts you sell that were manufactured in China, were woven from cotton grown in Texas. I drive an American-made truck, one of the few in its class built in the USA. It’s called a Toyota Tundra.
Interestingly, we couldn’t pinpoint a single demographic—it wasn’t young people, or women, or crossover bass anglers who expressed interest… it was all of them, from all four corners of the country. The barrier most of them pointed to as the reason they or their friends had not gotten into flyfishing was, you guessed it, price. Would-be newbies of all ages consistently said flyfishing is expensive. Which completely supports the import logic.
The Product Buzz Cortland Launches New Rods, Line Cortland recently announced the introduction of two new rod series: The Big Sky and Brook series are designed for big water and small stream fishing, respectively. The Brook series features a taper meant to optimize delicate casts. The series includes five four-piece rods from a 6’6” 3-weight to an 8’ 5-weight. Suggested retail is $179.95. The Big Sky series rods are meant to excel at longer distances. There are 10 rod models in the series, with suggested retail ranging from $229.95 to $239.95. All rods come with a cordura hard case that can accommodate both the rod and an attached reel. The company also announced the launch of the Precision Platinum line, an addition to Cortland’s Dyna-Tip floating trout line series. The line is designed for versatile applications, from tailwaters to small streams. The new Platinum line is formulated with Cortland’s DuraSilk coating.
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
Under the Diamondback brand, the company is also releasing a new “Flawless” series of fly rods. Sixteen full models in the series cover a gamut of applications from small creeks to saltwater flats. Suggested retail ranges from $249 for freshwater models to $299 for saltwater models.
Dr. Slick Markets 2008 Product Line Highlights from the 2008 product line offering from Dr. Slick include: Bamboo Handle Tying Tools (bodkin with half hitch tool, whip finisher, 8
rotary, with half hitch tool, rotary hackle pliers – small and large) at $8 each; The bamboo handle tools are also available in a gift set that includes a medium hair stacker, 4-inch ceramic bobbin, and 4-inch all-purpose scissors, retail $52. Bead Tweezers – 4-inch self closing in gold and satin finish. Designed with a straight arrowhead (pointed) jaw enabling the tier to pick up a single bead from a tray, plastic bag or table. One jaw is coated with plastic to keep glass beads from breaking. Suitable for brass, tungsten, glass, round, dumbbell or chain beads. $7. Extra Hand fly tweezers for lifting a single fly of any size out of a box while streamside. The 2-1/4-inch tweezers are self-closing. Hangs from any flyfishing vest or jacket. In gold and satin finish. $7. Pisces Pliers 6-1/2-inch, stainless steel pliers with double pocket holster and lanyard. These are straight pliers with an anvil cutter blade and rubber handle grips. For all fresh and saltwater flyfishing, bass fishing and general home use. $35. Improved/Modified Dr. Slick Tools for 2008: Necklace now comes with waterproof fly box; Hook files now have rounded bottom; Pliers have upgraded holsters; Eco clamps have improved ratchets.
Simms G4 Waders win Gray’s Best Simms Fishing Products announced that its G4 Guide Stockingfoots have been awarded the prestigious Gray’s Best Award for 2008. This award recognizes the quality, innovation, design and overall functionality of Simms’ premier fishing wader. Gray’s Sporting Journal, now entering its 38th year of publication, is the foremost sporting journal that embodies
the sporting life. Readers of Gray’s have come to expect quality, honesty and integrity. Each year the editors of Gray’s Sporting Journal rigorously field test hundreds of pieces of gear for several months. Final endorsements go to a few pieces of gear that have innovative craftsmanship and whose construction reflect those same values that are core to the Gray’s name. “We are very proud to be recognized for the innovation, design and craftsmanship that went into the G4 Guide Stockingfoots,” commented Simms president K.C. Walsh. “Simms is committed to making the highestquality, most durable gear for anglers to wear fishing, and the G4 Guide wader truly embodies this quest.” Complete details on the Gray’s Best 2008 can be found in the Gray’s Sporting Journal, 2008 Expeditions & Guides Annual (Volume Thirty-Two, Issue 7).
Editor’s Pick: Pins and Fins Wonder Products We recently had a chance to field test a series of “Wonder Products” (cloths, towels and patches used for cleaning and drying flies, rods, reels, etc.) in the gritty and demanding environs of Tierra del Fuego in Argentina. With no chemicals or abrasives, the cloth is launderable up to 100 times. We were surprised by how well they worked. Our favorite was the Wonder Wading Towel, the perfect size for cleaning your hands after handling fish. Check out the product line at pinsandfins.com. continued on next page...
Highland Mills Rod Co. Picked up by Cabela’s
The Painted Trout Launches Bandana with fishpond
Highland Mills Rod Co. which manufactures bamboo rods in the U.S.A., (retail $1299) announced that its products are now offered by Cabela’s. Rods feature hand-planed, flamed Tonkin cane and are hollow-built for a light feel. The dramatic swelled butts kick into overdrive for extra power. These rods have book-matched, mirrored tips, clear wraps with cinnamon accents set off with varnish, titanium guides and agate stripping guide, blued nickel-silver hardware, Bailey Woods ferrules with ferrule plug, REC down-locking, screw-lock reel seat, and English gunstock figured walnut reel seat inserts. All these features result in a rod with superb tracking, dampening and effortless tight loops. Two-piece rods with two tip sections. Poplin bag with solid-brass capped tube. Dealer inquiries: hmrod.com.
The Painted Trout, a Dexter, Michigan-based producer of sporting market gift items, announced the launch of its first product design under contract with fishpond USA of Silverthorne, Colorado. The product is a flyfishing bandana dubbed the “Amigos Bandana.” It’s an oversized 100% cotton bandana with distinctive patterning, available in three colors, sage, rust, and blue. Suggested retail is around $12. For information see paintedtrout.com.
Ross Worldwide has expanded its Essence rod line with the addition of a 9-foot 6-weight model in each of the three series: FS, FC and FW. The Essence series fly rods have been assigned graphite designations of R-1, R-2 and R-3 to highlight design differences. While the fundamentals of each series remain true to the design, a higher numbered R-Value indicates a slightly more progressive action. All three series are 4-piece rods that ship complete with a rod sock and rod case. The three Essence rod series are priced at $99.00, $149.00 and $199.00. Additional sizes in each Essence series will be available in spring 2008. For more information visit rossreelsworldwide.com. 10
Nautilus announced the addition of another member to its CCF reel family: the Nautilus 12DD. The 12 Double Duty offers identical backing and fly line capacities as its larger and heavier 12T sibling, but weighs an impressive 2.5 ounces less. The 12DD falls between the 12 and 12T and weighs a mere 10.2 oz. As with all Nautilus CCF reels, the 12DD features the company’s patent pending sealed cork and carbon fiber composite drag system that offers exceptionally low startup inertia. The Nautilus 12DD is recommended as a larger capacity 12/13 weight reel for larger tarpon, giant trevally, mid-size tuna and sailfish. In freshwater the Nautilus 12DD’s capacity and light weight will be appreciated by Spey and twohanded flyfishers that are turning to shorter, lighter spey rods. Available in black or silver anodizing. MSRP is $550 for the reel and $295 per spool. See nautilusreels.com.
Robert Ramsay Resigns from the American Fly Fishing Trade Association/Denver Targeted as Probable New Headquarters The American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) board of directors announced that it had accepted the resignation of president Robert Ramsay, effective March 30, 2008. Ramsay and the board are working together to ensure a transition before Ramsay pursues his plans to fulfill other career ventures. “I’ve considered it a privilege to lead AFFTA during a period of tremendous building and progress,” Ramsay said. “The flyfishing industry has just begun to see what’s really possible from this organization. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together and heartened by the potential that is clearly unfolding. So much of that is due to a higher level of member activism and optimism that has brought vitality to AFFTA’s ranks.” “Robert should be proud of all that he has contributed to the flyfishing industry,” said Alan Gnann, chairman of AFFTA’s board of directors. “Much of the progress we’ve made under his leadership has helped form a firm foundation for AFFTA’s growth far into the future.” Gnann added that AFFTA will likely use the transition to relocate the AFFTA headquarters from its current location of Athens, Georgia, to Denver. AFFTA will be interviewing candidates to replace Ramsay over the next several weeks, with the hope of selecting a successor at or around the time of the “National Casting Call” event at the end of April. “Our number one criteria (for the next president) is having proven nonprofit trade management experience, and
knowledge of the flyfishing market is also essential,” said Gnann. For more information, see affta.com.
AFFTA Ends Partnership with Alliance for Fly Fishing Education AFFTA and its Discover Fly Fishing program also announced the decision to end organizational partnership with the Alliance for Fly Fishing Education (AFFE). Working internally, AFFTA plans to focus its direct consumer recruitment and Discover Fly Fishing efforts on proven strategies to grow participation in the sport of flyfishing with a more effective return on investment. AFFTA says the decision was based on the success of its inaugural Fly Fishing Expo held in Denver, Colorado, in early January. As a direct result of the learning opportunities presented at the Expo, AFFTA developed a list of over 5,000 individuals with an interest in advancing their flyfishing skills and knowledge. These enthusiasts, in combination with AFFTA’s existing database of fly fishermen in Colorado, give the organization current access to nearly 20,000 learning and avid anglers.
The Last Word on the Denver Consumer Show Flap? We doubt we’ll hear the last word on this issue for some time. How did the respective shows fare? Depends on who you ask. Both AFFTA and The Fly Fishing Show West claimed success, and attendance numbers seem to support both arguments. Angling Trade has heard its share of both praise and grumblings (mostly praise) from exhibitors and attendees on both sides of the fence. But we found the following to be quite interesting. Bill Leuchten, of Front Range Anglers in Boulder, Colorado, conducted an informal survey to gauge opinions of continued on next page... 11
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
Ross Expands Essence
Nautilus Launches New Reel
attendees at The Fly Fishing Show West. Here’s what Bill had to report: “I performed the survey because in the turmoil leading up to the shows, there was never any talk about the impact it had on the thousands of attendees/consumers of having two competing shows on the same date(s). The talk was always what is good for “industry” and it was a guessing game as to where the herd of consumers was going to go. Everyone had an opinion on what the “right” thing to do was. I spoke to 100 plus people over three days but really only recorded 30. However the responses did not vary so I am not concerned about the non-recorded answers since they were very consistent. 10% went to both shows. However I saw this number at 0% on Friday to 10% on Sunday because the Friday attendents obviously could not have made it to the other show in that timeframe while Sunday attendents had the opportunity to hit both shows by the time I interviewed them. This is an elusive number due to the timing of the survey. Less than 5% never heard there was another show.
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
When asked why they attended The Fly Fishing Show West (FFSW) 100% responded with a shrug and said: ‘This was the show they always came to and knew what to expect.’ Of these respondents, they responded with, ‘It had a more Colorado offering and did not know what the other international show was about.’ The other show appeared as a mystery. Since the other show was an unknown, they just went to the show that was familiar. I see this as the creature of habit mentality. 2% of this group actually got specific and said they were after equipment and deals and knew they could find it at FFSW. 5% said the FFSW had more local offering in terms of guiding. They 12
did not know about the other show but still thought the FFSW was a ‘local show.’ This was a similar response to the people that thought the AFFTA was ‘international.’ 85% were disgruntled and annoyed about the division of the industry. They can’t see the exhibits at both places in one hall. They have to go and drive, pay and park to see the other show. ‘Why can’t they join the shows,’ ‘That is stupid,’ ‘Why do I need to go to two locations,’ ‘Why can’t they be on different dates,’ ‘What were they thinking,’ ‘I can’t see manufacturers and a particular seminar in one show.’ They were VERY confused and really wanted to know why such an aggressive approach was taken to inconvenience them. 10% were actually angry about it. 5% took a boycott response in that they said they would never go to that other show for the above reasons. 100% asked: ‘Why was there another show on the same day!’ They really could not understand it and they expected me to provide an answer.” Editor’s note: In fairness, we will publish similar qualitative survey data on the Expo from entities willing to provide it.
Licata Named Editor of Anthony Licata, a nine-year veteran of Field & Stream, has taken over responsibilities as the editor of the world’s leading outdoors magazine. “I am excited to have a chance to lead this great magazine, which is the voice of American hunting and fishing,” said Licata “One of the popular interests of our readers is flyfishing, and Field & Stream has a legacy of great flyfishing writers. I fully intend to continue this tradition.”
Licata replaces Sid Evans, who accepted a position as editor-in-chief for Garden & Gun, a Charleston, South Carolina-based lifestyle publication. Evans was joined at Garden & Gun by David DiBenedetto, formerly editor of SaltWater Sportsman.
Jennings Named Publisher of Bonnier Corp.’s Glenn Hughes announced the promotion of Gary Jennings to publisher of Fly Fishing in Salt Waters, which is published six times a year by the Bonnier Marine Group. Formerly associate publisher, Jennings joined the publication in June 2002.
Mazur Promoted to Editor of Bonnier also announced the promotion of Mike Mazur to editor of Fly Fishing in Salt Waters magazine. Mazur moves to his new position from another Bonnier title, Sport Fishing, where he was managing editor. He also served as associate editor during his time at Sport Fishing. Mazur succeeds Capt. Ted Lund, who has been promoted to editor of Bonnier title SaltWater Sportsman under editor-in-chief John Brownlee.
Reilly Steps Out, Healy In at
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Our respected colleague Jim Reilly has stepped down as managing editor of Fly Rod & Reel magazine. He will contribute to the magazine, and pursue other freelance opportunities. Joe Healy has been hired as the magazine’s new associate publisher. Editorial and business inquiries should be directed to Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org. continued on next page...
McDowell Departs from Simms
Whitney McDowell has stepped down from her marketing manager position at Simms Fishing Products. She will spend more time fishing, and will remain an ambassador for Simms. Diane Bristol is reassuming marketing-related responsibilities for the foreseeable future.
Gary Graham Named to California Outdoors Hall of Fame
Gary Graham, 67, who parlayed a lifetime love of fishing into a role as conservationist, writer, advocate and spokesman for the sport, was inducted into the California Outdoors Hall of Fame. Others elected with Graham were Rick Copeland, founder of “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” and Francis Farquhar (1887-1974), a San Francisco Bay Area mountaineer, writer and longtime director of the Sierra Club.
Graham was cited by the Hall of Fame, “... for his willingness and ability to share his extensive knowledge of fishing and the ocean with thousands of others...” His background in fishing spans more than 40 years in Southern California and the Baja Peninsula, beginning with the half-day boats fishing the local kelp beds off San Diego.
Charter Life Member of the San Diego Marlin Club (with two terms as president). He has also served as director of the Los Angeles Billfish Club, the Los Pescadores Fishing Club, Southwestern Yacht Club, and the National Coalition for Marine Conservation, as well as chairing national and international saltwater tournaments.
In 1977, Graham and his wife, Yvonne, founded Friends of Fishing, non-profit organizations to take disadvantaged children enrolled in Big Brothers and Big Sisters of San Diego County fishing and teach them about the ocean. Graham led Friends of Fishing for 12 years before handing the program over to Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Graham is also a writer and photographer. In addition to two books on saltwater flyfishing, hundreds of his articles have appeared in publications including Big Game Fishing Journal, BlueWater, Destino, Fly-fishing in Saltwater, Gringo Gazette, Marlin, Pacific Coast Sportfishing, Saltwater Fly-fishing, Salt Water Sportsman, Southwest Fly-fishing, Sport Fishing, The Drake, Western Outdoor News and Western Outdoors.
Graham has served as the International Game Fish Association’s Baja California Representative since 1994 and is a member of the historic Avalon Tuna Club (and editor of its newsletter) and a
Since 1993, Gary and Yvonne have owned Baja on the Fly, a flyfishing expedition company in Baja California, which has hosted more than 2,000 flyfishing clients in several locations in Baja and mainland Mexico.
Abel 2007 Tarpon Winner Watches Prize Reel Made Webster “Web” Young, a Chicago flyfisher who won the 2007 Abel On Your Honor Tarpon Tournament, spent two days at the firm’s precision machine shop in mid-December watching a new Super 13 being made.
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
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Young, together with his longtime fishing companion, Henry T. Cannon, Germantown, Tennessee, was flown to the Abel factory and given an extensive factory tour by shop foreman and vice president Glen Krapff and director of sales Jeff Patterson. Over two days they witnessed their grand prize reel being cut from 6061-T aluminum bar stock, precision machined on a CNC lathe and mill, hand polished, anodized, continued on next page...
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assembled and finally engraved to their specifications. The prize, including the all-expense-paid trip to California, was valued at about $3,000, according to Don R. Swanson, president, of Abel.
retail management experience with Orvis, knowledge of local water, an understanding and dedication to customer service and a contagious energetic enthusiasm to our TCO family.”
Young selected the Super 13 as his reward for the 140-pound tarpon caught in early June in the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, Homosassa, Fla. He’s giving the reel to his guide, Capt. Dan Malzone. “I’d have never have hooked or landed the tarpon without Capt. Dan,” said Young.
TCO Fly Shop was established in 1990 in West Lawn, just outside of Reading, PA. TCO has grown quickly through a commitment to top quality products and customer service excellence. TCO’s flagship store in Reading is among the biggest flyfishing specialty shops in the United States. TCO Fly Shops are also now open in Philadelphia’s Main Line suburb of Bryn Mawr and in Adirondack Park just outside of Lake Placid, NY. In the spring of 2007, TCO opened TCO State College and TCO Spruce Creek right in the center of some of the best flyfishing central Pennsylvania has to offer. TCO’s also operates an extensive Internet store, www.tcoflyfishing.com.
Entries in the 2008 On Your Honor Tarpon Tournament are now being accepted. The winner and a guest will be flown to California, hosted by Abel, and given the reel of his or her choice. The winner will watch the progression of their personal reel being precision machined, anodized and finished.
Company News TCO Fly Shop Expands with Sixth Retail Location
“TCO attributes its growth and success to a continued focus on providing the best flyfishing products and services through both retail and E-commerce channels,” said TCO Fly Shop president and managing partner Tony Gehman. “Corey James shares our values and approach to providing clients with excellent products, unparalleled service, continuous educational opportunities and professional guide services. Customers initially come to TCO for our extensive product line and industry expertise and return as loyal clients based on the level of service we provide. Corey brings
The Orvis Company is working with iVendix, a software application by CenterStone Technologies, Inc. as a business-to-business (B2B) online ordering solution for their retail dealers and sales reps. Dealers and sales reps are now able to view automated catalogs, check on the availability of product, place orders, and track and monitor the status of those orders using iVendix since it is accessible 24/7 via the Web. “Since its founding in 1856, The Orvis Company has been committed to providing world-class customer service. That commitment extends not only to its traditional consumer base, but to their worldwide network of dealers as well. To continue building on the Orvis tradition of superior customer service in today’s business environment, the
“In our mind, a proven solution is one that retailers will quickly adopt, and in outdoor recreation and sporting goods CenterStone has rapidly become the industry standard. With many thousands of specialty retailers already using their Web-based application, we are confident that Orvis dealers will also be quick to embrace CenterStone’s iVendix solution. Because this new solution is internet-enabled, and available 24/7, our dealers will be able to spend more time during the day on their shop floors with their customers and still be able to conduct business with Orvis after normal, retail business hours. Having the best products has always been an important tradition at Orvis, but being easy to do business with, will also help Orvis continue to set its brand apart, and it will contribute to the ongoing success of our specialty dealers. With this new sales order management solution, Orvis expects to take a leadership role by setting a new standard for customer service in the fishing industry. We are hoping that our new B2B solution will also limit the exchange of paper documents with our dealers and sales reps. An on-line B2B solution will allow Orvis to conduct business in a paperless manner by reducing the need for faxes, worksheets and catalogs, and it reinforces Orvis’ commitment to environmental sustainability,” said LePage. “We are truly excited and pleased that such a storied brand in the flyfishing industry has selected CenterStone for their B2B solution. Clearly, Jim LePage and the whole senior management team at Orvis understand the importance of this initiative, which will help Orvis maintain their leadership position in the fishing and outdoor recreation space. The Orvis Company has a long-standing tradition of providing superior customer
service to their specialty retail community, and Orvis has a well-deserved reputation for the unrivalled quality of their rod and tackle products. They have built the brand upon this foundation. B2B software is NOT what has made the Orvis brand a great one; software development is not their core competency. That’s CenterStone’s core competency,” said Peter O’Neil, executive vice president, sales and marketing of CenterStone Technologies. Brands that currently use CenterStone’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model and make the company’s other solutions available to retail customers and sales reps include: The North Face, JanSport, Vans, Reef and VF Imagewear, part of VF Corporation (NYSE: VFC); Pearl Izumi, a division of Nautilus, Inc. (NYSE: NLS); Marmot Mountain, Ex Officio, Marker Apparel, Adio Footwear and Planet Earth, brands of Jarden Corporation (NYSE: JAH); Under Armour (NYSE: UA); Helly Hansen; Perry Ellis Intl. (NASDAQ: PERY); Geneva Watch Group; Cleveland Golf, and Fidra Golf, part of Quiksilver, (NYSE: ZQK); SmartWool, a division of Timberland (NYSE: TBL); RipCurl; Billabong; Sport Obermeyer; Smith Optics; KHS Bicycles; Dale of Norway; O’Neill Clothing; Hot Chillys; Petzl; Sole Technology; Icebreaker; Four Star Distribution; Buck Knives; Fresh Produce Sportswear; Yakima Products; Patagonia Europe and others.
Spyder Active Sports Acquires Cloudveil Mountain Works Ski and performance apparel company Spyder Active Sports, Inc. announced last month it had acquired Cloudveil Mountain Works, Inc. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Under the agreement, Cloudveil will remain a separate brand entity and operate as continued on next page...
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
TCO Fly Shop announced the opening of TCO Fly Shop Carlisle in the former Cold Springs Angler location at 419 East High Street in Carlisle, PA. TCO hired Corey James to lead the new TCO Fly Shop Carlisle.
Orvis Working with CenterStone’s iVendix
company needs a reliable B2B ordering tool,” said Jim LePage, vice president of Rod and Tackle for Orvis.
From The Chicago Sun Times…
a wholly owned, independent division of Spyder. Cloudveil’s founders, president Brian Cousins and vice president Stephen Sullivan, have signed multi-year contracts to continue in their respective roles within Prep Bass Fishing Tourney Gets the new organization. Go-Ahead By Dale Bowman Illinois will become the first state to have a Simms Account to Pale statewide bass-fishing tournament at the Morning Media Simms Fishing Products has named Pale high school level in the spring of 2009. Morning Media its agency of record for public relations and strategic media support. The Waitsfield, Vermont, agency lists the Fly Fishing Retailer World Trade Expo among numerous other clients.
Albright Tackle Retains Backbone Media Following up on its hire of Burke White as the president of Albright Tackle, the company also inked a deal with Colorado based Backbone Media to handle its PR and marketing efforts.
Events FLW-Style Flyfishing Only Bass Tournament Set
Sponsors of the event include: Ranger Boats, Mercury Motors, Orvis, Sage, Scott, The Hook-up Outfitters, Arizona Fly Fishing, TFO, SA, RIO, G. Loomis, Redington, Smith Optics, Umpqua, Riverborn, Galvan, Targus, Solitude, Idylewild, and many more. The event will offer cash and products as prizes. Cost to enter is $350 per team. Registration is being handled by The HookUp Outfitters, thehookupoutfitters.com. 18
AT: Hi, is XXXX there please? Employee of the Month: No.
The big step came “in February”. The Illinois High School Association’s board of directors approved a recommendation from executive director Marty Hickman to add the bass-fishing tournament “as an IHSA activity beginning in the spring of 2009, provided that adequate sponsorships are secured in advance for the tournament.’’
AT: Any chance he’ll be back in today?
That won’t be a holdup. The concept is innovative enough that sponsors will flock to it. (If I’ve already been contacted by one of the biggest national players in outdoors since my first column about the tournament Sept. 16, I assure you the IHSA has heard from many more.)
AT: Does he have voice mail?
“The level of support for a bass-fishing tournament, from both our membership and from other non-school groups, has demonstrated clearly to our board that this event is one with potential tremendous value to our schools,’’ Hickman said. “Implementing such an activity will enable our schools to provide another opportunity for students that will enrich their educational experience and keep with the association’s mission.’’
EOM: Unintelligible response.... AT: Excuse me? EOM: He’ll be back tomorrow between 12 and 3.
EOM: Nope. AT: Can I leave a message? EOM: Sure, but it’s likely XXXX WILL NOT respond to it. AT: Why not? EOM: He’s very busy. AT: What about an E-mail? EOM: You can try, but he won’t answer that either. AT: What? Why on earth would he not respond to a potential customer? EOM: He’s busy. AT: (Speechless for a second)… That’s pretty crappy customer service.
Coming Soon to Your Shop?
The “Undercover Angler” Phone Service? In the interest of fairness, the undercover angler turned its attention for this issue to
EOM: I know. We couldn’t have made it up if we tried. Likely, we aren’t the first to have experienced this. Ironically, if you really wonder which company this is, it claims on its website to have the best customer service in the industry. – the Editors.
Environment/ Conservation Report Highlights Fishing’s Broad Economic and Conservation Impact Recreational fishing is more than just a getaway for millions of Americans. As an industry, it provides a living for countless people in businesses ranging from fishing tackle and accessories manufacturing, to travel, and hospitality, to boat manufacturing. According to a new report on fishing statistics, published by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), when expenditures are multiplied by America’s nearly 40 million anglers, their dollars have a significant impact on our nation’s economy. “Sportfishing in America: An Economic Engine and Conservation Powerhouse” (www.asafishing.org/asa/ statistics/index.html) highlights how fishing not only endures as an activity that permeates social and economic aspects of Americans’ lives, but also plays a huge role in the country’s successful conservation movement. “As an industry, we are keenly aware of the impact that sportfishing has on this nation’s economy,” said ASA president and CEO Mike Nussman. “Just by enjoying a day on the water, men, women and children across the United States pump billions of dollars into this country’s economy.” Nussman further said, “And it’s not just the economy; America’s anglers are in many ways the nation’s most powerful force for the environment. Investing hundreds of millions of dollars each year in fisheries management and conservation through taxes on fishing equipment and license sales.” America’s nearly 40 million anglers spend over $45 billion per year on fishing equipment, transportation, lodging and other expenses associated
with their sport. With a total annual economic impact of $125 billion, fishing supports over one million jobs and generates $34 billion in wages and $16 billion in tax revenues each year. The average amount anglers spend yearly on hooks, rods, lures and other fishing tackle increased 16 percent from 2001 to 2006. A number of reports strongly indicate that fishing is identified by American families as one of the best ways to spend quality time together. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, fishing as a leisure-time activity ranks higher than playing basketball or softball, skateboarding, jogging or hiking. Substantially more than any other groups, anglers support the nation’s conservation efforts through the Sport Fish Restoration Program. Special taxes on fishing gear and motorboat fuel channel hundreds of millions of anglers’ dollars to state fish and wildlife conservation and recreation programs each year.
began on January 1. The DOW regularly sponsors fishing derbies for kids and in the past provided lead fishing weights to all participants. The DOW will now use lead-free products for these programs which educate more than 20,000 children a year on the environment and angling skills. The DOW is making great strides in educating the state’s fishing community on the importance of using non-lead fishing weights. “When we teach kids about becoming anglers and conservationists we want to make sure that they are learning about the potential impacts they can have whether it is positive or negative,” said Scott Gilmore, angler education program coordinator with the DOW. “BossTin has gone above and beyond in helping us teach this important lesson with this cooperative program.” at
The American Sportfishing Association’s analysis is based on data from the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, conducted every five years on behalf of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies by the Census Bureau and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Sportfishing in America was produced for ASA by Southwick Associates, Fernandina Beach, Fla.
“Get the Lead Out” The Colorado Division of Wildlife, (DOW), and BossTin, a Pagosa Springs, Colorado-based company that manufacturers non-toxic, lead-free weights for fly, bass and bait fishing, have partnered to “Get the Lead Out” of Colorado’s lakes, streams, rivers and ponds. The joint venture between the DOW’s Angler Education Program and BossTin to “Get the Lead Out”
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
A FLW-style bass tournament – but with fly tackle only – is set for April 4th and 5th, 2008, at Lake Pleasant, northwest of Phoenix, Arizona. The tournament organizers say the goal is to bring attention to the sport of flyfishing, get fly anglers interested in bass fishing, introduce them to the associated fun and products, as well as introduce and highlight flyfishing to conventional gear users.
a manufacturer. This company will remain anonymous, because its performance on a servicerelated call was so pathetic, frankly we found it embarrassing. Actual phone transcript:
Sticking True to the Red, White and Blue Written by Kirk Deeter
retailer is overstocked, he blows out inventory by cutting prices, and as soon as the domino falls, the chain reaction moves fast through the industry, ultimately harming retailers more than the manufacturers.” But even the staunchest flag-waver will concede that competing on price alone is a dead-end for American manufacturers, because as much as Americans love their apple pie and stars and stripes, they also love a good deal. After all, it’s that same flag-waving, Lee Greenwoodsinging, NASCAR-loving nation that makes the Wal-Mart world go around. Really, what’s more American these days than a good old-fashioned 40-percent-off sale on cheap Chinese imports under the banner of the yellow smiley face? So, understanding that, for better or worse, the price genie is already out of the bottle, many specialty shops now find themselves looking for the ideal balance of imports and domestic brands in the product lines they carry. That ideal balance will be different for every shop. While there are no blueprints to follow in this regard, in some product segments, like soft goods, apparel, and flies, the issue has already been resolved in favor of imports. In other segments, like rods, reels, and accessories, the battle is just now heating up. To Be or Not to Be a Commodity
Is “made in America” dead? Well, not if you ask motorcycle maker HarleyDavidson. Or C.F. Martin guitars. Or Buck Knives. True, traditional “widget” manufacturing (and steel, and auto, and others), as we knew it, has long ago seeped beyond American borders. But in certain niche markets, from high-end road bikes to fine musical instruments, to the blade you likely carry in your hunting pack, “made in America” is still the trump card.
It depends on whom you talk to. Perhaps more accurately, it depends on which segment of the market—rods, or reels, or apparel, or accessories— you are talking about. To be sure, there are a good handful of flyfishing companies that are banking on the fact that “made in America” is still a consumer 20
The logic goes like this: Imports cost less to produce. That lowers the price for consumers, which is a good thing. But it also lowers margins for retailers, which is a bad thing. To make up profit, you have to increase volume. But the consumer pool is only so big. So the big box retailers who carry the inventory survive on volume, and the specialty shop feels the squeeze. “There is no other way to explain it, competing on price leaves the specialty retailer more exposed to economic downturns,” described Jim Bartschi, president of the Montrose, Colorado-based Scott Fly Rod Company. “The market contracts, the
In other words, Bartschi is banking on the fact that enough of the fly market will graduate from the “Chopsticks” level to concert pitch to develop an appreciation for high-end product. Some would argue that’s a stretch, that the majority of flyfishing consumers really can’t tell the difference among most rods. Then again, if you’re looking for a motorcycle to get you from point A to point B, there are many cheaper options than Harley-Davidsons. It all comes down to status and prestige versus commodity. Dave Klein, sales manager of Idaho-based Buck’s Bags, makers of personal watercraft and belly boats, has fought this battle firsthand. “The critical concern is that once a product becomes a commodity that is only sold based on price and not on performance, quality and features, then everyone loses,” said Klein. “A look at several pages of pontoon boats in Cabela’s catalog, for example, reveals that they all look fairly similar to the consumer who really doesn’t know much about them. Also the fact is that there are only a few factories in China that are building the boats for all the American importers, so there really isn’t that much distinction between seemingly different products and brands. Then it just boils down to price.”
For some manufacturers, including the Scott Fly Rod company, the answer to price-based competition has become The way around that quagmire, Klein explained, is to create new products and technology, and promote them. simple: Don’t go there. “Companies that do this can stay ahead of the curve for a “We’ve totally conceded the lower end, and dropped our while and can bank on the likelihood that there will always products in that space, because we decided that’s not compatible with our vision and our interests,” said Bartschi. be enough affluent customers who want the latest and “It’s not that we’re being elitist; I don’t think selling $100 fly greatest,” said Klein. “I think the danger is that if there are not enough effective retail outlets for these high-end, rods is evil. I’m glad there are people who service that part technically oriented products, then it will mitigate the of the market, but that’s not what we’re into.” ability of the manufacturers to justify producing them.” Bartschi noted that Scott also isn’t interested in Marlboro Man Effect expanding the company focus into other segments like lines, reels, and accessories. Not to be overlooked is the fact that the United States is seen as an international cradle for the sport of angling, and flyfish“Too many companies are realizing they cannot make it ing in particular. The halo effect on brands built and grown on one product line, so they’ve decided to do anything from rugged American roots has significant impact, within the to grow, and while that might grow the top line a little, United States and beyond. Call it the Marlboro Man effect. if they’re doing it on (poor) margins, they do nothing to grow the brand,” Bartschi said. Cases in point: Simms, which imports soft goods, but staunchly touts its wader line for being manufactured at “One company we look at (to emulate) is Steinway & its Bozeman, Montana, headquarters (Imported Beer? Sons, makers of great concert pianos, all in New York. continued on next page... They’re not nearly as big as a Yamaha, which has a huge 21
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
The question is, is flyfishing one of those special niches?
hotbutton that leads to better margins and profits, both for themselves, and for the specialty retailer. In fact, they would argue that, for better or worse, the fate of the specialty retail fly shop is vitally connected with “made in America.”
music division. But they’re healthy because they’ve stuck to a vision, and built a reputation and brand.”
Occasionally. Imported Waders? Never.) Then there’s Orvis, perhaps the most iconic of all flyfishing brands, which maintains rod production at its facility in Vermont. And G. Loomis, interestingly owned by the Japanese firm Shimano, but still maintains its rod production facilities in Woodland, Washington. “You cannot underestimate the power of the made in America brands when it comes to reputation for technical excellence,” explained Jim Lebson, director of sales and marketing for G. Loomis. “People who make rods in China often don’t know what flyfishing is. The average Loomis employee has been here for around 10 years, and most of them are serious anglers. That experienc and passion for fishing translates into the rods we make.” In certain segments of the flyfishing market, the feasibility of manufacturing domestically can still tilt favorably to the domestic side. Machining high-end aluminum reels is one such scenario.
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
Vista, California-based Hatch Outdoors has experienced explosive growth with its line of machined
reels since bursting onto the flyfishing scene a few years ago. CEO John Torok explained that manufacturing in a relatively small space, with handson access to quality control has been a catalyst for growing his brand. They manufacture in the United States,
because they can. And Torok said he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I couldn’t imagine what it would be like manufacturing overseas, wondering every day if the reels were being made correctly, or what I’d be getting every time my shipments arrive,” explained Torok. “If I were manufacturing soft goods, I could not imagine anything but importing. But with our reels, we place such a premium on precision, and our retailers and customers have embraced the design and performance. It’s imperative that I have a hands-on involvement with production.”
Another southern Californiabased company, Hobie, which has branched out from a traditional background in sailing to kayaking, manufactures in the States. “Americans are looking for simple means to expand their fishing opportunities,” said Hobie president Doug Skidmore. “Our roots are deep here, and being an American company helps us to connect with this growing trend. There’s something to be said for being an American brand.” Service American Style There are companies that have been able to buck the import trend, even in segments now dominated by imports, like accessory items. New Hampshire-based Millstream Products is a family-owned operation that manufactures utility boxes. Owner Dave Dobrowski admits that injection-molding boxes is far from “rocket science,” and that the process can be performed at lower cost outside the United States. Still, he maintains a loyal customer base by focusing on service, and supply chain control. “If you want to save nickels and dimes on every unit, you can place large preseason orders with overseas manufacturers, but what happens in August when you run out of your supply? When my customers need to restock, they pick up the phone, call me, and we take care of them,” said Dobrowski. Dobrowski added that he’s actually seen a countertrend among retailers who appreciate his more nimble, service-oriented approach, valuing
access and answers more than a couple pennies on the dollar. “Our customers appreciate the total value; it isn’t like looking at the fine print on a phone bill to them,” he explained. “By manufacturing here in America, we can leverage what is often a lost art called service.” Dobrowski also explained how maintaining hands-on domestic manufacturing control helps safeguard his company from a common process called “dumping,” wherein the overseas manufacturing plant a company outsources to, turns around and manufactures the same knock-off product design under its own label. It is, for all intents and purposes, product piracy, and a serious concern within the conventional tackle market if not yet the flyfishing market. The Case for Selling American The truth is, in the current economy, imports are a vital part of the mix, particularly in the specialty flyfishing retail market. Price is, and will continue to be, a key factor. Anyone who thinks that “buy American, because it’s the right thing to do” is a viable sales platform is living a fairy tale. Still, there are compelling reasons for leveraging American manufactured products, most notably margins, supply chain control, service, quality, innovation, and consumer loyalty. In the end, the question has less to do with patriotism than it does capitalism. How you answer it, and how you apply that answer to your business is completely up to you. at
Great (Lakes) Potential Written by Jerry Darkes
Is the flyfishing industry in a state of transition or a state of confusion? For the independent, specialty dealer and small U.S.-based manufacturer, times have indeed been tough. Bigbox retailers and quality off-shore imports have all been taking their pieces of a pie that has seen static growth. If there is hope on the horizon, the likely key will be getting that pie to grow again.
Although I fish for trout, I am not a trout fisherman. I am a fly fisherman, and this simple philosophy has opened up a whole other world. It allows me to fish for anything I want to with a fly and enjoy every minute of it.
nearly any imaginable location and situation. Why do most of us turn our nose up at trying something different, like throwing a sinking a line for smallmouth bass?
The Great Lakes region where I live is one of the top sportfishing areas on earth. Billions of dollars are spent annually in pursuit of a long list of fish species. All factors considered, it may be one of the top flyfishing areas, too. Think about it, the Great Lakes contain 20% of the world’s supply of standing freshwater. There are nearly 11,000 miles of shoreline with hundreds of tributary streams. There are wilderness as well as urbanized areas, all with productive fisheries. One quarter of the population of North America is within an easy drive of one of the lakes. There is an abundance of both coldwater and warmwater species for fly anglers to pursue.
Too hard, you say? Bull. Here’s hard: Me, a 50-plus-year-old guy trying to tie on a size #24 Trico on 6X tippet and making pinpoint casts to risers just when a little breeze is starting up. No fun to catch fish on sinking lines, you say? Bull again. When you have a three-pound smallie rocket six feet in the air dragging 50 feet of 7-weight Type 6, get back to me. Not challenging enough? Bull three. Try locating, stalking, hooking and landing a 20-pluspound carp on a Lake Michigan flat. Then tell me how easy it was. The potential challenges, and enjoyment, are endless.
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
Those waiting for another movie to save us are going to be waiting a while longer. Catch and Release was not the second coming of A River Runs Through It. So what is the answer? I think many of us can find one answer close by… maybe even just around the corner. I believe the key will be refocusing our efforts outside the traditional boundaries that have been set. As an industry, we have coldwater and saltwater tunnel vision. We need to peek outside the tunnel a bit and then open up completely and see what all is out there to learn and explore. There is a lot of territory east of the Rockies, west of the Atlantic and north of the Gulf. I grew up in and still live in Ohio, just outside of Cleveland. It’s hardly a hotbed of flyfishing activity, yet I have been an avid fly angler for over 40 years. 24
Much of this fishing can be accessed easily. Some of the best action can be reached from shore without the need for a boat. What is needed is the realization by anglers and manufacturers that we can flyfish very successfully for fish other than trout, steelhead, salmon, tarpon, redfish or bonefish. Bass, pike, muskie, carp and a host of other species are prime targets for fly anglers and can be caught on the lakes themselves as well as tributaries and connecting waters.
Yet how much attention has been focused on this area by the flyfishing industry? True, tributary fishing for steelhead and salmon gets a little play (but not considered legit by most left-coasters) and inland trout get some mention. But, if you look at opportunities in the lakes themselves, it’s pretty much a blank slate. We have the equipment these days to throw flies at fish in
Let’s expand the geography a bit. I recently talked with Dick Haas from Forward Cast Fly Shop in Louisville, Kentucky. Haas has caught over 100 species of fish on flies, 40 in Kentucky. He was telling me about a day’s fishing he had just experienced throwing flies on the Ohio River. A real multi-species extravaganza— continued on next page...
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smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, sauger (how many of you even know what a sauger is?), white bass, and skipjack herring. If water conditions were a little better he could have added wipers (hybrids) and stripers into the mix. Yes, opportunities like this are seasonal and yes, water conditions have to be right, but isn’t that true of any fishing, anywhere you go?
Largemouth bass are the most popular sport fish in the United States. They are found in every state except Alaska. The public loves to fish for largemouth bass and spend lots money doing it. For some reason the flyfishing industry has paid only token attention to this market. If we can get just a small percentage of this group to get serious about flyfishing, think of the growth potential it could provide. There is a lot of territory to be covered south of the Great Lakes where the largemouth bass is king. Big reservoirs hardly seem like a 26
There are indications that more attention is finally being focused on these formerly fringe fisheries by American manufacturers. Sage and Scott have introduced specific rods for bass and other warmwater applications. Line manufacturers are following follow suit and producing additional specialized lines focused on warmwater use. New fly patterns are being developed for a complete lineup of warmwater fish by innovative tiers. We have really only begun to scratch the potential that these fisheries have to offer. There has been localized flyfishing focus on some of these alternate fisheries. The Sacramento River Delta in California or Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay in Wisconsin are two prime examples. But looking closer, there are countless, high-quality flyfishing opportunities available all across the United States that are ignored by fly anglers for no other reason than it is not trout fishing. With gasoline costs continuing to increase and the value of the dollar continuing to decrease, many anglers will be forced to either travel less or stay closer to home and concentrate on local opportunities. We all need to work together to let beginners and
experienced anglers alike know that there are flyfishing options out there when time or money or both are tight. Maybe it’s time to swallow a little industry pride and admit a smallmouth bass is as pretty as a rainbow trout. If global climate change continues and coldwater fisheries decline, will this be the death knell for our industry? Can focusing on alternate fisheries now ensure the survival of our sport for our children and their children? Maybe the question is a little farfetched, but I suggest it’s worth thinking about. One of the great, continuing joys of my flyfishing career has been the challenge to catch as many species on a fly in as many situations as possible. This keeps it fresh and new all the time. Call it cutting edge, call it eccentric, call it whatever you like, but I call it looking outside the tunnel and continuing a legacy started by pioneering anglers such as Bob Clouser, Lefty Kreh, Dave Whitlock and others. There is a group of us out there including myself, Conway Bowman, Hogan Brown, Kevin Feenstra, Rick Kustich, Russ Maddin, Brian Mezaros, Chad Miller, Kelly Neuman and many others (whom I apologize to for not knowing or having the space to name) who are working to open the tunnel up as wide as possible in the exploration of big water and alternate species. Come on and take a look outside and see what we are up to. The future of flyfishing may depend on it. at 27
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
The point is that we need to focus on and take advantage of what we have locally and let beginners know that it is okay to flyfish for the same species they have been chasing with conventional tackle. That’s especially true here in the Great Lakes Region. But more national focus would help as well. Flyfishing does not need an upgrade in social standing or require we ignore the fish we have chased all our lives. This is the beauty of our sport. It allows us to challenge ourselves to do something different. If trout and travel are part of the equation, so be it, but they are not requirements.
suitable place for throwing flies, but if we are looking for new frontiers to conquer, let the exploration begin. Include the various other available species and there will be work to keep plenty of us busy for a long time. The time has come to accept this challenge. In fact, this may be the “final frontier” of our sport.
“The world needed another expensive fly rod like lip cancer,” the outspoken Pope said of a concept that carried his manufacturing process straight out of the country and into the hearts of eager consumers. “The industry needed a rod for the first-time fisherman or as a backup for that clumsy brotherin-law or something for a kid. The affordability of our business plan meant going overseas.”
Made in America— NOT Written by Charlie Meyers
The temptation in this eternal debate concerning the overseas production of flyfishing gear is to view it in the trivial context of chicken-and-egg.
These divergent lines of reasoning since have been scrambled into an omelet of emotion stirred from runny yolks. The only important issue now is whether this galloping trend toward made-in-Asia is a suitable feast for the flyfishing business. Or not. 28
The short answer depends, of course, upon which part of the industry elephant one happens to be engaging at the moment. A much longer discourse will be written in the extended growth pattern of an enterprise whose essential converts will be secured through the option of inexpensive foreign-made equipment. By this oft-repeated rationale, a neophyte hooked on a $100 fly rod subsequently will buy a $300 and then a $600 model, plus a wagon load of other stuff that makes the cash register chime. Everyone wins in the long run except, perhaps, a dwindling number of American craftsmen who, so the argument goes, grow less interested in the process by the day. Certainly that is the mantra of groundbreaking entrepreneurs such as Rick Pope, president of Temple Fork Outfitters, an upstart that in many ways revolutionized the ways graphite fly rods are made and marketed.
That role has made TFO something of a lightning rod for criticism from those who decry the importation of wands that compete with made in the USA. “In any industry that I know of, there’s every reason to feel pride in your own country’s craftsmanship, from cars to watches. But only in fly rods does this made in America seem to attract so much attention. “That’s why we get so many rocks thrown at us.”
In a strategic bombshell that continues to pay dividends, Pope signed Lefty Kreh, America’s best-known fly fisherman and cast master, to a contract that involves both promotion and rod design. That brainstorm gave TFO a sort of instant credibility while also gaining the creativity of someone who knows a thing or two about propelling a fly line. “We have these little tweaks that Lefty wants in an action and they stand ready to deliver. We communicate with the factory every week,” Pope says of a relationship that grows progressively more solid. “There are a lot of good fly rod engineers and I think our guys are as good as anyone,” he said of what he believes is a misconception about pricing. “Performance and price often times is completely disconnected in fly rods.” A second part of the TFO strategy concerned that very philosophy of pricing.
“Most companies set price on the basis of what the market will bear,” Pope said. “We used a fair margin approach that considered both us and the dealers.” For his justification of TFO’s position as an Asian-made rod in an American market, Pope offers this: “Someone’s first purchase should be a rod they can afford and that they feel good about because of the price. But it also should have a performance that doesn’t impede their ability to use it well.” The shop equation in all this, Pope says, is that TFO offers better margins, while more expensive rods turn more dollars. “Our better dealers make 10 times the inventory turn. But to get good turns, you have to find new customers. A specialty shop has to go out and get them, not sit back and wait for them like a buzzard. Then we all win.” Pope is quick to declare his firm isn’t the only significant brand in this niche market, nor the first. That distinction belongs to Redington, which traveled a strange path from rock-the-boat industry maverick to rock-ribbed stalwart in that iconic powerhouse Far Bank Industries, the holding company that includes Sage and Rio. continued on next page...
Indeed, certain shop owners and consumers who never blink at Asian-made reels, vests, waders or a myriad other accessories somehow hit a patriotic wall with the long rod. The same standard evaporates when it comes to spinning rods, now made almost exclusively in the Orient. The gripe seems strictly to be a fly rod thing. 29
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
Did certain manufacturers make the long leap across the Pacific because their products no longer could be made economically and competitively in the U.S.? Or did their very actions cause this to be so?
Pope’s notion since purchasing in 1996 an obscure Utah-based company then called Temple Fork Outfitters was less to displace existing brands than as “an addon for people who were interested, maybe beyond our wildest dreams, in stuff that doesn’t cost a lot of money.”
All of which brings Pope back to that time nine years ago when he made an exclusive contract with a company in Korea that manufactures expressly for TFO. He began with an inexpensive two-piece graphite rod and steadily tweaked the design and price tag from there.
Angling Trade:angling trade
Home and abroad, various companies early on produced low-cost and often inferior graphite rods. But it remained for Redington to present a highly affordable, yet effective product that shouldered its way into many mainstream specialty shops. “Some shops were carrying low-end rods, but most of them were hiding in the back room. Certainly no one was promoting them,” said Bruce Kirchner, president of Far Bank, as well as Redington and Sage. “Redington was the first presented to the flyfishing industry as a true value rod.” Sage’s landmark 2003 move to acquire Redington was motivated, Kirchner said, “to have a position in the lower price market without having to risk the franchise.” The very fact that Sage took this formidable step speaks volumes about how far this handful of mainline domestic manufacturers will go to preserve the sanctity of the made
sports push past the rod rack. The possible exception might be flies, but this segment, too, is dominated by brands made in Asia.
With that price template set, the rest becomes a simple function of production cost and dealer margin—a model that works few places other than Asia.
For this we can thank, or blame, Umpqua Feather Merchants, whose founder Dennis Black three decades ago went to India in search of prime hackle and ended up with a factory as well. Black’s winding entrepreneurial thread led next to Thailand and then to Sri Lanka, a pattern of manufacture and distribution that several generations of competitors have followed.
The same mold can be fitted precisely over the stitch goods industry, an enterprise that has migrated almost exclusively overseas.
When Umpqua later established its much-imitated model of contract tyers, the flow to Asia became a tidal wave. “If you go back 25 years or so, not very many fly patterns were available to consumers,” Umpqua’s Bruce Olson recalled. “But with so many talented innovators coming into the contract program, that number grew very quickly, accelerating the demand for more efficient production.”
When John LeCoq concepted fishpond in 2000, he went directly to Taiwan and China, following a path he had learned in another startup enterprise, the Colorado-based Case Logic brand of cassette holders. “One of our original products was a little 15-unit cassette case. We were making it in Lafayette, Colo., for $11. We had no clue how to manufacture offshore. But we went to Taipei and wound up with the same case, ready to ship to the U.S., for $1.60.” For a firm whose hallmark is inventiveness, Asian manufacture proved a must. “The level of creativity you can put in a product is far advanced if you do it in Asia,” LeCoq emphasized. “You can do samples quickly, make changes on the fly. In China, we have 37 full-time sample makers, just to create prototypes. We couldn’t begin to approach that in the U.S.”
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
in the USA mantra. But as Kirchner points out, it is a tune sung exclusively in the fly rod sector. “Look at clothing, accessories and flies. All are made overseas.” Indeed, it would be almost impossible to find an American-made product in most fly shops once customers 30
The basic reality of high-volume tying, Olson said, is that only with unwavering, year-round Asian factory output can these growing quotas be met.
LeCoq said he’d be happy to make his products in America, but that option no longer exists. “The problem is, the industry has moved out of America. The cut-and-sew industry has just gone away, certainly where it involves bags and zippers.”
“You and I can’t sit down all day and work for what the consumer wants to pay,” Olson reasoned. “There are not enough tyers in the U.S. who’ll work for that kind of money.”
For all its efficiency and economy, Asian manufacture isn’t always a panacea. Successful U.S. firms maintain a constant vigil against inferior materials and ruinous shortcuts.
“Getting them to throw something away is difficult,” Pope said of the Asian tendency to use older or tag-end materials. “Our greater fears relate to consistency and delivery, or some mix of the two.”
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While he has heard horror stories, Pope says he never has endured a truly bad experience, in large part because, “I don’t make bets with people I’m uncomfortable with. Sometimes you have to count your fingers after you shake hands with some of those folks.”
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Pope rates Korea, Taiwan, then China in terms of quality and reliability. “Making Koreans slow down and pay attention to quality control is hard. Culturally, they feel they have to compete with China, but they can’t. China is a helluva lot cheaper than Korea, with a labor cost of near zero.”
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The trouble comes, Pope said, “in getting your specifications right, getting your carbon fiber pre-impregnation formulas right all the time.” He describes the Chinese rod factories as “absolute behemoths, monsters, that just don’t fit well with the flyfishing market.”
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“And,” he said wryly, “the Chinese will knock you off.”
Knock-offs happen far more frequently with conventional tackle than fly simply because it involves greater volume and bigger fish.
All this said, the rush to Asian manufacture has become so ingrained in every aspect of the process—price, margin, efficiency, even quality—that no one can imagine it otherwise. As Kirchner put it, “The toothpaste is out of the tube and we’re not squeezing it back in very easily.” at
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The Best of Both Worlds Written by Nate Matthews
The Savvy Company Knows How to Leverage Made in China and Made in America Equally. Editor’s Note: The real lesson in this exercise of exploring domestic manufacturing vs. importing was that, in the globalized marketplace, smart companies play a balancing act. They import when they compete on price, and leverage the “made in U.S.A.” ideal for equal effect with other constituents. No doubt, this strategy can be implemented to effect on the grassroots level … in the specialty fly shop. We asked Field & Stream’s online editor, Nate Matthews to share his perspectives on the topic, centering his research on a conversation with an individual who seems to have one of the most effective grasps on the “best of both worlds” strategy, K.C. Walsh, CEO of Simms Fishing Products.
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
There was a time when buying “made in America” meant NASCAR, Detroit, and waving the flag at the local V.F.W. But in some industries these days it’s been picking up a new label. In addition to “something I’m doing for the good of the country,” it’s starting to mean “something I wish I could afford.” Trend-spotting reporter Alex Williams noted this in an article he wrote for the New York Times last September. “With so many mass-market goods made off-shore,” he wrote, “American-made products, which are often more expensive, have come to connote luxury.” An “evolving image of many American-made products as small-batch, high-craftsmanship products” that’s mostly true in “connoisseur-friendly industries.” Is flyfishing one of those industries? K.C. Walsh, the president and CEO of Simms, gave me some thoughts on the subject a few weeks ago. 32
“I think we are in a business that caters to a discerning group of consumers who value well-made, high performance products that can only be made in the U.S.,” he said. “I mean, if you really enjoy flyfishing, is there anything like fighting a fish on a Tibor reel, or casting a Sage, Winston, or Scott Rod?”
labor costs are high and expanding plant operations isn’t easy. Which means the product, in the end, is more expensive. So where does that leave the newcomer to our sport? Or the younger customer who loves flyfishing but can’t yet afford to shell out $500 for a pair of waterproof pants?
Simms waders fit into this category. They are premium products that appeal to people who want the best and are willing to pay for it, from the budget-minded enthusiast who spends enough time on the water to make high cost worthwhile to the wealthy professional for whom price matters less than quality. And according to Walsh, Simms can make waders better in the U.S.A.
Field & Stream’s flyfishing blog, Fly Talk (fieldandstream.com/flytalk) recently asked its readers this question in a post on what “made in America” means today. One of them, who signed his name as “Sam,” said this:
“Our key goal since the early 90’s has been to make the best waders in the world,” said Walsh, “and we can better control the quality, fit and durability of our waders by controlling all aspects of the manufacturing process.” He adds that, “Most of our competitors’ waders are made in one or two factories in China. They’re okay, but they don’t have supervisors, managers, and production workers who’ve been making waders in the same facility for 15 years.” Another advantage to making waders in the States: flyfishing isn’t as big in China as it is in Bozeman, Montana. “A meaningful percentage of our employees like flyfishing,” said Walsh. “We run a fourday work week so that employees can have a three-day weekend to go fishing. We have former guides on our production staff. The folks that are making these products actually use them.” That kind of knowledge base takes money to build and maintain, especially in the U.S., where
“As a recent college grad it is hard for me to justify spending $200 - $1000 on a rod simply to support American business... I try to practice the think global act local mantra whenever possible, so when I do have the available funds I will buy quality local goods. Unfortunately for the time being if I have to buy foreign made rods to keep me out on the water, I’m willing to make that sacrifice.”
the widest product offering in the cluding its hand-made Custom Shop industry, from offshore manufactured models, which sell for several thousoft goods to high-end rods hand-built sand dollars — in California.” in Vermont. The lesson is clear for American flyfishing manufacturers... diversify This dual strategy of making high end products in the U.S.A. and entry your offerings and you can grow your business while still maintaining level goods overseas is being used by operations in the states, employing companies in many other industries. American workers. But what does all Williams again, in the Times, wrote this mean for the retailer who wants that: “New Balance produces less expensive running shoes abroad, but to continue supporting the “made in America” label? it still makes the top-of-the-line 992 model — which the company says Two things. One: sell as much quality requires 80 manufacturing steps and entry-level gear as possible, regardcosts $135 — in Maine. In bicycles, less of where it comes from, in order too, Schwinn and Huffy have deto get more people out on the water. camped to Asia, leaving high-end And two: provide the kind of service specialty companies like Trek and those customers need to progress Cannondale alone making bikes in from water-whipping newbies into this country... Fender, the guitar mak- skilled enthusiasts. It’s how we’ll er, builds entry-level electric guitars in grow our sport, and the better they Mexico, but it still makes higher-end get, the better the gear they’re going to want to buy. at Stratocasters and Telecasters — in-
In effect, the gauntlet has been thrown down. Even Simms has embraced the reality that cost feasibility makes producing items outside of the wader line – soft goods like jackets, boots, fleeces, etc. – overseas is the rule, not an exception. It just makes sense. Other flyfishing industry leaders are mixing the import-export paradigm to help them produce products that cover a broader price range, this appeals to a potentially larger target/consumer audience. Take, for example, Ross Reels, whose “Ross Worldwide” division now manufactures an array of imported, lower pricepoint rods and reels to complement its traditional reel line, manufactured in the States. Orvis, has for years, balanced the importexport game across what is arguably
downsloping trend is the result of an array of factors including costs (gear, travel, licenses), the loss of available access, and most importantly, the failure to integrate youth. Generally speaking, hunting numbers are also dipping. But bowhunting is bucking the trend. In the December ‘07 issue of Field & Stream, Dave Hurteau outlined the “Bow Boom,” pointing out that between 1996 and 2006, the number of licensed bowhunters spiked from 2.86 million to over 3.3 million. Not only has participation increased, so too has the quality of the experience. From 1989-1990, the number of Pope & Young worthy bucks recorded was 1,814. In 2005-2006, that number jumped to 4,981. And businesses are paying attention to the trend. Cabela’s, for example, dedicated 82 pages in its archery catalog in 1994; in 2007 the page count is 292. Given the fact that bowhunting and flyfishing share philosophical roots, and they both attract impassioned participants (those that are as excited about “the ride” as much as they are about harvesting an animal or catching a fish), I wondered what the flyfishing industry might learn, if anything, from the archery crowd. Making the Most of the Resources at Hand After talking with bowhunting and flyfishing industry insiders, a few themes came to the fore. Both sports face obstacles like increased urbanization, the loss of public land/water, and the struggle to capture the attention of youth. The difference, however, is that bowhunting has adapted better than flyfishing and has built a strong following by focusing on its strengths.
The Stick and the String… Written by Ben Romans
I am a bowhunter and a fly fisherman. Hunting with stick-and-string allows me to be an active observer of nature. Scouting mountain ridgelines, sitting in a treestand, or hiding patiently in a blind invigorates my senses and kicks my adrenaline into overdrive. In many ways, it’s similar to standing knee-deep in a cold freestone watching trout sip from the surface and strategizing how to deliver the cast. 34
You might say that bowhunting and flyfishing are distant cousins, both born of basic tools, storied traditions, and that essential desire to get closer to your quarry. But the family resemblance ends when we start talking about participation numbers. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s 2006 participation study, the overall angling population has dropped 12 percent since 2001, and flyfishing falls under this umbrella. Other studies show the
In the fly world, a similar initiative is gathering momentum. When the fly shop lauds the virtues of fishing on farm ponds, in warmwater haunts, and other accessible
The bow industry also pushes the benefits of extended seasons. In most states archers can hunt big game a full month or more before firearm seasons commence. This is a huge draw for anyone pursuing a specific animal or looking to be in the mix during the height of the breeding season. Despite living in the New York City area, Field & Stream editor Anthony Licata is an avid bowhunter who thinks the opportunity to spend more time in the field is a huge draw. “You have to give credit to state wildlife management departments. They’re the ones that have created archeryspecific seasons—most of which are two- or three-times longer than gun seasons,” he said. “This doesn’t necessarily give hunters a better chance of harvesting an animal, but it does give them more time in the woods to study deer or elk and an opportunity to extend their experience. For hunters that are equally enthusiastic about the hunt as the kill, this season is amazingly attractive.” In some respects, flyfishing is no different. There are hundreds of rivers and lakes (or portions of such) across the U.S. open throughout the year to fly anglers when others are off limits to live bait and treble hooks. There are commonly unpublicized catch-and-release zones that present an opportunity to shake off the winter blues, wet a line, and enjoy a perfect diversion while conventional anglers are relegated to waiting for a favorite stillwater to thaw. Another factor is that the bow market has actively tapped into the deeper well of hunters in general. Many bowhunters are converted rifle hunters purely looking to test their skills on a different playing field … no different than plug casters with a curiosity for switching to flies. “At this point in my life I place more importance on hunting than fishing,” says Jim Vincent, of RIO fly lines. “It’s not something I can do as well as fishing so I look forward to each hunt with greater anticipation. I still enjoy fishing for permit and tarpon. That’s about as close to the same rush as I get from hunting, but given a choice I’d rather be in the field.” The Bow’s (Learning) Curve is Short Despite the abundance of tutorials, videos, and first-rate instructors in the field, flyfishing, particularly casting, is considered difficult. According to some, the “challenge” continued on next page... 35
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
Can the Fly Rod be to Fishing What the Bow is to Hunting?
The loss of access is the death knell for any outdoor activity. As rural areas become urbanized, sportsmen are confined to smaller places, the likelihood for conflict rises, and experience quality nosedives. That’s undoubtedly one reason rifle-hunters take up bowhunting. Unlike rifles that send bullets traveling for hundreds of yards, archery gear has a limited range of effectiveness and doesn’t require large tracts of land to facilitate. In the right locations, small plots less than ten acres in size are productive. It’s easy to see why someone might look to bowhunting after their favorite farm or ranch is auctioned off to developers and the wooded fringe of suburbia suddenly becomes quite attractive. Both big and small game are not far from the back door, even in populated areas. It’s simply a matter of making the most of what’s readily available.
water close to home, they keep people on the water — people eventually in need of fly lines, flies, or a supply of tying materials.
is one aspect of flyfishing that’s traditionally been oversold, perhaps to the deficit of the sport as a whole. Licata senses the alleged complexities of flyfishing may push away more beginners than they attract.
to learn, the number of anglers would certainly improve.” One other very important point is that bowhunting doesn’t tout
promising success rates, but that still doesn’t stop people from climbing into tree stands or bugling for early-season elk. It’s about the experience. Most bowhunters are enthusiastic and involved in their pursuit at nearly every level. They strive to understand their prey, its environment, feeding patterns, and security thresholds; they know the physical limitations of their gear and proper shooting mechanics. When it’s all said and done, it doesn’t matter if it’s a doe whitetail or mature gobbler lying at the end of a blood trail. Likewise, the seasoned fly angler gets it, but many novices, it can be argued, do not. One might contend that the notion an angler isn’t grasping Nirvana in flyfishing unless they’re wading a Chilean river, stalking a Bahamas bonefish, or netting a 22-inch brown might, in fact, be counterproductive. While there’s nothing wrong with describing once-in-a-lifetime endeavors anglers dream about (just like the hunter’s 7x7 bull elk, or the African safari), most are out of reach of the common man—and to a lesser degree somewhat intimidating to outsiders. Bowhunting has thrived by making the accessible seem exotic. To the extent the fly market calls less attention to record books and focuses more on the excitement of seeing small rising trout, stripers blitzing bait on the shoreline, or a carp puffing dust clouds in a reservoir, some industry pros suggest it might find solutions for market growth.
There’s No Place like Home Landon Mayer and John Barr are two such people who have earned their stripes in the “big trout” world, but are now thinking outside the box. Their latest DVD, “Weapons of Bass Production,” focuses on flyfishing techniques for bass and other warmwater fish and attempts to persuade habitual cold-water anglers to consider the challenge and fun of throwing a line in traditionally plugcasting environments. “What we tried to do with this DVD is show people how easy it is to find and fish for bass and carp. They’re two of the most prevalent fish in the U.S. and can be found nearly anywhere,” says Mayer. “It’s also a great way to get others involved in the sport— especially those that already chase bass with conventional gear. These are aggressive fish that put up a good fight and you don’t have to be as concerned with hatch-matching, mending, or presentations like on a river.” Rod makers are branching out as well. As previously reported in Angling Trade, Sage and Scott have created two bass-weight fly rods that meet the parameters and protocol needed for legal use in fishing competitions. “For a few years now we’ve been hearing from bass anglers in northern California and the South asking for a fly rod that meets tournament requirements,” says Sage’s Paul Johnson. “They like to use flies because they can make soft deliveries and snook-type casts under cover which is sometimes tough to do with weighted lures. So we came up with something that has the backbone to throw big flies and is legal for competition use. But we’re also finding these rods are popular for beginner and younger anglers because they’re fairly short and you can really feel the line load.” continued on next page...
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AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
“Shooting a bow is fun,” Licata explained. “You can do it just about anywhere, even in urbanized areas. There’s something about it that attracts kids to pick one up and why archery programs are so popular with summer camps and gym classes. Flyfishing, particularly casting, is sometimes portrayed as having a steep learning curve and taught by
short-tempered guides. This may be one reason people shy away, especially if they’re first experience is sour. If you’re able to get it through their heads that it’s not impossible
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One other important point that plays to the “no place like home” line of thinking: Bowhunting is generally a local affair. Sure, there are highend hunting lodges and trophy deer ranches for the traveling sportsman, but one explanation for archery’s rising popularity is hunters don’t have to go far to find game. With gas prices reaching record highs, the rationale for discovering and promoting local fishing options, like hunting options, is arguably stronger now than ever. A Family Affair Despite what many think declining fishing and hunting license sales statistics are telling us, the fact remains that people are hungry for outdoors experiences. If anything, that’s what the glimmer of bowhunting’s popu-
larity suggests. People want to be in the field (or on the water), they just need options.
Mentoring, therefore, is more important now than ever. At least that’s what many in the bowhunting industry say.
The largest gap in outdoor interests stems from those between 16- and 25years old. Unfortunately, some veteran anglers view the trend with egocentric eyes—fewer licenses sold equals less people on the water. In reality it means a reduced number of unified voices speaking for conservation and a balanced approach to wildlife management. It means less money (via license sales) for state agencies to maintain fisheries, access points, campgrounds, and any other publicservice outlets taken for granted. And ultimately it jeopardizes the future of the outdoors industry. A shrinking youth demographic means a smaller customer base in the years to come.
Bowhunter magazine publisher Jeff Waring says youth and family are two important considerations when it comes to content for his publication and the “Bowhunter T.V.” television show. “We have a huge focus on youth because we’re aging—we see the demographics and if we’re going to safeguard our sport we need to get youth involved,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of our readership is males around 44 years old, and 85 percent of them are family men with one or two children. We try to tailor some our material so it stresses the experience and social highlights of hunting with friends and family, and less on the shooting of animals.”
The bowhunting industry is even taking its message into schools. Since 2002, over 4,000 schools nationwide have enrolled with the National Archery in the Schools Program; a course that introduces archery to students as part of their physical education curriculum. Equipment is donated by leading bow, arrow, and target manufacturers (like Matthews, Easton, and Rinehart) and instructors are led through an 8-hour education and safety seminar. Jim Vincent says he’s seen firsthand the lengths the hunting industry has reached to incorporate family and youth. And like the National Archery in the Schools Program, he believes the burden lies partly on the industry—especially for those without a parent active in the outdoors.
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
“Flyfishing companies need to get involved at some level. They’re the ones with the money and resources needed to give these youth programs a boost. Once you have that, people will volunteer their time,” Vincent says. “One of our biggest competitors, Cortland, did a great job many years ago when Phil Genova had the idea of putting together packages and information to help kids get started in the sport. If equipment is donated to schools, or if fly shops have a supply of loaner-gear, I think we’d be one step closer to getting youth involved. No parent wants to see their 12-year-old kid destroy a $600 rod, but if they can get a beat-up loaner from a shop, there’s a greater incentive to take them out.” There are already several large- and small-scale flyfishing campaigns, camps, and programs in place intended to attract a younger crowd. To the extent retailers can continue to drive this effort on the grassroots level, with more casting clinics, seminars, or just taking kids fishing, the benefits can multiply. 38
Granted, there are seldom any “silver bullet” solutions to solving market woes … but the archery industry seems to be doing just fine without them. And the flyfishing industry stands to learn by example. Tapping into the larger conventional fishing consumer well, making the most of
the resources at hand, redefining goals and ideals, and acting on opportunities at the family and youth levels are just some of them. Will this change the market overnight? Probably not. But we’ll be on target.
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• The bass would still maintain that Nell Carter and Mama Cass were the hottest women who ever roamed the earth.
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• The bass would prefer older Elvis to younger Elvis. And older Brando to younger Brando. • All bass parents would name their first-born sons “Bubba.” • The bass would never smoke, but those big lips would be perfect for a pinch of chew. • The bass would have the NFL Direct TV package so it could watch its favorite teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Bears.
I’m usually wary of these types of designations. We are a nation of dissimilar cultures, geography and tastes and varying socio-economic means. Is there such a thing as “America’s food” or “America’s shoe?”
But I think there may be an exception here. (Did the illustration on this page give it away?) That’s right. I would argue that there is one gamefish that could properly be called “America’s fish:” The largemouth bass. Let’s pretend for a moment that the largemouth bass is human. What kind of person would the bass be, you ask? I have some answers: 40
• The bass would live in the suburbs and drive the biggest SUV on the cul-de-sac. • The bass would order all goods and groceries over the Internet so he would never have to leave his house. • The bass would have a 62” wide-screen HDTV.
• The bass would also be a huge fan of college football, particularly of the SEC variety. • The bass would like NASCAR and golf, but it wouldn’t care for basketball, soccer, tennis or track.
• The bass would loathe low-fat foods and the word “diet.”
I think you see where I’m going here. The characteristics above are not those of someone from Iceland or Nepal.
• The bass would have all the old “Best of Chris Farley” Saturday Night Live DVDs.
Sure, you could make the argument for another type of fish. Could it be the trout? The brookie, the
Besides seeming to embody the American condition, another way to make the case for largemouth bass is that they are found nearly everywhere. Largemouths are endemic to the US. Upon European settlement, the species ranged from Florida north to the Canadian border and west to the Mississippi River. The Florida strain was found in what is now its eponymous state and possibly in southern Georgia (home of the current world record). Every other largemouth bass in America was a Northern strain, or a natural integrade of the two. But they spread across the country almost as quickly as Europeans did, thanks to fact that the new settlers of this land like to dam up nearly every river, stream or creek they came across. Between the time of European settlement and 1900, 2,661 dams were built across the US. The New Deal spawned an even bigger damming binge: entities like the Corps of Engineers and the Tennessee Valley Authority constructed dams for flood control and electrical power. Today there are nearly 100,000 dams in the US, which has resulted in diminished habitat for cold-water riverine fish (like trout and salmon) and increased habitat for the warm water-loving largemouth bass.
Fly Pike on the Wolf” t of the Water “In Pursui
Those with not for everyone! for pike is need not apply. Fly Fishing mentalities behind or “trout only” to step out from weak hearts there is a who are willing is, or isn’t, For those few to what fly fishing possibilities waiting the shroud of fishing the world of fly get excited about feet whole other Who could not exceed four be experienced. a fish that might your fly in thought of having pounds in weight pursue about a length and thirty a high rate of speed? How in on at while it hones knee deep water wake bow What push a fish that will thirty feet away? twenty, even a fly your fly from as readily take just has will It that the depths? about a fish his as it will from from the surface since Barry Reynolds released years Guide to Pike” been over 13 “The Fly Rodders More first pike video awaited follow up is here. long of the and now the “In Pursuit in the making and than 2 years entertainment delivers both to some of Water Wolf” will take you and value. Barry in North America pike instructional pike waters of the most prolific pursuit of the “holy grail” his Barry will share with you 50” on the fly! some of the a pike of over fly fishing, excitement of the thrills and on film, and also show you action ever caught leader set-ups e top water most incredibl favorite patterns, bottom. some of his top to also shows you cover the water selections to and fly line
In Pursuit of the Water Wolf
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www.anglersbooksupply.com But dams aren’t the only story. In the 1940s the Soil Conservation Service (now known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service) encouraged (and helped fund) the building of thousands of farm ponds across the country to help avoid another Dust Bowl era. They even helped stock the ponds with…you guessed it, largemouth bass. In the 1980s and 1990s, one of the primary drivers of the commercial real estate boom was golf courses, which seemed to sprout up even in places where they made no sense (I’m convinced that 2,000 years from now,
one of the measures of our decadence will be the hundreds of water-guzzling golf courses that are laid out in the Arizona and Nevada deserts). Golf course water hazards could easily go by another name: bass ponds. That’s the reason pros like Tiger Woods and Davis Love III bring rods with them on the PGA Tour (golfers are really just bass fishermen in nicer shirts). Bass live in lakes, ponds, rivers, brackish inlets and mud puddles. They can survive in water up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, making them the perfect post-millennial, global warming fish. continued on next page...
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AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
Probably not. I would argue that even calling baseball “America’s pastime” is a huge misnomer these days, just based on anecdotal evidence on any given Sunday in the fall.
• If the bass happened to play in the NFL, it would be one of those nose tackles who always has his shirt untucked, barely concealing his “Dunlop disease” (you know, when a person’s belly has “done lopped” over his belt).
rainbow, the cutthroat and a few others are US natives, but they seem to be a bit limited geographically, and the most widespread trout is the brown, which originally came from Europe. The catfish? Bottom-dwellers need not apply. Salmon? Not the way we treat them on both coasts. A saltwater species? No, that leaves out too much of the country. The ubiquitous panfish? A confusion of varieties. Northerners call all panfish “sunnies,” regardless of the species. And southerners have multiple names for one species (the bream is also the bluegill is also the copper nose).
E UROPEAN N YMPHING
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The largemouth bass is found in every state in the Union, save for Alaska. One has to wonder if the person who coined the term “Seward’s folly” was indeed a bass fisherman. But every major movement needs an oracle. Christianity had the Apostle Paul. Scientology has Tom Cruise. American Idol has Ryan Seacrest. Bass fishing had a lanky former insurance salesman from Alabama named Ray Scott. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Ray over the years, having done a few stories on him here and there. Ray, now 75, is always selling something—a product or a story. He’s a tall man (6’5”) with a deep voice that hypnotizes you with its musical southern cadence. He drops aphorisms like Confucius. “I’ve found that if you make people happy, they’ll give you
feature: New Product
money,” he told me one time, in an offhanded manner. I’ve been writing for Forbes magazine now for seven years. No one I’ve ever interviewed— no CEO, no marketing genius, no hedge-fund billionaire—has ever boiled down the engine behind our consumer culture as neatly as Ray did. Anyway, back in 1967 Ray was on a fishing trip in Jackson, Mississippi, when he got blown off the lake by a thunderstorm. He was whiling away the hours in his hotel room watching a basketball game on TV when it hit him: why isn’t bass fishing on TV? I would have never come up with that idea (among the reasons I am not a millionaire). But Ray tapped into something. Within a year, he had founded the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS), which has half a million members today. BASS spawned its own pro fishing tour. Wal-Mart now sponsors another one. Regardless of how you feel about bass fishing or tournament fishing in general, the fact is that no fish anywhere on the globe supports two professional tours that appear on national TV and dole out millions of dollars to their “players.”
As a side note, Ray also is the oracle of catch-and-release fishing. He didn’t invent the concept. He only bowed to pressure from the local communities that hosted BASS events and were appalled by the stringers of dead fish at tournaments. But when he instituted a catch-and-release policy for his tournaments, due to the popularity of bass fishing, he launched a modern conservation movement. I realize that most of us here (readers and writers) are primarily flyfishermen. Largemouth bass are not the best gamefish on a flyrod. 42
The largemouth bass is the gateway to other gamefish, the way oenophiles start with Kendall-Jackson and graduate to Chateau L’Evangile or chocolate connoisseurs go from Hershey’s to Godiva. If I could only fish for one species for the rest of my life, largemouth bass would not be my choice, just as if I could only drink one beer for the rest of my life, it wouldn’t be Miller. But fishing, for me at least, is like that old Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song. I love the one I’m with. It all depends on my mood. There’s a time and place for cheap beer, for Hershey’s, for Kendall-Jackson. As far as bass fishing is concerned, the time is whenever I can do it. That place: Pretty much anywhere in America. at
Filson Wades In Written by Greg Thomas
Editor’s note: We’re trying something different. Rather than a “Recommended Reading” book review, we’re running a more detailed “New Product” profile. Help us decide by E-mailing the editors... more products for the next issue, or back to the books?
Best known for its bomber waxed cloth and wool garments that led Northwest miners to Klondike gold in the 1890s, Filson is diving into the current flyfishing arena with breathable lightweight waders. The new waders are constructed of material that may sound foreign to Filson’s faithful, mostly men in their mid-30s-to mid-50s who prefer wool, canvas and reliability above revolutionary fabrics and glam. Filson is banking that its core customer won’t care what their waders are made of, or where they are made, as long as they keep an angler dry and on the water all day. According to Amy Terai, Filson’s marketing administrator, the new waders are built to last and they feature elements that ring “pure Filson.” “We feel like these waders are top notch, the most durable out there,” Tarai said. “They are made of a hundred percent
polyester super micro fiber high-density mini Oxford and we have five-layer construction in the important places, the legs and other high-wear areas. In addition, we’ve placed all seams on the outside of the wader, away from the high-abrasion area. “In the gusseted crotch and the top of the wader we have fourlayer construction,” she added. “And the knees are articulated for ease of movement. Each wader comes with gravel guards and adjustable suspenders so the wader can be rolled down and secured around the waist if desired.” While the new waders feature plenty of high-tech elements, many of which were suggested 43
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
There are now 11 million bass anglers in the country who fish for them for more than two weeks a year, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service.
They really aren’t that great on traditional tackle, for that matter. They fly out of the gates quickly with a sudden burst of fury, but just as quickly tire themselves out from the strain of their own girth, like those obese women on Supermarket Sweep (that show where contestants were given five minutes to grab as many grocery items as they could). I presume with some degree of confidence that for most of us here, the largemouth bass was the first fish we ever caught on a flyrod. On my family’s farm in North Carolina, down a gentle slope of horsepasture, there was a little pond that was absolutely eaten up with bass. It was plagued with a lime-green algal bloom, but when the wind blew just right, you could get a lure or fly over a bass with ease. I will always be grateful for that pond. I learned how to flyfish there. Flyfishing is a sport that, for the newbie, requires a few successes to get the juices going. For that, bass are the perfect foil. My first year of flyfishing, I had an old bass bug that was colored like a bumblebee. I caught so many bass on that bug that year that all of the paint chipped off and it was literally just a floating piece of beige-colored cork. Of course, it never lost its effectiveness.
feature: New Product
by Filson’s CEO Bill Kulczycki, an avid angler and the former president of business development at Patagonia, customers familiar with Filson product should find comfort in detail. These waders carry a classic feel and they look like a genuine Filson product, something that could have been worn on the set of A River Runs Through It. To achieve that look on a competitive wader, Filson incorporated its highly recognizable bridal leather on the wader’s suspenders and as decor on the top of the chest pocket, which also harbors Filson’s signature brass snaps and provides classic red mackinaw wool in the handwarmer pouch. In addition, the company’s logo is stamped on a small piece of bridal leather that
adorns the back of the wader. Inside the front of the wader is a modern flip-out pocket that offers two zippered storage areas, one mesh for tippet spools and such, and the other waterproof, a place to safely store (don’t choke on your stogies Filson faithful) a cell phone or iPod. The waders, Tarai assures, come with the Filson guarantee, one of the most respected promises in the outdoor industry. “We’ll offer the same guarantee on these waders as we do on any Filson product,” she said. “We’ll stand behind these waders as we do every product, as we have since the founding of this company. If there’s a problem we let people bring it back for evaluation and replace it if necessary.”
Filson’s production of a contemporary high-tech wader is just one in a line of recent changes made by the 111-year old, Seattlebased company since being sold to Doug Williams and the Los Angeles-based Brentwood Associates in January 2005. Since that time, Filson has added a women’s clothing line and a “lodge” line of casual sportswear. In addition, Filson opened a retail store in Denver and plans to build 13 additional stores in major metropolitan areas. Most noted, Filson sent some of its production to Hong Kong after building everything “in-house” at its Seattle store for 100-plus years.
Dealer Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free 866.347.4766
Filson’s waders, which join an existing line of flyfishing vests, hats, rod cases and shirts, will be available in May and will retail in the mid-range price slot at $325, just under Patagonia’s top offering, the Water Master II, which costs $350. One percent of the sales of each Filson wader will be donated to American Rivers as part of that organization’s 40th anniversary celebration of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. at
Now that he has graduated to shop manager, Kumlien is even more dedicated to the notion that his alma mater, with an enrollment of 12,000 more each year, will deliver him a fresh crop of cash-carrying customers. “College kids are thirsty and eager. I see them once or twice every week.” All that’s needed is a way to make connection. Kumlien begins with conventional advertising in campus publications and radio, but believes he makes his best score with direct contact. “When we do seminars, the response has been fantastic,” Kumlien said of an approach that comes with the added lure of a student discount. He also promotes fly casting and fly tying classes, the first for free, the second at a nominal cost— anything to forge that initial association. Each spring, the shop also offers sessions featuring onstream casting and entomology.
Before anyone suffers a terminal case of brain strain, let’s make one thing clear. We’re not talking re-enrollment here, just a few brief excursions inside those ivy walls to mine a rich, untapped resource. “College kids have more disposable income— student loans and money from their parents—than most working guys,” said Kris Kumlien, who has written the dissertation on how to direct a chunk of it to the Montana Troutfitters shop in Bozeman. Students also have plenty of spare time, and those attending a school near the mountains very likely will be receptive to some outdoor activity to clear their heads after a bout with the books. Something like, say, flyfishing. “My friends and I fished more in college than we do now that we have real jobs,” said Kumlien, who got the notion for this campus connection as a Montana State University student and a Troutfitters employee a half-dozen years ago.
“These kids are loyal. Once we get them, they come back to our shop instead of the Big Box,” said Kumlien, who keeps a running duel with a local Sportsman’s Warehouse. “They may not be the guys buying the $700 rods, but over time they buy lots of tackle.” Considering the potential harvest from this fertile field, there’s little wonder that Kumlien is willing to take extra measures to plant the seed. “There’s a lot of perseverance involved. We talk to professors, anyone who can help us spread the word. We used to do a lot of posting on bulletin boards, but the university has gotten more restrictive about that sort of thing.” Perhaps the most effective contact comes during fall orientation week, when the university stages an exposition of sorts, blocking off several square blocks where local vendors tout their wares to the newcomers. “We get a lot of response from that,” said Kumlien, “and over the past four or five years, we’ve been the only shop there.” Having recently been a student himself, Kumlien isn’t about to forget the fount of that student bankroll, the parent. Aware that parents often have 45
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
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near the top of the business plan for most fly shop owners. But for the many shops located only a couple false casts from a college campus, it could be the key to a quick and significant boost in profit.
According to Tarai, who says the company received backlash for doing so, sending some production overseas was not a matter of boosting profit margins. “We went overseas with some product, including the waders, because that’s where some of our products can be built better,” she noted. “We have some great machines in Seattle, but we don’t have what’s needed to build a wader here.”
WILDHORSE TECH PACK
Going back to school may not rank
free time during periodic campus visits and that Bozeman is uniquely located in the middle of the nationâ€™s trout Mecca, he targets key calendar events such as parentsâ€™ week, homecoming or rivalry games. He sets the hook by boosting advertising frequency and extending the student discount to parents. The payoff often comes from high-dollar float trips, with papa at one end of the boat and junior the other. â€œA lot of shops donâ€™t believe they get a good return from advertising, but it works for us,â€? said Kumlien, who keeps track of the bounce by keying the student discount into the cash register.
Now for the kicker. This college traffic meshes perfectly with what traditionally stands as the slow season for most mountain shops.
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â€œOrdinarily, we have just 3Â˝ months, June to the middle of September, to make hay with our regular business. The college crowd allows us to extend our season when we donâ€™t have many visitors coming through.â€? Cultivating the college crowd may demand a bit of effort, but the reward is there for the taking. Mortar board or dunce cap. Whatâ€™ll it be? at - Charlie Meyers, Editor-at-Large
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AnglingTrade.com / March 2008
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