Neil Travis - July 14, 2014

This is what it's really all about.

We get a number of fly fishing type magazines and periodicals and I peruse several online publications each month. One of the magazines that come in the mail is Angling Trade® – the buzz on the fly-fishing biz. The editor, Kirk Deeter, is a well-known editor and author and his name graces the masthead of many fly fishing publications. This magazine is published four times a year and also has an online edition. Since it's a magazine that is slanted toward the business end of fly fishing it's not a magazine that most anglers would find to be of interest since it does not contain "how to" articles directed at anglers but "how to" articles directed at fly shops and other business that are trying to get the angler's dollars.

I find the information in this magazine quite interesting because it reminds me that fly fishing is not just a sport but it is also a business; a business that needs to keep innovating new products, whether we really need them or not. As I have written here before, it is important to remember that everything that is reported to be new and improved will be supplanted by something that will also be new and improved before the ink has dried on the check you just wrote to buy the last new and improved item. There is a vast gulf between the business of fly fishing and the practice of fly fishing.

With the coming of the Internet as a viable method of researching and purchasing items of every description the competition for business has become very intense. Your local fly shop is not just competing with the other fly shop down the block, but they are competing with every fly shop that has a website on the worldwide web. Likewise, manufacturers are scrambling to keep one step ahead of the competition which is also worldwide, and the results are a continuing cascade of "new and improved" items. Often the differences between all the various competitors' products are minuscule and many are simply cosmetic.

As I was thumbing through the latest issue of Angling Trade® I noticed that Sage® has a new salt water fly rod which uses Konnetic Technology®. The concept was first introduced in 2011 and is used in all of their premier fly rods. Reading about this technology on their website it seems that they are aligning the carbon fibers more precisely along the axis of the rod blank and packing more of the fibers closer together than in a conventional fly rod. This new SALT series will replace the Xi3 series. This is purported to produce a smoother, smaller and lighter fly rod, and one that tracks extremely straight, is fast loading, develops high line speed and is pinpoint accurate. These rods are priced at $850.00 and are available in line sizes from 5 to 16. [These rods will be available in August 2014] All of the other major fly rod manufactures have similar "new and improved" technology that is purported to make their latest offerings the best thing they have ever produced.

I found it interesting that Stand-up Paddleboards are now being promoted as fly fishing casting platforms. I'm not certain that I want to try to hook, fight, land and release a fish while trying to maintain my balance on a paddleboard. However, as they say on Twitter, apparently it's trending.

New waders continue to make news in the trade magazines, and various types of fly lines continue to proliferate like mosquitoes after a wet spring. Tenkara continues to attempt to claim a share of the fly fishing market but although sales are encouraging in some markets the number of anglers that use Tenkara equipment in this country is still relatively small. Patagonia, a major player in fly fishing paraphernalia game, has jumped on the Tenkara bandwagon with a Tenkara rod kit and Tenkara clinics that are being offered at its retail stores across the United States. The purpose, according to their press release is to: "bring new people into the sport to create the next new level of stewardship for the resources." In plain English, they want to sell more people more stuff!

Much of the hype at the business end of fly fishing is directed at accessories. Clothing makes up a large percentage of the pages in many angling catalogues. Fly boxes, lanyards, nippers, and various other do-dads that anglers seem to need are also increasing. And we have not even spoken about fly reels!

Over the 50+ years that I have observed the sport of fly fishing, both from the business and the recreational side, it seems that everything goes in cycles. Fly fishing was nearly dead with the advent of spin casting right after World War II but was revived in the late 50's and early 60's as more and more people rediscovered the sport. There was a push to make fly fishing more affordable, and the introduction of fiberglass fly rods, quality nylon leaders and affordable and dependable fly reels created an entire new generation of fly fishers. Interest sagged slightly in the late 80's but was shocked back to life by a simple little film called A River Runs Through It. Fly fishing was suddenly the vogue, the thing to do. I suspect that there are lots of fly rods, cracking fly lines and dry rotting waders in closets and garages across the country when those short term aficionados were lured away by the latest trend. The latest recession thin out the numbers even further and many fly fishing businesses closed their doors or attempted to reinvent themselves. Today there seems to be a slight resurgence as the industry is pushing hard to broaden their customer base by attempting to attract more women and young people. I guess that the market prognosticators think that they are going to run out of old gray-haired men so they are looking for another market.

What hasn't change is what actually happens out on the water. The fish are still just fish and we are still trying to fool them into taking our flies. They don't give a rip if we are using the latest and greatest fly rod, if our leader is nylon or fluorocarbon or if our fly is tied with premium cock hackle from a neck that cost $100.00 or one that cost $10.00 and came from India. The Wall Street executive and the day laborer come away pretty much as equals on a trout stream, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

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