- By: Kirk Deeter
The interesting wrinkle about the ICAST trade show (the all-tackle fishing-industry gathering held by the American Sportfishing Association) in Las Vegas this past July was just how many fly-fishing retailers were there inspecting new products for possible inclusion in their shops in late 2010 or early 2011. Except for a few exhibitors at the show (St. Croix and G. Loomis among them) who had hot products to introduce (by way of the new graphite technologies we described in the last issue of FR&R), the rest of the crowd was there to inspect the scene…kicking tires, so to speak.
The fly-fishing industry is thirsty to tap into the all-tackle demographic, but there’s still something to be said for fly-fishing maintaining its own identity and not blending into all-tackle markets. Truth be told, the fly guys are slowly but surely realizing that any barriers standing between them and the massive “bassin’” nation have far less to do with the perceived exclusivity of fly passions and much, much more to do with barriers erected by the bass-tackle manufacturers themselves.
But still, there’s a wide-open realm of dabblers out there who are interested in engaging in fishing in general, and fly-fishing in particular. It’s these “dabblers” and “prospects” who have earned the attention of the leading fly-industry players, The Orvis Company first and foremost among them. In July, Orvis coordinated a nationwide “Fly Fishing 101” initiative designed to attract beginners to company stores and dealers’ shops. Show up on a Saturday, and the Orvis folk promised to teach basic skills. It worked. Orvis reports that the program attracted more than 2,600 prospects to stores and dealers, the vast majority of whom had never held a long rod in their lives. Orvis plans to expand this strategy over the next 18 months, or longer.
To the average fly-rod diehard, the prospect of more people engaged in the sport might conjure visions of crowded streams. But in this day and age, participation is power…in advocating for conservation causes and in driving product innovation demand that ultimately leads to better products (and sometimes prices) that all anglers will benefit from. —Kirk Deeter
Angling Trade covers the business of fly-fishing; go to anglingtrade.com.