IFTD 2012 drew to a close with less of a bang than in previous years (when organizers wisely held the big casting contest to the end, thus holding a lot of the dealers as well). Many vendors reported that the show was down or just okay, while others stated that they'd been very busy and felt the show was a success. Unsurprisingly, those reports correlated pretty directly with the booths with the most big new product releases.
Thomas & Thomas has undergone a renaissance of late under new owner Mark Richens, who has given the company the business wherewithal it needed to clear a huge backlog of already- designed rods. First and foremost is a new premium saltwater series, the TNT.
Dynamite red with tons of backbone, these are fast-action lifting and fighting sticks which clearly were designed with tarpon anglers in mind. T&T also has a new fast-action trout line, which Richens was careful to explain will be offered as an option (T&T is not leaving its traditional medium action niche behind). The NS5 series (NS is for "no sanctuary," explains Richens, because "these are definitely distance casting rods)" is a gorgeous update to the classic T&T heritage.
Clear Cure Goo, along with the other UV resin companies, have collectively introduced whole new possibilities in fly tying. One of the problem areas with the new material, however, was that the traditional material dried rather tacky, while the "No Tack" solutions available were more expensive. Brian Carson of CCG explained that this is because the "No Tack" versions require much more of the photosensitive catalyst chemical, which is the most expensive part of the mix.
Recognizing the realities of this economy, Orvis decided to focus on updating their value-based products, and they did it in a really innovative way. Many fly rod companies have gone overseas for production of their budget rods in recent years. The technique for many overseas manufacturers is very similar to how bamboo makers used to steal each others' tapers in the golden era of the 1920s-1940s: basically, you just cut the rod up into many tiny sections and take precise measurements, then copy the internal taper (which gives you both the mandrel shape as well as the approximate number of turns of graphite needed to reach the external diameter).
Orvis's Steve Hemkens explained that for their updated Clearwater series, they instructed their overseas partners to do the same thing... to the Helios. "Basically," Hemkens said, "we knocked off our own rods!" The results are excellent: a modern fast action taper made with budget conscious componentry for $198 (freshwater) and $225 (saltwater). In keeping with the theme, Orvis also used the same drag design from its high-end reels to design an all new composite plastic (and also formed aluminum) Clearwater Reel, starting at only $49. Combo packages with line will be available for under $300.
Hatch has a very sweet new reel called the Fanatic, hot off the presses. It makes use of the same Hatch drag core which has been in the line from the start, but for the first time it is available all the way from the size 1 (appropriate for 2 and 3 weight rods and light as a feather on up to the 12Plus (a monster which would swallow literally a mile of ba