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Trade Shows & Events

Fly-fishing companies break into outdoor industry

The outdoor industry’s diversity has helped fly fishing move beyond being a sport just for old white men who smoke pipes.

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 2-5. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

This SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Summer Market recap is brought to you by Cordura:

When Tom Rosenbauer of Orvis started fly-fishing 45 years ago, he said the sport was stocked with old white men who smoked pipes.

“After ‘A River Runs Through It,’ I think a lot of young people started to get into fly-fishing,” Rosenbauer said. Young women, young men and even teenagers are giving casting a chance.

Hilary Hutcheson, owner of Outside Media and host of Trout TV, is a prime example. She’s been active in the sport for years and said it’s natural for the outdoor crowd to embrace the activity even though it’s long been part of the hook-and-bullet industry. Fly-fishing, she said, is a great way to engage in the outdoors and noted that Outdoor Retailer is including more fly-fishing-focused companies in its exhibitor line-up and this summer showcased a casting area in the New Exhibitor Pavilion.

Chip Smith, a spokesman for Outdoor Retailer, said the American Fly Fishing Association has been looking for a trade show to call home since it discontinued its own dedicated event several years ago.

While initially there was some reluctance to opt for Outdoor Retailer, Hutcheson said it’s a perfect fit.

“When you’re in the mountains, you’re near water,” Hutcheson said. Trail runners, hikers, backpackers and mountain bikers all take journeys up a mountain and inevitably find themselves at a beautiful spot near a stream, brook or lake. “It’s the ultimate connection with nature,” Hutcheson said. “You’re really connected to the water and the wildlife in this really dynamic, moving environment. It’s appealing to people who are already playing in the outdoors. It’s not a stretch.”

Jennifer Gish of Redington agreed. She said fly-fishing seems to be growing in popularity, and judging from the company’s “Likes” on Facebook, it’s growing among women.

“People are finding they can [fly-fish] with other activities,” Gish said. “They don’t have to go out specifically for fly-fishing, they can bring fly-fishing into all their other activities — if they’re going hiking or caming, trail running or anything else — fly-fishing can easily be brought in.”

Because of the growth, Redington suspects more fly-fishing newbies will be hitting stores and that’s where the company’s new Topo Outfit (MSRP $199) comes in handy. It’s a full kit for any beginner angler that includes everything from the rod reel to the flies.

“All you need is a fishing license,” Gish said.

The casting area and nearby SUP tank at Outdoor Retailer were thoroughly enjoyed by Dave Leinweber, owner of the Angler’s Covey in Colorado Springs, Colo. Leinweber said he’s looking to do more than sell gear to his customers — he wants to sell the sport of fly-fishing, whether it be in streams, rivers or still water. He said he was excited to test kayaks he could stock in his store that could be used for still-water fly-fishing.

Some new fun fly-fishing items we spotted on the show floor, included the Fikkes Spin Hiker (MSRP $199), a trekking pole that turns into a spin fly-fishing rod. Montana Fly Company brings the fly-fishing lifestyle to your high-tech accessories with its iPad and iPod cases.

Plus Orvis is replacing its best-selling Helios rod with the lightweight Helios 2, a made-in-the-USA product Orvis claims is the lightest rod in the world. It’s a graphite/resin composite with a “super-secret” additive that gives the rod strength.

Rosenbauer said it’s a smooth casting experience because of the way the fibers and resin systems are combined to create the taper, using Orvis’ patented thermoplastic technology.

Carrying fly-fishing gear is a smart move for retailers, Gish said. “Customers either already fly-fish or are interested in fly-fishing,” she explained. “They are coming into your stores whether you realize it or not.”

But not to worry, retailers, if you know nothing about the activity. Several fly-fishing companies have websites with extensive training and Gish said Redington is one of them. Gish said she noticed several retailers who didn’t fly-fish themselves at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, sign on to sell Redington gear.

“We are reading and willing to help them get the knowledge base that they need,” Gish said.

–Ana Trujillo