Withering interest and recession staring it in the face, the fly fishing industry faces extraordinary challenges. If it’s not dealing with the fact that it has drastically overloaded its own product lines and twisted the outgoing message for optimum confusion, there’s always the Madoff family connections. Meanwhile, the crew is rushing to the web, trying to maintain contact with a customer that already has too much gear and too little time to listen. My singular observations have found that communication is sometimes muddled, and often contradictory to what’s being shared behind the scenes. I suspect it’ll get a whole lot worse before it gets better.
None of that seems to matter to Stanley and Stephen Bogdan:
The Bogdans are navigating this recession just as they have every other one over the last seven decades: by staying small and doing things their own way. Every part of a Bogdan reel, save for the springs, is tooled by Stanley or Stephen, S.E. Bogdan Custom Built’s sole employees. In their garage-size shop in New Ipswich, N.H. stands a table littered with dozens of boxes, each containing different parts of a fly-fishing reel: discs of stainless steel, screws, brake shoes, anodized aluminum frames and spools. Armed with a 130-year-old Flather lathe and a 50-year-old Van Norman milling machine, the pair churn out only 100 reels a year and have a three-year backlog. They hold no patents, take no deposits from customers (“That way they can’t bug me, and I have control,” says Stanley), store no files, designs or accounts on a computer (they don’t own one) and do no advertising.
No Madison Avenue, and certainly no social network. They did all this by building a reputation early on, and sticking to ideals of slow growth and maintaining an air of exclusivity.
While Forbes fails to mention much about the reliability and/or warranty on Bogdans (something diehard anglers think a whole lot about), the maker still has its fans in that regard:
Your comments about Bogdans slipping when wet are completely off base. At least in my experience. All they require is to be oiled with light machine oil. Pull the spool and oil the drum once every 2 or 3 years with but a couple drops of plain old oil. I have been fishing mine for almost 10 years now and have ZERO problems with them hydroplaning after being dunked. In fact this trait is one more reason why Bogdan has produced the best hand made reel in the history of fishing. Ages old technology that functions superbly with looks and sounds that kill. For nearly 60 years, Salmo.
As a company in this day and age, you have to love the fact that someone can criticize your product, and a defense will be mounted without you having to personally send hoards of your own folks over to ‘lawyer up.’
There’s a chance somewhere between slim and none that I’ll ever own a Bogdan. I go for utility, and that means being able to tumble down a trail without crying later that my gear was torn up. For much the same reason I don’t cast bamboo – it just isn’t easily repairable – I doubt people who spend thousands on a reel would view them as discard-able either.
And then there’s the auction prices…
I certainly don’t want to see prices of all fly gear reach these levels, and although I wouldn’t be particularly concerned from a personal standpoint if it did (I have way too much gear as it is already) I’d still like to see new entrants to the sport that aren’t stressing about whether they can make their next car payment in the meantime. Further, I’m not particularly opposed to marketers per se – I know and adore my fair share of them. Seth Godin once said, “all marketers are liars” – I think that’s a little harsh, but I do take the practice with a grain of salt and keep moving.
Still, it gets (at least) me thinking…should the industry scale back and return to its roots, instead of trudging ahead with growth plans that could easily be construed as fast closing in on a brick wall? Many a successful turnaround has done just that.