I had a chance to talk with Amanda Switzer of FlyFisherGirl, Guide House: Montauk, and now Rise Fishing Company fame. That’s right, Ms. Switzer has started a rod company, and I
ingratiated myself in the hope of scoring some schwag chatted with her about a life in fishing, and a future in helping others make the cast. Here we go…
1) We can read your bio over at the FlyFisherGirl website, but that doesn’t tell me exactly who Amanda is. Why don’t you do it instead?
I spent my summers in East Hampton, and I can remember fishing the docks from the age of ten. I would hassle everyone for information, and was soon hitting the beaches, then later party boats and offshore too. In my early 20’s I bumped into this landscaping guy who always had a fly rod in the back of his truck. More quizzing, and I was soon sight fishing for stripers from shore.
After that I went on a trip to Belize with my boyfriend, and while I figured I should get some time on deck seeing as I paid for my ticket, I wound up sitting in the boat the whole time. The guy was just too impatient to teach me. When we got back I dumped him, then taught myself.
What I always wanted to be is a trust-funder who could travel the world fishing, and creating art nobody would ever buy, but my husband conned me into starting a rod company instead.
2) Tell us a little about what it was like living in a house with a bunch of guides for a reality TV series.
Imagine hanging out at the beach with your friends while they spent their time drinking too much and trying to impress hot chicks. It was like that. It was interesting too, seeing how people act when there’s a camera around – cameras tend to amplify people’s personalities, or completely shut them down. That observation part was really fun.
3) Now that there’s a toddler running around the Switzer household, are you still guiding? How as family life changed your outdoor life?
I part time guide now, and mix photography, editing, and filming to keep my life balanced and to make up for the downturn in the economy as well as the general off-season downtime. Ethan, who is now three and a half years old, keeps me very engaged, and I spend the rest of my time trying to learn new things (currently it’s XHTML).
Back when I was pregnant, though, I discovered that some of the guides I thought were my buddies were telling anyone who would listen that I was done guiding. That hurt in more ways than one. The upside was I really needed to find something else to do because being on the water for 10-12 hours was not going to happen anymore, and those thoughts running through my head really pushed me along. I’d already started filming and shooting photos, so I branched out from there to supplement my income. Those efforts also allowed me to be at home more (you know, editing and touching up photos…and changing diapers). All in all I made it work, and now when I guide I’m more into it than ever – I feel like I’ve rediscovered my love for guiding and fishing.
I still get to travel and fish as I have a very supportive husband who fishes as well. We trade off trips – while one stays home with Ethan, the other gets to choose a fishing buddy and do their thing.
4) What made you decide to start an equipment company?
Like I said earlier, I kind of got snookered into it. It was originally my husband’s idea, but every time he’d mention it I’d just ask “another ****ing fly rod company?” This went on for months, but after seeing the prototypes and realizing we really could put out great product that was affordable, I told Steve I was in as long as we could donate something to fisheries preservation and education.
My husband is a competitive caster, casting instructor, and an avid fly fisher, so I really never had any doubts. But someone has to say no every now and then in this family, just to keep things interesting!
5) What is Rise Fishing bringing to the table in terms of innovation and differentiation?
First and foremost, we are supplying the market with high quality rods for a less than $250, and we’re doing it with an extra tip and a rod case. The goal is giving people a chance to enter the world of fly fishing without it being cost prohibitive. My first fly rod….it sucked. It was two years before I picked up a good fly rod, instantly realizing I’d wasted a lot of time. A good fly rod matters the most when it comes to gear, and getting down the learning curve. We feel that everyone has a right to a great fly rod – we’re just making sure they are within everyone’s reach.
Our rods are being built with IM8 and IM10 blanks, which we have been testing for over a year. The blanks are sourced from overseas, but our components are American made (and we’re bring some pretty neat component innovations too, but that’s gotta stay a surprise).
6) Who are your rods best suited for?
Everyone. As fishing guides we have averaged out the styles of most fishermen and tried to create a fly rod that suits a wide range of fishermen. As we know, not all rods are for everyone, but we feel that we created a rod that can be cast by all.
7) Based on your roots one would think Rise would concentrate on saltwater, yet the name suggests something a little more trout-like. Do you have plans to enter the coldwater market?
What’s wrong with the name? All fish rise to the surface when you catch them!
At launch we are releasing a number of rods, including trout gear. We will have a four-weight in three different lengths and actions, five-weights in two different actions, as well saltwater rods in weights 6 through 14 (although we really call the six a crossover rod). We are also working on a reel made of cutting edge composite materials, but it needs a little more testing first.
8) Who else is involved with Rise? Do you have partners?
It’s just us. We talked to some investors, but it seemed they wanted too much for what they were bringing to the table. In other words, we’ve got no partners who know nothing about fishing. That doesn’t mean we don’t have help though.
9) Who is on your pro staff? And did they have any input regarding initial rod designs?
Rise is all about its guides and we work hand in hand with them in creating our products. We feel that hiring so-called experts was not the way to go, as guides live the sport and are the one who are really get what people need in a fly rod – those guys and girls understand their fisheries and their clients needs. The freshwater series that was conceived by my husband Steve Bechard, who like I said is tournament caster and fishermen. Steve has guided for steelhead, carp and trout and has built those rods from the ground up – it’s a great line that covers every aspect of fishing freshwater. Paul Dixon, Brian Goulart, and I have labored over the past year testing and tweaking (the tough job) our LEVEL Saltwater Series. Hannah Belford is working with us on a Spey rod for us, and Gjuro Bruer will be helping us develop a killer tarpon/large species rod.
10) The fly fishing industry took a giant leap forward with The Movie, but that now seems like so long ago. What do you think has changed for the industry since then?
God..that movie is so old! It’s both amazing and not surprising people still talk about it.
Our industry is suffering because it’s insular. It really needs to reach outside of itself to attract more people. Another major motion picture might help, because while there are a lot of great film makers out there, circulating their works on the Fly Fishing Film Tour, the problem is those works are only seen by existing fly fishers. We need more programs in schools, in camps, and on television (and not just ESPN).
11) Anything else you’d like to share?
We are launching Rise in a few weeks. Along with that debut we will be having a giveaway! If you sign a petition to stop the Pebble Mine, you will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a new Rise fly rod of your choice and a guided fishing trip with the guide of your choice.
In addition, this coming year we will be working with Trout Unlimited’s youth camps to expand interest in fly fishing, and Rise is creating a scholarship for kids who cannot afford to go to the camps. There are 17 camps across the country, and we are supplying all of them with Rise rods. We think it is a great start to giving back to a sport that has already done so much for us!
12) Finally…when are you taking me fishing Amanda?
Do you need a ride from the airport?
MG signing off (to wish everyone a happy New Year, including Rise Fishing).