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Michael Gracie

Something Thoreau wrote on January 30, 1854

“It is for man the seasons and all their fruits exist. The winter was made to concentrate and harden and mature the kernel of his brain, to give tone and firmness and consistency to his thought. Then is the great harvest of the year, the harvest of thought. All previous harvests, are stubble to this, mere fodder, and green crop. Now we burn with a purer flame like the stars; our oil is winter-strained. We are islanded in Atlantic and Pacific and Indian Oceans of thought, Bermudas, or Friendly or Spice Islands.”

Thoreau may have been surrounded by snow and early darkness, lacked a television, and at times nursed a persistent cough. I can appreciate all that right now. But he didn’t have any fine graphite fly rods and yet still alluded to persistent thoughts of tropical climes.

MG signing off (because he does have fine graphite fly rods, and he is also thinking about the tropics)

UPDATE: It’s the worst kind of seasonal affective disorder, which has otherwise been particularly widespread this year.

Fly Rod Warranties: Not Really Open for Discussion

A few weeks back an independent trade magazine for the fly-fishing industry, Angling Trade, published an editorial on fly rod warranties penned by the proprietor of a fly shop. The piece, which you can find via web search using the term “rod warranties anglingtrade”, does not merit linkage1. It is in my opinion muddled diatribe which attempts to foist blame for a struggling business model at the feet of fly rod manufacturers.

That editorial generated a significant amount of commentary, over several days, which as someone interested in the subject I monitored. Opinions were, at the outset, supportive. Then several more saavy consumers, as well as what appeared to be some “industry insiders”, chimed in and the comment thread turned negative. Some retailer/manufacturer economics were exposed; several customer-types even declared outright they simply would not buy a premium fly rod that didn’t have a lifetime warranty.

Uh oh. Disagreement. Discontent. Then the comments were gone. Deleted.

The manufacturer penchant for offering lifetime warranties on fly rods has long been a source of controversy. Some opine that separating warranties from the rods (or eliminating them altogether) would result in lower prices and therefore more sales. Others say that if fly rod warranties go away, so will the finer brands, as the high cost of getting that [inevitably] damaged rod repaired will drive purchasers down to the low-end “disposable” bracket of the market. I’ve yet to see a rigorous analysis, steeped in manufacturer cost structures and supply/demand curves, supporting either point of view. Certainly the above-referenced “editorial” didn’t come close.

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Thank you, Sage

The last of the Carp Slam prizes arrived on my doorstep yesterday. Which means Mr. Trevor Tanner, the contestant who took first place in event, can now fish the urban South Platte in grand style…

sage one carp slam

That’s right, Sage’s new ONE fly rod. Despite knowing that they would be short on these fabulous fresh sticks – the rod is flying off the racks right now, and for good reasonSage offered up a ONE for first place. And then delivered.

Extremely generous, and brilliant business thinking. ONE…first place…get it? Sage got lucky too – not only did they get slotted as a banner sponsor of the event, but the Carp Slam itself was the biggest and baddest ever. In fact, the ONLY downside to their participation…they’ll eventually get sore ears from hearing all the thanks.

MG signing off (thank you Sage thank you Sage thank you Sage thank you Sage thank you Sage thank you Sage)

Editor’s note: the same thanks goes out to Kara Armano of Backbone Media, who quarterbacked the Sage participation. Thanks again, Kara!

Deep discounts hit premium fly gear makers, unbeknownst to even them

In what could surely be the opening chapter in a novel that eventually includes law enforcement agents and gunships patrolling prime fishing waters along the Florida Straits, Angling Trade uncovers the story of how premium fly-fishing gear covertly wound up in the hands of Costco:

Since March 26, 2011, sixteen Costco locations in the west have been identified as stocking and heavily discounting selected Simms and Sage products. The products appear to be limited to five varying models of popular Sage Z-Axis fly rod and Simms G4 Pro Stockingfoot waders. The knee-jerk reaction Is to wonder if Simms and Sage sold direct to Costco. But, in the words of ESPN College Game Day commentator Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friends.” It turns out that neither company sold anything to Costco. In fact, they appear to have been victimized.

As noted, nothing illegal was perpetrated there. And while revising title transfer terms comes to mind as a possible preventative measure, doing so with shipping agents is a sticky process. Ownership begets insurable interest, and the last thing anyone needs is truckloads of merchandise disappearing without recourse.

Read the whole thing here.

Thumbing it to Andros South

It’s about quality over quantity. Unless you’re standing on a flat with an empty fly box.

With all the chatter about what a pain in the rear it is to fly nowadays, I decided to stack the deck in my favor by doing FIBFest with the minimal amount of stuff possible. I’m carrying just one bag, a 2,600 cu.in. duffle, and going as cheaply as possible on everything besides rod, reel and line. The goal is to do the entire week without borrowing a single item from either the other FIBFesters or our gracious host (other than maybe a little CPU time). Here is the packing list:

bonefishing gearThe Essentials

  • Scott S4S rods(1) in #6, #8, and #10, in a heavy duty postal mail tube
  • Lamson Litespeed reels in 3X, 3.5X, and 4, plus some spare parts for each(2) (’cause I often leave reels directly behind the tires of trucks that are about to back up)
  • RIO Bonefish 6(3), Rio Tropical Clouser 8, Rio Redfish 8 (for when I trash the Tropical Clouser in the mangroves), and Rio Saltwater Tropical F/I 10(3)
  • Roughly 1,100 yards of 30# gelspun backing (don’t be a sissy, you fingers are going to get cut anyway)
  • A leader wallet with roughly a dozen tapered flouro and Toothy Critter jobbies in it, and spools of CFX flouro in 6#, 8#, 10#, 12#, 15# and 20#
  • A hundred flies in a five buck Plano box that doubles as bass bug storage, and another small ($3) Plano box for when we’re on foot

I’ll note that I’m carrying way more flies than I’ll probably need, but it’s a pretty wide assortment, including some weightier stuff for deeper water. Last time around Norman gave me a nice ribbing for not being prepared when we shot over to the West Side, and goodness knows I cave under pressure as it is.

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Q&A with Rise Fishing’s Amanda Switzer

Fly GirlsI 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.

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People and Stuff – IFTD 2010

A photo essay of sorts from the International Fly Tackle Dealer’s show…

Will be adding to the set as time permits.

MG signing off (the show must go on, but we’re going fishing)

Say goodbye to the unconditional fly rod warranty?

Leland Fly Fishing Outfitters, a powerhouse of online sales, has introduced a new line of fly rods under their Red Truck brand. Strangely enough, that same brand happens to be their outlet store moniker, but I immediately thought about how premium rod makers would feel having a retailer producing their own rods. Then I saw the warranty…

It’s simple:

– If your Red Truck fly rod breaks due to manufacturer defect, of course we will replace the broken section or make appropriate replacement for the usable lifetime of your rod

– If you break your Red Truck fly rod due to normal fishing, we ask that you pay the reasonable replacement price, comparable to the shipping and handling fees most manufacturers charge, for the section/s of the rod you (or your car door, or your four-legged friend) broke.

In other words…

Most fly rod brands build in an extra “insurance” cost on every fly rod they manufacture, knowing that this will cover the cost of the few who abuse their fly rods. For those who take care of their angling equipment, it’s pure profit for “The Man.”

But what about you? You take great care of your fly rods and might never need a breakage warranty “built-in” to the retail cost of the rod.

At Red Truck, we know that fly rods break, but we believe that you should only pay for what you use.

Fair enough. And an h/t to Moldy Chum.

Meanwhile, Deeter & Company recently broached the issue in the midst of discussing the plethora of tougher product about to hit the streets. Within was this nugget…

One industry insider I talked with (whose company eats about $2 million a year replacing broken rods) said that the rod warranty is still one of the biggest disasters ever to hit the fly rod world. And I’m not sure most consumers even like it.

There you have it folks: one side pushing rods at rock bottom prices without the unconditional warranty, and the other trying to build them better so they’ll never need to be fixed in the first place. Confusing, eh?

Of course, there are other manufacturers out there selling at Leland’s price points that will still replace your stick for no charge, but the shop does one better by saying if the Red Truck isn’t hands down your favorite rod they’ll take it back. They don’t tell you whether you’ll get a refund, but it is certain they’ve got a place to sell it used. You can also be sure that no matter how indestructible a fly rod is engineered, there is an angler who will find a way to break it. However, if even a small percentage of rods come away unscathed as a result of better builds, it looks like a positive. After R&D and other fixed costs are finally absorbed, of course.

Who wins and who loses under these scenarios? Will Leland’s new line become everyone’s rod of choice, or will the eBay rivers wind up running blood Red? Can premium rods with armor plating reinvigorate the sport, or are the price points still too high for the folks struggling with their second mortgage loans?

Even bigger question: How will other rod makers react, and where does the local fly shop fit in to all this?

MG signing off (with nothing but questions)

Rod Review: Scott S4S 908/4

gear bagI spent a few months in Florida over the winter, ostensibly for work. But with Tampa Bay just around the corner I decided that was as good an excuse as any to update my gear selection. After a bit of test casting and chatting with guides, I decided a Scott S4S 908/4 would be one of the new rods in the lineup. Unfortunately, Florida experienced a really bad, lingering cold snap, and I only got one day of wind-blown redfish chasing in before heading back to Colorado. Now, with a week of Andros Island bonefishing under the belt, I’ve had enough time with the rod to offer semi-credible thoughts.

What you should be looking for in a saltwater rod is a combination of casting and fighting performance. That’s correct…a quick test run in the shop parking lot alone doesn’t necessarily cut it – you need controllable power to push flies through stiff wind and tippet-safe force to turn those noses once you hook them. You also want a rod to have the general toughness to withstand a lot of time banging around in a rod well, being dropped on the deck, and finding itself on the receiving end of a liquid that can eat through steel-reinforced concrete like I eat through pepperoni pizza. Scott hit all points spot on, which means the folks in Montrose are either really fishy and whip-smart, or they have a spy camera hidden somewhere in my dining room.

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Tallying the score for my fly-fishing year (2009)

I’d planned on fishing Christmas day, but with high temps expected to climb no higher than the teens I’m likely to bag it. Hence, my fly-fishing year is over, and this year-in-review comes a few days early.

The learning curve

I spent 30 minutes talking one-on-one with Lefty Kreh, in the second week of January. I should have quit while I was ahead. (+30)

Creating infamy

The Wall Street Journal showed up in Denver after I guaranteed them some carp on the fly footage, and Tom Teasdale got front page billing in the print edition, nationally. I know self-made entrepreneurs with $250 million net worths that never made the front page of the WSJ. So I take all the credit for this one. (+250)

Time spent fishing is better than time spent working

I had 22 days on the Blue River, 21 days on suburban lakes, 13 days on the urban South Platte, 10 days on the Dream Stream, 4 days on the Williams Fork, 3 days on the North Platte, 3 days on the salt, 1 day in Cheesman Canyon, 1 day on the Colorado, and a few minutes on Gore Creek and Ten Mile Creek. (+78.5) ALMOST FORGOT: 2 days on the Eagle, and a day on “Moose Creek” – so +81.5

Worth a mention

I caught this fish and this fish using 5X tippets and tiny flies (+2). I used a San Juan Worm one day this year – this fish was the result (+1). I almost died from dehydration in the Carp Slam, but thank my lucky stars Barry Reynolds was my partner (+10).

Some gear runs through it

I acquired five fly rods and four fly reels this year (+9). I dumped one 2009 rod for another (+0), gave one rod up as a going away present (+1), and passed on three reels to folks that really needed them (-3). At least two rods will get ejected in the spring, and I’m on the hunt for another reel (-1).

I retired some waders, and waited patiently for some others (+0). I booted three pairs of wading boots, and wound up with two pairs in their place (-1). I gave away two wading belts (+2), and I found my socks (+20).

I bought seven fly lines, was given one fly line, sold two fly lines, and gave seven fly lines away (+13). I ruined one fly line, and one fly line just plain fell apart on me (-2). Two fly lines are still in the boxes (-2). I gave away a tippet dispenser, six spools of tippet, 250 yards of gelspun backing, and spooled/rigged four reels for newbies (+261).

Fly boxes are for civilians

I purchased 780 flies, tied ten flies, bent four hooks, popped 28 leaders with two-fly rigs, and snagged 2,462 flies on tree branches. (-1,732)

Liar liar pants on fire

I caught 225 brown, rainbow and/or cutthroat trout over ten pounds, 150 carp over forty pounds, 90 largemouth bass over eleven pounds, and one state record brook trout (at twelve pounds) that I didn’t get a picture of since I was by myself in a desolate location with no food, water, or camera. (225 X 10) + (150 X 40) + (90 X 12) + (1 X 12 X 11,500 foot elevation) = +147,330

High note

I acquired a king’s hoard of new friends, but unlike royalty throughout history I wouldn’t trade them for anything. And I spent some precious time fishing with some dear old friends too. ((7382 + 6) X 1014 = 7.382e+17) (Note: score arrived at by adding total friends, new and old, to the number of beers consumed in their company, individually, post-outing, then multiplying by the ACTUAL VALUE of time spent fishing and/or drinking with them)

Final tally

I want to say I lost count, but the reality is I’m an accountant, which means I don’t know how to count it was just a darn good year.

Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, What-Have-You, and a Happy New Year to all.

MG signing off (until 2010)