Scene one: (The Board room at a major fly rod manufacturer; it's Monday, 9am.)
"Harrumph!" (That's Mr. Big speaking.)
"Good morning, Mr. Big." (A dozen smiling suits in unison.)
"Well. What's the 'bottom line?' he blusters. (Twelve trembling
souls peering over the tops of loose-leaf ring-binders are silent.
A hand timidly elevates, all eyes shift to the wavering hand, then back to Mr Big.)
"I think we can cut a few more corners, add more hype and make
more money for the stockholders." (He says, striving for composure.)
"I think we can do it if we use cheaper materials and dream up
some new exaggerations." (A chill settles in like a fog on a cold
lake. That was the same idea they had tried last year, and the
year before, and the year before that. Mr. Big was the next to speak.)
"Right on, Tiddley! By Jove, it's worked before and it will work
this time too, Let's do it to them again this year! Tiddley, you
deserve a raise."
"Thank you Mr. Big," Tiddley quivers. "We will get started at once.
Cut corners by using even poorer cork, buy cheaper graphite, dream
up a new name, even lay off a few people, the heck with quality.
Let's get those dollars. The 'brass' will love us and we will keep
That is, of course, fictional. You know that. I know that. There
is however a feeling among many fly fishers that it is not only
fact, it is perhaps even worse than that. Nothing could be farther
from the truth. Yes, each year, monthly it sometimes seems, that
there are new buzz words and new names for products. I have no
problem with that, all merchants do it.
There is a flip-side to the fly-fishing-gear manufacturing which
is fascinating, absolutely fascinating. You only get to see the
outside, I get to see much of the 'inside.' I have seen (actually
been involved with) a rod maker switch to a higher-priced component
because it was of better quality. He did not raise the price, he
absorbed the increased cost. Sure, the rods would look nicer and
probably sell better; result, better profits in volume. Another
one, again a rod maker (I was in on this one too) went to better
guides at a slightly higher cost. Would anyone ever know they
did? Probably not, but, they knew they were better and that is
all that counted.
The prototypes that are traveling constantly by UPS around this
country are unbelievable. Daily, yes, daily there are guys
working to make a better fly rod, changing graphite, patterns,
lengths, tapers and anything else they can think of to change.
Engineers and designers send the information to the custom rod
makers and to the 'back-shop' to make new 'try' rods. Eventually
a design will be accepted as really different and better for
any number of reasons.
It will be an improvement. It will be one or more of several things.
Perhaps, smoother, more power, faster, less vibration, more
attractive finish. Somewhere, today, in some shop, in some
state, a new rod was invented. Tomorrow it may be discarded,
or it may be the 'first generation' of a spanking new concept.
One company I know of developed fine new type of fly rod. I
got to cast 'generation' number nine. The tip was too soft,
it felt like a 5 weight tip on a six weight butt section. By
'generation' twelve they had it perfected. You can now buy them,
they are one of the top selling rods. Would they have saved
money by stopping at number 'nine?' Nope, they would have lost
their butts, so to speak.
It's good old capitalism at it's finest. Make a better mouse trap,
etc. Each company striving to do better, faster, and for less
retail cost to you. The next time you slap down large chunk of
change for a new fly rod, remember, the guys who made that rod
are just like you and me. Trying everyday to make a living by
beating the competition. You and I are their target; but also
the beneficiary. It is a little like brain-surgery; it's not
the labor involved, it's knowing where to cut that you pay for.
Lastly, I am privileged to know many of the folks involved in
the manufacturing of rods, reels lines, and a whole lot of the
things we sometimes take for granted. I would fish with darn
near all of them. ~ James Castwell