This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

September 8th, 2003

Another Opening Another Show

There's an old Broadway show with a song about "another opening another show..." There was, we went and it's over.

For the folks who haul boxes and crates, set up and take down a booth at one of these shows it is a huge effort. My husband JC, and I did a couple for Gatti some years ago, and it is an overwhelming job. Hats off to everyone who exhibited at the Denver show!

I'll bring you some of the news from the show, and over the next couple of weeks we'll have more about the individual booths too. I know there was a great deal of interest on what would happen with Redington with the Sage buy-out. Redington was at the show, with a nice selection of rods and the clothing line which our Field Editor, Al Campbell had picked as his Pick of the Show last year. It lives, and sure looks dandy.

Redington booth

The group which puts on the show chooses a Retailer of the Year - this year won by the Fly Shop, Redding, California. They also have a nice mail-order catalog.

The attendance by both manufacturers and buyers was down in our opinion, and some companies we fully expected to see were not there. There may be many reasons, the whole fly fishing industry took a hit following 9/11. Some manufacturers who depended on travel to fishing destinations saw their business decline - and there were some shops who were very travel dependant who lost as much as 37% of their business. Yes, we did lose some fly shops. However, I believe many could have survived with proper planning and perhaps restructuring debt. The problem is (and this is mentioned in a string about fly shops on our Bulletin Board) many shops are started by guys who love fly fishing and always had the 'dream' of owning their own fly previous retail experience, no business experience, no idea of cash flow, much less stock, personnel management or cash reserve. That is a disaster waiting to happen.

Every manufacturer had a new product. The "New Products" area was crammed with everything from ways to protect your rod while you are rigging up or down, a neat file cabinet for hackle storage, or a unique system for changing into or out of your waders and wading boots. Many of the new products have been years in development.

Jim Murphy and LF

There is a brand new company which may peak some real interest. Jim Murphy has produced a new line of fly rods. Jim Murphy was one of the partners in Redington. He tells us this new line was in development for two years, and was not included in the Sage purchase. The name of the new company is Albright, and you will hear more about them soon. We did cast the new fresh and saltwater rods, a fused silicate external core protecting the high modulus graphite core. The top of the line saltwater 3 piece retails for $325 including tube and rod sock. The 5-piece high modulus graphite freshwater rod (A-5) was very nice - both rods very light in hand and fine casters. Cosmetically the rods are stunning. Retail, tube and sock $195. Albright has also produced a dandy entry level rod, the Topwater rod, 2 - 4 piece, ranging from $69 to $89. There are also three nice reels in price ranges which will shock most of the industry. Stay tuned, more soon.

Joan Wulff Signature 8 wt

Joan Wulff suggested we try her signature Winston rod - but there is a story to this one. Many of us find casting 'big' rods for a long period of time is very physically tiring. Joan had gone from fishing an 8 wt for Atlantic salmon down to a 6 wt because of the problem, but a 6 wt really isn't adequate. Winston solved the problem. They have produced a new rod with a 2nd generation boron butt section which gives the rod strength without the accompanying weight. JC and I both cast the rod, and Joan's comments were right on the rod - the 8 weight feels like a 6 weight. It is a very smooth, fine rod. Retail on this one, $615. The rod, made to her requirements does have an indentation in the cork for a person's thumb, but the same rod is available without it.

We always especially enjoy seeing old friends, and while that was terrific, I do want to let you know everyone's best friend, Lefty Kreh was there for Temple Forks Outfitters. He is well, looks great and is still helping folks on the casting ponds and telling stories on the sidelines. It was absolutely grand to see him. I finally got to meet Rick Pope who is one of the principals of TFO - and his partner Bobby Jones, both delightful men. Their newly designed Lefty Kreh line of rods seem to be very well accepted by the fly shops, and as Lefty told us, he has wanted to see good rods at reasonable prices for years. He is very proud of the lines.

Bobby Jones and LF

There were tons of goodies, as I mentioned loads of new entries - and while rods may be my favorites, it is always a mixed blessing to see the newest and greatest. I really admire the thought and planning which goes into a new rod design and development, but in my heart of hearts I feel the rush to 'newest, fastest, zippy, zingy, hot off the press' misses the mark.

What mark?

The connection with the history of fly fishing. The simple joy of fishing with beautiful elegant gear from our past. We've seen a solid trend of interest in cane rods, a curiosity about really good fiberglass rods (really) and several of the manufacturers have been playing with glass rods again - the best of the bunch is one JC wrote about a while ago, the ones designed by John E. Tarantino for the House of Hardy. We spoke to several people who cast it at the show who were as impressed with it as we are. It will be interesting to see where this all goes.

Vivarelli Reel

There really may not be anything new - but between the new Marryatt reel which may be a new concept and the new version of the automatic reel by Franco Vivarelli from Italy (which was designed to defeat fish swimming directly at you) the fly fisher can play with some marvelous toys. We had a demo on this 'new' automatic reel - it really works. Being very different it would take some getting use to, but there are situations where I can see the advantage.

I've held off telling you what my Pick of the Show is, only because I wanted you to know there are many new goodies on the market - I've only touched on a few.

The winner is:

The House of Hardy "Bougle" fly reel. The reel will not be available until April 2004 because it is the Centennial Reel! That's right, Hardy commissioned a reel which is remarkably like the reel they introduced in 1903. It is a simple click and pawl, and absolutely elegant. For those Hardy collectors, you might want to keep an eye out for one of the 100 numbered gold-plated "Bougles" in a walnut box. Beautiful. By the way, our Brit friends pronounce centenial as cen-tin-ery. For those folks attending the Idaho Fish-In later this month, I will have one with me. . .no doubt on JC's Pick of the Show.

Ian McCormack of the House of Hardy with the winning Bougle reel

My head is spinning, we have new writers who you will see in the future - lots of things to share with you. Stay tuned, more next time. ~ The LadyFisher

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