Outdoor Writers Association of America
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

September 20th, 1999


Salt Lake City Utah was our temporary home the past few days. We attended the Fly-Fishing Retailer World Trade Expo for Gatti Fly Rods, and of course FAOL. Perhaps you've attended one of the regional outdoor sports shows held around the U.S. (Usually during the late winter months when we are all suffering from trout depravation and cabin fever.)

The E-Z Winder guys

This show is very similar to those public shows, except it is just for people who sell fly fishing stuff. You know, your local fly or tackle shop. This show is big. I felt sorry for a few folks who told me they only had a day or so to do everything on their list. Bet they didn't get through the whole show. But there were maps and lists of those displaying their goodies, so one didn't get too lost. (I didn't get to see everyone I wanted to either!)

Show Entrance, Salt Palace JC carried the digital camera with him, so the photos here and in his column will give you an idea of what it looked like. (Read Castwell's Pick of the Show for more information.) The show was very well attended, with lots of new goodies (more on that in the future) improved tools and toys for our wonderment. We will have more photos next week too.

We both were impressed with the quality of the goods offered, the show organization, even the efficiency and courtesy of the show staff who bailed me out getting our 'show box' shipped back east. Outstanding job by all, always done with a smile.

Oasis Tying Benches

For JC and I, it is an opportunity to see all the new rods, reels, lines and goodies too. This show had lots of everything. And some major surprises.

Wood River You may have seen an advertisement in one of the fly fishing magazines with the name StreamWorks. Turns out SW is sort of a conglomerate formed by some ex-microsoft execs and some others (all with more money than God and some of whom have no former connection with fly fishing) which has bought up some familiar companies. I may not have all the Fly Fish TV companies, but here are those I remember: D.B.Dun, Charlton Reels, McKenzie Flies, TailWaters Waders, J.W. Outfitters, Rainey's Flies, Borger Media, and a driftboat company. I was told more are to be included. Gary Loomis is part of the organization, and both Gary and Jason Borger are on the payroll. SW introduced a new fly rod, nicely dressed, which I found unimpressive when cast.

Mamma Kate and Peter Gorinsky There are rumors at these shows, and one of the most common was the companies SW bought were struggling. Perhaps there are just too many companies competing for the same market. When that happens there just Lobby isn't enough profit from the amount of sales to support the company. I suspect (but I'm not a financial wizard) that is the real reason prices of some things in fly fishing tackle are so expensive. Not the real cost, certainly not the perceived value, but an artificial inflated value because the company cannot exist without the inflated price.

Loop Sweden teaching Problem is there are many companies in the fly fishing world, on both the manufacturing and retail sides, which are owned and run by folks who love fly fishing, had the 'dream' of making a living from what they loved and did not/do not have the business expertise to make it work. I don't have any crystal ball, but I have a gut instinct on this 'StreamWorks' - I hope I'm wrong.

Teton Supposedly the concept behind the SW group is to have 'everything' under one roof. Add to that a computer terminal in every associated fly shop and if the item you want isn't in stock, you can order it right Fly Logic there. Sort of the junk yard idea of shipping in that hard-to-find part by tomorrow. Hmmmm. A middle ground between a fly shop and buying on the internet. So how about a fly rod you want to cast? Or a reel you want to fondle? And who makes the projections on what 'they' think you will buy?

I also wonder how many - what percentage of this group really are fly fishers? And what power do they have? Do they understand the passion? Speak the language? At the show I did meet a few, one in particular who had been deep into mountaineering gear, and very successful. He did not fly fish.

Is this an effort to control the fly fishing market? And if so, how does the fly fisher benefit? By driving the little guy who doesn't 'sign-on' out of business?

Heck, this business is already paranoid - it doesn't need any help getting totally nuts. ~ LadyFisher

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