This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
September 26th, 2005

Denver Show '05, Part Two

Here are some bits and pieces from the Denver Fly Tackle Dealer Show.

We did not attend last year, so this was our first time in two years. I'm told the attendance from 'buyers' was up slightly, but from our view it was down from two years ago. We did receive a 'Press Release' from the show people which said there were many more 'media' people at this one. I guess that is good for the fly fishing world if they all write something good about the show. Marc Bale from Sage did mention to us they are just inundated with people wanting Sage to advertise with them at these shows. It makes it hard to do business with the people who are there to see the new products and place their orders for next year. We really try not to be one of the offenders on that score. We have made appointments in advance with folks we just don't see any other time, though.

One of the interesting thoughts I had while at the show was we are now in our ninth year, and believe it or not, we are older than some of the companies at the show. Well, there are always brand new entries, but it is somehow sad to see how many companies were not at the show. Some just seem to have disappeared, dropped out. I made a short list, and it was disturbing.

I can see the reasoning for some manufacturers not to be at the show. One of our Canadian friends told us the cost of shipping a booth down from Canada, plus bringing in the sales reps and paying airfare, hotel and food costs can easily run into $20,000 for the 3 day show. Booth space isn't cheap either. That particular company wasn't 'at' the show, and we didn't run into our friend over the show time either. I suspect they did what more and more companies are doing, renting a suite at a major hotel, contacting their dealers in advance and showing the new products in the hotel.

An unusual one this year was LL Bean. They were not at the show, but they did a luncheon at the Denver Athletic Club for invited guests to show off their new products. We were not invited, so I can't give you a report. Hans Weilenmann was invited, but through a mix-up (mine) he didn't know where the luncheon was. Sorry Hans.

We had a few meetings with people about something entirely different. It was not to get anyone to advertise with us. With our 9th year in progress I wondered if there wasn't, isn't something more we could or should be doing for fly fishing. This is serious stuff. Our intent has been to provide the best honest information for the fly fisher. BUT - is there something missing which could bring more people to fly fishing? OR improve the quality of their experience?

We didn't solve any problems at the show, but just maybe we got some folks thinking about what might be possible. One of those meetings was with Tom Helgeson, publisher of the Midwest Fly Fishing magazine. Tom dreamed up and created the Great Waters Exposition which will be held again 2006, in Bloomington, MN. This is a fly fishing show where nothing existed in the past. Classes for kids, casting for women, fly tiers, conservation and vendors all fit together to make a very successful impression on all who attend.

I'm not saying we want to do a fly-fishing show, I just used that as an example of what one man did because he felt there was a need.

I have no idea where our conversations will go, and for that matter, your opinions are as valid as anyone elses. If you have an idea we would certainly like to hear it.

Every time we attend one of these shows I'm struck with how small an industry fly fishing really is. Everyone pretty well knows everyone else. There are surely trade secrets, but there is also a lot of inside 'baseball.'

For example, while reading a book on the history of rod building a while back, I was amazed at how many rod builders had worked for one company, switched to another, married into that family and created something else. Or left that company to form another. Maybe all business is like that, or maybe it's more obvious in a small industry. At any rate, some of the stories, which I can't repeat, are really something else.

One I can tell is a well-known rod designer had cast about every rod at the show. (A couple didn't rate his time - or mine either) He asked if I had cast a particular rod and what I thought of it. We seemed to agree (that was nice) and then he mentioned a another rod company, and said, "What were they thinking?" The rods were really bad.

However, this is America - and along with the right to succeed, everyone also has a right to fail. (So you don't email me, it is an American company.)

We have had an opportunity to talk with the folks at Sage since the show, in fact, Jim spent some time with Ned Hobson to learn how to operate the Sage Casting Analyzer this week, and the good news is the Analyzer (nicknamed SCA) was a huge hit. It won't be available in your local fly shops until next year, but when it is, you just have to try it. I really am convinced this is the neatest way for a fly fisher to improve his casting and in turn his enjoyment of his total fishing experience that I can't encourage you enough to do it. Besides, it's free!

The show trip wasn't free 'tho, and I'm hoarding my change for the next trip. ~ DLB

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