Last night at the International Fly Tackle Dealer trade show in Reno, American Fly Fishing Trade Association chairman Jim Klug stood before a crowd and said that he wasn’t sure yet where the IFTD expo would be held next year.
Which was some of the best news I have heard on the IFTD front in years, and a sharp decision indeed.
Now, as you know, Friday night at the show has, in recent years, been where the drinks get poured, the hoopla starts, and AFFTA announces where it’s going next. But the truth is, while AFFTA indeed has one option in the fold… within the last week, other options have come to light. And they’re good ones. AFFTA is doing the right thing by playing out its hand (as one might expect in Reno).
Because those negotiations are still going on, I’m not going to get into specific details that might gum up the works. I want this to work. I will say for the record that the fly fishing trade show is in a better position right now than it has been in at least 10 years. For the first time in years, there is genuine optimism and enthusiasm. There is cohesion among manufacturers and retailers. There’s a legitimate buzz… a vision… a plan. And the irony is that that plan may ultimately revolve around the fact that the current trade show may cease to exist in its current shape.
The show is dead… long live the show.
Dead? Well, we all know it’s been sick for some time. If you’re a retailer sitting this one out at home, you’re not alone. Simms and Orvis both told me today that roughly 10 percent of their dealers are in Reno now. What keeps the other 90 percent of retailers on the sidelines? It isn’t lack of execution. The show has been planned and performed flawlessly. It’s still a heck of a party. I love being here, because I’m hanging around with some of my favorite people in the world, talking about one of the things I love to do most. The seminars are great. The off-record discussions are interesting.
But from a business standpoint, there aren’t many deals happening here. From a media standpoint, I haven’t seen many products in Reno that I hadn’t at least heard about weeks before now. The manufacturers who are here have limited their efforts… smaller booths, fewer events, and on and on.
“The AFFTA board realizes that we cannot continue to go down this path for years; we have to mix things up,” Klug said.
And so they are. And for the record, perhaps that’s the real role that AFFTA is really able to play. With an operating budget that amounts to pennies compared to the dollars other trade groups spend, maybe it’s unfair to expect AFFTA to carry the full load. AFFTA can be a means to an end, and not an end unto itself. If you pack the military might of, say, Belgium (and that’s what fly fishing is in an outdoor/all fishing context), you’re smart to make allies. AFFTA can be a facilitator, a motivator, a deal broker, and the shepherd that ensures that the interests of fly fishing get heard. Realistically, that’s how the mission will be accomplished. Not by trying the same thing over and over, and expecting different results (and we all know how Einstein described that).
So that’s where we are. And I can also tell you, that if these opportunities don’t pan out, it won’t be for lack of effort. It will be because those who are would-be suitors of fly fishing (who want our honey demographic), will have been all smoke and no fire.
I really hope that doesn’t happen. We could be on the verge of a new era that will benefit dealers, manufacturers, and everyone else who legitimately cares about fly fishing.