Sage and RIO to Sell Direct


It’s not like nobody saw this one coming from miles away.  After all, Far Bank Enterprises, parent company for Sage, Redington and RIO Products, essentially telegraphed the move when Redington went direct-to-consumer a few years ago.  But now, the leading producer of fly rods–a company built on the “specialty products for specialty shops” ideal–will begin selling its products online, starting in 2016.

You can imagine what we’ve heard at Angling Trade in the past few days.  Everything ranging from outrage, to resignation to applause.

We’re going to dive into the story, and soon.  But we’re not going to half-bake it.  At this time, we’ve interviewed Far Bank, and are talking with retailers around the country to gauge their reactions.  We’re also talking to the competition.

Is this the death knell for the specialty dealer model?

Can this, as Far Bank suggests, actually lead to market growth that will benefit dealers and consumers alike?

What makes Far Bank any different than Simms, or Orvis, or Patagonia, or any number of other manufacturers that sell direct already?

Assuming that where there is an action, there is also an equal and opposite reaction, what will that be?

Does this really open larger wounds related to the evolving product distribution dynamic?

NOBODY is more dialed, and nobody will give you the straight scoop better than Angling Trade will.  Stay tuned…



  1. Mike Valla on

    Speaking as a 45+ year FF consumer, regarding “impacts.” As is usual for these types of questions the answer is, ” that all depends.” If I’m after a specialty rod and my friendly dealer doesn’t have what I’m looking for, in stock, I’ll ask when he can get the rod. into my hands.
    As a loyal customer shop customer, if it’s not something I need absolutely right now (leaving for a long-planned trip) I’ll tell my man to order the rod, and give me a buzz when it arrives.

    -However, if I’m after a specialty rod that I decided I need asap (invited on a trip, and that model was recommended) I might call Sage, direct. But I’ll always ask my shop, first, “when can you get the rod for me.” It depends on the urgency at hand.

    However, that said, I’m not sure how much shop loyalty is out there right now, in this “gotta have it now” environment. I would venture that most consumers will just pick up the phone and call Sage, and not bother driving down to their shop. If they have to make a call to their shop, or order online anyway, they might opt to “go direct,” and get the purchase over with.

    I have a loads of Orvis rods. I purchased all of them at shops or at the Flagship store, since I’m loyal to the staff, many whom I consider friends (especially at the Flagship store). I get my cane from a local builder and buy T&T at shops, too. If I’m after a sage, I’d certainly try to give a shop my business (we need them around…)

  2. They might as well sell direct as long as their products are in Costco, Cabelas and Bass Pro. How does selling direct hurt local shops any more than selling in big box stores?

  3. Those of us that have been running fly fishing specialty shops for the past thirty years are the ones that put Sage and Rio in the limelight. Their argument that selling direct will only benefit fly shops and specialty stores in the long run is pure BS. Fly Shops have been dropping like flies for the past ten years, and this will only hurt the people most that built this industry. Sure, instant gratification of having the product is important for the consumer, but let them buy it from another specialty shop or fly shop – not direct. Then we all benefit.

    • So very true! The local fly shop is becoming a thing of the past. Very sad. But the sport of fly fishing is not what it was years ago. Very sad. Big change stores, e-bay and other so called online fly shops have taken their toll. Most fly shop still in business are more into guiding and travel agents to stay open.
      There is a very large mark up on many fly rods and other high ticket items which the local fly shops benefited from. Now that corporations have more competition and less market share, this retail mark up is just too attractive to the OEM to pass up. Maybe some of this mark up will be used to lower prices due to the competition but I’m guessing most will go to their profits margin. Eliminating the middle man (fly shops) is the real reason for Mfg. to want to sell direct.

  4. I can’t fathom not trying out a rod that will cost me more than a weekly pay check. Big boxes have not been kind to me wanting to try the rod out first.

  5. Gary Gunsolley on

    I owned a fly shop for 25 years and for 20 years of that I was a Sage dealer. Back then all the reps said that fly fishing products would never be in catalogs or big box stores. Slowly but surely fly fishing products started showing up in catalogs then big box stores and ultimately direct sales from the manufactures on the internet. None of this surprised me as I am a firm believer in “never say never”. I don’t see how this will help the industry grow. It will only force more fly shops to go out of business. The next time you purchase something directly from the manufacture, ask yourself, will my favorite fly shop be there when I need them! I am glad I am out of the business, retirement is much nicer.

  6. As a friend of mine once said “I had no idea this fly fishing things had so many accessories !” I have bought fly fishing gear direct from several outlets in particular Orvis; I have also bought loads of stuff.. leaders, flies, fly tying materials from the 3 fly shops in the Minneapolis/St Paul area. And when I am in Livingston MT I stop by the local shops, Not always George Anderson’s but others to stock up and impulse buy. Far Bank selling direct does not impact my shopping patterns no more than Orvis does. And when it comes to buying local it is more than just our local fly shops that need to be supported but as many local business’s as is practical. The real issue George Anderson is not Far Bank selling direct but the demographic of your customer base. This I think is as good of a reason why there are not as many fly shops as there once was (although how many in Livingston MT?) You know it has been a long time since the River Runs Through It came out… Heck back then a float trip on Georges local river was like $200.00 🙂

  7. We saw this progression in the pet industry begin 20 years ago. When we lost the three tier distribution system we lost good (and some not so good) local dealers that dealt in good solid products and information. What we traded for was a race for new products just for the sake of being new, lower quality with terrible return rates, and little dogs being carried around in handbags.

    Let’s face it most anglers need a casing lesson more than a new $700 rod. Has anyone seen a good pair of bootfoot breathable waders lately? Unfortunately you can’t keep a shop’s doors open on free information and an occasional spool of tippet sale. We’ll continue to lose not just good local fly shops but good people from the sport. Without those mentors and shop rats the sport of fly fishing and our rivers will suffer

  8. Democratization of the marketplace is better for all individuals and especially small boutique shops than centralized monopolization.

    John Miao

  9. George Semel on

    Well I think the market place has changed a great deal in the last 25 years or so- I don’t think that buying direct will hurt the Brick and Mortar shops as much as the current economic down turn has! Lets face it That movie gave flyfishing shot in the arm at the time, how many of those people whom took up the sport because of it, are still fishing? I been at this since 1964, we gone form rods reels lines and leaders long with tying materials that were not really very good to stuff than is so good and of high quality that we take it all for granted! Its a tough business to be in and unless you have an internet presents you are not going to survive ! The market has changed, Sage and Rio if anything are a bit late here! That being said, I still would cast a rod before I buy it, but I also understand that a Shop can stock all the rods and reels and fly lines we have available to us! The Shops that will survive will be the ones in areas and rivers and streams we want to fish- Ie I don’t think the guys in West Yellowstone or Ennis will have to worry to much about it, but from a business stand point, yea they are going to have to do look at how to do business better and take nothing for granted! As must as I long for the old days- I snap out of it when I take a new whiting neck out of the package to tie my dries with – A necks from Metz 30 years ago can hold a candle to what is now to be had, I just go fish, its really a golden age!

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