By Jess McGlothlin
We’re nearing the end of the consumer show season and, as always, it’s been insightful. There’s something reenergizing about talking with folks who work outside the fly-fishing industry; people who still fish strictly for the sheer pleasure of it. There is a lot of “stoke” walking the aisles at the consumer shows, and from Denver to Somerset, New Jersey, what’s seemingly become the “fly fisherman’s uniform” of plaid shirt and ball cap prevailed.
Each year, trade shows seem to prove yet again to be a somewhat unexpected business place for industry folk. For a truly small yet global industry, trade shows allow professionals to come together, network, and make plans for future collaborations. Venue veterans will smirk and tell you the true business gets done at night in various bars. It’s true. The daytime is spent talking with the consumer side of our business, but walk into a nearby bar in the evening and you’re sure to see company owners, fishing celebrities, and various outdoor media huddled around tables discussing new projects.
And while we love these evenings—and the entirety of the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show (IFTD) each July for the sheer amount of business we can get done when we’re all together—there’s something powerful in interacting with consumers. As industry professionals, often we can’t really get away from fishing… it’s our workday, our downtime, and more often than not, our mealtime conversation. Truth be told, we burn out a little bit. Become jaded. It’s easy to lose perspective of where the sport fits into the larger frame of things.
But talking to recreational fishermen can bring back some perspective. At the end of the day, these are the people we’re in business for—the dads who are introducing the next generation to conservation, the 20-something guy who eats Ramen noodles so he can buy a new fly line each season, the recently-retired woman looking for something to get her outside. This is fly fishing.
Fly shop staff, guides, and lodge staff have frequent interaction with consumers; they’re part of the rhythm of business. But for some people in our industry —manufacturers, conservation organization staff, designers—it can be harder to get that interaction. Don’t lose sight of the “average Joe”— the same Joe, in point of fact, who helps keep our sport alive. Walk the aisles of the consumer shows or talk to that guy who is wadering up at the fishing access point. Go to a fishing film tour and just take in the magnitude of enthusiasm a theater full of anglers can generate. Yeah, sometimes the industry is a slog (especially, in the Northern hemisphere, this time of year) but remember there are a lot of folks out there who still like to fish just for fishing’s sake. Talk with them. Listen to them. Be inspired by them.
Jess McGlothlin, along with other writing and photography work, is directing communications efforts for AFFTA. She can be reached at [email protected]