By the editors of Angling Trade
Fly fishing is at a crossroads.
Sure, there has been a massive influx of people who want to fish. We’ve seen more “participation” since the onset of the pandemic since anyone can remember.
But is that ultimately a good thing? What does that matter to a retail business when the supply chain remains broken?
We’ve heard from so many upset dealers… “I can’t get hooks, or half of what I ordered”… “I ordered 20 rods, and got 4”… “I made a preorder for last spring, and didn’t see anything delivered until fall, after the fishing season (but I still got the bill).”
We know some retailers want more answers, but we don’t know what else to tell you other than you’re not alone.
“How relevant are sales reps in all of this?” Are they taking the fall? Who needs the middle man?
Nobody hides the fact that manufacturers are more keen on selling direct than ever. A new wader company enters the market with only a handful of retailers in one region of the country. This isn’t coincidence. Direct-to-consumer is big money.
To qualify as a “pro” these days requires only a couple things—an email address and a pulse. And everyone wants a pro deal. What does this look like for retailers now and three years from now?
It used to be that the fly shop was safe harbor, because it was the last bastion of the greatest commodity of all—information. If someone wants to know how to fish, where to fish, and what to use, they go to the fly shop. But now, they can watch a YouTube video. That’s just as good, right?
“Guiding is what has saved our bacon these last couple years when we couldn’t get all the product we wanted to sell.” We’ve heard that one over and over.
“I’ve never seen angling pressure like this. The rivers are so choked with guides, and day trippers, it’s an absolute circus… a joke… disgusting.” We hear that one over and over also.
Maybe that’s just a cycle, and things will equalize, but we know for a fact that fish populations are declining on some rivers as angler days go up. How are we going to figure a solution out?
How do we manage the crowding issue? Ah, sure… public access. Now there’s one we can all agree on… or can we? Private water is worth a lot now, and people will pay to get away from the masses.
How about diversity? Diversity in terms of a consumers starts with diversity of fly-fishing opportunity, and right now 75 percent of the fly world (e.g. product SKUs) still revolves on an axis of trout.
These are the best of times… and the worst of times. The degree to which we work together, maybe think a little beyond every interest for itself, will ultimately dictate which way this sport heads. And it will determine the future viability of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association.
AFFTA’s executive director Lucas Bissett is keenly aware of that. Our next story is a chat with Lucas… stay tuned. And stay tuned for the straight skinny from the show floor.