When I started writing this blog, I intended to highlight new & small fly fishing businesses. While the companies below fall into those categories something else also stuck out; they all bring innovation to the sport. We correlate the latest and greatest with the big guys, but I’m finding tremendous ingenuity from these small companies who focused on solving a problem rather than rounding out a product portfolio.
Tacky Fly Fishing inspired this blog when I stumbled across their Kickstarter video. I typically switch up my fly box system every year, but the last handful of seasons I stuck with the Orvis Super Slim Fly Boxes. I thought they were as good as it gets, but watching the Tacky video made me take a more critical look. The Orvis box foam does wear quickly and warps, the adhesive loosens and after a season the clasp is worn out. So I emailed Tim at Tacky Fly Fishing and was impressed by the thought put into the pending product line. As professional guides they work gear harder than the average angler and developed a box to survive the toughest conditions. What they came up with is a box with a silicon insert instead of foam to hold the fly securely and which is impervious to wear. The material is fully glued to the box which won’t warp and the clasp is replaced with magnets. With this much innovation I’m amazed they are able to keep the price point comparable to the Orvis boxes. Their Kickstarter campaign concludes Sunday Jan 12, 1:03am EST and they already reached their goal, but you can still get in as a backer and secure a first fun fly box due out in July.
Flyvines, out of Missoula Montana, creates functional and stylish gear from recycled fly line. They set out five years ago developing the concept and started selling product for the last two. Each piece is hand braided and one of a kind. They make everything from lanyards, bracelets, keychains, retainers for sunglasses, and other fly fishing accessories. Fly fishermen are great at upcycling, turning an Altoids tin into a fly box, waders into wallets and now fly line into accessories. The lanyard is especially versatile. Minimalists will keep just their floatant and hemostats handy, while gear-heads will string them with tippets, split-shot or as they say “enough tackle to fill a small fly shop.” Behind it all is the focus on the environment. 90’ of line multiplied by let’s just say several reels/persons equals a lot of waste. I imagine Missoula alone will keep them in good stock!
SmithFly Design is the elder statesman of the list starting the development process in 2010. No matter how good a product is it rarely feels custom. Wouldn’t it be nice to organize the location of pockets and pouches not just what you put in them? Ethan Smith founder and principal of SmithFly Designs thought so and set out to design packs for fishermen to “compile their own gear based on their own needs.” At some point every entrepreneur needs to take a leap of faith. Ethan got his sign when Gray’s Sporting Journal selected a piece of his writing for publication. When the royalty check came he took the money and started the SmithFly business. His product is influenced by the military’s Molle design, a system of webbing ladders weaved together to create a strong and durable attachment for the pouch. Infantry, pilots, medics, and mechanics configure their own gear based on a specific task. SmithFly Design is also a company built on principle; all products are made in the U.S. with focus on sustainability and environmental consciousness.
Colter Compound Rods is so new I don’t have a lot of information on them, but I’m intrigued. The founder is Colter Day out of Utah, and who knows he could be the next Don Green of Winslow Rod Company. From what I could find about compound rods, they were originally developed by Jerry Kollodge a retired aerospace engineer in 1996(courtesy of http://www.ffpc-rods.com). Compound rods use multiple materials throughout the blank. Colter has patented technology which “combines” the strength of graphite and the touch of glass. Colter Compound Rods will launch its site by the end of January 2014 with 4, 6 and 8wt rods available. Certainly a company to keep an eye on.
Eat My Fly Outfitters was started by Matt Buglovsky and just launched in October of 2013. Like me, Matt has a day job and is passionate about fly fishing, but still found time to build his company. Eat My Fly Outfitters' lineup includes hats, beanies and shirts. Look for new products coming in February. Matt’s not reinventing the hat or shirt, but he is bringing his style to the fly fishing world and he’s doing things the right way. He relies on grassroots marketing and a loyal following to grow his business. All products are designed and produced in the U.S. Matt generously donated product for the Project Healing Waters Fundraiser and is a strong supporter of his channel partners. For those reasons I’m a fan of EMF Outfitters.
Risen Fly is a growing online fly shop with an emphasis on quality and value. Some folks perceive fly fishing as an intimidating undertaking not just in technique, but in cost. Risen Fly provides anglers a low cost point of entry into the sport. But Risen gear isn’t just for the newbies, I field tested some of their products and they rival the more expensive brands. For example, the soon to be launched ITB rods have some very thoughtful features I haven’t seen anywhere else. Look for a gear review shortly. I also picked up the very popular Alpha Fly Line. I don’t know anywhere else you can get quality line for $25. Ryan promotes special discounts on his social platforms so be sure to follow for great deals (I got the line for ½ price!).
HMG Fly Tying Systems is a new method of tying flies. Technically I suppose “tying” isn’t always an accurate description given some of their patterns require no thread at all. I first came across using hot glue in an issue of Fly Tyer Magazine. It intrigued me so I raided the craft closet for a hot glue gun and had at it. Needless to say it didn’t turn out how I hoped. I put the idea aside until I came across some fantastic looking flies from HMG Systems posted on On The Vise. I connected with the creator Joe who explained how he worked on it for four years refining and tweaking a hot melt glue application process and created HMG Fly Tying Systems. He launched the website only last year, but has been sharing the philosophy over the years at the Sowbug Roundup. Each kit comes with instructions on how to tie a variety of patterns, but once you get the handle on the application the possibilities are endless. Fly shops are starting to notice as Rainy’s picked up 9 patterns for their catalog with more in consideration. I’m excited to see what develops as the tying community gets more familiar with the HMG Fly Tying System.
I appreciate those who create solutions to problems and have the courage to make it their business. It’s hard to get traction in this competitive industry and often good products don’t make it to the masses. I’m not anti-big business by any means, but I’m happy to support companies who think beyond their size.