Industry News: Tom Morgan Rodsmiths, Simms

A few interesting news items from the business side of fly fishing.

Tom Morgan Rodsmiths is opening a shop in Bozeman Montana. The new owners, who bought the company from Tom and Gerri Morgan before his death in June 2017, plan to continue the dedication to custom craftsmanship that Tom Morgan Rodsmiths was built on. The shop will be next to the north Bozeman River’s Edge Fly Shop. You can read more here.

I plan on visiting it on my next trip to Bozeman – hopefully next year.

Simms has announced that Bart Bonime, who led the fly fishing marketing at Patagonia, will be joining the Simms team. He joins former Patagonia CEO Casey Sheahan, who is now Simms’ CEO. Read more here.

It will be interesting to see what this means for the next couple of years of product releases for Simms.

No More Fly Fishing Barbie Dolls

The New York Times has an article on how women are the fastest-growing demographic in fly fishing. And like most other things in our society the growth of women participating in fly fishing will be good for everyone.

Manufacturers such as Orvis, Patagonia, and Simms have increased the promotion and offerings of clothing and gear designed and built for women – not just having small and extra small sizes. Greater numbers of women will provide opportunities for more sales based on growth and not just replacement sales. Women will travel to destination fly fishing locations just like the men.

But this growth and promotion is not just about gear sales and travel dollars. It’s about acceptance and respect.

Women guides will offer different perspectives and means of coaching and instruction that will benefit all their clients. Women will be respected for their skills in fly fishing and accepted as full participants in the sport, not just as bikini-clad models at shows and in advertising – “no more Barbie dolls” as April Vokey calls them.

Reading the article made me cringe in terms of how women have been treated by fly shops, fellow guides, and even clients. As a society we should be long past that behavior. But as in most struggles for acceptance there is a long wade ahead as older ideas give way to younger ideas and young women.

You can read the article here.

Fly Fishing The Greater Yellowstone: Lessons Learned

Firehole River Yellowstone National Park

Any experience, or set of experiences, in life will result in memories; hopefully more good than bad. But experience without an opportunity to learn from that experience means

Travel, and most life experiences for that matter, result in memories – hopefully more good than bad. In addition, if we pay attention to what we’ve seen and done, there are lessons to be learned.

Don’t Overlook the Obvious

I spent months working on the itinerary, planning and making reservations for our stays, deciding where to fish rivers; what flies we might need – with some to buy here and others to buy from local shops; which rods to bring (a 5 weight Scott Radian and 6 weight Sage Accel for me; two Reddingtons – a 5 weight and 6 weight for my wife); water temperatures; and last minute weather forecasts to figure out which clothes to bring.

The only thing I didn’t think about was waders.

I use Simms G4Z waders in Puget Sound. Unless it is very hot and midday, I’ve never found them to be too warm. Given those were the only waders I had, I wore them on our first morning on Rock Creek. It took very little time to realize I was overheating. At it hit me at that moment that I had never thought when packing them that they would be too hot for where we were going. I made it through the morning but decided I’d need to buy a lighter pair.

During our stay in Bozeman, I picked up a pair of Patagonia Rio Azul waders at the Orvis dealer, Fins and Feathers They worked great for the rest of the trip. Light and easy on/off, they were a life saver.

Next trip to Yellowstone – unless it’s winter, I’ll leave the Simms G4Zs at home and take the Rio Azuls.

Changing the Paradigm

I watched a fly fisherman while we were on the Henry’s Fork. He was upstream of us and stood in the middle of the river unmoving for what I guess was at least 45 minutes. He then shook his head and moved down and off the river. I got a chance to share a few words with him a bit later and saw that he had a dry fly on a bamboo rod.

During that same time he was standing in the river, my wife and I were swinging nymphs, getting hits and landing a nice Rainbow trout.

The Henry’s Fork has renown as a dry-fly fisherman’s dream. Most people go there with the hopes of catching a rising trout on a dry fly. We did. But when it was apparent there were no hatches underway we switched to nymphs and had a great time.

Perhaps that fly fisherman would rather stand in the river and catch nothing than switch flies and go with a nymph. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There are many people who think of fly fishing as only using dry flies. For me, dries, nymphs, and streamers are all ways of catching fish.

Of course then there’s the flip side.

While we were using nymphs for the entire trip, we basically stuck to a tight line swing. That worked well on the wide easy moving Henry’s Fork, but not on the pocket waters of the Madison and Ruby.

Over the years,I have disdained indicator-type nymphing as clunky casting and as too much like the cane pole and bobber fishing on the first fishing I did as a child in Missouri. But the guy who pulled the 20-inch brown out of the Ruby was using a round indicator as were all his friends.

Eventually I bought some indicators. Being rigid in one’s thinking doesn’t always bring in the fish.

It is What It is

I had first seen someone fly fishing in 1975. It was a cold snowy Sunday in October and I was heading out of Yellowstone on the west side road. In the area of 7 mile, I saw a lone fly fisherman casting in the light snow. That image has stuck with me ever since.

But, in all the years since, I had never gone fly fishing in Yellowstone. Until this year.

And as I recounted in the previous post, it was a bust.The Firehole and Gibbon rivers were already in late summer conditions – too warm for fishing. The Madison was running dirty in high winds.

It was a bit disconcerting. But then again I knew we had other rivers to fish and we were in Yellowstone National Park and I was fly fishing there.

No success is guaranteed. Fly fishing on Puget Sound reflects that. As I once heard it described by Jason Cotta from Orvis Bellevue, “the only thing consistent is the inconsistency.”

Already being back home I smile when I think about how I finally got to fly fish in Yellowstone. There was magic even in that. And it’s only a very long days drive from here.

New Perspectives

This is the first vacation, now more properly termed a trip, since I retired last year. So this was the first time I did not have to return home and dread thinking about returning to a corporate job. And so it’s been possible to savor all the experiences and live with a different sense of time than when one’s return to work with all its overburden of pressures and stress crush the life out of the experiences.

It made me appreciate that this next stage of life has even more rewards.

Fish Fundamentals and Responsible Angling

This spring has been slow in the South Puget Sound for finding Sea-Run Cutthroat (SRC) Trout. Even my nearby beach, which tends to be prolific on an outgoing tide, has been barren this year. The last three times I was there I caught nothing, with not even a hit.

I was discussing that with the guys down at the Gig Harbor Fly Shop – and one of the guides mentioned that he’s noticed in the relatively few years he’s been around here that the SRC population appears to be much less than it used to be.

There may be many reasons for that; my opinion is that the fish are sensitive to the growing pressures on them from the urban and industrial pollution and runoff that surround Puget Sound. That is only going to get worse as the impacts of climate change bear down upon them – and us humans.

One may argue cause and effect, but one thing that seems inarguable is that anytime we come in contact with fish in our sport activities we should do whatever we can to protect them so we, and others, can continue to enjoy our sport.

Patagonia’s The Cleanest Line has an article by Andy J. Danylchuk, PhD on how to properly handle fish – whatever the species.

He recommends the usual practices: matching rod and line to the species; using a barbless hook; and keeping the fish in the water as much as possible.

Other recommendations may come as a surprise to those who have sought “hero shots” in the past. He recommends not lipping a fish (holding it by its lips) as that can put undo torsion on the head and vertebrae. Even holding a fish in a net (in the water) is to be avoided, as it’s a risk to the fish; much better to keep the fish totally submerged and use a forceps to reduce the hook.

Underwater cameras, as Andy points out, are becoming mainstream. One hopes the new ethic for fish handling and the “hero shot” is that of the fish kept totally submerged, underwater held only briefly until the shot is taken and the hook removed by a forceps.

The “new normal” may mean treating sport fisheries as the precious resource they are.

You can read the article here.

Yvon Chouinard: Finding Perfection in Fly Fishing through Simplicity

Chouinard Tenkara

The latest issue of the Big Sky Journal has an interview with Yvon Chouinard. The focus on the interview is on Tenkara fishing and finding simplicity in fly-fishing.

Read any of what he’s written or said, and it always comes down to the guiding principle for Patagonia from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in Wind, Sand, and Stars, “In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.”

He has embraced that through his love of Tenkara fishing. As he says in the interview, “the more you know, the less you need.” Tenkara, if you’re not familiar with it, is an import from Japan that involves only a telescoping rod, a line, and a fly.

Beyond his love for Tenkara fishing, he had something interesting things to say on the rest of the fly-fishing industry: “Fly fishing has built itself into a corner,” he reflects. “There’s a dad with so much gear, the kid looks at it all and goes ‘forget it.’ The daughter looks at macho fly-fishing magazines and doesn’t want to do it. It’s a dying sport, dying so fast you can’t believe it.”

And later, “The industry survives by convincing consumers the only way to catch the fish of a lifetime is to buy more stuff. When did fishing become less about spending time outside, feeling the sun on our faces and the water swirling around our legs, and more about one-upping the guy downstream?”

Some might think that’s too cynical, but his insights have changed the face of the outdoor industry.

Not everyone can use Tenkara gear. Fishing in saltwater (either cold or fresh), chasing steelhead and salmon – regular fly fishing gear with reels and backing is mandatory. In fact, if you’ve seen Buccaneers and Bones on The Outdoor Channel, he’s using a bonefish-weight rod and reel like everyone else.

But principle is the same – take only what is mandatory; the rest is distraction.

You can read the interview here.

Climate Change: A Time to Act

I came across a timely article in Conservation Hawks. Called “A Time to Act”, it was written by Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia), Craig Matthews (Blue Ribbon Flies), Tom Rosenbauer (Orvis), and Todd Tanner (Conservation Hawks). Conservation Hawks is a non-partisan group of hunters and fishers united by a desire to pass on a healthy world for sportsman.

The authors add their voices to the millions of others that see the impact of climate change on our planet. For every one of us, whether as fly fishers or fellow travelers on planet Earth, the time to act is now – both at an individual level by our daily actions as well as by working together to force change.

You can find the article here.

Sling Packs

The fly fishing vest has been the garment that for decades marked someone as a fly fisher. Originally made of cotton canvas, the short-waisted vest with its many pockets was as distinctive as the fly rod and reel.

Over time, the hot canvas vests gave way to lighter, cooler vests made of nylon fabric or mesh. But for many, the vests were still confining or tended to induce carrying too much for a day’s fishing.

Recent years have seen the increasing use of waist packs or sling packs, with the vest, if still owned, relegated to the back of a closet. I gave mine away.

Most of the gear manufacturers have sling packs. Over the last few years I’ve spent time, and money, trying packs from Orvis, Patagonia, and Simms (pre 2014 models).

I found the Simms pack the least comfortable and useful to me. It was more like a waist pack with a sling, rather than a true sling pack. Simms is revamping their line for 2014 and a true sling pack appears to be coming. From what few pictures I’ve seen it looks rather interesting.

Patagonia’s Stealth Atom Sling is an interesting pack that has good size, a water bottle carrier, drop down hard pocket and a nice waterproof internal sleeve. I liked this pack though it has a few quirks I didn’t care for. There is a small padded pocket on the neck strap that has no utility that I can find – too small for sunglasses or a cell phone. The pack itself has a number of places to clip on forceps and other tools. I like things put away so I don’t knock them off – and have done that with forceps on more than one occasion.

Patagonia Stealth Atom

And that brings me to my current favorite sling pack: the Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack. It has two features I really like and make it stand out for me: it has a sleeve forceps on the neck strap; in addition, there’s a sleeve for pliers on the main bag. Both sleeves are secured with magnetic closures. The pack has two pockets that enable me to carry all that I need and not more. It doesn’t have a water bottle pocket (the large Guide Sling does), but I can work around that. And it doesn’t have a waterproof inner sleeve; I bought a waterproof sleeve and that takes care of that need.

Orvis Sling Pack

Give one of them a try.