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.

Bozeman Road Trip – And R. L. Winston Rod Company Tour

Simms

My son David, and his wife Jamie and daughter Bridget moved to Bozeman Montana last Spring.

Two weeks ago I made a driving trip over to see them and their new house. A flight would have been quicker but I prefer driving and seeing the country whenever possible. And this was my first solo road trip since I got married.

Coming into Montana was a treat. It’s been about a decade since I’d been there; way too long. As I crested the Continental Divide east of Butte, I recalled it’d been 40 years that month since my first visit to Montana and Yellowstone.

I was living in Idaho Falls at the time while training at the Naval Reactors training site 40 miles west of Idaho Falls. Long, long days and not much sleep was the norm; good practice as it turned out for life later in the submarine service.

But the rotating shift schedule we worked did offer 5 consecutive days off once per month. And that gave me the time to make my first visit to Yellowstone; saw a moose in the park. Coming out on a late snowy Sunday afternoon I saw a man wading in the Madison river. That was my first time seeing someone fly fishing.

Back to the current trip.

The time in Bozeman was fun. Got to see the Simms building – the source for so much gear for so many fly fishers. Sampled the local beer and had a great meal at the Montana Ale Works. Did a quick day trip to Big Sky and West Yellowstone. And just had a wonderful time. Driving out of town I was figuring ways to stay.

Rather than heading back on the interstate, I headed southwest to drive through Ennis and Virginia City on the way to Twin Bridges. Ennis may be among the most storied fly fishing towns around and Virginia City is a historic gold mining town.

The final part of the trip was along the Ruby River, a tributary of the Beayerhead River, which joins the Big Hole River near Twin Bridges to become the Jefferson – one of the tributaries of the Missouri River.

Winston Fly Rods

I got to Winston Fly Rods about 20 minutes early for the daily 11AM tour. Winston Fly Rods sits at the southern end of Twin Bridges, Montana, which has a population of 375 per the last census (the entire county has less than 7,000 people). It was quiet except for the wind. With the rivers and mountains, I thought if you were going to choose a place to build fly rods this would be it.

I was greeted by Adam who asked if I wanted to cast any of the rods while waiting. The office was lined with all the rods in the Winston inventory. I chose the Boron III Plus in a six-weight saltwater version and took it out to the casting lawn in front. It was smooth and easy to cast both against and with the wind. Quite a change from the rod it’s replacing – the Boron III SX.

The tour started near the front of the rod building area and gave me an overview of the rod building process – stopping to indicate a door behind me where the green paint is applied that makes Winston rods so beautiful. He said he couldn’t say much about it except that it’s all proprietary and closely guarded. And later in the tour he said the green thread used for trying on the guides was also proprietary to Winston.

He showed me a rod blank after it comes out of the rolling and heating steps – it looked like the natural finish of a Scott rod. He explained why Winston believes the sanding process is required, by saying they find very small numbers of errors that can only be detected by the operator of the sanding machine. Any blank section that fails at this point is destroyed.

We walked through the various stations in the rod building process. Along the way I met a number of the Winston staff who without exception were friendly and extremely proud of the work they did. I talked to the guy who does all the repair work, the woman tying on a guide on a returned bamboo rod (she said can do all guides on a typical rod in about one hour). While she wasn’t there (it was lunch hour) Adam mentioned they have one woman who has been doing all the script work on the rod (model, weight, and serial number) for over 15 years.

We wound up in the room where final inspections are done. Adam showed me a couple of the rods that were marked for minor rework. He looked at one of the rods and saw the problem. Handing me the rod he indicated where the problem was but I couldn’t see it.

Winston has 30 employees working at the facility; in addition, they have 12 contractors in the local community who do the tying of the guides. It was clear to me everyone of those people build every Winston rod with pride and attention to detail.

I had thought going in the tour would be a quick walk through. But I spent almost 50 minutes on the tour and likely could have stayed longer if I had more questions. As I left the tour Adam invited me to come back anytime I was in the area.

I have appreciated Winston rods for some time. But this tour gave me a peek at what truly makes them exceptional – and that’s the people who put so much of themselves into building them.

And I’m going to have take another look at the Boron III Plus rod.

Sage and Rio To Sell Direct

I saw an article in Angling Trade yesterday that reported that Far Bank Enterprises will begin selling Sage and Rio products direct to consumers (Far Bank already offers its Redington brand direct). There was no press release referenced, and the article was mainly a teaser for a more in-depth report coming soon.

So Far Bank will be doing what Patagonia, Simms, and Orvis – among others – already do: support both retailer channels and direct sales.

I recall concerns expressed when Simms began to offer direct sales; so far, I’ve heard nothing to suggest they’ve hurt their dealers. Maybe it will be the same; we’ll have to wait and see.

More to come.

Simms Bulkley Jacket Review

simms-bulkley-jacket

Living in the Pacific Northwest in fall and winter (and sometimes even late Spring) requires clothing that is built for cold and wet – and that applies whether it’s for daily wear or fly fishing.

I’ve gone through lots of pieces of outerwear looking for something that is warm, windproof, waterproof, and with the two most important considerations: multiple use and comfortable.

I think I finally found what I’m looking for: the Simms Bulkley jacket. Admittedly, I’ve only used around town so far and it may take now until next fall to see how it works on the water. Nonetheless, I think this jacket is already a winner!

The jacket is a hip-length hooded jacket that combines a Gore-Tex 2-layer shell with PrimaLoft ONE insulation, the latter advertised to maintain 96% of its insulating capacity when wet. And the nice thing about this jacket is that the Primaloft ONE is also in the hood and sleeves. The insulation is such that it provides warmth with very little additional insulation required. Even for around town wear (i.e., minimal activity) I’ve gotten by with only a long-sleeved shirt – my arms always tend to get cold. I’d advise considering this a below 50F jacket. Above that temperature the jacket may keep you dry on the outside, but you will sweat (at least I did).

Fit is excellent. I’m 6’and about 195 pounds, and the Large fits me well.

The color is black, with only a subdued fly patch over the left pocket and the Simms brand over the right pocket to reveal its fishing nature. The jacket styling is relatively fitted, meaning it doesn’t hang like a big bag from your shoulders. The two large pockets work as well for cell phones and other electronics as they for large fly boxes. There are two hand warmer pockets that provide warmth; I really like the lining on the knuckle side of the pocket – there’s nothing worse than sliding your hands into a nylon lined pocket that chills the backs of your hands.

And one of the best things about the jacket is the price. At the time of this review it was only $279.95 USD – that’s a steal for what you get.