I write about brands and the people behind them.
On social media, I photograph logos and will even use the hashtags promoted by corporate marketing.
From time to time, I’ll even promote something and try to steer business towards the company that sells or makes it.
Short answer: I enjoy it.
I suppose that could, and maybe even should, be a sufficient explanation. But I’ll elaborate.
Gear, gadgets, and “stuff” that is useful on the stream has always fascinated me. Also, I love marketing and branding – even outside of the fly fishing industry. Fully aware that my experience on the water is wholly compromised of what I make of it, I also appreciate the prompting or motivation from a well-crafted ad campaign.
Here is an example:
For nearly twenty years I’ve used a vest for fly fishing. With the exception of a brief interruption where I brandished a chest pack, I liked having lots of pockets and with that good dose of nostalgic aesthetic. Lately the whole sling pack thing had piqued my interest. For over a year I watched YouTube reviews, read specs online, and tried on pretty much every sling pack on the market. Some were less than impressive, and others were one or two features away from perfect.
But by and large, most were enormous. Like I said, I love gear. But that doesn’t mean I want all of it with me all the time. I’ve wanted to cut back on what I take out with me. I don’t need six boxes of flies when I’m chasing brookies in the Appalachians. Yet I still desired a pack so that I didn’t have to fill up all my pockets every time I fished.
Around that time I heard an interview with Scott Hunter of Vedavoo. I liked his philosophy, his manufacturing practices, and his products. Honestly, I liked his sales pitch. Simple, better American gear. Then I met Scott, and I liked him. So there you go.
A few weeks later I got my Tightlines Deluxe sling pack and it did practically everything I wanted it to do. Within this flourishing minimalist paradigm I was operating from, there was a place for everything and everything in its place. On the river I can swing the pack around and everything is right where I want it. It is very satisfying. It isn’t the same sort of gratification as catching a fish or being outside, but it is something I enjoy. The organization, the order, and even the work I put in to make it just so.
So consequently, I push Vedavoo. I’m not paid for it, and I wouldn’t even say that I’m rabidly loyal. But I like Scott’s marketing, the story he tells, and his product.
Again, for me this is part of the enjoyment of the sport. It doesn’t come close to personal relationships, the experiences of being in nature, or the rush of chasing fish. But I enjoy it nonetheless.
If someone has a rod and reel they like, and then they grab “whatever” from the sporting goods department to round out their tackle; that’s great. At a moment of frustration, I may even admit that I envy that sort of pragmatic simplicity.
Conversely I do think that, as in anything, someone can take the gear its promotion to the point of obscenity. I’m fine with the professional bass fishermen who wear shirts covered in legitimate sponsorships. I do raise an eyebrow at Joe Angler when he does the equivalent on his Instagram account, only without any of the formal endorsements. Maybe he’s on the prowl for free stuff, but maybe he just really likes the industry.
No matter how hard the purest of us may try to deny it, gear (and the labels on it) is a part of the sport. Just because grandpa always used an old, scratched-up Medalist doesn’t mean that he didn’t appreciate Pflueger. Payne and Leonard weren’t financing film festival offerings that served as backdoors promotional material, but if they came into the market today they very well might.
Fly fishing companies are rarely “the man” or “the industrial complex.” Many brands in this space embody the ethos of the sport and actively protect the resource. And, probably much to their chagrin, they’re almost all pretty small players from a dollars and cents perspective. Even some of the big names endure as labors of love, essentially run as a family business. Lots of newer players are bi-vocational and doing it all out of some basic passion rather than lust for riches.
Because of that fact, and since I personally appreciate it, I’m going to keep writing about gear and brands. I’ll comment on marketing and share new products. I’ll even hop in on promotions or fads from time to time. I love fly fishing, but ultimately fly fishing itself is simply a pastime. The “stuff” of fishing is just another hobby within a hobby. And once again, I enjoy it.