Last week, the second Fly Fishing & Outdoor Company Holiday Meetup took place in Boston. In the basement of West End Johnnies, a handful of New England enterprises and around fifty attendees spent the evening talking fishing and fishing products.
This was by no means the Somerset Fly Fishing Show. It was something completely different, and something very good. Primarily presented by the Fly Pack and Cheeky, a dozen established and up and coming outdoorsmen and women took a few hours to chat in an intimate setting. It was small, but quaint. There wasn’t the need to hurry around a huge conference hall, and the atmosphere facilitated casual conversation.
I didn’t get a chance to talk with everyone, but here are some quick impressions on those companies I spent some time with:
Cheeky Fishing The bright reels made by Cheeky are eye catching. I was most impressed, however, with their Tyro series. Lightweight and featuring the same high-end disc drag as their premium reels, these large-arbor offerings make an argument for one of the best budget-friendly reels out there. And even though they aren’t neon, they’d still look really good on a trout or bass setup. Along with their fly (and spinning *gasp!*) reels, Cheeky brought some ridiculously lightweight pliers and awesome Wingo belts. I’m a sucker for things colored like a brook trout, and I imagine that the Wingo fish skin everyday belt will be on my waist sometime in the near future.
The Fly Pack I’ve previously written about another monthly fly subscription, and the Fly Pack offers an equally robust service. For anglers that want to try something new on a regular basis, a program like this is a no-brainer. For varying commitment lengths, you can receive a box of flies, gear, or tying materials in a cool little cardboard box every month. A number of boxes were on display, but my favorite was the wooly bugger assortment. Let’s be honest: who among us wouldn’t be better off having a few dozen buggers in a bevy of colors show up at our door?
Rippled Waters The guys from Rippled Waters are looking to help anglers streamline and simplify trip planning, while at the same time keep detailed fishing reports. The concept is simple, but good: instead of coordinating a trip with a buddy through an email chain or a text messaging back-and-forth, Rippled Waters’ free trip planner allows for information to be shared at one consolidated location. Weather, lodging, meals – the possibilities seem to be endless. The more in-depth facet of the service is an online “fishing journal,” which is a fee-based personal fishing database. The where, what, when, and how of fishing trips can be recorded, and if desired, shared. The team is planning on releasing the mobile app early in 2016, and I look forward to playing with some of Rippled Waters’ features.
Tidal Roots I’ll be honest: I know little to nothing about stand up paddleboards. I’ve seen guys do it in the Carolinas and Maine, but I’ve never been SUPing (SUPped? a SUPper?). What I do know is quality craftsmanship and passion, and the folks from Tidal Roots have it. These are beautiful pieces of woodwork, engineered and produced to precise specifications. As I went on about the aesthetics, they were quick to remind me that these boards are serious pieces of outdoor adventure gear. As this market continues to grow, expect to see Tidal Roots have a big impact in in the Northeast and beyond.
Why Knot “Fly fishing lifestyle” brands are becoming the apparel of choice for anglers on and off the water. Why Knot has a bunch of great shirts, layers, and hats that are functional as fishing gear as much as they are trendy for casual wear. Plus, their fish/hook logo is pretty darn cool. They just rolled out a new website with the promise of tons of content and resources, so stay tuned to them on social media.
Presenting the Fly Taylor and Ben were a pleasure to talk to, but their gorgeous fishing videos streaming in the background made it hard to focus. (Watching bonefish flats when it is 40 and windy out will discombobulate anyone.) The Presenting the Fly blog is a New England-focused site with tons of eye-catching content and info. Trout, bass, salt – they have it all, with a contemporary perspective. I was interested in following up with most people from the event, but it was Presenting the Fly videos that I watched on the T on my way home.
Aubut Rods Chris Aubut fishes. His rods make it clear that he takes it seriously. From one-piece saltwater fly rods to stout casting rods, the attention to precision and quality was consistent. “I know a lot of guys like fancy wraps and in-lays,” Aubut said, “but I just want the highest-grade components.” The reality is that the market is big and diverse enough to contain the need for both pretty rods and utilitarian rods. At the same time, a strong argument could be made for the beautiful simplicity of the solid functionality of pieces like Aubut Rods.
Finn Utility One of my fly fishing mentors used an old-school waxed cotton creel to carry his gear. Finn handcrafts pieces with that great aesthetic, but with modern design features. The fly wallets and bags were awesome, but I was smitten with the Essex Side Bag. Not a sling pack and not a waist pack, the side bag would be a perfect fit for a bamboo rod enthusiast on a classic Catskill river… or an awesome way for an urban carp fisherman to carry flies around town. Solid as a rock and versatile for any situation, this bag is going to be a hit. Try to get your hands on something from Finn Utility to literally feel the quality.
American Museum of Fly Fishing Fly fishers don’t need a lot of justification to go to Manchester, Vermont. The fishing and Orvis-ing are great, and the shopping and scenery attract spouses with about as much allure. I’ve done all that a few times, and have unfortunately always neglected the American Museum of Fly Fishing. The museum’s presence at the meetup was timely, as they are preparing a new exhibition on saltwater fly fishing. Boston and the New England coast were instrumental in the development of modern saltwater fly fishing, and the museum brought some significant reels and flies to display.
Badfish TV, Mud Dog Saltwater Flies, and New England on the Fly also had tables, but I didn’t get the opportunity to have one-on-one time with them. Additionally, there were some other groups represented at the event that weren’t formally involved. That is great, and in reality every time I mentioned this website I was doing the same, but out of respect for those who took the time, energy, and financial initiative to put this together I’ll not mention anyone else.
I’ve been to similar events in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and they are always a great change of pace from the enormous expo center shows that take the limelight. The local focus, the smaller companies, and the community aspect are great. I have a lot of respect for retailers and guides that commit to fostering this sort of relational aspect. Buying a dozen flies or visiting a website is one thing, but when you patronize a person you’ve met in the real world and outside of social media it makes the exchange a little more substantial. I believe that folks that take the initiative to transcend their Twitter handles will truly benefit from this, as will the sport that we all love.