Ten years ago, you wouldn’t see many serious anglers fishing fiberglass fly rods. Ten years ago, you wouldn’t see anyone, let alone a “serious angler” fishing a day-glow neon fly rod.
A lot can happen in ten years.
Ten years ago, Blue Halo wasn’t a company yet. At that time, cofounder and current CEO Cortney Boice was starting to become frustrated with his present rod options. “Back when the industry was going through this phase of every rod having to be fast action, I was fishing that kind of rod,” Boice says. “Then I personally went through a phase of losing fish, getting knots in my leader, and finding myself frustrated. I know it was my fault, but I didn’t think my gear was helping me.”
Fortunately, he had a friend who built bamboo rods. “I liked how they casted, and I felt like I was landing more fish.” But the cost of a bamboo fly rod, let alone multiple lengths and weights, was prohibitive. Boice went looking into his past, when he first started fly fishing, for the kind of rod that would be softer than graphite and more economical than grass.
Like many who have taken up fly fishing, his first rod was an inexpensive fiberglass model. The feel was right and the price was right. “The problem was that there weren’t a lot of (fiberglass) options outside of custom rod rollers,” says Boice. “And they had to do manually. Sometimes it would take up to six months to get a rod into your hand.” This didn’t seem reasonable to Boice and his partners. Their own desire to fish glass led to them to ask a simple question: Why shouldn’t someone who wants a fiberglass rod be able to get it as fast as they could get a graphite rod?
It was a void in the industry. But more than a logistical void, Blue Halo would also address an aesthetic void. The monochromatic, earth tone palette of traditional fly fishing gear wasn’t resonating with a growing body of younger anglers. “We knew not everyone would be into it, but we could touch some people,” says Boice. They certainly had an impact as they rolled out blanks featuring bright shades of blue, red, green, white, and even pink. “We snowboard, and we wanted to target that kind of new school person. And more and more we were seeing fly fishing cross over with biking, skiing, and skateboarding.”
As a new generation was coming into the fly fishing community, the old school/new school dichotomy of Blue Halo was in the right place at the right time. Lime green fiberglass fly rods can perform just as well as forest green carbon rods can, and each has their own appeal within a very diverse group of anglers. The same can be said for the color of reels, backing, or hats. The look of a fly fishing catalog is very different today than it was when Blue Halo was founded, but these new looks first caught eyes on the then-burgeoning platform of social media.
There is certainly a good deal of self-awareness regarding the role Instagram has had on Blue Halo’s success. “It is so awesome,” Boice says. “I love with all my heart seeing rod builders do something cool with our blanks.” A quick scroll of any fly fisher’s social media feed will inevitably turn up a handful of custom, unique, and bright fly rods – most of which are probably built on Blue Halo glass.
Although all the attractive and distinctively adorned fiberglass is entertaining to look at, Blue Halo is about creating quality and value. “The blanks are as good as anything out there,” says Boice, “but we’re anglers; we wanted to hook people up with gear at a good price.” Compared to some graphite models that retail close to a thousand dollars, the latest generation of Blue Halo rods top out at just under $330.
And they perform very, very well.
For those uninitiated into what 21st century fiberglass has to offer, the results are a night-and-day contrast to what you might know. Light in hand, moderate in action, and delicate for finesse presentations, the rods are a pleasure to cast. Moreover, they shine when playing all species and sizes of fish. The signature bend of glass looks amazing, and helps the angler fight their quarry.
All of this will be on greater display shortly, as Boice and the rest of the Blue Halo crew take their fly rods and their own special brand of fishing to television. Dirt Bags is set to premiere this fall on World Fishing Network. “The show will add adventure to fishing, add that kind of flavor to everything you see us do,” Boice says. “If you haven’t enjoyed fishing shows, this one will be more fun to watch.” If it is anything in the vein of Arctic Unicorns or The Hidden, hit fly fishing films featuring Blue Halo, this new venture will make waves.
Expanding their footprint into television is just one part of the bigger Blue Halo picture. Saltwater capable rod weights, a line of soft goods, and an industry original hybrid material blank are all on the horizon. All those concepts link to the hub idea that birthed Blue Halo. “Starting the brand was basically an experiment to see if there was a taste for it,” says Boice. “We first focused on the rods, which was sweet, and it just goes from there.”
Ten years ago, a company built around neon fiberglass would have been seen as an underdog in the mainstream of fly fishing. But an experiment that pushed the technological limits of the material, catered to a rapidly growing demographic, and worked wonderfully on the water changed the game. The convergence of evolving tastes in the angling community was met with people, like Cortney Boice and his friends, who took the initiative to boldly build something new.
At the same time, it is just fly fishing. And fly fishers want something that casts well, holds up to the rigors of the outdoors, and, if we’re honest, looks good. For so many, Blue Halo has checked all three boxes. “Bright colors and the most incredible feel; packed with durability,” Boice says. “What it’s all about.”
Head to Blue Halo’s website to see their rods, get plugged into their social media feeds, and stay up to date on their latest adventures.