In art, music, or even culinary pursuits, individuals draw inspiration from the places in which they create. A region, a culture, or a landmark can provide the stimulus that instigates or propels the creative process. For Mana Fly Fishing, everything that is wrapped up in a sense of place matters.
Mana is a relatively new player in the fly fishing industry. Established in Rhode Island, but bearing a Hawaiian name, the company was founded to offer something slightly different in a crowded field. “Mana (pronounced mah-na) is this great Hawaiian word that communicates that there is this energy in everything,” says founder Joe Ware. “It really speaks to appreciating nature and seeking adventure, which are absolutely how I see fly fishing.”
More than the pursuit, this philosophy extends to the power of being in a certain place. This impacted Ware when he initially spent time in Hawaii, far away from his native Northeast. The bonefish of the panhandle flats exuded a similar, but different, energy than the steelhead and stripers of home. This, among other things, lead to him founding Mana and synthesizing the influences of two seemingly disparate parts of the same country. Even the logo, three waves symbolizing the Pacific, Atlantic, and inland waters, incorporates the diversity found within the United States.
Respect the Natives is a tagline in the Mana branding. Ware has an interesting take on the common focus on resident fish populations: “Catch and release and special regulations are great. But it has to be more than just protecting certain species at certain times. Rivers are more than just a few fish. Even fish that we’ve introduced, like brown trout or steelhead in the east, have more of a stake in these waters than we do. It is important to realize our impact while fishing; we can improve our fish populations just by being mindful.”
Fish aren’t the only natives that Mana is looking to respect. “I want to contribute to the community, both in fly fishing and in local businesses,” says Ware. Currently, Mana’s apparel is created and produced in New England by Massachusetts and Connecticut companies. He doesn’t seem phased by the extra hurdles that this entails, as the “good vibes” and energy by doing business this way are part and parcel of Mana’s ethos. Plus, it is another way to distinguish his hats, shirts, and gear from the rest of the market.
Gear is forthcoming. “The branding (of Mana) has always been important, but first and foremost we want to be gear and tool oriented,” says Ware. “A few of our first products are in the final stages of R&D, and we’re looking to transition into production soon… here, in America.” No further details were given, but expectations are high for the initial offerings.
Ware will readily admit that the fly fisher has an abundance of choices when it comes to buying a hat, a shirt, or a fly rod. While he surely wouldn’t mind if every angler sported Mana gear, his goal is to have an impact in his native region and also in the life of anyone who can identify with his aesthetic. “The look is familiar, but with a little pop of color. And of course,” Ware adds, “I wouldn’t make it if I wouldn’t wear it. And I wouldn’t make it if I couldn’t make it in the way I’m making it.”