There’s only one major fly-fishing trade show in the United States each year and, unfortunately it was scheduled, then cancelled in 2021. I’m happy to say, however, the show came off in March and early April 2022 . . . but the jury is out: was this show necessary and was it worth the exhibitor’s and media’s investment?
Called the International Fly Tackle Dealer show, held in Salt Lake City, Utah this year, it was originally created so dealers could take advantage of pre-season discounts on essential products. Over time, and especially this year, dealers weren’t present in numbers seen in the past. In addition, some major manufacturers, including Umpqua, fishpond, Smith, and Patagonia among others, did not secure floor space.
Many of the bigs were present, including Sage, Orvis, Yeti, Costa, Simms, Redington, Thomas & Thomas, St. Croix, Abel, Scott, Airflo, Ross, Scientific Anglers, Monic, Howler, Winston, Sight Line, and NRS. And from a media perspective, that made the show well worth attending.
Basically, because of that lack of dealers the media had access to product designers and manufacturer reps almost any time it wanted. We could ask questions, get the lowdown on new product for 2022 and beyond, and most importantly we were able to talk, face-to-face, as covid restrictions have eased throughout the United States. No masks required.
The show provides several casting ponds and media was able to cast whichever rods we choose to throw, my standout being the new Sage R8 series. I’d had several people ask me to cast those rods while attending the show. They were skeptical about the price of the rods and what they might provide. Threw the 8-weight first and the 6 after that. Here to report that those sticks are sweet. They have more sensitivity than the Method and ONE, and they throw extremely easily and far. I was speaking with one of Sage’s product gurus and he summed it up best—“Less is more with this rod. Just let it work and it will put it way out there.” He was right.
When the show came to a close Simms was loaded up best product awards. These included: G3 Guide Stockingfoot Wader; Women’s G3 Stockingfoot Wader; Flyweight Access Boot; G3 Guide Jacket; Women’s Freestone Jacket; Women’s SolarFlex Cooling Hoodie; Dry Creek Z Sling Pack; Fall Run Insulated Hoody; Men’s G3 Stockingfoot Waders.
Granted, there weren’t as many entries in the New Product Showcase as we’d seen in past years. In fact, when I visited the new product arena on opening night, some categories were represented by a single product. Still, it was exciting to see the innovation.
Repeatedly during the show manufacturers lamented their supply chain woes, noting unprecedented growth in fly fishing. Unfortunately, pandemic production issues are keeping the industry from reaching the full potential of that growth, including a spike in fledgling fly-fishers.
Which leads to travel. The space is in high demand right now and openings are limited. Some key lodges are already booked out through 2023, leaving potential guests just hoping for cancellations and an opportunity to sneak in the back door. I mean this with total honesty and in the best interest of FFI clients: if you aspire to enjoy the lodge experience in 2022, 2023 and/or 2024, it’s time to get your name on the books.
While business took place at the show there was plenty of time for fun. Costa, Simms, Bajio and others hosted in-show parties with beer taps a’flowing and music playing, including an hour-long session by Miss Elle at the Bajio booth. After-parties went on at local theaters, including the Drake Awards. As I headed to the Drake party one evening I could not help but notice with a laugh the irony of the Utah Dental Association’s gathering, which took place on the same dates at the Salt Palace. The lights had just been turned off (literally) on the raucous IFTD crowd, someone with a microphone screaming, “Leave! That means now!” I wove through people now finishing off their beers in the hallway and passed a sign put up by dental folks. It read, Ice Cream Social, please join us at Exhibit Hall C.
As I passed Hall C I saw nary an IFTD attendee headed toward ice cream. But inside I saw wide eyes and mouths agape. Shocking to them I suppose, but certainly part of the reason we fish. Big time comradery. People living large and having fun. I hope it never ends.