Monday, August 29, 2011

2011 IFTD - The Wrap Up

I know it's taken me a few days to get this post done but instead of breaking the International Fly Tackle Dealer (IFTD) show down day by day I felt that a complete wrap up with a slide show might be a better way of compiling my thoughts and photographs to cover what I thought were the highlights from this year's show.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

New Orleans played host to this year's IFTD show which set up on an expansive space at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center for three days.  The downtown location made the French Quarter just a short walk and there were many (some might say way to many) options for evening entertainment and ways to get into trouble.

The show itself was twice the floor size with attendance down, by  AFFTA's account, by 15% from last year.  Many of the companies that I  spoke with were disappointed with the attendance of fly shop retailers and the lack of orders being placed during the show.  AFFTA still has got it's work cut out for itself in generating significant interest in participation in the IFTD show and showing their ultimate worth to the fly gear industry as a whole as well.  It will be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of years.

One industry insider that I spoke with raised a very good question of why  IFTD doesn't occur every couple years instead of every year.  Without a yearly industry tackle show would companies still feel the need to drop new products on customers every twelve  months?  Wouldn't there be more incentives for fly shops to move through their  inventory with larger profit margins if they didn't have to slash prices  on gear that they were just able to get into their shop a few months to now make way for the  coming year's latest redesign?  Certainly gear companies would have more time for design and testing before their products are released.  This is something for the industry as a whole to consider and evaluate from all angles.  Does IFTD need to be yearly?

Having never been to New Orleans before I can say it was an experience.  Bourbon Street is everything that people say it is even on a week night when no festival or special event is going on.  A couple thousand fly anglers descending onto New Orleans made for an interesting time indeed.

As far as fiberglass there were just three companies with glass on display with Cortland Diamondback Glass, the Scott Fly Rod Company F2 Series, and Thomas & Thomas Heirloom Series represented at each companies booth. 

I spoke with Nate Dablock of Cortland who said that there were some supply issues with the Diamondback Glass series which had been remedied and that these fly rods should now be readily available for purchase and in fly shops in the coming months.

The Scott Fly Rod Company F2 Series is unchanged for next year and after seeing the new graphite M Series (think high end custom hardware builds) I was  left wishing that they had offered a F2 choice in that series as well.  I'm sure many of the same options, for about the same money, could be done through the Scott Custom Shop if a customer wished for a fully customized F2 build.

I had a long talk with new company owner Mark Richens and Trevor Bross of Thomas & Thomas and I am really excited about the direction they are moving.  Mark Richens was genuine and candid about what they plan on doing to make this fly rod company successful.  The Heirloom Series will go unchanged for next year but Thomas & Thomas will be delivering fly rods to dealers and lining up new fly shops to carry their rod series giving potential customers a chance to consider their fly rods by test casting them instead of wondering. 

In short there were a ton of new fly reels at IFTD ranging from established companies to new small shop upstarts covering all the price points.

On the old school end of things I really liked the fly reels offered by Willow Classic Reels.  These heirloom quality fly reels range in price from $500 to $700 and each fly reel is hand made in a small craftsman's shop in Korea by maker Hak Joon Lee.  These fly reels certainly dispel the myth that everything coming from overseas is mass produced and lacks quality. 

The new school fly reel options are mind spinning and really as an angler you have to decide your budget, what you need the reel for, and which companies you connect with best since there really isn't a bad fly reel out there now.

Abel Fly Reels is offering a couple new fly reels for 2012 including the Abel Spey Reel and Abel Switch Reel which are available with ported and non ported spools.  For an extra $200 you can add a fish graphic finish to your Abel fly reel with Chrome Steelhead, Wild Trout, Atlantic Salmon, and the new DeYoung Series Brown Trout Flank as the 2012 choices.

From my perspective Cheeky Fly Fishing is legit and it was great to meet the fellows behind this new reel company.  They had both the Ambush 375 and Mojo 425 on display and broken down to see the innards.  Their fly reels are solid and though the reel colors are a bit gaudy coupled with a top tier price there is certainly a market for these fly reels with anglers that want something very different with function to rely on.

While Hardy really didn't have anything new in their classic line up, they did introduce both the Ultralite DD (disc drag) and Ultralite CC (clicker version) along with their new salt worthy Fortuna X fly reels.  The Ultralite DD won "Best Freshwater Fly Reels" from Angling Trade though I'd be just as happy with the click and pawl version.  A sharp fly reel at a good price point. 

Hatch Outdoors has redesigned their offerings for 2012 with the Monsoon Series now being called the Finatic Series with a few attractive design tweaks.  There is just something about the blacked out Hatch Outdoors reels that I really like and the function is flawless as well.  A trout sized Finatic might just have to be in my future. 

Nautilus won Angling Trade's "Best Saltwater Fly Reel" with their new NV Series Monster which is a big bad wheel with a five inch diameter and picks up nearly a foot and a half of line on each rotation to handle all your saltwater and big water adventures.  The NV Series Monster is priced at $860.     

Waterworks Lamson hadn't really been on my radar until this past year or so but I kept hearing over and over what a great value with function their Konic fly reels are.  After spending a lot of time on their website and then handing their entire line up at IFTD I am impressed.  This a very neat fly reel company with offerings across the entire price spectrum.  They get it that not every angler has a stack of bills to spend on a fly reel or extra spools and offer several budget priced fly reels as well as a few high end models as well.

I've long been a fan of Airflo fly lines and most interested in the light line Ridge Clear Lines which look to have a lot of application on pressured trout waters.  I was able to carry home one of the Sniper Line Intermediate fly lines in nine weight which might be the perfect match for my eight foot Steffen 8/9 big fish stick for stripers in the river.

Cortland has a few new fly line series for 2012 with the Trout Boss which is their new premier trout fly line, Liquid Crystal which is a clear fly line for tropical salt application, and Competition Nymph which has been specially designed for European nymphing techniques.

RIO Products concentrated most of their efforts for 2012 on their two hander lines with new Unispey, Skagit Versitip, and Scandi Versitip lines and also a new Tarpon Short and Tropical Outbound Short with thirty foot heads and a ten foot clear intermediate tip.

Scientific Anglers expanded their Mastery Textured fly line offerings which include, among others, a new dry fly line called the Trout Stalker and a big fly bomber line called the Titan Taper.  I was able to sneak out of the S.A. booth with a 4WF Trout Stalker and a 8WF Titan Taper.  I'll report in the coming months with my notes on these fly lines.

As I mentioned last week Buff won Angling Trade's "Best General Apparel" with their new Bug Slinger UV Collection.  There are ten Bug Slinger designed Buffs in all and should be a great product for Buff this next year.  Buff also has a new Sport Series Water Glove that looks to be excellent as well.

As usual Cliff Outdoors brought several new products to the show with a very sharp wooden suitcase style tarpon box, a new fly box called "The Deuce" with a block of removable foam with allows anglers to pre-tie tandem rigs up and wrap around the foam.  Lastly, which should be a very popular gift item, Cliff Outdoors has put together a set of cards, dice, and a two piece cribbage board that all fits inside of a fly box for storage.

Besides having the coolest looking booth at IFTD with their decked out Airstream (which I slapped a couple T.F.M. decals on) Costa also brought a few new styles with the Tag series for men and four new women styles called the Hammock, Little Harbor, Tippet, and Islamorada.  I've been wearing several different pairs of Costa glasses over the past year or so with both 580 (glass) and 580P (polycarbonate) lenses and have been nothing but impressed.

Diablo Paddlesports didn't bring any new kayaks (though a couple are in the works) but even more importantly were showing off the new skeg system for their SUP-Yaks which going to be a huge help with tracking on the Chupacabra.  The new fly deck cover will also assist keeping the front of the kayak decks clean so that fly line doesn't grab straps and foot rests.

Along with all of Fish Pimp's accessories line up, they also brought along a new tippet dispenser that is really neat since it holds four small spools of tippet and is complete with line straightener and line snip on the backside.  I want one as soon as they secure a company or two to supply the specialty sized tippet spools needed to complete this product for launch.

Fishpond is using a new lightweight recycled fabric called CYCLEPOND which they have incorporated into several new packs for 2012.  I am most interested in the Nimbus Guide Pack which is large enough to hold fly gear, two large water bottles, and even room left for a DSLR camera and maybe a second lens too.  This large hip pack can be slung with a comfortable shoulder strap and the hip straps are ventilated as well.  This pack is priced right at $109 as well.

The Korkers line up stays largely the same for 2012 with fabric as well as a leather a choice for the Fisherman's Moc and a new Svelte sole option on their wading boots which won Angling Trade's "Best Eco-Friendly" award.  The advantage of this sole is that it is great for rock hopping, drains effectively, and is less adapt to hold invasive species.

L.L. Bean turns 150 years old next year and with it they've put together a few limited edition heritage pieces as well as a new sharply designed BOA River Thread Wading Boot and the Pocket Water fly rods and fly reels.  I heard from more than one person that the Pocket Water fly rods were some of the nicest fly rods they cast at IFTD.

Besides a growing list of choices from Loon Outdoors with floatants, UV items, line dressings, tools, cleaners, and fly tying items, the ingenius Nip N' Sip caught my eye which is one part nipper and one part bottle opener.  The Nip N' Sip is full of function and priced right at $13.  The Nip N' Sip also won Angling Trade's "Best Accessory" award which was well deserved.

Simply put Montana Fly Company brought it to IFTD and not surprisingly ended up winning Angling Trade's "Best Fly Box" award for their very well thought out and priced right Boat Box.  This fly box is waterproof with pre-slotted foam panels and the ability to add a hinged leaf with two more sides of foam panels.  You can literally stuff up to 4,000 flies into the Boat Box if you wanted to.  I am also looking forward to their offerings in their new "Artist Series" with fly reels, fly boxes, iPhone covers, and other items using the artwork of Bern Sundell, A.D. Maddox, Travis Sylvester and Josh Udesen.

The big news out of Patagonia is their new Rock Grip Aluminum Bar Boot and River Crampon wading system.  Honestly I walked into the Patagonia booth a bit skeptical though several people that I spoke to have waded with the new system and said there is nothing like it .  I'm hoping to demo the River Crampon's in the coming months and see how these work myself.  Look forward in 2012 to more gear and wading bags along with a new fly fishing backpack as well.

From waders, to jackets, to clothing, to layering garments Redington had a lot to look at.  Oh yeah...and new fly rods and fly reels as well.  I was impressed with Redington's new look last year but for 2012 they stepped their game up and have a lot for customers to consider at very reasonable price points as well.

For having a corner of the Umpqua Feather Merchants booth, Dylan Rothwell of Rising had on display an impressive line up of products to check out which included the Lippa4Life tool, a very cool barbecue all in one tool, and the Flask Pack which won Angling Trade's "Best Chest Pack/Vest" award.  More information on Rising in future T.F.M. posts.  

Simms has a long list of new products coming out for 2012 but I was most taken with the Catch & Release system which they are using in a couple of their packs which uses a magnet closure to hold the pack and chest pack together and is easily removable as well.  Simms won Angling Trade's "Best of Show" with their ProDry Gore-Tex Jacket, Bib, and Pants which still leaves me scratching my head a bit since this product was specifically designed for conventional tournament anglers but will see some use for from open water fly anglers as well.

There isn't a lot new for William Joseph in 2012 but they did tweak a few pieces from the Old School line and they did have a new, still in prototype stage, MAG Series "space pack" which is very design forward with no zips.  It will be interesting to see what the final product will look like.

There were a handful of new companies that I came across at IFTD with new ideas and products that made sense.  It's always neat to see a new comer in the fly fishing industry with gear that fills a niche that no one else has touched yet.

It was really good to meet the crew from Howler Brothers at IFTD and I was impressed to see the Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 line up as well.  The brain trust at Howler Brothers are bringing new style to the fly fishing industry and even pushing the envelope a little bit as well.  Cowboy style shirts with shrimp embroidered on the shoulders?  I like.

Kast Gear dropped on the scene in the last few weeks and it was neat to get walked through their introductory line up of jackets, waterproof gloves, shirts, and pants.  I really liked the quality and feel of the fabrics Kast Gear is using in their clothing and their price points are in line for what they are offering as well.

I got tipped off about SmithFly in the days leading up to IFTD but had no idea what I was going to find since Ethan Smith was pretty tight lipped about his new company.  Using heavy duty fabrics and stateside sewers the SmithFly modular gear system takes a large gear bag, belt, or vest and gives anglers the ability to add different sized gear pouches which are secured by snaps on the webbing of the base piece.  The system has a tactical look and feel to it and the pieces look like they should never wear out.  Ethan sent me home with an El Poquito which fits in your pocket or belt and held in place with magnets to hold your hemos or pliers and nippers on a mechanical retractor or curly cord.  The El Poquito is priced at $30 and available for purchase on the SmithFly website.

The caps from Twintail Clothing have been a long time coming but it was neat to see Matt Jones creations at his booth.  Look for these smartly designed caps to start showing up in fly shops in the coming year.

Scott Hunter of Vedavoo made the last second decision to attend IFTD and ended up having a great show.  His gear system is well put together with the Chest Pack being able to move from the Tightlines Shoulder Pack or Spinner Daypack or worn alone.

IFTD was a really good event for T.F.M. and I had a great time.  I went with a few specific objectives and was able to work on all of them.  We'll see how things work out in the coming months but I am very hopeful on a few ideas discussed since they could be real positives for T.F.M. in more ways than one.



WOW... that is a HUGE candy store! I bet you just can not have them all! Nice report Cameron, it will take me several days to digest through this excellent post!
so, not much fiberglass rod news?! I wish there are more longer fiberglass rods ... 12-13' would be a perfect range...

deanwo said...

Excellent summary, Cameron. I'm glad you decided to do this all in one post as following "updates" can get old real fast.

Lot's of great gear. I have my eye on those new LL Bean rods. Can you suggest a lightweight glass alternative to compare with?

Cameron Mortenson said...

Mark...huge candy store indeed. I think a couple of shops are working on longer fiberglass.

Dean...thanks. Lightweight glass? What is your budget? There are certainly options.

Allen Springvale said...

Did the Diablo folks talk about what their new models are going to look like? I'm looking to buy an adios, but I'm interested in what else they are planning to unleash.

deanwo said...

Cameron, my budget is probably below the price of new 3 wt. L.L. Bean Pocket Water Fly Rod. ( < $180).

This is on the wish list right now.