Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2012 IFTD - The Wrap Up

After being on a plane or on the road for most of the past two weeks with a last minute trip to California and then to Reno to attend the International Fly Tackle Dealer show this past weekend, it's been good to decompress a bit and get caught up on a few things.  IFTD was a really great time but it's sure good to be home.

This was my third year attending IFTD and it's been a really neat experience to meet up with a lot of the same people year to year and to make quite a few new contacts as well.  I still don't pretend to know everything about AFFTA and the politics and inner workings of IFTD but I certainly have a different perspective than I did after attending my first show a few years ago.   

Whether you're a fan of AFFTA or not, it would be tough to deny that they didn't do a great job of organizing this year's IFTD event.  The show floor was well laid out under bright lights and there seemed like less undesireable space along the back walls and in the dark which I heard complaints about last year from several companies.

Attendance seemed to be similar to last year which was a bit disappointing but most that I spoke to weren't really expecting the numbers to be to much different than years past.  It will be interesting to see what the final numbers are from AFFTA.   

Besides what was going on the show floor, there were dozens of breakout sessions which covered subjects such as sales ideas and concepts for retailers, fly rod design trends, women in fly fishing, AFFTA's future relevance, and even a blogger roundtable which was a solid learning experience as well.  A lot of conversations were started from these sessions and kudos to AFFTA for organizing and growing this aspect of the show.

Created with flickr slideshow.

I looked back at the IFTD posts for the past couple years and the reporting was a bit exhaustive and since I have a full plate of other things that need to get done around here I thought that I would just put together a list of my favorite dozen companies and pieces of gear that rose to the surface in my mind at this year's show.

ABEL CLASSIC REEL - I'll be honest and tell you that the Abel Classic was both my choice for Best Freshwater Reel as well as the overall Best of Show.  The Classic is just gorgeous...especially with solid sides and completes the Classic Reels family that Abel offers perfectly as the smallest of the lot.  The Abel Classic is priced at $450, has a very solid click and pawl drag system, and I can imagine this reel completing several of my most favorite glass outfits.

COSTA SUNRISE 580P - For the past couple years I've been wearing exclusively Costa 580P and 580G sunglasses and have been nothing but impressed.  Costa's latest offering is the Sunrise 580P lens which will turn up clarity on the water in low light such as early in the morning or late in the evening.  In short, Costa has created another lens to add to their spectrum of choices and is available in their most popular frames with prices starting at $159.

FISHPOND WESTWATER COLLECTION - When I received the press release on this series a few weeks ago I put checking out these pieces near the top of my list for IFTD.  I wasn't disappointed and each gear bag of the collection is impressively designed and looks to be as waterproof as a piece of gear can be with a zipper.  I am especially keen on the Westwater Backpack for wet day trips and the Rolling Carry On which comes complete with removable backpack straps for travel from the plane to the backcountry.  The eleven piece Westwater Collection is priced from $30 for the Pouch to $390 for the Large Rolling Duffel which has over 6,800 cubic inches of space.

FLYMEN FISHING COMPANY - I've known Martin Bawden of Flymen Fishing Company for several years now and it seems that every year he has several new products to show at IFTD and the consumer shows that he attends over the winter that are always a step forward in fly tying.  This year was no different with the Senyos Articulated Shank catching my eye.  The Senyos Articulated Shanks are available in five bright anodized colors and in two sizes to cover the bases for all your swinging steelhead flies needs.

HOWLER BROTHERS - I've had a really good relationship with this company since their start a couple years ago and besides being some of the nicest fellows in the industry they continue to push out some of my most favorite warm weather apparel with their Aransas and Pescador shirts, among others.  New colors and plaids coming for next spring to these shirts and a few other surprises as well. 

KORKERS KGB WADING BOOTS - The KGB is Korkers guide worthy wading boot and a bit of a departure in design from their previous offerings in a couple ways starting with the absence of the Boa System, which I like, but in the end I think laces are a bit more dependable in the long run and easier to fix on the water if required.  The KGB looks durable, lightweight, and has excellent upper ankle support as well.  The Korkers KGB Wading Boots will be priced starting at $210.

MONTANA FLY COMPANY -  MFC followed last year's two award win with another two award win this year and brought it with new fly boxes, the expansion of their artist series products from iPhone covers to fly reels, and won Best New Saltwater Fly Pattern with the Crabby Patty and Best Fly Box/Storage System with the MFC Waterproof Fly Case. 

ORVIS SAFE PASSAGE GUIDE SLING - Orvis's big push at the show was the Helios 2 (not glass...) and the Sonic Pro Waders but what caught my eye most was the new Safe Passage Guide Sling which will be available come November and priced at $139.  The Safe Passage Guide Sling is 900 cubic inches of well designed space and will hold fly boxes, accessories, and your DSLR with a lens or two as well.  The trout digi camo is pretty cool as well.

PATAGONIA STEALTH GEAR BAG - Patagonia has been building their Stealth line up for the past couple years and for 2013 have added the Stealth Gear Bag which boasts over 2,000 cubic inches of space with a wide mouth opening and molded EVA foam bottom to help keep things dry.  The Stealth Gear Bag will retail for around $150 and be available in January.

RISING - Not satisfied with the quality or source of the products that his company was producing, Dylan Rothwell has worked over the last year to keep production in-house on any many of his tool offerings as possible.  Also of note the Flask Pack 2.0, this year in digi camo and a few other small adjustments, won the award for Best Chest Pack/Vest. 

SAGE CIRCA - In an age of fast action broom sticks how did the Circa win the Best of Show award?  I don't know but it tells me that the fly fishing industry as a whole might not be as jazzed about laser loops and airing out an entire fly line as I first thought.  Maybe other fly rod companies will follow suit with stepped down actions in their graphite offerings.  The Circa is premium priced at $745 to $775 but if you're looking for a tech forward slow action graphite fly rod it is certainly worth a look.

Confession...I cast it and I liked it...but don't expect T.F.M. to be renamed The Graphite Manifesto any time soon.

UMPQUA - It's Umpqua so you're thinking flies or fly boxes...right? about gear bags and packs and some very well designed ones at that.  The team at Umpqua paired with a talented design firm and are set to release a mix of six packs and bags which will push them firmly into the soft goods market.  My opinion only but the Deadline 3500, which is a compact wet/dry duffel, is the gem of the series and looked just about perfect for keeping waders, boots, and gear straight for after work and short weekend trips.  The Umpqua offerings range in price from $100 to $180 and will be available in January.

That's my favorite dozen companies and upcoming gear but check out the full listing of IFTD Best of Show Awards.

Follow along on both Midcurrent and Angling Trade as they have been and will be talking shop as well with their own favorites from the show.

If there is something you do a lot of at IFTD it's talk.  Conversations are heavy on covering gear, companies new and established, but the future of the IFTD show was a constant subject with everyone as well.  Surprisingly there was absolutely no talk however, even with people affiliated with AFTTA, about IFTD staying as an independent show and everything was directed to merging with another trade show such as Outdoor Retailer or iCAST.  There are pluses and minuses to both potential suitors and it will be interesting to see where the show ends up next year.  My vote would be to merge with Outdoor Retailer but it's sounding like iCAST might the direction it's all going.  An announcement is supposed to be made early in September on AFFTA's future plans for IFTD.

Even if and when IFTD does merge with another industry trade show will it succeed?  I left the show wondering that in the age of the internet, social media, a steady stream of press releases, and company reps doing good service to their fly shop clients if IFTD as a trade show is even reliant anymore?  Fewer and fewer fly shops and gear companies attend IFTD each year because they really don't need to.  Manufacturers employ media and public relations companies or handle pushing out new product information in house, while fly shops have already seen and handled most of the upcoming year's gear from a visit by their reps and can place their orders with just a few minutes at their computer.  Truth told gear companies and fly shops really don't need to attend the show for the reasons that they did twenty years ago...and maybe they won't ever again.   

At the end of the day what IFTD does right is networking...both during business hours and likely even more so after the show floor lights are out.  The person to person contacts and company to company connections are invaluable and necessary to move this industry forward.  In truth IFTD is much more than just the parties and the late nights out.  It's about conversations and ideas between the brightest in this industry and making those ideas happen.  It's all really neat to see and be a part of but how does AFFTA communicate to those that they hope will consider attending future IFTD events?  It can be a tough sell no doubt since it's hard to put a dollar amount on the benefits of attending IFTD as a networking and think tank event and it will be interesting to see how things progress (or not) from here on out.  

If you've read T.F.M. for any length of time you know that I care about the fly fishing industry immensely and wish AFFTA success as they make decisions on the future of IFTD and what it will be in the years to come.  



Very nice report! Cameron,
Thanks for sharing!!

Sanders said...

Sounds like it was a great opportunity to meet and catch up with people. Hopefully I can make it next year, in whatever form it takes on.

Brian L. Schiele said...

Outdoor Retailer has been coming to Utah for many years now, and while I have never been it's a huge convention for the Salt Lake area and state, so I say merge with OR!