Al Campbell, Field Editor

May 3rd, 2004

Where Have All Our Senses Gone?
Al Campbell

Where have all our senses gone? Has this really become a world of new, bigger, better and more? If you look at all the stuff the sporting industry is dishing out; you would have to say it has.

Each year at the big Fly Fishing Retailer Show, there is a rush to see what new stuff everyone has to offer. There is a complete section devoted to the new stuff at the show. All the magazines rush to print the first reviews of all the new stuff, and most try to get sneak previews so their articles will be in print first. It is a mad rush; everyone trying to get the first grab at your wallet.

When was the last time a major player in the fly rod business didn't spawn a new fly rod for the big show? We have new actions, new colors, new materials and new advertising techniques to capture your cash. St. Croix makes a name for themselves by advertising that their rods cast as good as anyone else's rods but cost less, then they make a $500 rod for the big show. Not that their rod isn't worth a lot of cash, but does that mean that their other rods don't really cast that good? I'm just picking on St Croix because they are handy, but they all do it, and they all do it each year.

We now have graphite 3 XYZ modulus or some such thing, titanium ceramic scrim, multi-linear and lateral to your neighbor fibers, super dynamic wraps and a lot more confusing stuff that is supposed to make your head swirl and your wallet open. The new actions were designed by monks in Tibet or alien creatures using the most modern computer programs; but nobody will tell you that they were designed by mere mortals, unless those mortals have a big name in the fly fishing world.

If two piece rods are good, but too long, how about three, five, seven or twenty seven pieces? Everyone has a new wet noodle or stiff broom with a dozen sections for the modern man who flies to work. Instead of asking why anyone would want to hinder an action like that, we are expected to open our bank accounts and dish out hard cash for fly rods with too many sections to have a real action. And, we better do it this year because next year there will be new models out that will make this year's additions obsolete.

Then there are fly reels. Yep, new reels every year. The wise folks discontinue reels as they add new ones. The other folks just go belly up when their overabundance of models weighs down their ability to make a profit. However, they all must add new models each year. Did the old models suddenly go bad? In a few cases, yes, but in most cases they just got old. We must have a new reel each year, or we are stagnant.

New fly lines for the new year? You bet! They are slicker, clearer, have more tips, have new tapers and have been blessed by the Pope. We are too dumb to read, so they put pictures of the target fish on the box for us. And, each fish has a line made just for it, introduced one model per year.

It isn't just the fly fishing world either. The camera folks have to introduce at least half a dozen new models each year. So do the rifle scope guys, the binocular guys, the handgun guys, the rifle guys, the baseball bat guys and the list goes on, and on, and on... Everyone has to have a new and improved item to grab your wallet.

New stuff isn't bad mind you, but where does it all end? The new guy is immediately lost in a world full of fly rods and reels and lines. Why do the manufacturers make so many new items? Because their sales on the old items leveled off, and nobody grows on just level sales. If you want to grow, you must have new and improved to convince the consumer to open his/her wallet and spend some cash. It is a tough world and few companies play nice.

Just once, I'd love to see a company say that they were not going to make any new models this year; but instead were going to devote that research and development cash to better service for the dealers and customers they already have. I'm not sure many retailers have a steady enough heart for such news. We have become bigger and better and less in tune with our customers. Nobody spends the money to go to Cascade, Montana or Faith, South Dakota to introduce new folks to fly-fishing. Instead we just make new and improved stuff each year and call it advancement.

And, we wonder why fly-fishing is losing ground in the real world. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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