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September 4th, 2000

The Salt Lake City Zoo
By James Castwell

At the zoo I watch the animals and they watch me. Circuses are better, there I watch them do things. Then there is the 'Fly Fishing Retailer World Trade Expo' in Salt Lake City, Utah. There I do some of both and so do they. This is the annual migration of those who would promote, produce and control fly fishing for America and beyond, or so they hope.

Once a year most of the major tackle manufacturers from here and abroad meet to show off the latest and greatest of their wares and are descended upon by those retailers and fly shop owners who can afford the time and money to get there. These shows are planned well in advance, by both the manufacturers and the retailers. The booths are signed for, hotel arrangements made, side trips for a bit of fly fishing for some, and dollars budgeted for the event. It is, after all, the sales and buying event of the year. Think it's not big? They even have their own magazine.

Then there are the 'politics' involved. The timing of the 'leaks.' Those well planned offerings from the higher-ups about new stuff that will be held for the show, but always seems to dribble out a few weeks, or even days before it opens. This year's show is September 14. The leaks started about a month ago.

To bring you up to speed, this is about how it works. The manufacturers have 'reps.' These guys hit the road with a brief case full of 'companies.' Some reps have a lot of them, some not so many. Mostly, the more they have the more they can sell to a retailer or fly shop. Some reps have only a few companies, but they are the 'big guys.' It gets complicated, but it works and has for many years. The reps get a commission on things they sell.

Along comes this big gathering in Salt Lake City at the Salt Palace. Manufacturers, retailers, and the reps all in one cage. Fun to watch. This year the game is changing more than usual though. We are finding some 'Godzillas' emerging on our shores. We had a group calling themselves 'StreamWorks' who gobbled up about six small companies last year. That made it a little sticky for some reps who were not sure who was carrying what to whom. They got thru it though. Lately 3M (make that Scientific Anglers) has bought StreamWorks and are making a power play for the major share of the market. Add to that, Sage has new fly rods and another fly line out now, Mustad has a new naming thing on hooks of all kinds, plus the new hook line, Orvis just bought 'Ex-Officio and Teton (the fly-reel company) has a new thing now, a vise! And say, what is all this stuff about 'Titanium' this year? Rods, reels, waders? There will be more I am sure.

With all of the conglomerate-gobbling going on this year, it will be more fun than ever. The reps life just got even more complicated.

You bet we are going, wouldn't miss it for the world. FAOL will be there as working media watching the rascals and trying to sort the wheat from the chaff for you guys. We will like always select something for our 'Pick of the Show.' We do that every year, kinda fun.

I just figured you might like a peek inside of some of the workings of the darker side of fly fishing. By now you have heard, "There's more to fly-fishing than just catching fish." Well, there is. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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