Interesting stuff in the mail this week. Two in particular
were especially interesting from the difference in attitude.
The first was a Press Package (most
outdoor writers who are members of the Outdoor Writers
Assoc. of America (OWAA) get such press packages or at
least press releases from everyone in the outdoor industry)
which came from Mad River Canoe. Actually it's a little
hard to tell exactly since the letterhead also had Wilderness
Systems, Trinity Bay, Voyager, WindRider and Confluence
At any rate, included was all sorts
of neat color fliers of happy folks in kayaks and canoes,
for each of the companies I just mentioned. The neatest
part was the information about something called, "You
Can Paddle! Days."
Quoting, "In a effort to bring new
people into paddlesports and to support their dealers,
Mad River Canoe and Wilderness Systems will bring
their joint You Can Paddle! Days
promotion to more than 200 venues in the United States
beginning this March. This year's program, offered in
partnership with dealers and co-sponsored by Chevy, will
offer dealer and staff clinics and on-water consumer
Reading further I discover this is
not something new, but a program previously know as
"You Can Canoe! Days," was established by Mad River
Canoe in 1985 and has introduced thousands of people
to canoeing (and the Mad River Canoe product line)
over the past fifteen years. That's very neat!
File that one away, and now comes
the second Press Release. This one is from the American
Fly Fishing Trade Assoc. (AFFTA.) This is a new group,
about a year old, made up of fly fishing manufactures, shops,
outfitters, sales reps, and speciality media. One of the more
important stated objectives of AFFTA is to promote the
sport of fly fishing.
It helps if you have good information
in any business, so the folks at AFFTA commissioned a
recent survey which revealed there are 6.5 million active
fly-fishing participants age 16 or older in the U.S. An
"active" fly fisher is defined as someone who went
fly-fishing three or more times in the previous 12 months.
The survey also found that "10.9
million people have fly fished at least once in the last
12 months, and of this number, 40 percent were men
age 45 or older. Some 25 percent of active
fly-fishers are women, (a substantial increase over the
16 percent who reported active involvement in 1995.)"
"On the average the fly-fisher
has participated in the sport for 16.6 years, owns 2.5 fly
rods, [no pun intended. Editor] and spent an average
of $278 on fly-fishing apparel and equipment in the last
12 months. Eighty-one percent pursued fresh water fishing,
and seven percent enjoyed the sport in salt water,
and 12 percent did both."
That pretty much lets you know
who the survey folks think we are.
Here is the kicker: "Of significant interest
to AFFTA members should be the finding that 18.3 million
people - a full nine percent - over the age of 16 who have spin
cast before with live bait are now interested in trying fly-fishing,"
said Bill Klyn, AFFTA president. "The challenge will be
to develop effective marketing programs to target this huge
Ok, how about a little mental comparison
here. The canoe and kayak folks already have a program to
get people into their boats and on the water. Just maybe
these two groups should be talking to each other? Questions
like how the canoe folks organize and set up their programs?
What works and what doesn't? Time of the year and places
that seem to get the best response?
If AFFTA is serious about promoting
fly fishing, they should be doing more than producing another
book for beginners. (Not that there aren't excellent
ones already on the market.)
It seems to me there should be a program, available
to shops, groups (as in Boy Scout, Girl Scouts, 4-H, Hooked on Fishing,
Pass It On, and such) and local chapters of TU and FFF which provides
a format for a Fly Fishing Day held on the local level. Get fly rods into the
hand of folks who are interested! Teach basic casting, simple bug identification,
just a very basic introduction. Enough to peak the interest of people who,
according to the survey, are already interested.
Should this be of interest to AFFTA members? It
already is. Should it be an interest of AFFTA directors? From the dollar
standpoint I would think so! Will it help fly fishing? Hmmmm - there may be
some conflict on that one, but my bottom line is every new person coming
to fly fishing will bring another voice.
How? JC and I have been teaching fly fishing
and casting for many years. The first time one of our students catches
and releases a fish, that fish becomes THEIR FISH! As fly fishers
we get very proprietary about our fish, and the water they live in.
The folks who do not fish just don't care. Do fly fishers care more than
spin or bait casters? I won't touch that one. I'm not ducking the question,
I really don't hang out with many of those folks, but I do know fly fishers
care a lot. And most got their start with spinning rods and bait.
I realize AFFTA is still a new organization. But
I have a piece of advice, one that is far more important than it may appear
on the surface. It is a carved-in-granite rule which FAOL
lives by: Everyone who works on this website is a fly fisher; Period!
If all the folks working for AFFTA aren't fly fishers,
I would suggest they learn darn fast. Without that, you don't speak the language.
And don't have a clue. Marketing can be a very complex business, but
without the insight of being in the mind of the fly fisher it
The sad part about the fly-fishing business which has
always troubled me is the lack of co-operation and willingness to share
information, or help the other guy. Moreover, the unwillingness to accept
valuable information when offered. (The I'm the guru you're squat attitude.)
Some fly shops are even worse, lying about a competitors product or
bad-mouthing another shop. If the industry is to prosper, and fly fishing
to survive, it's time to stop that crap.
"Develop effective marketing programs" Bill? Try coming
up with a program that supports fly fishing first!
~ Deanna Birkholm
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