Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna L. Birkholm

September 21st, 1998

The Salt Lake Retailers Show

The big retail fly fishing show in Salt Lake is over, with lots of wonderful neat things the manufacturers hope we can't live without! Well, JC and I both have sore feet (and maybe shin splints) and we did see a lot of neat stuff.

My intent here is to give an glimpse of the choices your local fly shop had available at this show. Keep in mind there is another show for retailers toward the end of September in Denver. Check out the Product Reviews for JC's, Al Campbell's and my 'Pick of the Show.'


Many of the vendors booths try to have some kind of a gimmick or visual to catch your eye - and at least slow the buyers down enough to look at their goods. My favorite is the Chernobyl Chicken produced by Hugh Spencer. We have known Hugh and Vicky since we lived in Montana. They are the owners of Spencer's Hackles in Plains Montana, really nice folks, who have worked hard at improving the quality of their birds. Spencer's Hackles are considered premium fly tying hackles, and sell for less than the other big names. I like to buy my feathers from nice, hard working folks who seem to have the same values and standards as we do.

Speaking of gimmicks, there has been talk in our Chat Room about a certain ad for Belazia Vises - well, two ads. The ads are also posters! And the woman in the ad/poster, Janet, is a partner in the business. Yes we did meet her. The vices are very small, beautifully finished, like a piece of fine jewelry. The other partner Bruce, (not in the ad) has offered to do a fly of the week for us in the near future.

Shim's Salmon Fly

Shim Hogan, owner of Angler's Choice had an aquarium with a streamer placed in the water so it was moving into the water's flow. The fly was similar to one we use here for salmon, but instead of using polar bear hair (which is difficult to find) utilizes a synthetic material, Poly-Bear Hair, with a bit of flash already incorporated. Showing the fly in the water and moving was a stroke of genius. This stuff really looks great! We will have that fly with instructions here soon. This photo was taken through the glass tank.

While walking the aisles, I spent a few minutes with Jim Murphy, President of Redington. Jim has agreed to be a guest in our Chat Room in the near future. Watch the Chat Sign-On Page for a date. We have been supporters of Redington in the past for their sensible approach of moderately priced rods, especially for entry level anglers. I am disappointed to see them now come out with a high-end rod. Priced in the same range as the 'other' big boys.

Neither G.Loomis, Orvis, or Umpqua were at the Salt Lake Show. And while there may have been others who choose not to make a showing there, they seemed to be the most invisible. Except that each had 'representatives' walking the aisles, presumably checking things out.

Al Campbell introduced me to Rainy Riding, owner of Rainy's Flies and Supplies from Logan Utah. Rainy is a master fly tier, as well as innovator. Check out the Fly of the Week this week for something entirely different! Rainy also has a complete line of foam products and the hottest, brightest paints for poppers I have ever seen. You don't have to rely on cork bodies for poppers anymore - she has the answers in foam.

Sage was present, and I asked Randy Swisher (who some of you may remember was a guest a while back in the Chat Room) what was the best of their new line for this year. With a big smile he handed me a new pack rod! This one comes with six pieces, one being an extra tip! The one I cast was a 5 wt, and had the axial reel and Sage line. It was a bit heavier than a 2-piece rod would be, understandable since it does have the extra ferrules, but cast very nicely. For the person traveling a lot, or one who is backpacking it would be a super rod. In the 5 wt, (8ft - 9in) the total tube length is 23 3/4 inches. The new SP pac rod comes in 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8 weights, and retails at $685.00.

While waiting a turn to cast on one of the indoor ponds, I had a chance to chat with Tom McCullah from Cortland. Cortland recently purchased the Diamondback Rod Company, adding that fine rod to their line. Cortland has made some other very interesting changes. As Tom put it, they have a fine well received name and it seemed logical to provide a more complete line of products to their dealers. To that end, Cortland has purchased Sea harbor, a terrific line of fishing wear at a moderate price, and the Turrall Fly Company which produces high quality flies and their own hand-made, high-carbon hooks. You might check out your local fly shops for these. It would seem to be a super service to shop owners being able to order quality products from one rep.

Our friend Tom Clinkenbeard, owner of Elkhorn Rods keeps amazing us. We commented last year on the fine quality of his rods, at a modest price. He has done it again. Tom has produced a 2 piece, 7 foot, 6 inch 2 weight rod. Yes, a 2 weight! It is IM6 Graphite and retails for about $150. Right on Tom! I personally applaud him for continuing to produce 'Good Honest Rods' at a fair price.

Several organizations were at the show, some to push for membership in their group, (T.U, FFF) others to provide information. David Kumlien was there representing the Whirling Disease Foundation with information as was a group unfamiliar to me, Family Tyes. Family Tyes is all about getting kids and families involved in fishing. More on that soon. Their moto is "Every Fish A Trophy - Every Kid A Hero." In today's world, one large challenge. We will try and help.

Something did happen that disturbed me. I asked at one booth what new and neat products they were offering and was handed a product to keep guides and fly lines from freezing. I asked if the 'environmentally friendly' coating had been approved by any of the major line companies and was told, "yes, Cortland and AirFlo have both tested it and it is approved." So with the product in hand I went to both Cortland and AirFlo and asked about the product. Several people at both companies told me they had never seen the product nor tested nor approved it. Obviously you will not see that product here. Shame on them.

One of the highlights for me at this show was meeting Davy Wooton. Davy is a Brit, (living in the Chicago area,) and owner of SLF Dubbing. He is a suburb fly tyer, as well as caster. I had the pleasure of standing on the sideline watching him cast on one of the large casting ponds at the show. Standing to his right was a young guy literally abusing a fly rod. Just ripping a double haul, very fast, and not casting that proficiently or well. Davy stood there, gracefully casting and dropping the fly over the black curtain at the end of the pond, (100 feet) with no visible effort. ( He was casting a Gatti.) The hot-shot next to him, who as Castwell would say was, 'ripping his shorts' (along with the rod) walked away shaking his head. Davy is a pro in every sense of the word.

The other neat thing was someone asked if I would do an interview. Wow! Maybe we all do get our 15 minutes of notoriety. My interview with Tom Wharton of the Salt Lake Tribune was fun and a neat experience. You can see the results on the Salt Lake Tribune website.

We saw lots of old friends, made some new ones, shared some laughs, and brought some new ideas back. You will see more in the future. It really was a great show. Well worth the effort.

~ Deanna Birkholm

Archive of Ladyfisher Articles

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice