Posted on September 15 2008
The first day of the FFR show started with sharing a van ride to the Denver Convention Center with three super-sized South Dakotans on their way to shop for Broncos paraphernalia prior to watching the “big game,” and ended with our returning from yet another overstuffed theater with slow beer service (2 bartenders serving 300-400 thirsty and well-tatooed fly anglers) with, you guessed it, the same three South Dakotans. “The game was great,” they said. “All you could ask for.”
I thought to myself, “Well, that’s exactly what our day was like too.” Fact is, if you don’t mind walking miles on concrete floors to get a real taste of how the industry perceives the near future of fly fishing, Denver was the only place to be yesterday. To be sure, there were at least a handful of manufacturers who told us they were flying a holding pattern this season — one inflatable boat manufacturer said “We have no new products. We’re just trying to survive.”
But the booths of all the major vendors were packed with buyers. I had to wait for a couple of dozen curious retailers (including the 9-man Leland Outfitters crew) to exit the Fishpond exhibit before I could begin my walk-through. And it was pointless trying to wedge yourself into the Ross, Scientific Anglers, Sage, Simms, Orvis or Patagonia spaces without an appointment.
The top manufacturers apparently spent little time this year wondering how a recession might play with their bottom line. Many of the new designs seem momentum-driven (e.g. the move toward enviro-friendly gadgets, the collective adoption of sealed drag systems, and the introduction of shorter “stump-puller” bass rods), but several designs seem downright inspired. William Joseph’s invention of a “water-tight” magnetic seal system on their new packs and Simms’s new super-sticky Vibram rubbers sole patterns come to mind.
Other eye-catching items from Day One included Outcast’s new $90 electric pump for inflatable craft, Flambeau’s moderately priced waterproof fly boxes with smartly designed slit foam systems, Abel’s new quick-release spool for their Super Series, and Dr. Slick’s split shot clamps. We also learned that Oakley will be bringing out new amber lenses exclusively for fly fishers (and that a BB makes a pretty good splash when hits a glass lens going 150-feet per second).
There’s plenty more that we don’t have time to write about this morning. But if you need more first-day scoop, be sure to listen to Zach Matthews’s excellent podcast interviews which were posted last night.