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EMERGER FLY FISHING - The Story Behind the Craft

Posted on March 05 2018

Anyone who has read The Fiberglass Manifesto for any length of time knows that I have a real curiosity on the how, where and why things are made.  I have a deep interest in the small shop makers and craftsmen and have been following Emerger Fly Fishing while watching their story unfold through their social media (HERE, HERE and HERE) pages as well. 

In short, what Chris Freeman is doing is exceptional and the Emerger Fly Fishing products are high quality, built with durability in mind and designed to stand the tests of time and use.  Waxed canvas and leather both want to be used and will age wonderfully, developing character with the years.    

Late last year, Chris and I started trading messages, along with a few phone calls, with the idea of chronicling the build of a Cameron Side Bag and today begins the first of three posts which starts with the story behind Emerger Fly Fishing and then will be followed by two more posts which will show the build process step by step from the shop.  Today's post is a little word heavy and the next two will end up being photo heavy as there are forty or fifty images to share. 

Thanks to Chris and photographer Darren Squashic for working together on this show and tell.   

Chris Freeman wrote...  "You don’t get much smaller than Emerger.  There are only two of us: my wife and I.  She handles some of the business side of things, while I do the design work and manufacturing.  Emerger began more or less on accident, out of a desire to explore other form factors of fly fishing gear.  I wasn’t finding anything on the market that would meet my needs and decided to make something for myself. So I got a sewing lesson from my mother, and then I ran with it.  I sewed a very basic messenger bag, tried it out, decided what I liked and didn’t like, went back to the sewing machine and sewed another one.  Each time making changes.  At some point, I began exploring the possibility of having a leather strap, which opened up a whole other realm of possibilities.  Eventually friends and others started to notice and ask about the bags I was fishing with.  So my wife and I decided to put one on Etsy to see if anyone would buy it.  And it sold.  So we took the money we made, reinvested it in more materials and made another, and it sold.

Along the way, I began researching materials and features historically used on fly fishing gear, gleaning best practices and crafting what I personally wanted to fish with.  For example, I wanted to find a way to carry a side bag without it swinging around in front of me when I bent over.  The solution was to develop a creel-style strap, adapted from the straps on traditional wicker creels.  It keeps a bag secure from swinging around until you unhook the chest strap.  Another example, I wanted to find a way to carry a net that kept it secure, kept it off my body but didn’t get in the way of accessing the contents of my bag.  So I designed both of our side bags with net slots.

There were a ton of other materials that I could have chosen, but I was interested in 1) Durability.  I wanted gear that could take a beating — anything you can throw at it.  And 2) That it would get better with age.  That's why I selected waxed canvas and English Bridle leather.  Waxed canvas intrigued me because its durability has been counted on for over a century.  This comes from its high abrasion resistance and water repellency.  And English Bridle leather seemed to be particularly suited to holding up under extreme elements.  It gets lightly stuffed with oils during the tanning process and then receives a waxed coating on the surface, which gives it water repellency and protects it from drying out.  And of course brass hardware.  Brass is more durable than plastic parts and is corrosion resistant.

When you look at old waxed canvas and leather, they seem to look better with age.  They break in, they patina, they tend to reflect the habits of the person that uses them.  So they almost have the effect of customizing themselves to their owner.  And they do last a long time. Items made from these materials commonly last 15 or 20 years, or even longer.

The pursuit of excellence in craftsmanship is unending for us.  We go out of our way to destroy bags and find weaknesses.  Then we find ways to improve and refine our process, like finishing the edges of raw fabric with seam/bias tape made from 10 oz. waxed canvas. We could use other fabrics, but the canvas adds an extra layer of durability and water repellency.  Or how we finish our straps.  From beveling the edges, slicking down the grain to smooth it out, and then treating it with multiple processes.  Much time was spent to find just the right process, and the finished product feels great and helps to maximize water repellency.  The leatherwork is time consuming, but well worth it.

We do production in small batches, which allows us to put craftsmanship and quality first.  We don’t rush things.  From every top stitch, to every seam inside the bag.  Every piece of leather that is cut and beveled and slicked and finished.  The details matter."

This series of T.F.M. posts will continue through the week and Emerger Fly Fishing is offering a 10% off code of "TFM10" that can be used on online orders through Sunday. 

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