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Post 16 Sep 2007, 03:41 • #1 
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I will be periodically adding "replies" to this thread as I report on the goings on in Denver. Here is the first installment:

AFFTA Industry Breakfast

The World Fly Fishing Retailer trade show traditionally opens, as do so many trade shows, with an industry breakfast. 7AM is an early hour on a Sunday if fishing isnt involved. Never the less the industry breakfast attracted some 250 to 300 participants, mostly from the exhibitor staff if the shirts were any indication.

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The breakfast presentation opened, after a short greeting from Rob Ramsay, President of AFFTA, with a brief multimedia presentation from AEG media. The film clip, cut from materials shot over seven months in Patagonia, featured thumping industrial beats and an X-treme attitude. Clearly these guys are having a lot of fun and cutting some great film to boot. Watching outsized trout come up through crystal clear water to unhesitatingly gulp a Madam X makes for a fine addition to weak coffee. Only one question came to my mind, however. Where does the money come from that allows these guys to travel to exotic locations (trust me when I tell you they wont be shooting a session on anything that looks like the Great Miami River of Ohio)? I loved the attitude, but Im not exactly sure how this will translate into growth for the industry. That said, it did have the feel of the old Lee Wulff and Gaddabout Gaddis shows updated and energized for a new millennium.

Kenji Haroutunian then followed with a synopsis of changes to the FFR show itself. He called the show a gathering point and a lightning rod for change. Lets all hope so. Last years show left me feeling that the future business plan for the fly fishing industry hinged on someone making the next A River Runs Through It movie!

Northwest Mutual Financial Network sponsored the breakfast and the next speaker was Bret Gardner, Financial Advisor and Member of the Sporting Culture Group (no, Im not making that title up). Bret gets a discount from Orvis. Or at least he should. For 30 minutes I heard a commercial appeal to invest in my financial well being with Mr. Gardners organization accompanied by an overwhelming and almost sycophantic ode to the Vermont company. According to Mr. Garnder, Orvis has never waivered from a commitment to the sporting lifestyle. And here I thought they were purchased in 1964 and turned around from almost certain demise by the family currently in control! Oh well

The one thing missing from the industry breakfast, and I think from the industrys leadership in general, is substance and a sense of purpose. Most industry breakfast meetings like this feature a key note speaker who is selected because of his or her ability to exemplify and define the position, direction and progress of the industry as a whole. At CES we get Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. At Fly Fishing Retailer we get a pitch for insurance. Go figure.


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Post 16 Sep 2007, 05:32 • #2 
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Joined: 06/11/05
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Location: US-TX
Don't "candy-coat" it; go ahead and tell it like it is!:lol :rollin -p-


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Post 16 Sep 2007, 11:43 • #3 
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Location: US-OH
The new Sage Smallmouth and Largemouth rods captured my attention. Beautifully finished and with a $350 MSRP, these are surprisingly fine rods

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The rods are based on specific line weights. In fact, the rods are only sold WITH the lines. Brilliant. A guaranteed match. In conversation with Jerry Siem, rod designer for Sage, he suggests that these rods are designed for floating lines in the weights provided. The lines are sold separately by Rio as well.

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Casting this rod/line system was an experience in refinment. These are serious systems and, amazingly, have a tremendous glass-like feel in their relaxed casting stroke which was almost hypnotically slow and precise. A real winner!

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Look for a full review coming to Fly Fish Ohio soon.

Joe C.


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Post 16 Sep 2007, 11:54 • #4 
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The Scott Fibertouch fiberglass series remains unchanged for 2008. There are four models ranging from a 1wt to a 4wt. An 8' 4wt may be in the works.

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Scott is also showing a line of 7'11" Warmwater rods. I'll be casting and photographing them tomorrow. They were definitely a hit as the Scott booth was one of the busiest and these rods were all but impossible to get hold of. At $625 they aren't for the feint of heart.

Joe C.


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Post 16 Sep 2007, 12:02 • #5 
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Joined: 07/05/05
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Location: US-OH
Highland Rod Company showed some amazing bamboo. I cast a $550 8' 6wt that comes complete with two tips. This isn't at all what I thought - these are very, very nice rods! And the reels absolutely rock for $249 MSRP. Click pawl and S-handles are the stuff of fantasy for most of us - not anymore!

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Joe C.


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Post 16 Sep 2007, 13:53 • #6 
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Joined: 03/14/06
Posts: 404
Location: US-TX
Corn,

The Highland rods and reels are imports from China.


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Post 17 Sep 2007, 01:19 • #7 
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Highland Mills has one line that is made in China. They are nice rods, especially for the price. They also have a line of hollow-built cane using their own tapers that are completely made in the USA (PA actually) for $1249. The USA line is 6'6" 2wt to 7'6"5wt

Joe C.


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Post 17 Sep 2007, 03:40 • #8 
Master Guide
Joined: 03/14/06
Posts: 404
Location: US-TX
Joe,

I didn't know that Highland now had a domestic built rod. The Zhus line that they took over used to represent rods as if they where made by AJ Thramer. They where not marked as Thramer Taper, but represented to look and marked like one of AJ's rods. There are many domestic builders that can build a better rod for the price the imports are. I've picked up and looked at their rods, the finish does look good. This issue is what gets many cane builders (myself included) up in arms over Highland Mills and Zhus rods.

Tell me more of the Sage rods. I've only cast the Scott Bass rods, and I found them very fast.


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Post 17 Sep 2007, 13:04 • #9 
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The only think I'll say about the Sage right now is that they are something special. Unlike anything I've cast before. I'll be getting one for a full review as soon as I can arrange it. That said ...

One of the nice things about a show like this is that you can meet a living legend

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A surprise on the hardware side is the new Boron rods from ... get this ... Wright McGill

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These rods retail for under $350 and take my word for it, they look like twice that. And they cast VERY well. I really couldn't believe a rod with this fast an action was as refined, controllable and castable as it turned out to be. This is a category killer for certain. I've requested a sample of their 12'6" switch rod for review.

TL Johnson is there with some very solid offerings. Of course they have glass - and the 7' 4wt is a magnificent utility player. Jim Stuard is currently photographing and reviewing the rod for Fly Fish Ohio - pics to follow when I return (yes, its like torture isn't it?) That said, TLJ showed a very fast, very light, very amazing 8wt saltwater rod.

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I actually cast a full 8wt line all the way to the backing and the line snapped tight - there was more momentum! FWIW, I can't cast that well. It made me look like I know what I'm doing :eek Seriously, if you are in the market for a bonefish/redfish/striper rod you need to cast one of these. Its the lightest saltwater rod I've handled. I think it edged out this new player ...

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Orvis unveiled the Helios ZG. This is a new mandrel, new taper, new everything upgrade of the two year old Zero Gravity that I just reviewed at FFO. Yes, its a very, very nice rod. No, they aren't paying me to say that.

Thomas and Thomas are continuing the line-up of five glass rods. I'll cast them tomorrow along with the Scott glass and the Scott bass rods.

More to come.

Joe C.


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Post 17 Sep 2007, 13:08 • #10 
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Joined: 01/10/06
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Location: Holly Springs, NC
Joe,

The Sage Bass rods are interesting beasts! For one thing, they have a real rod grip - not a reverse tapered Superfine. I'll give them points for the relaxed casting stroke too (are you sure they are SAGE rods?). If it's done right, graphite doesn't have to be evil. ;)

I would like to know if the 330 grain marking on the Sage Bass line is a weight for the first 30 feet (an 11 weight?) or the whole 40-50 foot head section. I bet even I can throw a bass bug a long way with an 11 weight.

Thanks! Keep those dispatches coming!

Tom


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Post 17 Sep 2007, 13:23 • #11 
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I'm meeting with Rio in the am to find out a bit more about the line. Also, Jerry Siems has agreed to do an audio interview for the web site, so there will be a lot more to find out when that happens.

I even said to Jerry that this rod was 'un-Sage-like' He laughed. They are heavy, but like a 7 or 8wt glass they don't feel heavy. They aren't about distance, but about delivery of big stuff - flies that look like wet kittycats and stuff like that

Joe C.


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Post 17 Sep 2007, 14:06 • #12 
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Quote:
They aren't about distance, but about delivery of big stuff - flies that look like wet kittycats and stuff like that
Wow! A rod designed to properly present the fly to the fish. THAT is incredibly refreshing!

I'm not sure what to make of W&M's line of boron fly rods. The boron I've handled generates scary line speeds (it's fun, in a NASCAR kind of way). I'm somewhat surprised that a company that virtually gave up on quality fly fishing tackle is trying to make a come back.

And please give Rio a kudo from me for their very informative website and cool fly lines.

Thanks again,

Tom


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Post 17 Sep 2007, 14:14 • #13 
Master Guide
Joined: 03/14/06
Posts: 404
Location: US-TX
Joe,

If you get a chance, cast the new TFO Axiom rods. I got to cast several of the prototypes of the rods, and I was very impressed. For a fast rod, they where smooth and loaded up for that 30 ft cast, and I was consistantly casting the 7wt (proto) in the TFO parking lot to around 100 ft.

I have not been that impressed with a fast rod, ever.


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Post 17 Sep 2007, 14:29 • #14 
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Joined: 06/11/05
Posts: 3341
Location: US-TX
I would like to hear more about the TLJ saltwater 8 weight!-p-


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Post 20 Sep 2007, 22:11 • #15 
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Joined: 07/05/05
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Location: US-OH
The TL J Saltwater
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featuring REC guides weighs about 3oz. Very light and very fast.
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It's a pretty rod. I believe the MSRP is $595, a very fair price for a high end production rod. It can be customized a bit by request, too. If you have specific requests they can be accomodated.

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T&T will be keeping five glass sticks in the line-up. They are buttery smooth, but they cost a few pesos.

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My wife shows off the new W&M rod tube, made of the same boron material as the rod. Not a bad case for a $300 rod!
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Its good to see this label associated with a performance rod again

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Albright also had an interesting line of budget rods in the $200 MSRP range. Excellent value

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Sometime this weekend or next week I'll writing a comprehensive review of the show, including my observations on the seminars, meetings and scuttlebut I heard. As always, expect my reaction to be blunt and striaght forward :lol

Joe C.


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Post 21 Sep 2007, 03:05 • #16 
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Joined: 06/08/07
Posts: 2512
Location: Superior, Colorado
Tom: As I mentioned in another post, I went to Eagle Claw yesterday to buy some rod badges. While looking around, I found their new boron rod. I have to tell you that you will look long and hard to find a rod that is as nice looking as this one -a beautiful see-through burgundy with graphite ferrules. While all I could do was wiggle it around, I was impressed with how the rod felt in hand. I would call the one I tried, a 9' 6 wt., a medium fast that felt lightweight overall, but strong in the butt. I will own one. :\

and not to hijack, a quick mention of the new Eagle Claw reels. I didn't catch the names, but they have a couple of nice looking click-pawl reels. H

p.s. Thanks Joe for a great report from the "field."


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Post 27 Sep 2007, 09:20 • #17 
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For those who'd like a bit more detail about what transpired at the Fly Fishing Retailer trade show and a lot more pics of the new gear, I've posted an updated article right here. There are two parts to the feature - one part is on the glitter (the new gear) and one part is on the groove (the politics and business of fly fishing). Pick your poison.

Joe C.


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