Tough Times

When I was 26 I had a job working as Sales Manager for a company called Guide Fly Fishing. We imported Redington, Rio, Teton, Loon and so on, for the UK market. I opened up probably 2/3rds of the UK shops. Interestingly one of the first people I went to see was Steve Parton of Sparton Fishing Tackle.

As a teenager working in Ardleigh Fishing Lodge, I had read his no-nonsense “Boat Fishing For Trout” book many times (it was one of the few books in the lodge) and had been inspired to make myself a rudder and buy one of his “Imperator” fly rods. Later, I had continued to give him my custom by buying Loomis blanks through him.

In later years we met various times, at float tubing events as well as kids teaching days and he even wrote a column for Sexyloops

My favourite quote about fly fishing comes from Steve’s book: “Fly fishing is not about patience; it’s about organised impatience”!!! Also I frequently borrow one of his terms, “sequencing” – which is to be able to catch fish one after the other by repeating the successful method.

Sadly, Steve died some years ago but I have fond memories of our first and subsequent encounters. I remember he told me something that I found quite profound at the time. He told me that the fly fishing market was like two pyramids, with the larger one at the bottom and the other, smaller, inverted at the top. He stated that in the lower pyramid you couldn’t be too cheap (eg Shakespeare) and at the upper pyramid you couldn’t be too expensive (eg Sexyloops!).

I mentioned this to Magnus Angus some years back and he said that this was once the case, but when the economy is good that middle market expands. And in retrospect, I agree. (Magnum can be pretty smart when he’s not grumpy!).

The reason I mention all of this, is because this industry has been severely hit by COVID-19. Many fly fishing businesses were shut for months this year – both manufacturers and retailers, many anglers have been in lockdown (myself included) and most of my friends who guide are suffering (my own guiding/teaching business is down 95% this year!!). So this really is a survival year for everyone in this industry and if we get another year of this I think we will be left smaller.

I feel very sorry for those who will lose their livelihoods as a result of this virus. What we have been doing, apart from operating in survival mode, is building stock and putting the blocks in place, to serve you better when times are more fortunate again.

Prior to this we never really had a breathing space to build stock levels and the result was everything was made-to-order – which was a challenge for those customers who needed their rod yesterday! So if there is any silver lining to be found in this whole catastrophe for us, it is that we should be able to deliver rods faster!

Take care and I hope we all come out the right side of this.

Cheers, Paul