Sunday, February 10, 2013

Feathers and Fly Forecasting

I'm currently in Vancouver waiting on my new truck to arrive.  After years of debating as to whether or not I should dump that F350, it recently blew a few more injectors  It ended up at the Ford service center and after throwing up in my mouth when I heard the repair estimate,  I decided to trade it in for a fraction of what it cost and move into something new.  The sales guys at the Ford dealership were super keen on the sale (almost to a fault) but pleasant to deal with.  But car salesmen are similar to real estate agents I've met over the years.  They tell you every thing you want to hear in order to get you into one of their vehicles/homes and crank out their  commissions.  Everyone needs to make a living but I just don't think I could ever pour the sauce on that thick when it comes to selling shit.  I always find that if I put the energy into the businesses I have in a positive and directive manner, results bounce back almost instaneously.  Since selling me the truck and getting the down payment I haven't heard shit from anybody there as to where the $%# my truck is and it's approaching two weeks.  Not a peep, no offers for a loaner...nothing!!! Not impressed and I'm gunna let the cheese balls know it when it finally does arrive.  The fake smile is uglier than the frown.

The fly business has been my biggest struggle lately.  This is the production time of year for my tiers and Getting grizzly hackle (feathers) from Whiting Farms has been nothing short of insane.  That feather hair extension fad still has it's effect on the supply of those and I've been scrounging around trying to get my hands on feathers for the last week or so and the outlook is grim.  Whiting has been doing their best to keep me in the game and they are so far behind on orders now that they have opted to handle all their incoming calls via voice messaging.  They tell me it's about 6 months to a year away from being caught up and I'm looking forward to ending the scavanger  hunt and getting my hands on good hackle again.

The fact is NO ONE raises a better feather bird than Whiting.  My fly tier in Chiang Mai insists on them and she's likely going to be disappointed when she receives the next shipment that will include Howard Hackle and Metz.  They are both good quality hackles but the bronze grade and up of the Whiting birds are pieces of art.  These are the feathers that wrap those tincy lil 18's and 20's.  

Cree Saddle From Whiting

After getting all this stuff then comes the arduous and expensive task of shipping the feathers and hides across borders with the proper documentation which is now required and often times the proper documentation for foreign customs is in the form of currency--extra fees/bribary.  Everyone needs to survive and the struggle to get ahead over there is large compared to here in North America so I do empathize with their situation.... but it still sucks.

Then there's the whole point of sale thing with the fly shops.  Every shop owner wants a quality fly at the cheapest possible price which is understandable but shit is getting expensive out there.  Fly shop owners need to carry a lot of  inventory.  Think about it for a second and you understand why fly prices are what they are.  In order to fill the 400 + slots in the average fly shops bins you need a shit ton of flies to do so.  So the start up cost to fill the bins is often in the 10's of thousands of dollars.  Then as slots empty out you need to fill them up again; you can't have your bins run dry, empty slots look bad. So the fly shop is constantly carrying an expensive inventory---an almost neutral position.  At seasons end, a lot of shops start dropping prices to close to cost to empty the bins but is this really worth it.  I've often wondered this myself.  I mean I can sell them off for a small profit but if I just need to replace them again for the following season at a potentially higher price, then in the end I'm losing money.  It's a tricky one to play and in a shops inaugural years it's key to sell enough flies to cover that bin stocking inventory.  That's why a lot of these shops go down quickly and close their doors within the first year or so even though they appeared at one time to be busy.  

The average cost per dozen  for a quality fly is anywhere from $10 to $20 per dozen for a fly shop.  Due to increased costs of shipping materials, purchasing of materials (hackles and hooks primarily) and labour costs, I am anticipating retail prices to go up even more than they have this year.  I keep hearing from the fly shops that orders from Raineys, Montana Fly Company and Idelwylde  are going up rapidly in price.  This may cause the seperation of bins in shops in order to keep prices low on the basic patterns while getting fair markup on a more detailed pattern.  For example, a parachute adams costs about $10/dozen whereas a really cool intricate pattern like Morrish's Fluttering Stone by Idelwylde comes in close to $20.  And why shouldn't it!  That pattern is a bitch to tie. 

Morrish's Fluttering Salmonfly

 I spoke with Ken Morrish (designer of the fly) the other day and his comment was the Phillipine tiers must hate him for that type of detail.  I bought that fly for one of our freestones here that has a good cranefly hatch on it in the fall and I was looking for a skittery, leggy creature that would bring up some bigger fish.  I remember tying that thing on and thinking FUCK!!  if this thing goes to work I only have two and if we lose them I'm gonna have to tie some up as the fly shop I bought them from is 400 km's away.

Sure enough twitching and moving that super sized 8 creature around brought the meat up and of course the patterns were lost so I had to contend with tying that thing and it took me 45 minutes to complete the fly.  I have since modified it to something that is much easier  and as effective, but hats off to Idelwylde for putting that thing into production.  It looks good and works really well.

Montana Fly Company and Idelwylde are kicking ass out there.  They have the most talented pool of guides and fly designers out there and have a hip and contemporary marketing program that is compatible with the new generation of fly fisherman.  I respect what these guys have done and I use my patterns along with theirs to fill out my shop bins.

So this might be something we see in the future, split bins to make ends meet on the retail end of things. To make it work you have to be kicking out some volume or marking your product up enough to cover your inventory cost which means a minimum of 100% markup.  So if you notice your local shop has jacked it's rate on flies, don't think they're getting greedy, they're just responding to the rising costs in the industry.

Columbia River Rainbow Release

Been doing a fair bit of tying myself and have some new foam patterns to chuck around this year as well as some pretty awesome stonefly nymphs and streamers.  Been booking quite a few trips lately which is always nice.  Mix of late July and August.  I'm highly recommending late June and early July on the Columbia River near Nelson this year as that fishery may be the best it's ever been.  There are some HUGE rainbows in there.  Ken Colson (bull trout guru) has moved to the West Kootenays and has been putting some time in with the lines and reported hitting a fish he guesses to be about 10 pounds.  He measured it about 28 inches and said it was full bodied which seems to be the case for most fish in that river.  The size range in that river has been good an we're catching some absolute pigs in there along with a lot of 12' and 14's as well.  Sign that there's a good juvenille population moving up the ranks.  The fish get big hear fast so I'm confident we have some good years ahead of us on that monster of a river.

Without the vehicle I've found myself spending time around the abode tying and keeping myself in the game reading fly fishing forums and watching trailers etc. for the Fly Fishing Film Tour.  I also purchased a streaming video called Only the River Knows which is a wacky film documenting a couple of young Swedes taking on the trout of New Zealand.  Not a lot of fishing footage in the flick but what is there is quality and I enjoyed watching it. Give it a shot, Here's the link:

I've spent $10 on worse things, that's for sure.