Published Sep 18. 2004 - 19 years ago
Updated or edited May 18. 2016

Behind Private Doors

It's for the trade only. Joe Q. Public can't get in. Before any trade magazine, before any other internet webzine... let GFF be THE FIRST take you on an EXCLUSIVE tour of this invite-only show. See who hobnobbed at the show and 

Fly-Fishing Retailer World Trade Expo
Denver, Colorado - Sept 17-19, 2004

The Show in Pictures

Every year, the mecca of the industry's retail trade centers in Denver, Colorado. It's timing is just perfect as new products are showcased and proudly displayed by over 250 of the industry's manufacturer's and top-name retailers.

But you, Mr. General Public, are NOT allowed in! It's for the trade only. No buying. No shopping bags. No crowded aisles of deal-seeking flyfishers. So, what then, is so secret about what's hidden between the rows and rows of eager product peddlers? Let GFF take you on a quick photographic essay/tour of the first day of the show. AND, let GFF be the first to do so, before any magazine, before the trade's voice, AFFTA, before any other web-based journal. These pictures are barely 24 hours old as this publication hits the internet!

0730 hrs
Over 300 of the industry's shop owners, manufacturers and distributors gathered for the opening day keynote address by retail shopping science guru, Paco Underhill.

0930 hrs
Industry reps, retail shop owners, bulk buyers, distributors and staff line up for registration to get in.

1000 hrs
The gates are opened and well over 1,500 anxious industry illumnites eagerly pour in to attend seminars, appointments and hobnobnicks.

Scenes from the show

I only have Petzl's for you: Petzl came prepared with a vast array of portable and compact lighting geared toward the outdoor enthusiast. Their booth was attractive and obviously well-lit!

I'll circle back on that: William and Joseph utilized an eye-popping merchandising platform to display their attractive apparel and gear.

A Retail display for retail displays: Even manufacturers of retail display stands attend the show. Adams & Sons specializes in retail space merchandising displays and fixtures.

Winston Trade show Checklist Review, Let's see: Winston banner - check. Rods in place - check. Attractive display stands - check. Freshly pressed suit - check. Hair combed - check. Rental bowling shoes - check. what?!

Fabrique: Would you believe - you can even order flyfishing themed fabric to make your shirts, bandanas...or socks.

Hodgman Lodge: treats their guests with style, a couch under a wonderfully soothing picture of a flyfisher. An inviting homey atmosphere if I ever saw one.

Under-Armor. It was football, then baseball, you saw the commercials on TV with your favorite athletes touting the benefits of athletic under-garments. Next up: Dave Whitlock streamside shooting a TV spot for UA; can you see it?!

Spey Craze: All the way from U.K., this chap gracefully lays out a spey cast to the audience's delight.

Gotta have one of these: Hobie's Mirage is a sturdy notch up from float tubes. Optional: a mini-fridge for keeping the cold ones cold.

Ridiculously Rainbow: Don't expect the fashion sense to win you over, but you have to get a pair of these. Trust me.

Tie flies? then fixate your peepers on your vise with da-lite lamps. It's uncanny how a bit of light change can make a world of difference.

eBay? yes eBay! They came prepared with Ebay-U, a seminar-based instructional series geared toward how ebay can be your next great e-commerce frontier.
Another fearless GFF prediction: We believe this whole internet thing will be REALLY big someday.

Awfully inviting: after a day of walking miles within the small confines of a convention center; this couch looked like the appropriate spot to rest the dogs.

Abel continues to produce reel eye candy for the flyfisher.

Flies beyond your eyes. Umpqua brought out the entire inventory to treat the flyshop owner with the WOW factor before making his next big bulk purchase.

Seminars on how to be better flyshop owners: greet your customer with respect; treat them like family...all the tricks to retailing were revealing in this attractive and humorous seminar on building customer loyalty. (yes, the chap on the left is a mannequin, the chap on the right is not)

Would you like me to box your boxes, please? Millstream displays the latest in flybox technology, along with custom imprinting options to make the flybox your very own.

Sage advice: rods for every caster, reels to match.

Orvis' temporary show digs didn't look so temporary. How long does it take to build this log cabin for a three day show?

Don't Hyde in my boat. These boats just don't sink and these two Hyde Reps are setting out on a journey to prove it.

Get the BUG OUT! There's no bugging these ladies as they are 100% bug-proof thanks to

Celebrities Walk the Aisles

Industry Faces Make the Show an Annual Reunion

G-Loomis made the Scottish tradition of grande entry a fanfare with bagpipe music, a regalia of rod-toting flyfishers and a spot of single malt to start the show off in right fashion.

SCUTTLEBUTT OVERHEARD at the show: other booths enraged "FOUL" as the bagpipe noise and pomp-n-circumstance took show-goers away from their products to see the G-Loomis wares.
Hey, whistleblowers: This show-going referee says "NO FOUL! Play ball!" That's the name of the's called guerrilla marketing... and it works. You might want to try it yourself. And I'm not talking the single-malt.
Chalk one up for G-Loomis.

Dick Talluer visits with Dr. Tom Whiting . Dick: I wonder how many Whiting capes you have in your little tote bag?

Dave Whitlock, the gentleman-consummate, discusses the industry dynamics with a show-goer.

Kim Boal and Marc Petitjean showcase Marc's newest tying tool and material inventions.

Judith Schnell of Stackpole Books finds the timely wit and humor of John Gierach irresistible, and must contend with a chuckle and a smile. Who can't but smile when around this character of a man?!

Lefty Kreh hides under his unmistakable flats hat. In following him around for a quick photo op, he couldn't take more than 2 steps before an old buddy in the industry bantered out his name, calling him to come over and chat for a few.

Darrell Martin yaks it up with Marc Pettijean.

Marcos Vergara, the man behind Bob Borden and Hairline Dubbing, is one of the industries indispensible knowledge sources on flytying and flytying materials.

Dick Swisher stops by several booths to say hi to his long-time industry friends.

Chico Fernandez signs his latest book, "Flyfishing for Bonefish" for yours truly.

Insect-Out's insect barrier clothing.

No Smoking Inside: Ohhhhh! those aren't real!, those are spun deerhair smokes.

Marketing to the cliMAX Yes, I agree, performance by design...the flylines that is...although, I see no Climax products in this advert...makes me wonder just what climax sells?!?!

GFF's 2004 HOT-n-NOT Product List

GFF's 2004 HOT Product Predictions

  • Crocsare the next thing in footwear.I have a pair and while I can't say they will gain you any apparel awards, they certainly are comfortable, highly functional and a treat to slip into after a day in (not so) comfortable wading boots.
  • Anything William & Joseph...
  • and...Fishpond.
  • Marc Pettijean Products: Most creative products to come along in years; Magic Tool, clear flexible coneheads. We can't wait to see what Marc comes up with next. Hey Marc, we here at GFF have a few ideas...can we bend your ear?!
  • Bidoz Beads. Each one hand-painted and laquered. You'll get not a better quality bead anywhere.
  • Angling Evolutions Line cleaner: A nifty little device that attaches to your rod, not to your kitchen table.
  • Da-Lite Tying lamps have changed my opinion on how long I should stay at the tying bench before I get too fatigued to tie another fly. The incredible brightness and intensity of the light is easy on the eyes. I get less tired after tying a bunch of flies, I see the materials and colors more easily. If you don't tie with a Da-Lite, you are missing out.
  • Rod Manufacturers are now realizing that as graphite rod prices creep up into the cost of a new Plymouth Neon, the gap between beginner rod kits and the latest "techno-gizmo material" rod needs fulfilled. Look for small, well run rod blank manufacturers to offer a wide selection of modestly priced rod blanks that can compete with the big names in performance and durability. Look for the big names of the industry to offer exceptional values in the $200-$300 price range to compete and keep company margins in check.
  • Spey Revival. Expect the spey-days-craze to hit a flyshop near you. you don't speycast? You will.

GFF's 2004 NOT Product Predictions

  • Net manufacturers: This year, more than any other, I saw a plethora of new net models, materials and designs. Some look like they should be space junk catchers, some are more traditional, but I wonder how many nets does one flyfisher need? There must be some hidden demand that I don't know about. Are disposable nets the next wave of the future?
  • Reel Manufacturers: The glut continues; reels, reels, reels. I guess one needs tobuy a reel for every rod owned; or maybe 2 for every one rod. I sense the rod manufacturers are secretly hand-shaking with the reel manufacturers. If reels are so easy to make, and with the obvious glut of inventoryin the marketplace, why aren't they cheaper? Basic rules of supply and demand will kick in here any time now. Watch for reel bargains on Ebay. However, the Ralph Laurens of the reel industry will continue to garner Polo prices.
  • Benicchi Regal Vise: While it is highly functional and somewhat of a size wonderment, it seems to be an over-achieving bit-o-engineering that is better suited as a flyshop conversation piece than as a utilitarian vise in your armour of tying tools. This, however, takes nothing away from the engineered wonders of the Benicchi reels.
  • Fly Tying Companies: Each year, a new breed of off-shore flytying company enters the marketplace with the standard array of common patterns and colors. But, they enter the marketplace with cheap prices, which reflect the cost of the materials they use. While you can get a cheaper fly from "bulk" distributors, I'd rather buy a fly with hackle that will actually make the fly stand on the water, or tinsel ribbing that won't fray after one wind-heavy cast. Caveat Emptor on fly purchases, be aware of where they come from. Stay with the tried-n-true names, there's a reason they've been around since you started flyfishing.

GFF's 2004 Wishlist

  • Band of Brothers: the industry needs to stop talking about it and start doing it: kick start the youth and invigorate the curious seekers of flyfishing. The industry is on a decline, and while that may be good for your local streamside parking lot population, it's not good for the local shop you love to visit.
  • Comfortable Wading Shoes: It was a nice idea to marry the athletic shoe with the traditional wading boot, but still, I can't wait to get the darned things off my feet after a day of traipsing around. Will there ever be a wading boot that I truly love? Maybe Crocs should look into this.
  • Big Box flyfishing retailers to realize the customer is still #1. I sense these big-name, national or world-wide flyfishing retailers are loosing touch with trying to make a dollar thatbasic customer care is falling to the wayside. Quality in product selection seems to be lacking too. Chalk one up for the local ma-pa flyshop, where you still can get a great selection, one-on-one service and where everybody knows your name.
  • Flat out Nice: What ever happened to the simple flats chest pack? Like the one Columbia used to make? Nowhere to be found...I can get them with the built in waterbottle holder: don't want that. I can get one with the built-in fanny pack belt: nope, don't want that either. I can get one with 33 individual pockets the size of a '72 Chevy Impala trunk: nada, don't like that either. Or some come with built-in tippet dispensers that really don't work. While the new gear companies are out to over-engineer the next flyfishing vest, it's still the rule of simplicity that wins over consumers and generates sales.

Product Showcase - 2004

Shove it: in a car-top plastic moulded and padded rod carrier, that is.

Portable Flies: 3M Sci-Ang's C&F Designs flybox people have made waht can be considered the industry standard for portable flytying kits. The Marco Polo Fly Tying System is well-thought out, well engineered and fits in a space no bigger than an average flybox, but it takes a shopping bag full of money to get one.

Reel Nice : American Tackle Company makes custom turned cork grips to match the wood reel inserts.

Strength and Beauty: American Tackle Company also makes graphite reel seats to match the graphite rods blanks of teh same vein. A nice touch.

That's one big water skeeter: A hybrid of sorts, the water skeeter float tube sits as high as a personal catamaran, but has traditional float tube entry and assignments.

Eggs over Easy Montana Fly Company displays the various colors of flexible eggs used in their patterns.

How to manage your butt: CDC butt feathers that is...Marc Pettijean's products include CDC and the magic Tool, a truely magic tool to manage your butt feathers :)

Benecchi Tank Company: The miniscule Bennechi reel is an attractive accompanyment to your 1-weight rod, the Benecchi Regent saltwater/large fly vise isn't.

Keep your fly dry!: AquaFly makes an ultralight, ultra cool watertight flybox that floats. Look for smaller ones to come out in the next year.

LagarTON of colors: While not a new product on the scene, Largartun color fly tying cement will put color in your (fly's) cheeks.

Line 'em up: Angling Evolution's ultra-compact, portable flyline cleanig device doesn't require you to take the spool off your reel, or the line out of your guides.

Fowl Play!: West Water makes attractive wooden frames more appealing with cute (& excellently crafted) spun deerhair waterfowl and upland gamebird creations.

Don't Pimp the Pimp: Angling evolutions came up with another winner of an accessory with the tube of clip-on strike-indicators.

A Lily Pad full of FrogHair accessories. Strike Indicators, Qwik-Shot split-shot dispenser and George Harvey tapered leaders. No longer are they just the tippet guys.

Tennis Anyone? William & Joseph break all the net rules and call thirty-love on how flyfishing nets should be designed.

I think my old warped graphite racquetball racquet may have a new purpose.

Watcha Got in There? Aluminum lockable rod cases. Just don't expect to tote this as carry-on luggage: it could be mistaken for something else.

Sage Again: Sage doesn't stop the rod evolution...several new rods, including the new FLi makes a neck-breaking debut at an eye-popping price.

There's no scum on this pond: Fishpond came out with all new colors and product designs to make me want to re-buy all thatstuff I just bought this past year.

Jeepers-Creepers, check out those Peepers:
Ono's Trading Company combines the cool splashy looks with polarizedlenses, and throws in a bi-focal magnificationto give the ill-sighted a fighting chance to put on the perfect dry fly before the rising stops.

Bee-Does-Beads: Bidoz makes all the beads you could desire, and then some. If Bidoz doesn't make it, you don't need it. Throw in removable coneheads, tubefly extensions and portable flytyng kits as well.


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