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  • Tuesday, April 05, 2016

    It's Here Now

    Insular Fly Fishing
    who ties your flies ?
    .. It's been a year since we stumbled upon an article that caused us to reflect on the state of this most cherished pastime.
    .. Our knee-jerk reaction was to post something wry, or witty, or grumpy.
    .. We put it on hold. We did some investigating. We wallowed around in internet searches and, even went to the library and ordered some esoteric books from far off repositories.
    .. We're late to the game. Not unusual. The article that triggered this frenzy of snooping around was in Field and Stream, (LINK 1.) It's called "FLY TALK" and probably wasn't seen by many 'serious' fly fishers.
    .. After all the magazine appeals to fairly normal folks that hunt as well as fish and, they kill things and enjoy a fresh caught Brook Trout in the frying pan.
    .. The author of the article bemoans the flood of Chinese made fishing tackle and the 'knock off' products that are infiltrating the domestic market. This from a writer from Michigan. Some irony there.
    .. Shortly Immediately after WWII our shores were flooded with cheap toys from Japan that were made from recycled C-ration and K-ration cans and other cultural ejecta. (LINK 2.)
    .. Japan's long history of prewar toy manufacture made this an easy entry into post war manufacturing.
    .. Little tin cars and trucks and guns and soldiers and all manner of junk was made from the materials at hand. The American consumer laughed. They derided the stuff and bought it anyway. Of course, the toy industry led the way in the rapid post war economic recovery in Japan.
    .. At that early time "Made in Japan" was a term of derision.
    .. Today the toys from Japan include Toyota, (America's favorite automobile product,) Apple products and components, (those that aren't made in China,) Canon, Nikon, Sony, Makita, Yamaha, Epson, Asics, Komatsu, Brigestone, Honda, to name just a few. Culturally, we now, (rightly or wrongly,) view Japanese goods as high quality.
    .. For decades flies have been tied all over Southeast Asia. Some even from Central America and South America.
    .. That never bothered serious fly fishers - they all tied their own.
    .. Some of the finest utility reels of decades past were Pflueger knock-offs that were made in Japan. Pflueger figured it out and went to Japan to make it's own reels there. Look, too, at the Fenwick story.
    NIKON "F"  & "F2"
    .. Currently some of our most cherished utility gear is now being made in China: boots, hats, duffle bags, gear bags, back packs, etc.
    .. Those non-elitist fly fishers that are not into "BUYING LIFESTYLE" are willing to pay less money for good utilitarian products.
    .. We do it in all phases of our economic life. Only snobs demand ideology and ethos from their utilitarian products.
    .. "Name Brands" often sell more than just the thing-in-hand. They sell ethos, tradition, history, lifestyle, image, exclusivity, etc. This is not new.
    .. So, just who should feel challenged by the rising tide of Chinese goods? Those folks, obviously, who are vested in something other than value for the dollar and the thing-in-hand. Those are the folks that push all the intangibles that they hope to sell you with the product and, they are vested in the ineffable.
    .. Sage has capitalized on this concept. They are way ahead of the curve. Two years ago they sponsored the "China Fly Fishing Festival."
    .. Peter Hayes reported on the event, (LINK 3.) He noted that the Chinese fly fishers eschew Chinese products for name brand Western gear full of Western tradition and ethos. Now there is a bit of insight and a marketing opportunity.
    .. There are Fly fishing forums, blogs, and fly fishing clubs proliferating in China. {{ LINK4, LINK 5, LINK 6.}} Given the population size and current state of the Chinese economy there would seem to be a marketing opportunity here.
    .. Selling ethos, tradition, lifestyle, and exclusivity will certainly appeal to the mindset of a people steeped, for centuries, in ethos, tradition, and exclusivity. Hmmmm.
    .. Of course there are numerically more regular folks in China than the elitists and selectivists. The same holds true for the good ol' U.S.A.
    .. Check this video that reviews a Chinese Fly Reel. Most of you will laugh and chortle. It figures.
    ..We've spent a few hours looking for impartial objective unbiased straight forward reviews of Chinese rods and reels and flies. We have wondered if they are the junk that they are made out to be by the ethos peddlers.
    .. What we do know is that in 1960 fly fisher people laughed at Japanese fish hooks. At that time "Gamakatsu" was hurled through the air as a derogatory  expletive when on the water: "Lost another one to GAMAKATSU." My my, how soon we forget. Who has recently bought fish hooks made in Redditch?(LINK 7)
    .. We suspect that there are some very fine Chinese products in the fly fishing arena that are about to make their name in the world market.
    .. We suspect that bamboo rods, billet aluminum reels, clothing, general gear, and fish hooks are about to catch the attention of yeoman fishers.
    .. The elitists will continue to hold out for lifestyle, ethos, tradition, and history. Those are the folks that will never drive a Toyota or a Subaru.
    A TONKIN GROVE - courtesy JMbamboo
    .. We fly fishers have sought out Chinese bamboo as the material preferred for premium split bamboo rods. Interesting indeed.
    .. The Chinese people have millennia worth of experience working the biggest of the grasses. They were doing it long before Charles H. Demarest tried to corner the market on tea stick bamboo.
    .. Certainly if we can elevate a bit of plant fiber to such exalted status we can do the same for other Chinese goods - manufactured as well as agricultural. We'll wait for the history and the ethos to catch up.
    .. Of course as the minimum wage level in China gradually escalates, manufacturing costs will escalate as well - with attendant economic displacement. Already, the reel manufacturer Penn has been looking to move from China to Burma or Vietnam.
    .. Rapala has already pulled out of China. Weatherby is considering moving it's Vanguard line from Howa manufacturing in Japan to the mainland of China. And so it goes. As the manufacturing sector of the world economy jostles itself around for lower and lower wages some things are may be sacrificed.
    .. Occasionally quality suffers badly. Frequently materials availability and distribution are real nightmares. But, Matilda, there is one thing that the hucksters can always sell: ethos, tradition, exclusivity, and lifestyle.
    .. Retailers of fishing gear already are sourcing their "economy" lines from China. They make no bones about it.
    .. The giant shopping center and catalog sporting goods stores, WalMart, Bass Pro, Cabela's,  etc. are tapped into and are supporting the ginormous tackle industry in China. It's only going to get bigger.
    .. Right after they bought Shedhorn Sports in Bozeman, Schnee's Boots and Shoes announced a mass market boot that is made in China with their name on it.(LINK 8)
    .. We suspect that they hope some of the handmade and Montana tradition will rub off on the Chinese boots.
    .. We will be sad when White's Boots of Spokane, Washington follows suit.(LINK 9) We'll have to reclaim our personal last.  This will be a tough pill for an ISO 9001 boot builder to swallow.
    .. We wonder if there is any good or excellent quality fly fishing gear being produced by those millions of talented, Western educated, and highly motivated Chinese citizens. Could anything good come from the vastness of the Far East?
    .. We wonder if the ethos of the East will soon be sold as a branding concept. {{ Just What is Tenkara anyhoo?}}
    .. We do suspect that in 50 years "Made in China" will be viewed the same way that "Made in Japan" is today.
    .. If you want to get into the import business or, if you want to see some interesting wholesale prices, or, if you want to see what you got for what you paid: the resources below should prove interesting.
    .. On the other hand ethos sells - for now.
    [[ For an interesting note on the ancillary movements around this topic check out SINGLEBARBED.]]

    >> Leichi Industrial & Trade Co., LTD
    >> Alibaba - Fly Fishing Reels
    >> Alibaba - Fly Fishing Rods
    >> Made-In-China Fly Fishing Tackle
    >> China Fly Fishing Manufacturers
    >> DHgate - Fly Fishing Tackle