Small Manufacturers Offer Big Value

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Good Things, Small Packages Photo by Louis Cahill

Walking the floor at the International Fly Tackle Dealers show this year I was struck by something.

The cool new products that I was excited about all came from a very specific type of company. None of the stuff I thought was really cool came from the big booths circling the casting pond. Rather, the the really innovative, smartly designed, well made gear could be found at the tiny booths that faced the outer walls. Booths you had to look for, usually manned one or two guys who, in most cases, actually made the stuff themselves.

Guys like Scott Hunter of Vedavoo who has turned down multiple job offers from the biggest players in the industry to hand sew his remarkable fishing packs. Guys like Ethan Smith of Smithfly who is making a dry bag for cameras that I have been asking Simms and William Joseph to make for me for years. Guys like Dylan Rothwell of Rising who started making all of his quality tying tools himself after a foreign manufacturing company stole one of his designs. Innovators like Colby Hackbarth from Kast or Jim McAllister from NRS who change the way we think about fishing gear.

All of these guys make products that you would love and that would last you a lifetime but you have likely never heard of them. Even our small industry is prisoner to a system where marketing budgets rule. Sage will always win Best New Rod, no matter what they enter because no one can out spend them. The big guys make some fine products to be sure but they often lack the passion and focus that a single visionary entrepreneur brings to the table.

If we, the anglers, want innovative quality products made in America, it’s going to be up to us to search them out. It’s going to be up to us to go to our local fly shop and ask for them by name. Without grassroots support these talented young innovators will vanish. They will go back to being fishing guides or whatever they did before they had the big idea or best case they’ll take that job with the big company and watch their ideas get watered down and shipped overseas.

Start with this list. Look at some of the cool stuff being made here at home. Buy some of it! And please, if you know of other great small companies doing good work, share them with us here. We’ll do what we can to support them too.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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15 thoughts on “Small Manufacturers Offer Big Value

  1. Good stuff for sure. Supporting the little guys helps us all and can really force overall change and innovation. I love fishing with my SmithFly Boat Bag..bombproof and can carry the kitchen sink!

  2. Good to hear, always like to see the small guys making it happen. Good/interesting stories in there on those guys and their products and not “selling out”. Nice read.

  3. Teton is still alive & kicking in CA. New reels seem true to my excellent #12 Spey Specialist salmon reel, still great & beautiful after 12 years of Quebec fishing. Take a look at them.

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