Fly-Fishing: Angling feels effects of struggling economy

Inevitably, I guess, the nasty economy is taking a toll on some institutions of fly-fishing.

Inevitably, I guess, the nasty economy is taking a toll on some institutions of fly-fishing.

First came word that Phil Mon­ahan, editor of American Angler magazine, was let go at the end of 2008. Monahan is a fine editor and writer, and he’s also a stand-up guy — I got to fish with him once, and enjoyed his company.

I’m sure Monahan will land on his feet, but it’s still a shame. Amer­ican Angler has always been my favorite fly-fishing magazine.

Now, the Orvis Co. has laid off 26 full-time staff members at its headquarters in Sunderland, Vt., and 12 more at its rod factory in nearby Manchester. Spokesman James Hathaway told the Rutland Herald last week the layoffs were because of slow sales in the most recent quarter and projections of more of the same.

“It was done as gently as we could. These people are our friends and family. We provided as generous a severance package as we could afford and outplacement services,” Hathaway said.

People who have lost their jobs or are saving wherever possible in case they lose their jobs aren’t going to be inclined to treat themselves to pricey new fly rods. When the tackle companies feel the pinch, they cut back on advertising, which imperils the magazines we all enjoy.

I have no evidence of it, but it seems likely that fly-fishing destin­ations like Rocky Mountains trout towns and Belize bonefish lodges will also suffer as anglers forego trips. Of course, lots of people still have their jobs and don’t feel at risk of losing them, and will continue to take their annual fishing trips. But we might see more people fishing close to home this season.

Things weren’t good for the fly-fishing industry even before the current recession. Despite the youth movement we see evidenced in the proliferation of fly-fishing blogs and gonzo fishing documentaries, friends in the business have been telling me that while other methods of fishing were doing well, fewer and fewer people were taking up fly-fishing.

Not everyone is in the dumps.

Tom Schmuecker, owner of Wapsi Fly Co. in Arkansas, the world’s biggest wholesaler of fly-tying materials, told a local paper in December that things were going well — mainly because his products are inexpensive. Anglers may be reluctant to buy a costly piece of gear, but they’ll part with a few bucks for a package of saddle hackle feathers or a bucktail.

Here’s hoping we can all hang on until confidence replaces fear as the driving emotion in the things that are important in life, fly-fishing included.


Here’s an inexpensive way to get into an enjoyable hobby that will help pass the winter. Goldstock’s Sporting Goods on Freeman’s Bridge Road in Glenville will offer one-day fly-tying classes every Saturday, from this week through Feb. 21 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with a break for lunch.

The only cost is a $20 fee for materials. Participants will need to bring their own vise and tools.

The classes are designed for beginners or more experienced tiers who would like to brush up on their technique. Call the shop at 382-2037 for more information.

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