Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Is The Sport Of Fly Fishing Hurting?

"Sad fact: the last time fly-fishing was on the rise, Bill Clinton was in the White House. According to the Fish and Wildlife ." - Outside

I have read here and there that the sport of fly fishing is hurting.  I decided to do a little research. Granted it's not much but I wanted to see what was out there.  I found this article done by Field and Stream. It talked about a study done in 2012 by The American Fly Fishing Trade Association that concluded....

"Total sales of all fly fishing products amount to just under $750 million, marking fly fishing as a niche endeavor. (For example, some brands of candy bars sell more than the whole fly fishing market combined.)" - Field and Stream

That total seemed pretty low. I was thinking the number would be some where in the billions. Some other interesting notes were.

"Over half of fly fishing sales happen west of the Mississippi River, with the Rocky Mountain region leading with 31.5 percent. The far West is 25.8 percent; the South is 23.7 percent; Northeast is 10.9 percent and North Central is 8.1 percent." - Field And Stream

The south makes up almost 25%? I would have never guessed that.

The main reason I started to look into this is because from my eyes the interest in fly fishing is growing not diminishing. The fly show in NC had to be moved to a new venue because the previous location was too small for the crowds and vendors. If you look on Outdoor Blogger Network almost 25% of all the blogs are fly fishing related. That would mean either fly fishing is more popular than we think or fly fisherman are more internet savvy and just want to write blogs. It seems new rod and clothing manufacturers are popping up all the time. Brands like Freefly, Howler Bros and Bug Slinger just to name a few.

Online magazines featuring fly fishing specifically are becoming more and more common. Fly fishing products seems to be going up in price and not down. 

Some may say "Well if fly fishing is doing so well how come all these fly shops are closing?"

I would put blame on the internet. In the past you couldn't take 15 seconds to look up a competitors deal on your smartphone or computer. The shops have learned if they want to survive they have to go online.

The cost of gear seems to be constantly rising. Doesn't that kind of contradict the idea that the sport is losing interest?  Do people treat fly fishing like Walmart. We shop there but we don't talk about it much because of what people might think?  

People in the know realize there is a lot of interest. Many are trying to jump on what is hot at the moment. Ever heard of April Vokey?

Another perfect example is Tenkara and the current carp mania. A great comment was on the Field and Stream Article's website.

"Have never heard the phrase "lifestyle shop" before. Is that the shop where everyone buys cool fishing hats and shirts but nobody fishes?
Looks like the greatest potential for growth are the warm water fisheries in the east. Which may explain the recent surge in popularity of that dirty little four letter word... carp."buckhunter comments section: Field and Stream

That comment was made tongue-in-cheek but in reality people are trying to get in on this carp thing.  Money can be made where there is interest. Maybe in the south people will think of bass and carp like people in the west think of trout. Who knows? As long as the interest grows it's good for the sport.

I'd like to hear others thoughts about this.

Dickman, K. 06/11/2012 (Fly Gal, April Vokey’s crusade to save a foundering sport), Retrieved From http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/xx-factor/Fly-Gal-20120701.html

Deeter, K. 08/30/2012 (Market Research Paints Clear Picture of Fly Fishing Industry), Retrieved From http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/flytalk/2012/08/interesting-facts-about-fly-fishing-market


  1. All vegetables are fruits, but not all fruits are vegetables. Fishing ain't hunting. Ever catch and release a whitetail or a black bear? Dare you to. I don't hunt... nothing against it, but I'd rather not start cutting the sleeves off my shirts while reciting redneck jokes.

  2. Dude, When I first read your comment I thought maybe it was one of those weird spam ones. I guess I missed the point you were trying to make. Did you think the title of my blog was Is Fly Fishing Hunting?

    1. Yeah. Sorry. Too much smoke in this room. Haha. Dang. Now I see. All I could think about after mis-reading your title was some poor sap wrestling a bear, then letting it go. My mind wanders. Haha. After that I kinda checked out your picture of April V... and got another mental picture. .. mmmm

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  4. Damn, it's smokey here to.
    The cost of new gear is rising while it seems to me that the numbers of people fly fishing has risen. My best guess is many people are discovering the 2nd hand market for their gear because who can afford to pay $700 for a rod, $400 for a reel, $150 for a pack, $200 or so for waders, $200 for boots? Maybe once but I doubt those same people have a dozen rods and reels. So I don't think the sport is losing popularity, people are just getting savvy about gear purchases.

  5. Howard, I agree. I remember when I first got into fly fishing I would only find so many rods and flies on ebay. Now there are thousands. All of my rods were given to me or bought on clearance. The internet has made finding these "clearance and closeout" deals easier.

  6. Sometimes less is more.
    Good post.

  7. If you want the local business to stay, you have to support it.

    As far as fly fishing goes- every fly fisherman should fish with worms a couple of times a year to stay grounded- and maybe even cut off their sleeves.. I think this is important to the success of fly fishing as a whole.

  8. My wife mentioned that EVERY new comercial with anyone fishing is fly fishing, or rather, trying to with the producerd thought was appropriate, often comical, but fly fishing nevertheless.


  9. Funny you say that Gregg, I remember seeing some testerone enhancement commercial or something like that where a guy was fly fishing. I thought to myself at least they could have found someone that knew how to cast. The actor looked like they never did a cast in their life.

  10. I think any number of variables are in play. Fly fishing is hard, for one thing. At least at first. A new angler can pick up a spinning outfit for the first time and be fishing in short order. Not so much with a fly rod. Breaking in to the fly fishing culture can also be a bit intimidating for newbies. I heard comments to that effect all the time from students in the fly fishing school I've taught over the years. Go pick up a bass fishing mag and a fly fishing mag. Which one seems a little high falutin' and exclusive? Which one seems a little more home-spun and made for the "everyman"? The sport of fishing as a whole is actually gaining in popularity according to market studies that I've seen. Fly fishing might gain some traction too if folks felt it was ok to wet-wade in cut-off blue jeans and throw flies to carp and bluegills. Sorry if that sounds like a rant. Not meant to be.

  11. CA, that doesn't sound like a rant at all. Fly fishing is an expensive sport to get into. I relate it to golf. You get into it then after awhile you want a different golf club for certain situations. You buy shirts that seem to keep you cool on the course. Different shoes that supposedly give you better support.

    The same goes for fishing. The marketing tells us we need all this stuff and you should look and have these things when you're doing it. You don't see too many movies or hear stories of people digging for worms and going out with pa to the pond when it comes to fly fishing. I think with advancements in technology and the in your face style media we have these days. Younger kids are being introduced to fly fishing. This may help the sport and change the way it is looked at. Not just a for the rich and snobby. Fly fishing can be enjoyed by everyone.

  12. To the comment about fly fishing appearing in commercials Ive noticed that as well. In addition, I was watching this documentary (HBO i think) on birders in central park, and lo and behold at some point they cut to a scene of a man fly fishing in Central Park...fly fishing of all things. I was actually impressed that there are inner city new yorkers that go to central park to fly fish, but also that such a beautiful documentary saw it fit to feature it. Makes me realize potentially how many people are fly fishing in locations we would never imagine people casting in. Fly Fishing isnt dying at all.