Back in Business

short casts
The return of trade shows is good news – even if most fly fishers can probably get by without another new rod.

by Scott Sadil

In news last week that promises to lift the spirits of the business side of the sport, the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) announced that its annual International Fly Tackle Dealer Show, cancelled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, will be held October 20-22 this year at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City.

For veteran AFFTA members, the return to Utah may feel like coming full circle; Salt Lake City hosted the IFTD Show for nearly a decade beginning in the mid-nineties.

My only gripe is that a departure from Denver, where the IFTD Show was held prior to last  year’s cancellation, means that there’s less chance I’ll get to hang out and shoot the mierda with my compatriot, John Gierach.

Let’s face it: for those of us at the margins of the so-called industry, a trade show is less about negotiating contracts than it is about seeing old friends.

And, if lucky, making new ones.

Still, it’s serious stuff for those in the thick of it. Sort of. I can remember, long ago, showing up to sit behind a table with other authors: Dave Whitlock, Gary LaFontaine, and Lefty Kreh were lined up alongside me. It would be an understatement to remark that I felt a wee bit intimidated. I’d written one book, about the size of the Ennis phone directory; these guys next to me were Real Guys. Yet over the course of the weekend, I heard nothing but the friendliest of banter.  

Finally, I got it. Of course these guys are happy: they make a living fly fishing.

Or are pleasant, joyful folks attracted to the sport in the first place?

At another show, Dave Hughes spotted me passing the author’s booth.

“Hey,” he said, “you belong on this side of the table.”

Flattered, I joined him.

Hughes saw the photographer Jim Schollmeyer in the crowd and called him over, too.

“You know who this is, don’t you?” said Hughes, pointing my way.  “Scott Su-DILL.”

I paused a moment to gaze at my new pals. 

Sadil,” I said. “Rhymes with cradle.”

Moments like these help put things in perspective. We’re all just trying to fool fish with funny flies, for chrissake. And I often contend, based on no facts whatsoever, that the industry itself is about the same size as the business behind the hobby of model trains.  

Nobody gets into it to make a killing.

Anyway, it will take someone a lot smarter than I am about money to make any claims as to where the business of fly fishing is headed following the disruption caused by the COVID pandemic. 

The AFFTA International Fly Tackle Dealer Show, however, seems like a step in the right direction.


Gray’s Angling Editor Scott Sadil claims he follows a business plan that will allow him to retire when he’s 117 years old.