Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Premiere Issue August 2013
decided about six years ago that we would start building Perfect Fly fly rods. I did so knowing that those companies
building their own fly rods and selling them directly to the angler were doing much better than those going through the
normal distribution channels using sales representatives, distributors and retail fly shop outlets. Orvis seemed to be
doing quite well selling them directly to anglers. I was also well aware that those fly rod companies selling their fly rods only
through the brick and mortar fly shops were struggling to stay in business. This included companies that had been in the fly rod
manufacturing business for years.
At first, I didn't as much as think about making them here in the United States. I had witnessed how fast Temple Fork seemed to
take over the fly rod market in a short time and I knew their rods were made in Korea. They were making some pretty good fly
rods and seemed to be doing well selling them at a price well below the companies manufacturing their rods in the United
States. It seemed obvious at the time, as with many other products, that it would be difficult to manufacturer fly rods in the U. S.,
and compete with companies manufacturing their fly rods overseas. It turned out that wasn't the case at all.
I first purchased some samples of fly rods that were made in China. The quality wasn't what I wanted but the price was
unbelievably low. The same Chinese companies were making fly rods for several U.S., fly rod companies. There was a problem
with it though. The cosmetic quality of the samples I received was very low. Their response to my concern with the quality was
that they built the rods for other U. S., fly rod manufacturers to their own specifications on an OEM basis. So, my next move
was to come up with my own design and specifications. When I examined the fly rods that the U. S., manufacturers were
acquiring on an OEM basis, I found the overall finish quality was better than the samples they had sent me, but noticed they
still used low quality hardware and that the fly rods failed to measure up to what I wanted in the way of performance.
I knew I could improve on the quality of the rods with tighter, more rigid specifications and not only would I have the advantage
of the much lower overseas manufacturing cost, I would be selling directly to anglers avoiding the 60% or better price markup
necessary for the normal fly manufacturer, sales representative, distributor to fly shop distribution. It doesn't take a rocket
scientist to figure that's a big cost savings advantage.
It took a pretty good hunk of up front cash, a huge amount of time dealing with the exact design and specifications, and an over
optimistic attitude to get things going with the Chinese, but I did just that. I won't go into the details of what happened but I will
point out that after a year of their holding our substantial cash deposit, and a year of receiving excuses for delays due to their
constant request to make changes in the specifications (and if not, a substantial cost increase) I received exactly nothing but
email from them.
I wasn't dealing with a small Chinese Company. They employed several hundred people, had several thousand square feet of
manufacturing space, and made rods for companies worldwide. I had other problems. I knew what was put in email wasn't
exactly a legal contract. I knew any type of legal approach would only amount to a waste of additional time and money. I also
knew Perfect Fly wasn't Walmart. We couldn't afford to set up an office in China to make sure we were getting what we were
paying for. Neither could I dangle millions of dollars in front of them and threaten to keep it if they didn't perform. I was finally
forced to realize that we were waisting a lot of time and from a financial standpoint, we could probably do a lot better gambling
in Vegas. After two and a half years of trying to get our fly rod business going on an OEM basis with the (I'll omit my choice
words for them), I decided I would build them where I had control over the process.
I had other experiences I won't go into detail on, including some with the South Koreans. I even had a few disappointments
dealing with companies right here in the United States but I was use to that. I've been in business for myself since 1966. Like
the lyrics of the Jimmy Buffet song "A Pirate Looks at Forty", I've made enough money to buy Miami, but oh well, your have to
listen to the song. I've always been able to do fairly well doing the things I enjoy the most. I've been able to make my living from
fishing and/or other closely related outdoor activities since 1980. I wasn't about to let anyone change things.
The bottom line to the Perfect Fly rod story is that it turned out to be much more difficult to get things going than I anticipated.
Considering the time I've spent getting started, I figure we need to sell about 10,000 rods just to be compensated at the
current minimum wage rate. We just may accomplish that objective one day. The rods are selling steady and we are designing
more as we go along. By far the most satisfying part of the fly rod part of the business is the satisfaction our customers have
expressed. The reception has been far better than we thought possible, not because we don't have full confidence in them but
because different anglers have different preferences. Not everyone likes a fast action rod and so far, that's all we are offering.
Of course, we try to make everyone fully aware of the advantages and disadvantages of fast action rods but of much more
importance is our satisfaction guarantee. We give everyone an opportunity to use the rods to make certain they are happy with
them. If for some reason they are not satisfied with their purchase, we not only give them an opportunity to return it for a full
refund of the purchase price, we want the rod returned. As a matter of fact, we have a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of
our Perfect Fly products and that includes our fly rods.
Our New Fly Rods
A Long Time In The Making, But Well Worth The Effort