Market Research Paints Clear Picture of Fly Fishing Industry

The American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) recently commissioned the market research firm Southwick Associates, Inc., to do a study on retailers in the fly fishing industry. The results provide a clearer picture on the sport than we've had in a long time. Here are some tidbits you might find interesting:

- 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.)

- 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.

- The product that sells the most? Flies. But other things like fly tying materials, rods, reels, and clothing are all pretty close. We're noting that there are two types of fly shop -- those that actually make most of their money selling flies (usually adjacent to a major river), and "lifestyle" shops that sell the fly fishing "culture." What type is your shop?

- There are approximately 3.8 million fly anglers in the United States, according to license data from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Personally, I think if you looked at the number of "serious" anglers that fish more than once or twice a year, that number would be about half that. So if you're a dedicated fly rodder, you're one in 10 of the U.S. population.

- Women account for 15 percent of fly product sales, which underscores what I said several months ago about the sport being too "manly."

- Freshwater fishing accounts for 64 percent of the fly market versus 36 percent for saltwater. Interestingly, "warmwater fishing," (which includes bass and carp) equaled 17.2 percent of sales last year. The fly fishing world still clearly spins around trout.

- Over 80 percent of products are still sold through actual fly shops, though Internet sales are indeed growing.

Just a little food for thought.