I almost couldn’t believe my ears. Standing in a flyshop in the heart of U.A.W. country in Michigan, I heard the guy behind the counter say: “If it weren’t for Temple Fork and other foreign-made rods, we wouldn’t be selling any rods at all, and we might not even be in business. We stock Winston, Scott, and Sage, because that’s what we like … we stock TFO because they sell.”
A few days earlier, a Colorado flyshop owner had said to me, “Cheap Chinese and Korean rods will kill the industry. They basically make price the only factor, and forsake the specialty fly shop for the big box stores. It’s Wal-Mart thinking at its worst.”
Proponents argue a rod is a rod. Same graphite. Same process. Make it in China, with lower labor costs, and the consumer wins by saving some bucks … just as they do with golf clubs, bicycles, and running shoes.
Opponents contend a fly rod is more artifact than commodity — think Martin Guitars or Harley-Davidson motorcycles — and artisanship starts at home. I’ve heard people say that cheaper-priced foreign rods will bring more people into the sport. I’ve also heard the counter-argument that selling out to imports will kill product innovation. I see both sides. I’m not sure I totally agree with either.
So what do you think? When you buy a rod, is it all about the money? All about the substance? Or somewhere in the middle? Is “Made in America” and endangered species in flyfishing? Do you even care?