For fly fishing aficionados, cost is secondary

Posted: Thursday, September 28, 2000

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Watching a trout flash in the water and take a fly has gotten awfully pricey.

The cost of getting outfitted with rod, reel, line, waders, boots, vest, flies and other equipment -- as demonstrated at a recent Fly-Fishing Retailer Show at the Salt Palace Convention Center -- runs into hundreds of dollars, or more.

But to most people hooked on the piscatorial pursuit, cost is secondary -- and the equipment is cool enough to justify forking over the dough, anyway. Unlike the computer industry, where technological advances have lowered prices, fishing gear gets more expensive the more high-tech it becomes.

Buying the basics -- waders, boots, reel, vest and rod -- costs in the neighborhood of $600 with equipment exhibited at the Salt Palace. And that's not for top-of-the-line stuff.

The best gear can run $1,300 or more for the same basic equipment. Add a pontoon boat for lake fishing, and the cost reaches at least a couple of thousand dollars.

Manufacturers, while conscious of prices, say people who fly fish are as concerned about quality as they are about cost. When you average the price of buying equipment over the years it is used, the annual cost is minimal, say those in the industry.

''In the outdoor industry when you use technical products, prices go higher, not lower,'' Diane Bristol of Simms said. The company, based in Bozeman, Mont., makes waders, boots, jackets and other equipment.

The company's Gore-Tex waders retail from $215 to $525 and come with a lifetime guarantee. Boots to wear with the waders for walking in a river cost $79 to $135.

Simms is trying to hold price increases to a minimum, but the company expects to see a small bump next year, Bristol said.

The higher cost of oil means R.L. Winston Rod Co., which makes higher-end rods, raises its prices, company vice president Mark Ewing said. Winston's rods are made with petrochemical products, which means the price of oil affects the cost of making them.

''All our prices are up,'' he said. ''But not significantly.''

Winston's rods range from $545 to $695 at retail. But the average user keeps a Winston rod for 30 years, Ewing said.

The company records the serial number of each rod sold and can trace ownership back to the year of the company's founding -- 1929. Winston started out in California, but moved to Montana in the 1970s.

Winston also sells 100 to 125 bamboo rods a year, which cost from $2,400 to $2,900 each, Ewing said.

Abel Reels hasn't raised its prices in two years, said company controller Don Swanson. But the California company's aluminum reels start at $235 and go up to $1,260.

The most expensive Abel reels can haul in a marlin, while those for bringing in trout are at the company's lower end of the price range.

''We're like the Rolls Royce of the reel industry,'' Swanson said.

Scientific Anglers of St. Paul, Minn., did not raise its reel prices this year, said Jean Kohn. The cost of a Scientific Angler reel runs from $29.95 for a composite graphic reel to $1,000 or more for an aluminum one.

The most expensive reel from Scientific Anglers, made of titanium, costs about $3,000, but that's more of a collector's piece, Kohn said.

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