Monday, May 13, 2013

New Simms Factory Tour & a bit of fishing..

Anybody that has ever been to our shop knows that Simms products are a huge part of our lineup and that we regard our relationship with that company as among our most valued.  I just got from Bozeman after touring their new state of the art manufacturing facility/ headquarters - and thought that I would share some thoughts on the long relationship that we have undertaken with one of the industries key players.

12 years ago, we first stocked the Simms Guide Jacket, their Guide Waders and a handful of Simms fleece and tops.  That was the extent of "soft goods" available at our ChiFly!  KC Walsh (Owner of Simms) and Diane Bristol (marketing director back then) were actually visiting our first 800 square foot store when we sold our very first, gasp, $295 dollar wading jacket....

Humble beginnings - the first shop

As they have grown their product line-up exponentially, their footprint at our shop as well as in the industry has evolved into a presence that is incredibly large and symbolic of the current state of this thing that we all love - fly fishing.
This is 1/3 of the current footprint devoted to soft goods!

Their flagship manufacturing facility is also their headquarters, their repair department, their marketing arm, their strategic planning headquarters, shipping department, warehouse and everything else packaged together under one roof.  They are the sole remaining US manufacturer of waders, and everything at this headquarters literally revolves around  (both physically and metaphorically) around their "Made in the USA Waders" story.

Upon walking into the vaulted entrance/lobby, one instantly understands that they have entered "Simms".  The imagery is rich, the subtle color accents are Simms Orange, and right behind the super clean lines of the reception area is showcased their factory floor.  Visitors can see what Made in the USA actually looks like, and watch the super technically skilled craftsmen and women use the highest quality, most technically advanced Gore-Tex materials and equipment and produce arguably the finest waders in the market.  I can't remember ever walking into another US manufacturer and seeing actual manufacturing taking place behind the reception area...  Kind of a neat departure.

Everyone that enter the new Simms HQ can see what "Made in the USA" looks like in progress

They obviously have a great deal planned for our future enjoyment, and 2014 promises a giant new product cycle.  They have a disproportionately talented team in place, from the manufacturing to the R&D and sales and marketing team and it will be fun to watch their company evolve.  I understand the subtle draw of "fly fishing" - this tiny industry attracts a lot of super talented people (way disproportionate to the tiny overall dollars involved)  "Simms" is the living evolving embodiment of this phenomenon - a lot of smart people wanting to be a part of the bigger "fly fishing" dream....  Stay tuned for more on what is coming from Simms!

It would be crazy to go out there and not wet a line!  I fished for two days and was reminded of just how special Montana is.  Day one was spent fishing with Chris Frangiosa (from TCO Fly Shop in Pennsylvania) on the Jefferson River.  We were guided by Greg Bricker of Freestone Fly Fishing Outfitters - a superb guide and extremely fun guy to spend the day with. Greg showed us around his backyard on a super long float.  Although streamer fishing produced all day long, we broke things up for a couple of hours during a March Brown and Caddis hatch that produced pods of gulpers.  Ironically the largest brown I touched all day was on a dry!  (Guess what?  The Purple Parawulf works just fine when brown drakes and caddis are hatching - just like on the creeks in Wisconsin!)

Greg Bricker hold one of Chris Frangiosa's many browns - thx for the pictures Chris!

Day two, John Nehring and Nick Krueger, two great guys that work at Simms HQ, drew the short straw and volunteered to show me around the Yellowstone.  They took their day off, and rowed me down one of the prettier floats on the Yellowstone.  It was a great opportunity to learn about their roles at Simms and hear what it's like from two guys on the front lines.  John works on sourcing and planning on the manufacturing side of the biz, and Nick heads up the repair department there.  Great guys to know!  I felt lucky to have an opportunity to get to know these guys better and was touched by their generosity - a HUGE "Thanks" to them!
John Nehring breaking the ice!

Our ChiFly Sticker finds another home!