One look at the range of fly rods at your local tackle store should tell you all you need to know. Sage, Loomis, Scott, Winston, Redington, Orvis… One word: competitive. Throw in a volatile economy and you’d have to be mad to think about a launching a new fly rod company now, right?
Well that’s what Amanda Switzer, co-founder of Rise Fishing Co., initially thought. Then she realized she had a unique opportunity on her hands – an opportunity to pool her experience and knowledge with some of the finest guides in the game to produce a new rod for a new era of fishing.
But this was to be no ordinary launch. Mindful of the necessity to bolster interest in the sport, Rise came up with a top-of-the-range product with an entry-level price. On top of that, they signaled their intent to safeguard the delicate future of fly-fishing and the natural world that underpins its appeal, by committing 20 per cent of proceeds to conservation and education. This is very much a company with a difference, with a mission to give back to the sport, to throw down the gauntlet to others.
So Fishipedia caught up with co-founder Amanda Switzer for a quick Q&A, to see how things are going so far…
It’s now a few weeks since your website and company launched. Firstly, congratulations. How has it been so far?
Launching a new company in this economic environment is next to insane, especially in the limited market of fly-fishing. For the past year we have convinced ourselves that we can enter this market and create a niche where we offer high performance rods that are affordable. We have received a great response so far, receiving high marks from those who have casted them at the Somerset Fly Fishing Show. People love the price point ($229 – $249) and the addition of an extra tip really perked people’s interest. Being that the company was developed by fishing guides, we all know how helpful it is to have an extra tip as people step on them, or drive them into trees when walking through the woods!
There is a battle ahead of us, as we have very good competition, but I feel that our rods cast phenomenally and fish just as well. I would have NEVER gone into this business if I didn’t feel this way.
Very soon certain fly shops will be carrying our products, so people will have to chance to get a chance to cast the rods!
How did the idea for the Rise Fishing Co come about?
My husband, in his days living upstate NY, worked for a fly rod company, designing and building fly rods. His passion for fishing rivals mine! He approached me a year and a half ago and tossed the idea at me of starting a fly rod business. My first reaction was that he was insane. The economy is crap and the competition fierce. After months of agonizing and badgering, he finally convinced me that we could make a killer fly rod which was affordable. I said I was in, as long as we could donate a large percentage to fisheries conservation and preservation. After 11 years of benefiting from my resourses, it was time I gave back. This was the perfect fit!
We want people entering the sport to start out with a high performance fly rod, not an entry-level rod that can inhibit your abilities (like what happened to me when I was starting out!)
We also want proficient and expert fly-fishermen to be able to pick up our rods and be blown away at the quality and performance of them.
We had Prescott Smith [legendary Bahamas bonefish guide and lodge owner] cast our Level Series 8 weight, and with a smile, he said that this rod is perfect for his fishery. These are the reactions we are getting from fishing guides who know what people need to get the job done.
Can you tell us a little bit about Team Rise Fishing Co. , the people that make it tick…
Rise Fishing Co. was developed by guides, and all of our designing comes from years of understanding the needs of our clients. Hannah Belford owns and operates a lodge on the Damdochax, and specializes in Spey fishing. She is currently working with us on developing a Spey series. Gjuro Bruer is as intense as a fishing guide can get. He specializes in tarpon and redfish and is our inspiration for developing a tarpon rod that can be used in array of big fish situations. Paul Dixon, legendary Northeast fishing guide, has been with us from day one, testing the hell out of our rods, refining the action for sight fishing. Bryan Goulart, our urban collaborator, takes our rods to the next level, testing and refining them to withstand the abuse that fly rods experience in rough fishing conditions. Our staff is crucial to the development of the company and our products. As we grow, our guides’ input and experience set us apart from the competition.
How scary was it, preparing to come into what is already such a competitive market?
If we were scared, we would have run away. Fear comes from uncertainty. We are a pretty stubborn crew of people who believe that we have a superior product. Our industry needs a change. We need to address that our sport is suffering and it is up to us to initiate the change, not point fingers or admit defeat. We need younger blood in the sport, and need to make it current and exciting.
Fly-fishermen are a small sector of the fishing world. We have an immense responsibility to protect our global resourses. Sad to say, we are not doing enough. The alarming rate at which we are losing species, breeding grounds and polluting our rivers is sickening. If we as whole do not do something quick, there will be NO market for fly rods!
People love your commitment to donating 20% of proceeds to fishery conservation. How did that idea come about?
Twenty per cent to fisheries conservation and education felt right. I fought for this over the past year. Some amazing people in the world of conservation have influenced me. Richard Reagan, who ran the Norcross Wildlife Foundation, has become a dear friend to me. He has spent the majority of his life helping protect our recourses by distributing grants to small organizations that really needed the help. Carl Safina, author, biologist and fisherman, has inspired me to give more of myself over the years. I guess I felt guilty, doing nothing to give back to the ecosystem that I have profited from all these years. There are numerous organizations trying to make a difference, and without the support, our fishery is screwed.
And what else do you think separates your products from others out there?
Our new series of fly rods come with an extra tip, rod case and are made of high quality graphite (mixture of im 8 and 10). Our guides are titanium carbide and the components are top of the line. The rods are tested day in and day out, by fishing guides and their clients. From tarpon to trout, testing is our priority. Throughout all our testing, our rods have proved to take a beating and have never broken on a fish!
I think we have created an affordable, high performance rod that any level of angler would want to add to their collection.
Fishipedia users are a well-travelled bunch. If you had to recommend one rod for their suitcase, what would it be?
That’s like asking a woman to choose only one pair of shoes, but if there was only one rod someone should take then for saltwater it would be the Level Series 8 weight (for sight fishing).
And finally, if you had one day left to go fishing, where would you go and which Rise rod would you take with you?
Bolivia, golden dorado, Level 7 weight.
To find out more about Rise Fishing Co. and their new line of rods, head to www.risefishing.com
To see the rods in action, check out the video below: