Reeling in fly-fishing dollars at FlyMaster Inc.
Familiar with wading into rivers and lakes, five local fly fishermen didn’t hesitate to step into a growing market for fly-fishing equipment. “We thought it would be easy to break even in Indianapolis. It is really the only city of its size in the country that doesn’t have a specialty fly-fishing store,” according to Mike Brooks, an owner of FlyMaster Inc.
Brooks and four fellow fishermen–Chris Peterson, John Frapps, Jack Scifres and Floyd Sendmeyer–began planning for the store last March, according to Brooks. Peterson purchased the building at 1001 E. 86th St. for both his insurance business and for FlyMaster, which occupies 1,400 square feet on the first floor, explained Brooks.
The merchandise at the Nora shop includes “just about everything you would need except the fish and the water,” said Brooks. Rods, reels, lines, clothing and fishing flys are just a few of the things that fill the shelves. To get set up for fly fishing, a beginner can expect to pay between $150 and $200 for a fly rod, reel, line and flies and between $100 and $200 for wader pants, according to Brooks.
In addition to merchandise, FlyMaster offers services such as casting clinics and fly-tying classes, said Brooks. The owners use their experience at fly fishing throughout North America to help customers plan expeditions–mainly to Michigan and northwestern states–by providing maps, giving geographical information and matching groups with a guide.
Although the fall and winter are not the best times of year for fly-fishing sales, Brooks indicated that the store was doing as well as similar stores in other cities. Getting the name out and making sportsmen aware of FlyMaster have been priorities for the owners. Brooks estimated that the store will bring in about $70,000 in its first year. He wouldn’t disclose start-up fees.
Participating in activities such as the Conner Prairie Sports Show and advertising in local publications have been just a few of the marketing strategies the owners hope will contribute to increasing customer awareness, according to Brooks. Word of mouth has been the most successful means of attracting new customers, he added.
Although fly fishing has been around for many years, its popularity has grown recently. “The sport has become glamorized as an executive outlet. It is the fastest-growing aspect of fishing,” noted Brooks. Its popularity is not limited only to executives–FlyMaster’s target market includes professionals, farmers and fireman, to name a few.
Indianapolis Flycasters, the local association for fly fishermen, put a ceiling on membership at 125 because demand is so great, according to President Chuck Huff. Because the number of local fishermen is growing, Huff said that Indianapolis should be able to support not only the new store but another fly-fishing club as well.
Local competition for FlyMaster comes from the well-established TD Brooke Ltd. The store at Keystone at the Crossing credits about 12 percent of its sales to fly-fishing supplies and has two full-time employees dedicated to that division, according to Jamie Cottingham, president and manager. He does not see FlyMaster creating too much competition because of the reputation TD Brooke has built during its 17 years of selling fly-fishing equipment.