The AFFTA Board of Directors consists of up to fifteen elected members. The desired make-up of the Board consists of no fewer than two Members representing each category of the industry; manufacturers, retailers, sales representatives, media, and travel/guides. To maintain this diversity, elections will first focus on the appointment of Members to support the two member category representation. If candidate resources do not support this effort, Board positions will then be filled with Members who receive the highest number of votes.
Based on the current board term expirations, there are currently six Board of Director seats to be filled with this election. To maintain the diversity of the board as outlined in the AFFTA bylaws, the association is searching out at least 2 Media/PR/Mrktg/Associations/Government/Educational, 1 Sales Representative, 2 Travel/Guides/Lodges/Outfitters and 1 Retailer. The election will begin August 1 and conclude August 15 via electronic ballot.
Simms Fishing Products
Steve has served on the AAFTA Board for the past seven months after joining Simms in January of 2014. While with Simms, Steve’s highest priority has been to ensure that Simms delivers as a business partner with specialty retailers by executing upon their needs. The primary focus at Simms has been to increase our level of quality and angler driven apparel, execute on timely and complete deliveries, increase dealer profits, and improve sell-through.
Prior to join Simms, Steve was one of the original owners of the ExOfficio Adventure Apparel company and enjoyed 22 years managing the culture and brand through incredible achievements which lead to the sale of the brand to the Orvis company, who later sold the brand to K2 Inc., who in turn was acquired by the Jarden Corporation. Steve has traveled to multiple continents while sourcing production, partnering with global distributors, and travelled to all but one of our United States (South Dakota) visiting specialty shops with independent sales representatives by planes, trains and automobiles. During this time Steve opened and was responsible for five ExOfficio retail stores while growing the specialty apparel business where ExOfficio held a market position in apparel and baselayer that lead the category in market share. Prior to ExOfficio Steve managed the Archer and Angler, a Specialty fly fishing and archery retail operation in Seattle. In addition to this Steve is involved in a family fishing camp, Circle-W, in Kamloops British Columbia where the fly anglers return year after year enjoying the rustic seclusion in 9 cabins isolated from civilization while pursing Kamloops trout on stillwater.
Detailed Bio Summary:
AFFTA: Currently serving an interim role on the AFFTA Board of Directors. Seeking board position to grow organizations membership and build a robust organization that raises the global awareness and participation of flyfishing.
Simms: 1.5 years as the Vice President of Simms Fishing Products. Strategic Senior leadership role within Simms Fishing Products to align brand partnerships and the global initiatives of the brand to elevate the perception and participation of flyfishing.
Jarden: ExOfficio General Manager
6.5 years as the General Manager of ExOfficio Adventure Travel Apparel. Managed all aspects of the ExOfficio brand on a global level while aligning with the corporate objectives of Jarden Outdoor Solutions within the Technical Apparel Platform. While in this role, ExOfficio exceeded annual sales goals while delivering the highest EBITDA performance within all Jarden outdoor brands.
K2 Inc: Vice President of Sales for ExOfficio.
Promoted to VP of Sales for ExOfficio and became one K2’s most profitable brands within their outdoor portfolio.
Orvis: National Sales Manager. Managed ExOfficio Sales and created the wholesale sportswear line with Orvis. This was an incredible experience where the culture, commitment to quality, and the dedication to conservation fed my soul.
ExOfficio: One of 6 original shareholders and partners to bring ExOfficio market and establish brand before selling to the Orvis company. Traveled to every state by car with reps (except South Dakota) visiting specialty shops and learning nuances to the shops and waters within North America
Circle-W Fishing Camp: Caretaker at Family owned and operated fishing camp in British Columbia. Canada. Summer employment from 1980 – 1989 was spent as caretaker for the camp and guests of 9 cabins dawn until dusk and longer. Upkeep of cabins, boats, motors, outhouses, selling flies and smoking fish.
Archer & Angler: Employed as the Assistant Manager of a specialty Flyfishing and Archery specialty shop. Learned an immense amount about specialty retail from Tom Darling, a longtime fly fishing retailer in Seattle, Washington.
Trident Fly Fishing
Ben Freeman is the owner and founder of Trident Fly Fishing. Ben started fly fishing at the age of 8 and hasn’t been able to put down a rod since! As a life-long angler, starting Trident was not only a way to combine his passion for fly fishing with his acumen for business, but to affect positive change in the industry – a desire that he hopes to further as a member of the AFFTA board. In particular, he hopes to work toward getting a fly rod into the hands of the next generation by changing the way young people learn to fly fish.
Since founding Trident in 2012, Ben has successfully transformed it into one of the largest and fastest growing fly shops in the country. He is also a serial entrepreneur and has spent his entire career trying to figure out how to re-shape various industries. Prior to founding Trident, Ben worked on the 3rd-Party Platform at Amazon.com, where he was responsible for measuring the success of the platform. He was also a founder of Clearband, a wireless broadband firm, and helped launch Essio Shower. Ben holds a B.A. in Economics from Johns Hopkins University and an M.B.A. from Cornell University.
Ben is an avid traveler and has been to over 85 cities in 22 countries and has fly-fished in many of them. His greatest catch to date is a Golden Mahseer from the Ramganga River in India.
As a kid growing up on the family ranch in the Owyhee mountains south of Boise, I was exposed to fishing early on. On a summer vacation near Warm Lake in central Idaho, I caught my first fish with a bamboo fly rod and an automatic reel at the age of seven. That love of fishing and adventures outdoors has been the driver for my professional life.
I got my first job as a tech rep for Garmont Ski Boots, followed by Nordica. In those days, we had the summers off. I started guiding for Terry Ring, which I did for 14 years. Patagonia called Terry and said they were looking to hire a fishing rep; I was hired in 1994.
In 2004 my family and I bought a ranch along the Fall River in Idaho. When we moved in, we found that we had an invasive weed problem. Because we own about a mile of river, I did not want to use herbicides that would leach into the river. We brought 650 goats in to eat the weeds. We also started our own insectary to raise beetles that only eat Leafy Spurge.
After years representing Patagonia as an independent fishing rep, I developed my own agency representing Patagonia, Lamson, and TFO. I was asked 3 years later to take over US sales management. 2 years later I was asked to assume the role of the global sales manager for fish.
Having been in the outdoor/fish industry for over 35 years, I have been able to develop great relationships not only with the retail community but the industry as a whole. I am pleased to work for Patagonia, a company very committed to building the best product and making the world a better place to live and play in.
I have been on the Board of our industry trade association in an interim position since January 2015. I was appointed to fill an open seat and I would be honored to continue to serve the membership and industry for a three year term, please consider me when casting your ballot.
Trouts Fly Fishing
For the last two years it has been my privilege to serve as your chairman of the board. As you consider candidates for our board of directors I would welcome your support.
During my time as AFFTA Chairman, I have seen our industry association make great strides forward in terms of our relevancy and purpose to our members and industry as a whole. From the continued growth and success of IFTD, to the establishment of the AFFTA Dealer Summit and Fisheries Fund, to the addition of countless member benefits, AFFTA has been making conspicuous strides forward thanks to our diverse and committed board of directors, staff and membership.
It has been an honor to be a part of AFFTA’s success, first as an Advisory Board member, then as an elected board member and I am excited about the opportunity for continuing my work as chairman of the board to help propel AFFTA and our industry forward. If re-elected to the board, it would be my primary goal to help diversify AFFTA’s revenue stream to allow great stability for the organization moving forward. Additionally, more work is needed to ensure our membership is as diverse and inclusive as it can be, so increasing membership across all factions of our industry is paramount. Lastly, I would promote more participation in government affairs issues that impact all segments of our industry to ensure healthy and positive growth of the sport.
I greatly appreciate your support, and look forward to representing our industry for another three years.
Tucker is president and owner of Trouts Fly Fishing, a specialty retail store and outfitter located in the heart of Denver, CO. He assumed his ownership roll with Trouts in 2005, and under his leadership Trouts has grown into an industry leading retail operation. In 2015, Tucker acquired Freestone Outfitters, the 2014 Orvis Endorsed Outfitter of the Year, which is currently being run in conjunction with Trouts Fly Fishing. Prior to owning Trouts, Tucker worked as a fly fishing guide and retail associate for Gorsuch Outfitters in Vail, CO., was as a backpacking guide in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, and guided for a private cruise vessel in southeast Alaska. Tucker currently resides in Denver, CO. with his wife Whitney, son Buckley and labs Barrett and Houser.
JD High Country Outfitters
I set out with an exploratory campaign committee, asking the hard questions in regards to running for the AFFTA board, hitting Idaho, Montana, Massachusetts, Georgia and everyone in between and your voices were heard – “Why?”, “You’re crazy, I would never do that!”, “AFFTA doesn’t do anything”, “That’s a lot of work” and “I think you will do great”. Mostly the latter, but hearing the other comments concern me and it is one of the main reasons I feel that I should be an AFFTA Board member.
The American Fly Fishing Trade Association does do things, many things, which keep this industry strong; From the Dealer Summit to the Fisheries Fund and plenty of other initiatives to promote and grow fly fishing. Our small, but always growing, industry needs hard working members to serve on a dynamic board and tackle the tough issues that are brought before us. We are in a critical time where business and conservation objectives must be met to ensure the long term viability of the sport we love.
If you are like me, you did not get into the fly fishing business for the money –rather, you wanted to do something you loved and you hoped you would make some kind of living at it. Fly fishing is my passion and I want to see it sustained for future generations to enjoy. I think this involves strengthening relationships between retailers and manufacturers, creating an incubator or mentoring program to help small fishing related business succeed and spearheading conservation efforts that support our fragile fisheries.
So why me? Well, for one thing, there are no gimmicks. I’m not running on hope or scare tactics. There are no hidden agendas. The sky isn’t falling on the industry but it isn’t perfect either. Here is where I come in, I want to help. The only promise I will make is that I will listen, work hard and learn fast. Fly fishing is what I do. It is who I am. I want to work and grow with the sport.
After a short career in the printing business as Estimator and Production Manager, in 1997 I started working part time as a guide and retail in a fly shop. In 2000, I retired from printing to guide and work full time in a shop. Since that time, I have taken on multiple roles in the industry. While I currently work as the Hard Goods Buyer for JD High Country Outfitters in Jackson, WY, I have worked as retailer, manufacturer’s rep and a manufacturer. I can relate to the needs for all aspects of the industry and will use my experience to make the best and most informed decisions.
Besides work and fishing, I try to spend as much time with my incredibly understanding wife and two Labradors enjoying the great outdoors. I am a Board member of Teton Valley, ID Trout Unlimited as well as a supporter of many other conservation organizations. I also like challenges, like chasing elk with a bow, trying to catch steelhead on a spey pole, permit on a flat and figuring out how to use a whip finish tool. My next challenge is to run and be elected to the AFFTA board and try to improve on the outstanding work of the previous board members.
Outdoor Writers Association of America
I am seeking re-election to the board because I firmly believe my background and experience in the advocacy, communications and fly-fishing arenas can continue to contribute to AFFTA’s success.
As a longtime board member and advisor I bring continuity and historic perspective regarding past association efforts and will use that experience to help secure AFFTA’s current gains and insure a strong and healthy future for the association.
We can measure our success by our influence both within our industry and outside it. Today AFFTA is a trusted and sought after partner on a wide ranges of activities and efforts.
Our efforts in the public policy arena have lead to AFFTA being sought out for advice and engagement on policy issues and AFFTA’s strong financial condition has lead to the creation of the Fisheries Fund providing much needed funding to important conservation and education efforts. Our dealer summit and recent trade shows can only be seen as successful.
AFFTA is larger, stronger and provides more benefits to more members then ever before. As board member, secretary and now vice chairman of the board, it has been my pleasure and privilege to help shape the association into what it is today.
I would very much appreciate your support!
Tom Sadler is the Executive Director of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He oversees the day-to-day operations of this 1000+ member and supporter based organization. OWAA, the Voice of the Outdoors, is the oldest and largest group of outdoor communicators in the country. In his spare time Sadler is a fly-fishing guide and instructor for Mossy Creek Fly Fishing and an award winning freelance outdoor writer.
Sadler is a 30 year veteran of Washington DC’s political and policy arena and a recognized and authoritative voice on conservation policy and advocacy. He has successfully assisted major conservation organizations and hunting and fishing related business groups achieve their policy and communication goals. He has extensive and strong ties with the hunting and fishing community, elected officials and government policy makers.
Sadler’s volunteer activities reflect his passion for fishing and conservation. He currently serves as President of the Massanutten Chapter of Trout Unlimited and is Vice Chairman of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. He has served on the boards of the National Fisheries Friends Partnership, Valley Conservation Council, the Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, the Federation of Fly Fishers, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing and the Shenandoah Mountain Rescue Group, and on the steering committee of the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, a National Fish Habitat Partnership and as the Virginia representative on Trout Unlimited’s National Leadership Council.
Tom spent 14 years as a public affairs officer in the Unites States Navy Reserve retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of New Hampshire.
He is a lifelong fly fisherman, guide and instructor specializing in the tenkara style. Tom and his wife Beth, live with their black lab Lily in the Shenandoah Valley town of Verona, Virginia.
Brandon D. Shuler, Ph.D.
Dr. Brandon D. Shuler has been a waterman his entire life. Growing up in his family’s fishing and hunting lodge, Getaway Adventures Lodge in Port Mansfield, Texas, Dr. Shuler developed a deep affinity to the fishes and ecosystems of the lower Laguna Madre and the Gulf of Mexico.
Parlaying his lifelong guiding and world-travel surfing experiences with a deep conservation ethos and an insatiable love for the feel and taste saltwater, Dr. Shuler has developed a successful writing career in outdoors journals such as Outdoor Life, Saltwater Sportsman, and Fly and Light Tackle Angler, where he writes extensively about conservation, lost spaces, and dwindling access issues. His greatest accomplishment is the publication of Glory of the Silver King (Texas A&M University Press, 2012), a history of tarpon and snook fishing along the Gulf of Mexico coast from Tampico, Tamaulipas to Naples, Florida, which he completed while earning his doctorate from Texas Tech University.
In 2006, after witnessing a dramatic decline in his home fishery of the Laguna Madre, Dr. Shuler entered the conservation campaign arena full time. Working with a broad and diverse base of stakeholders and state wildlife officials, Dr. Shuler lobbied Texas Parks & Wildlife to address the declining spawning stock biomass of the Laguna Madre’s famed trophy speckled trout fishery. Dr. Shuler’s first foray was a success that earned him the International Fly Fishing Federation’s 2007 Conservationist of the Year.
Since that first 2006 conservation campaign success, Dr. Shuler has dedicated his life to finding solutions that address threats to the natural resources anglers and hunters rely upon to realize the American sportsman’s culture and way of life. Working as an outreach and media specialist for the Ocean Conservancy, an AFFTA Conservation Supporting Member, Dr. Shuler works with industry leaders and anglers to find sustainable management practices that mean more fishes in the sea and more anglers on the water.
Hunter Banks Fly Fishing
My first fly fishing experience left an indelible impression and I quickly became enthralled in the technical demands of the sport and the constant education required for sustained angler development. While earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance, I honed my angling skills in the coldwater oasis of Western North Carolina. Only two years after becoming a fly angler in 2004, I joined the fly fishing industry as a member of the Hunter Banks retail team. I was able to offer my finance and technology skills to support a development initiative that has helped Hunter Banks grow into the largest fly fishing retailer in the Southeast. These efforts at our flagship location included remodeling our sales floor, launching our e-commerce sales channel, along with a real estate property acquisition and renovation resulting in the expansion of our sales floor to over 3600 sq ft. We also joined the multi-store fly fishing retail movement by acquiring and launching our second location in the region. Our efforts over the past 9 years have resulted in consistent double-digit annual growth resulting in 300% growth in that same span of time.
My interest in joining the AFFTA Board of Directors is based on my desire to improve industry efficiency through retailer education and alignment. I believe that the combination of my technical skills and financial education with the experience gained while leading Hunter Banks will create a platform to assist other motivated retailers. My passion is based on the goal of finding new opportunities for growth-oriented fly fishing retailers through collaborative retailer efforts, enhanced retailer-manufacturer communication, and industry alignment. The education offerings I intend to develop with support from AFFTA will focus on technology in fly fishing retail, inventory management for financial success, efficiency gains through automation, strategies for customer recruitment and retention, and capital budgeting for managed growth. I hope to create an environment where the great retail minds of our industry can work together to create new initiatives for growth and advancement.
As the fly fishing industry rests on the strength of manufacturers, retailers, guide services, and conservations groups, more effort must be placed on building better relationships between these stakeholder entities. Many agree that the goal of modern business is to consistently add value to stakeholder relationships. Retailers add value to their customers through education. Manufacturers add value to their customers by building innovative products that solve angling problems and crafting programs that support active and innovative retailers. Guides add value by engaging new customer to enrich the anglers of the future. Conservation groups add value by assisting all entities in maintaining and improving the natural resources required for the future of the sport. Significant effort is needed to enhance these relationships and AFFTA is best positioned to centralize these efforts. By adding more value to existing relationships with AFFTA support, the fly fishing industry can find opportunities to enhance its position through growth rather than defend its position against competing interests. My goal is to serve as a catalyst for this effort and to help connect our industry with the best opportunities for growth.