We’re pleased to present 12 candidates this year for the AFFTA board of directors. Bios are below; AFFTA voting members will receive a ballot this coming Friday, July 28.
Thank you to everyone who has stepped forward to run for the AFFTA board!
Please take a few minutes to read through the candidates, and be ready to vote on Friday.
2400 Washington St. Denver, CO 80205
A Colorado native from the rural north-west corner of the state, I am a proud Colorado State University graduate with degrees in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology. In my position as Vice-President of The Flyfisher Group I am involved with the management of our Denver-based companies, conservation reclamation along the Front Range, providing unforgettable fly fishing experiences, and developing programming to expose underprivileged youth to the outdoors. The challenge of my professional career is something I find as rewarding and enjoyable as my outdoor adventures. In my free time, I try to travel as much as I can, preferably with a fly rod in hand. Through my travels, I have gained a deep awareness of the richness and value of other cultures and have developed a true passion for learning more about other parts of the world.
I have been fortunate to visit and build relationships with individuals across the country in all areas of the sport fishing industry. My role with The Flyfisher Group requires daily interaction with individuals in our private and public water guide services, fly fishing school, online and brick and mortar retail sales, fishing reports and blogs, as well as management and consulting for the Lincoln Hills Fly Fishing Club. My perception of the industry has changed from that of a participant to someone with a passion to preserve the lifestyle and bring unity across the industry. I am eager to use my talents to enhance the industry and provide outstanding experiences for those who have not yet had the pleasure of fly fishing Personal and Professional Associations:
• I am head of programming efforts for 501c3 Lincoln Hills Cares to expose 5,000 kids from Denver and Front Range to fly fishing, outdoor education, and water resource management.
• Colorado Parks and Wildlife Sportsman’s Roundtable Board
o A group of 24 of the Colorado’s top outdoorsmen and women that review, analyze, and provide feedback to CPW to better the organization.
o My specific role is fishing and promoting recruitment and retention across the state.
• Downtown Denver Leadership Program Class of 2017
o This is a group of 100 young professionals that focus on the development and economic growth of Denver and the impact that Denver has on all aspects of the state.
• Private and public water guide service manager since 2010
o Colorado Trout Fisher
o The Flyfisher Guide Service
o Angling University
• Pro-Staff Guide since 2008
• FFF Certified Casting Instructor since 2012
• Avid backcountry hunter
Orvis Rod and Tackle
Currently the Divisional Merchandise Manager and lead rod and reel developer for Orvis Rod and Tackle, Shawn started fly fishing at the age of 11 while spending time at his father’s hunting and fishing store in Louisville, Kentucky. After graduating with his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Louisville, he spent a decade working in the energy industry and most recently designing nuclear fuel for the U.S. Navy’s fleet of submarines and aircraft carriers.
Shawn’s entry into the fly-fishing industry came after a chance meeting on an airplane with a member of the Orvis Rod and Tackle team. He was hired as the lead rod developer and has fully embraced the fishing industry, from the design of products all the way through to the consumers’ hands.
In the fall of 2014, he joined the AFFTA Board of Directors and has enjoyed helping shape the future of the industry. “I would be honored to serve the industry for another three year term. I feel that we are at a pivotal shift as an industry with the growth of the dealer summit, Fisheries Fund initiative, a relocation of IFTD in 2019.”
Shawn lives in Winhall, Vermont, with his wife Kate and their daughters Isla and Blair.
38 West Center Street / PO Box 350 Victor, ID 83455
O: 208-787-0082 / C: 307-699-2101
Mike Dawkins currently serves as Vice President and Partner of WorldCast Anglers. WorldCast Anglers is a fly fishing outfitter, retail sales fly shop and destination travel provider based in Victor, ID and the Orvis store in Jackson, WY. As Vice President of one of the largest outfitters in the United States, Mike has the experience and skill sets of working on multiple processes and projects at one given time in a team environment and network. He possesses the ability to identify new growth opportunities through calculated planning, special event creation and development of strategic partnerships and relationships. Mike’s fly fishing industry knowledge, collaboration experience and problem solving creativity will allow him to make positive contributions to the AFFTA Board and fly fishing community.
Mike grew up in Nashville, TN developing a passion for fly fishing and hunting at a very young age. While attending Miami University, Mike created and implemented a fly fishing program for the university’s Outdoor Education Center that included clinics, workshops and trips for students and faculty members that is now listed as a Miami University accredited class. Upon graduation, Mike started his career with the Orvis Company, where he was named Orvis “Fishing Manager of the Year” for 2006. In 2008, he joined the WorldCast Anglers Team as Business Development and Retail Manager. He now serves as one of the internal leaders of the WorldCast Anglers organization.
Giving back to others has always been an important life priority for Mike. He is a proud advisory board member for Casting 4 a Cure, a non-profit group that helps fund research and development for treatment and finding the potential cure for Rhett Syndrome. Also, as a Teton Valley, ID resident, Mike recently completed a 3 year board term with the Teton Valley Foundation (a Teton Valley non-profit that concentrates on Culture, Recreation and Community). There he contributed his marketing and communication skills and expertise to help a community with only two stop lights successfully achieve their $450,000 fundraising goal in less than one year for their Ice Rink cooling system. That rink serves 1200+ users a week during the winter months. With WorldCast Anglers, Mike organized and launched the Jackson Hole and Teton Valley Fly Fishing Film Tour Events. Going into its 6th year and with over 600 fly fishing fanatics attending annually, these events have helped raise over $30,000 for local fisheries via Jackson Hole Trout Unlimited and Teton Valley Trout Unlimited.
Mike lives in Victor, ID and is also an avid upland bird hunter, big game hunter and gardener. When not fishing his local rivers, Mike can be found exploring and hosting clients to international fly fishing destinations through the WorldCast Anglers Destination Travel program.
“Fly Fishing started as a personal passion for me. It is now a professional passion as well. I hope that through my opportunity to work with the AFFTA board that I can contribute my experience, time and effort to grow our industry. From the front lines to the back office, I want to help provide the skills, resources and guidance to AFFTA members to more efficient and impactful leaders and bring more individuals in the fly fishing world and community.”
Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures
213 South Willson Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715
Tom Melvin is the Director of Sales for Bozeman, Montana-based Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures, a fly fishing booking agency and industry leader in destination angling and travel. For the past seven years – in addition to overseeing sales and marketing programs at Yellow Dog – Tom has also developed and managed the company’s Alaska, Kamchatka and Iceland programs. Tom began working at Yellow Dog in 2010 after graduating from the University of Montana. His employment and progress with the company makes for a great story, as he first began as a part-time intern before quickly transitioning into full-time destination and program sales. Since then, Tom has excelled in the travel world, demonstrating professionalism and leadership at all times. He’s ascended through the company ranks to the very top, where he now oversees a staff of 26 employees and team members. During his tenure with Yellow Dog, Tom has visited dozens of lodges in numerous international destinations, he’s managed and run the company’s consumer and trade show efforts, and he’s helped develop Yellow Dog’s affiliate and partnership programs for specialty fly shops, retailers and outfitters.
In addition to having first-hand guiding and outfitting experience, the knowledge and experience that Tom has gained while working with lodges, guides, retailers, outfitters, manufacturers and numerous other industry professionals (throughout the country and throughout the world) makes him an ideal candidate for the AFFTA Board of Directors. On top of that, Yellow Dog as a company has deep roots with AFFTA as an organization, supporting the Association on all levels, and assisting with the creation and continued success of the AFFTA Fisheries Fund. Tom will have the full support of Yellow Dog to work hard as a board member, contribute on all levels, and dedicate himself to moving our sport and our industry forward. Tom is committed to representing all segments related to the business of fly fishing– from the largest and most established manufacturers to the independent fly shops, lodges and outfitting companies that are truly the life-blood of the fly fishing industry.
A veteran and regular attendee of the annual consumer show tours that take place throughout the country each year, Tom has accumulated years of valuable knowledge from various segments throughout the industry. From projects and efforts to grow consumer interest for fly fishing products and services, to ideas on how to advance the industry for future generations, Tom brings a solid and broad-based background that will contribute greatly to work of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association.
Blue Ribbon Sales
Michael is a long tenured and respected industry sales representative; having worked for many companies within our industry over the course of his career. Currently, he represents Simms Fishing Products and, hunting brand, Sitka Gear in the Northern Rockies territory of MT, WY and ID. Michael has over 20 years of experience as an independent sales representative, with 13 of those years having occurred in the Southern Rockies. This makes him one of few independent sales representatives to cross territories. This experience has brought a unique perspective and insight to the Board of AFFTA. Michael works closely with each retailer to develop a plan to enhance assortment mix, further education, improve merchandising, problem solve, and grow their business. Michael is a great listener, communicator and dedicated to being the best partner to specialty retailers in his territory.
“My focus has always been on being the best business partner for each retailer. I listen to better understand their goals and objectives and then work very hard to help them execute upon that plan. My favorite times are when I have a chance to collaborate on something new, innovative and exciting with a retailer; particularly when it reaches their customer base. I’ve always believed the relationship between consumer and retailer is the most vital component to grow our industry. Finding new ways to build upon those relationships and, more importantly, forge new ones is a key challenge we all face in the industry. I’m excited to work with AFFTA and believe my experience as a sales representative, meaning always in the middle, will help me see each side of any issue. I trust this perspective will be found mutually beneficial for all parties involved in AFFTA and in our industry.”
Michael is the current Chairman of AFFTA and involved in many committees. He has volunteered his time diligently to develop strategies for the team that encourage greater collaboration and commitment amongst the different committees of AFFTA. Under his leadership, AFFTA has experienced excellent membership growth, initiated many positive benefits for members as well as tackled member demand to address the timing and location of the yearly trade show.
Michael would be honored to have your vote and will continue to serve AFFTA in whatever capacity best moves the business of fly-fishing forward.
Michael is based in Bozeman, MT.
As a Colorado Native, Ben Kurtz gained an appreciation for fly-fishing at an early age. After graduating from Brown University, Ben first stepped into the industry as a professional fly fishing guide in the Vail Valley. Shortly thereafter, he embarked on his career with Fishpond, which ultimately led he and his family to become equal partners with John Le Coq in 2012. As a mission driven company, his passion for conservation and helping to drive a creative brand helped formulate his focus on creating products with a soul. Ben is currently the sitting Chairman of the AFFTA Fisheries Fund.
“We are all fortunate to be a part of an amazing industry, which I want to see grow and thrive. It’s important for all components of the industry to come together to realize and achieve these goals. I have very much enjoyed the opportunity to work with AFFTA, and to bring my perspective as a young business owner, and hope to build upon my success on the board.”
My name is Tag Kleiner and I’m the father of 2 wonderful kids that are about to drive me crazy as they enter their teenage years. I’m also the Vice President of Marketing for Far Bank (Sage, Redington, and RIO Products). I joined Far Bank in early 2014 and have greatly enjoyed getting more entrenched in the fly fishing community. I’ve been a part of the community for over 2 decades, though much more peripherally during the time I spent at Smith Optics.
I’ve had the pleasure of “growing up” in the outdoor community, and learned the industry from the bottom up as I wore different hats during my journey. I started in customer service at Smith Optics…when we were Action Optics in fly fishing. I jumped at opportunities to take on greater responsibilities, and repped ID/MT before moving into a promotions role in marketing. I worked grassroots outdoors before becoming our marketing manager, and ultimately had the opportunity to drive the brand as the Global Director of Marketing.
I’m interested in serving the fly fishing trade because I love the intimacy of the niche communities in outdoor. Fly fishing, skiing, climbing…we’re communities that thrive on passion. As fly anglers, we share experiences that make it easy to make new friends in an airport. We share values that transcend, as seen in the shared conservation views no matter which side of the aisle you’re on. We know local knowledge is key, and it – along with great customer service and product – is the cornerstone of the specialty retail experience.
As a niche community, we also face unique challenges. We’re heavily dependent on habitat health and public access to those lands. Travis always said, “No Fish, No Fishing”. The health of our industry’s future is directly affected by the decisions we make today. Our collective voice should continue to amplify the individual voices that are already screaming in our community.
Most importantly, our niche community only continues to exist because we pass our passion to others. The less approachable or tangible we are, the more challenged our business. Teaching our kids isn’t enough anymore…we need to invite people to find out why we love fly fishing. There are big hurdles in front of us – climate change, habitat health, public access, the retail landscape – and we need to address them all as we can. But recruitment is the issue I feel we can best tackle as a trade association.
I have much to learn in our industry and as a member of the AFFTA board I plan to take that opportunity. I hope that my experiences can be a positive influence as well.
Executive Vice President – Abel Automatics, Inc.
Director of Sales & Marketing – Abel and Ross Reels
11 Ponderosa Court
Montrose, CO 81401
P: 970-249-0606 X 26
Dear AFFTA Members,
I grew up fishing with my uncles on their boat every spring to fall off the coast of Southern California. It was in my blood, and I paid the admission price as the deckhand and official boat washer after every trip to earn my repeated spot as an “angler in training” by my mom’s younger brothers. I took that learned passion into my later teens, and started going on overnighter ocean charter boats with my friends, and then up to the mountains for weekend trips on the lakes. It was there I watched a dude fly fishing, and my interest was captivated by what looked like an even more challenging way to fool a fish into my hands.
Fast forward after my Cal State Northridge business major years, and I read an ad for an available customer service job at a fly fishing reel manufacturer in Camarillo, CA. After several interviews amongst a great deal of competitors for the position, I was offered the role by Steve Abel on the condition that I attend an 8 week fly fishing course through a local college. Amazingly, that was over 25 years ago, and over that time I have been groomed from a customer service representative to my current position as the EVP for Abel, and the director of sales and marketing for Abel and Ross Reels upon the Ross brand acquisition several years ago.
In my 25 years as a fly fishing industry member I have learned a great deal about the sport, the people that work in it, and the consumers that keep us all employed together. I love every aspect of it, and recently relocated with my wife and two sons from Southern California to the Western Slope of Colorado to continue on with my appreciation for the opportunity I was given. I’ve seen what works, what doesn’t work, and have come up with several ideas to keep business profitable even among the most difficult times we’ve all had to endure. I’d like to take the lessons I’ve learned, and the perspective I’ve acquired to a greater level in an effort to benefit our respected industry. I consider myself a pretty solid team player, and have worked with several team members over the years to ultimately come up with good decisions for everyone. I’m confident I can do the same for the AFFTA board, and the fly fishing world.
Thanks for making it this far into my bio, and your consideration for a board appointment.
- Simms Fishing Products, Global VP of Sales: Jan 2017-current
- Spyder Active Sports: Spyder is a leading supplier of ski and alpine-inspired apparel based in Boulder Colorado with annual turnover of $140M. Vice President of Sales: Oct 2016-Jan 2017
- CamelBak Products: CamelBak is the global leader in the hands-free hydration category and a leading supplier of reusable water bottles with sales in excess of $160M. Vice President of Sales: Dec 2015-Oct 2016, Sr. Director of North American Sales: April 2012-Dec 2015, Director of North American Sales: Feb 2008-April 2012
- Thule: Thule is the leading global supplier of automotive racks, rooftop boxes, automotive accessories backpacks and bags with sales over $1B worldwide and $150M in North America. Sales Management (various territories): May 2002-Feb 2008
- Lowe Alpine Systems: Lowe Alpine Systems is a supplier of backpacks and outdoor apparel with worldwide sales of $50M and $9M in the US (2001). Sales Manager: August 2001-May 2001
- PlanetOutdoors.com: PlanetOutdoors.com was B2C e-retailer that sold outdoor equipment that was sold to MVP.com in August of 2000. Director of Business Development: March 1999-Oct 2000
- Leisure Trends Group: The Leisure Trends Group is a full-service market research firm that was founded in 1992 and sold to the NPD group in 2013. Various roles eventually as National Sales Manager, Dec 1992-March 1999
The American University, Washington, DC, BA in International Relations with a minor in Economics 1988-1992
I grew up on a bass pond in Wenham, Massachusetts (Pleasant Pond) and spent my early years tormenting largemouth and panfish from ice-out until the first frost (and moved to tip-ups when the pond froze over). From there I graduated to the Essex River and the Ipswich Bay where I spent summers chasing blues and stripers. In the summer of 1992 I purchased a fly rod from Fin and Feather in Essex, MA and moved to Colorado. My move to Colorado introduced me to fly fishing and trout, with a special affinity for golden trout in Wyoming. Now, 25 years later, I’ve fly fished from BC to Costa Rica to Tierra del Fuego and spend my ideal time thinking about my next time on the water. Earlier this year I joined the team at Simms as the opportunity to marry my professional experience with my passion for angling was too much to pass up.
While I may be new to the Fly Fishing trade, I have nearly 25 years of sporting goods experience with companies including Leisure Trends, Thule and CamelBak. I’ve worked with many types of retailers, from mass/discount to grocery to big box sporting goods to specialty. Within specialty, I’ve worked closely with retail partners within the major sporting goods segments; snowsport, independent bike, independent outdoor, paddlesports, run specialty and now fly fishing. I’d bring experience and a perspective to the BOD that will be valuable for AFFTA and its members. I have a strong desire to serve and help contribute to the ongoing health and growth of the specialty fly trade.
I’m married with four children and live in Lafayette, CO but spend most weeks in Bozeman, MT at my home-away-from-home.
335 Susan Drive
Charleston, SC 29407
Dear AFFTA Board of Directors and Members,
I’m Rick Crawford and I am an angler, surfer, writer, conservationist and sustainability consultant committed to helping business minimize their environmental impact while increasing their growth. I am also the founder and President of Emerger Strategies.
After spending several years in the sustainability field (solar, biodiesel, green building & sustainability consulting), I decided to follow my dreams, and marry my two passions: fly-fishing and sustainability.
I can think of no better way to spend my time than helping businesses find ways to mitigate their impact on climate change because I want to protect what I love. I also feel a deep sense of responsibility to future generations so that they too have the same opportunities to explore wild and beautiful places, catch unique species and develop their own sense of responsibility and become good stewards.
I am working to help move the fly-fishing industry towards sustainability. I am doing this through my company, Emerger Strategies, by helping lifestyle brands, manufacturers and retailers to minimize their environmental impact, and turning their sustainability achievements into powerful marketing stories that result in mitigated risks, enhanced brand value and increased growth.
It is my vision to transform the fly-fishing industry into the world’s first carbon-neutral industry. I firmly believe measuring the environmental impact of the fly-fishing industry can grow the sport of fly fishing. For example, if we knew what the GHG emission were for every AFFTA Member, we could then implement strategies that would reduce operational costs while minimizing the industry’s impact on climate change. We would also have a clearer understanding of the industry’s contribution towards climate change, which negatively impacts fisheries. AFFTA and its members could leverage this achievement by gaining media exposure for becoming carbon-neutral and more attention could be brought to the sport, as well as assist AFFTA in fulfilling its mission “to promote the sustained growth of the fly-fishing industry.
By becoming carbon-neutral the fly-fishing has an opportunity to engage with the increasing number of conscious consumers who seek products that align with their own values and are similarly attracted to sports that exemplify a more sustainable lifestyle. Sustainability can provide the fly-fishing industry with an amazing marketing opportunity to grow the sport to this growing group of consumers who are seeking more environmentally responsible products and lifestyles.
I am sure, like many of you, that I simply want to protect what I love and grow the sport of fly fishing. I appreciate your consideration and the opportunity to serve AFFTA’s Members.
Low Tide Charters
My name is Lucas Bissett and I am a Louisiana native who has been fly fishing since I was twelve. After completing my degree from University of South Florida in Communications, I moved back home and spent seven years working at Louisiana State University in coastal restoration. In that time, I discovered the absolute addiction that is fly fishing for redfish. I spent every moment I could on the water chasing these awesome fish and knew I had to make fly fishing for them a career. I realized my knowledge of the marsh, my absolute obsession with fly fishing, and my personality could be a perfect combination to pursue a career as a fly fishing guide. I’ve been guiding now for over six years and have been Orvis Endorsed for the last four and a half years. This year I was honored to become the Orvis Endorsed Saltwater Guide of 2017. That award has been a goal of mine since becoming endorsed and has made me become the best guide I can be, as well as a steward to our fishery and our coast line.
I started a black mangrove restoration project last April and have currently planted 1000 mangroves as well as gotten a local high school involved where the kids are growing the next 1500 mangroves for next year’s planting. This project helped me realize that in order to do more for my state I needed to create a non-profit organization to bring together my efforts with the efforts of other fishermen. This year I started Anglers Bettering Louisiana’s Estuaries (ABLE) to give a face to all those in our community who wanted to help.
As a guide, I get to meet people from all over the world. One thing that resonates among all of my customers is the overwhelming desire towards conservation. I want to surround myself with people who share my vision of leaving this planet a better place than when we found it. I want to help the fly fishing sport and trade get passed onto the next generation because I believe that would help spread this conservation message I hold dear.
Principal, Fly Squared Media
Editor-in-Chief, DUN Magazine
Executive Editor, a Tight Loop Magazine
Board of Directors, Fly Fishers International
Board of Directors, Illinois State Council Trout Unlimited
Address: 316 Hidden Valley Dr., Dover, TN 37058
While I wear many hats as Principal Owner of Fly Squared Media, a media company that creates and publishes outdoor magazines, the hat I am most proud of is the international women’s fly fishing magazine DUN, which I started 3-1/2 years ago. This magazine in digital form reaches 180,000 online readers each year and the print edition can be seen in fly shops nationwide. In addition to my above roles, I am also a national conference speaker on the history of women in fly fishing and other fly fishing topics, a member of the Board of Directors for Fly Fishers International (formerly the IFFF), and the women’s coordinator for The Fly Fishing Shows in Denver and Somerset. I have hosted the TV show Midwest Outdoors fishing for smallmouth bass, been a TV guest on WGN Sports, ABC and NBC in Chicago promoting the Chicagoland Outdoor Fishing, Travel and Outdoor Sports Shows, and a guest on the Orvis Podcast with Tom Rosenbauer speaking on urban fishing.
In the fly fishing industry, I have built a home base for women and have a large following with both male and female anglers. In March of 2017, I was named one of six women revolutionizing fly fishing by Blue Ridge Outdoors. This last May, on behalf of Trout Unlimited National, I was asked to speak before congress in support of public lands issues and the national monuments issues.
On a daily basis, I work to get new anglers into this sport. As an example, in June of 2017, I was asked to teach 98 children between 6th and 12th grades to fly cast in one afternoon as part of the University of Tennessee Extension program in the Land Between the Lakes; an area with exquisite fishing, but no previous fly fishing influence.
If elected to the AFFTA Board of Directors, I believe my voice would represent the largest growing demographic in our sport, women, in addition to bringing a fresh perspective to the fly fishing industry as a women-owned, small business owner.