From local municipalities to the national stage, election season is in full swing across the country. And it’s no different here at AFFTA as we need to fill seven seats on our Board of Directors from a ballot that includes 15 highly-invested industry professionals representing a solid cross-section of our member categories.
Voting will open October 1st and run through October 12th 11:59 pm MDT and is only open to active AFFTA members. Watch for an email from Ben Bulis with complete instructions on casting your ballot. Your vote is tied directly to your member email and you’ll only be able to vote once. Also, forwarding the email to someone else will void your vote.
Click on any candidate’s name to read their bio, or simply scroll to find them below. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order by first name. Those seeking re-election are marked with an asterisk (*).
Andy Dunn – Retailer
*Brandon Shuler – Association
Bruce Skinner – Manufacturer
Hogan Brown – Guide
*Jeff Patterson – Manufacturer
Jesse Haller – Manufacturer
Jim Bartschi – Manufacturer
Joel La Follette – Retailer
*Lucas Bissett – Guide
Miles Nolte – Media
Nicholas Conklin – Manufacturer
Patrick Straub – Retailer
Rick Crawford – Association
*Rob Parkins – Association
Russ Coburn – Retailer
If you have any questions, you can email Ben directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Andy Dunn is the Purchasing Manager at Anglers All Fly Shop in Littleton, Colorado. Andy believes it is his job as a fly-fisherman to promote conservation of resources while giving as many people as possible the opportunity to experience the art and beauty of responsible fly-fishing.
As part of the Anglers All team, Andy trains staff on product knowledge, builds relationship with the some of the top manufacturers in the industry, and proudly continues to encourage customers to chase tail, just as Anglers All has been doing since 1954. He has had to opportunity to be part of the Sage Elite Pro team and has helped other manufacturers fine-tune product designs before being brought to market. Andy has helped organize one of the most diverse fly-fishing tournaments – the Mile High 25. His career at Anglers All has given him experience in managing inventory levels, finding new products and growing a small business.
The fly-fishing industry has given so much to Andy. He values the opportunity to serve the industry by being part of the AFFTA board. Andy feels strongly about what it means to be a responsible angler especially when it comes to conservation and public lands. He wants to grow the sport by teaching others that fly-fishing is an activity anyone can participate in while building a mindset and imparting best practices around what it means to be a responsible angler. Andy is a hard worker, humble, and teachable – qualities that would make him a good addition to the AFFTA board.
Andy Dunn grew up on the waters of Hood Canal in Washington State. He spent much of his childhood boating, fishing, and water skiing. The time he spent on the water, whether on the canal or on a river, became an integral part of who he is. As a young adult, Andy moved to Colorado where he was introduced to fly fishing and continued to grow his passion for outdoor activities. After many years working in construction, he decided to go after his dream of working in the fly-fishing industry. He has been working at Anglers All Fly Shop since 2014.
Andy lives in Louviers, Colorado with his wife and three kids. He strives to pass on his love for the outdoors to his kids by exposing them to as many national parks as he can while teaching them the importance of water conservation and taking care of the environment.
*Dr. Brandon Shuler
Dr. Brandon D. Shuler is the executive director of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, a professor of environmental science and policy at the University of South Florida, and an award-winning filmmaker and author. He is completing his first term on the AFFTA board and is currently seeking reelection.
Serving on the Fisheries Fund committee and the science and policy committee, Shuler has leveraged his past work in the environmental space at the Ocean Conservancy to help position the AFFTA’s conservation work in front of industry leaders and funders. Shuler has been instrumental, along with the rest of the AFFTA team, in bringing AFFTA to the front of marine fishery conservation conversation and making our trade organization a leader that places the resources we so love and desperately need abundances of first.
“Serving on the AFFTA board has been one of the crowning achievements of my professional career,” says Shuler. “Working with this group of industry professionals—media-types, manufacturers, non-profits, guides, retailers, and the AFFTA staff itself—has shown me that fly fishing industry is a family that works toward a common good that includes the environment, the fish we chase, and the health of the fishing economy we represent. The pragmatic altruism this group shows give me great faith that our industry is in great hands and places our natural resources first.”
Shuler currently lives in St Petersburg, Florida with his three kids, black lab, and various free-range lizards. He is currently working on his next film in conjunction with The Boat Company about the Tongass National Forest and a book with wildlife photographer Rich Ackerman about southeast Alaska’s vanishing rainforest. When he is not chasing kids and writing, Shuler can be found chasing snook and tarpon.
I have been fly fishing for over 40 years and have been fortunate to live in many parts of this country with access to a variety of watersheds and fisheries. I love swinging flies in the great rivers of the Pacific Northwest, but I’m also no stranger to trout in the Rockies, fishing the salt or throwing on a backpack to head into remote backcountry.
I have spent most of my professional carrier working in the outdoor industry, in roles from technical education and product development to selling strategies for specialty retail. For the past 6 years I have been employed at Patagonia as a fly fishing sales rep, managing our west coast accounts from Alaska to southern California. In my current role, I work closely with our accounts to ensure we are building programs and product selections that support the long-term health of the business.
What I love about being associated with Patagonia is our commitment to specialty fly retail, our bold stance on environmental issues and the drive to build best-in-class product with the least harm to the planet. My interest in serving on the AFFTA board is largely an extension of this.
As an AFFTA board member, I would apply the same skills and mindset I bring to my job every day to help build the long-term health the of fly fishing industry—by creating awareness and action around the issues that threaten the watersheds and fisheries we depend on, and to develop and promote best practices for our specialty retailers that help them build resilient and thriving businesses for the long haul.
Growing up on the Lower Yuba River in Northern California, I was an only child who really liked catching fish. Playing with bugs didn’t make me the coolest kid on the block and I developed a penchant for things that you can do on your own. Fly fishing and playing loud guitar music filled most of my time. As a teen, I got a job at the local fly shop in Nevada City, California and I’ve worked in the fly fishing industry ever since. As a life-long learner, fisherman and educator, I’d like to tell you why I’m qualified to serve on the American Fly Fishing Trade Association board of directors.
I have devoted my life to the sport of fly fishing. I have guided for over 20 years in Northern California for trout, steelhead, bass, carp and anything that swims in a river, lake, pond or ditch that I could access within the gray area of California’s trespass law. I have worked in all aspects of the industry, but always stayed grounded in the trenches as a guide. I worked fly shop counters, at the bottom of the line in lodges, run my own outfitting business, founded a non-profit and even did a stint as an assistant manufacture representative before I realized cubicle work and spreadsheets are not my thing.
9 years ago at the age of 30, I earned my teaching credentials and began working as a high school teacher; steady pay and health benefits became essential when starting a family. Guiding 75% of the year sense I was 18 had an expiration date and I wanted to stay sane, be a good husband and father, and maintain my passion for fly fishing. Currently, I teach high school history, guide 100 days per year, work as the marketing director for Cast Hope and raise two boys with my wife in Chico, California.
I feel what makes me qualified to serve on the AFFTA board is that I would represent the working class and folks who value quality of life over financial gain. I would like to provide a voice for those who are determined to stay on the river, regardless of how they patch together an income through fishing. I will do my best to speak for the people that do whatever it takes to live and raise families close to the wild places they love, while making a living in the fly fishing industry.
I’ve been an angler all my life. I grew up fishing with my uncles off the coast of Southern California, and discovered it was where I felt an inner peace that nothing else could match. I leaned on those soul recharging experiences throughout my teens and early twenties as life brought on new challenges. The one constant was time on the water brought me back to a mentally good place.
I was already approaching burnout at a previous sales position within my Cal State Northridge business major in 1992 when I learned of a fly fishing reel manufacturer in Camarillo, CA that was looking to expand their company. The thought of working in an industry that already centered my personal outlook on life was inspiring. I was thankfully brought on board, and it forever changed my direction. Since that time I have been groomed through several roles at Abel Reels from a customer service representative to my current position as the EVP, as well as the director of sales and marketing for Abel and Ross Reels after the Ross Reels brand acquisition several years ago.
I’ve enjoyed my time on the AFFTA board since January of 2018, and have seen the success of our previous hard work. The strength of our industry has proven itself with an October, 2019 Denver independent IFTD show that has already exceeded booth sales of previous years as well as a March, 2019 Dealer Summit in Austin, TX that will once again prove to be helpful for our industry. Our expectations as a board are to continue growing that healthy trend together.
In my 26 years in the fly fishing industry 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’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. I’d welcome the opportunity to take the lessons I’ve learned, and the perspective I’ve acquired for an additional term as a team member of the AFFTA board in our respected industry.
A native of southwestern Wisconsin, Jesse Haller started fly fishing at nine years old in the Driftless. After attending Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO, he moved to Summit County, Colorado, where he started his career as a fly fishing guide. In 2008, Jesse moved to Middlebury Vermont and became a retail store manager, lead guide and outfit manager at Green Mountain Adventures. Jesse is the founder of the Otter Creek Classic, a 10 year running Vermont fly fishing event that supports local watershed conservation programs. Further, as President of the non-profit New Haven River Anglers, Jesse ran programs such as Youth Days, Women in Waders and participated in multiple watershed conservation and stream improvement initiatives. In 2015, Jesse joined Orvis as a Fly Fishing Product Developer where he still lives with his wife, two kids and two dogs.
“The decision to run for the AFFTA board is founded in the desire to continue to serve the sport, members, and industry that I have been immersed in for most of my life,” says Jesse. “Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to learn about the sport and culture from many perspectives having participated in several roles. In the last 10 years, much of my life has been focused on growing interest and improving participation by lowering the barrier of entry, in addition to access and sustainability of the resource. Growing up in the Midwest, living in the Rockies and now more than a decade in New England has given me an opportunity to see differences and the connective thread that weaves these markets together. While working at Orvis, I have developed an understanding of the role manufacturer’s play in helping grow our sport. With your support, I look forward to serving you as a Board Member and helping AFFTA continue to promote growth in our industry.”
Jim Bartschi is the President and rod designer for the Scott Fly Rod Company in Montrose, Colorado. Jim has spent his entire career in the fly fishing industry, with over 25 years at Scott Fly Rods.
Bartschi is a life-long angler with a passion for any species that will eat a fly and he’s just as comfortable pulling the oars or poling a skiff as he is on the bow. He’s grateful for the deep connections he has forged through fly fishing with people and places around the globe.
Jim served over two terms as a Director of AFFTA and was one of the the excom team members that developed AFFTA’s current mission and first strategic plan.
Bartschi is intimately familiar with AFFTA’s mission and history, and he’s committed to advancing AFFTA into an even more effective trade association for its members and the fly fishing industry.
I’m a 6th generation Oregonian living and working a long double-haul cast from the end of the Oregon Trail. I’ve been fly fishing for 55 years and have spent the last 20 years in fly fishing retail. I opened Royal Treatment Fly Fishing in 2010. While probably not the best economy to venture into a new business, we hit the ground running and haven’t looked back. We quickly built a community around our business by building relationships through various outreach programs. By offering free clinics, tying demonstrations, fish-a-longs, informative presentations, homemade cookies and greater good campaigns we established ourselves as an important member of the local fly fishing community and our community at large.
With a background in advertising photography, business management, auto racing and creative writing I have used my life skills to fast track my business to a point where I am able to offer my time to help promote causes and issues important to me and my business. I have volunteered for Casting for Recovery – Oregon South for the last 12 years and have hosted a Project Healing Waters outing on the Oregon coast for the last 7 years. I volunteer for Salmon Watch, a program offered by the World Salmon Council to introduce area youth to the lifecycle and habitat of Pacific Salmon. I work with local food banks and shelters to help those who need a hand in my community.
In addition to overseeing the day to day operation of my business, writing a weekly newsletter and consulting on special industry-related events, I am currently teaching a 7-week fly fishing course at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.
My inspiration for seeking a position on the AFFTA broad is my commitment to giving back to the industry that has provided me with a lifetime of memories, friendships, and a decent livelihood.
I believe independent fly fishing retail is the cornerstone of our industry, without which the industry will not survive. Independent retailers are the front line that drives innovation, expands our customer base, offering services and support to the fly fishing community. We support all aspects of the industry from manufacturers to outfitters, guides, lodges and related business. We advocate for causes and in turn create advocates of our customers by outlining the importance of our resources and the issues they face. We are the face of the industry.
AFFTA, in concept, provides a voice for our industry. It is important that the message put forth is one that helps direct and grow our sport and our businesses. Conservation issues and political issues are important to our industry and our world, but at the end of the day, AFFTA needs to be about building our businesses and our sport. If we fail in this we cannot support those causes.
If elected I would be honored to serve on the AFFTA board and offer my experience, expertise, and resources to help direct AFFTA to represent the industry as a whole, not just segments. There is strength in unification. We all need to be rowing in the same direction.
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. Last 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 two years ago and have currently planted 2275 mangroves as well as gotten a local high school involved where the kids are growing the next 1500 mangroves for next year’s planting.
I’ve been serving on AFFTA’s board since January of this year and have been contributing to the values I hold dear in our industry. Habitat protection is vital to our industry because if we don’t have places to fish we won’t have tackle to sell or retail shops to sell it in. I have more to give to AFFTA members and want to continue serving our industry.tarted a black mangrove restoration project two years ago and have currently planted 2275 mangroves as well as gotten a local high school involved where the kids are growing the next 1500 mangroves for next year’s planting.
For the past dozen years, I’ve worked in the fly fishing industry as a writer, a guide, and an advocate. I’ve published a book, written dozens of articles, and scripted numerous film scripts. I’ve worked on reports about public access and conservation. I’ve introduced hundreds of people to fly fishing, and enriched the experiences of thousands of others by weaving human stories through the act of fooling fish with anachronistic tackle (at least, that’s what I like to tell myself.) That we lucky few get to make our living through an industry based on recreational fishing with fly rods still amazes me, and I am aware of my good fortune every day. I take none of this for granted.
When I was first hired as the Angling Editor for Gray’s Sporting Journal nearly a decade ago, I attended my first IFTD in New Orleans. I spent much of my time there trying not to look idiotic or star struck as I was ushered from booth to booth by Jim Babb and Ted Leeson, two writers whose work I had admired for years. They introduced me to people whose names had shone brightly for me as icons through much of my life. I could not have been more amazed at where I landed. My elation, however, was tempered by consistent mutterings that I overheard as I dissolved through the crowd:
“Not much of a turnout here.”
“Sure not like it used to be.”
“What happened to this industry?”
It seems that every year I hear the same refrains, the same lamentations about a fly fishing industry in decline, a show in decay, but as someone who has worked in this industry and made a living here for more than a decade, I don’t see the same doom and gloom that some others seem so focused on. Granted, I wasn’t in the industry during the halcyon days of the mid to late 1990’s, but I was fly fishing then. I don’t remember it being the panacea that some folks seem to pine for. I see growth and expansion in the contemporary fly fishing industry. I see a culture and a sport that is inclusive in ways that it wasn’t when I was a teenager and younger man. Back then, seeing other young people on the river was rare, and seeing women was almost unheard of. Now, fly fishing is becoming cool; our once closed up club is becoming much more inviting, and I see cause for celebration, and a bright future for our industry.
I like to think that I’ve participated in growing our sport and positively perpetuating it, even if in a very small way, and I’d like to continue to shape it into the future. That’s why I’m submitting this letter asking that you consider adding me to the AFFTA board of directors. I know many of you personally, and have great respect for all of you. I hope to join you for the next three years as we continue to move the fly fishing industry forward.
I am currently the director of sales and development, two-handed fly fishing and the trade/consumer show coordinator at Temple Fork Outfitters.
My trade/consumer show management encompasses +/-75 shows and events throughout a calendar year which sees me work +/-25 myself each year. This encompasses all aspects of an event, from initial contract negotiation and booking, space allocation and coordinating resources, (both product and human resources) to the events.
My product development and design of the Axiom II Switch rod won the EFTTEX, (European Fishing Tackle Trade Expo) Best of Show, and the IFTD, (International Fly Tackle Dealer) Best 2-Handed/Spey Rod awards in 2018. I presently manage our fly fishing sales reps, (13 individuals) in all aspects of the TFO two-handed product line as well as with their individual dealers.
I also work closely with our decorated advisory staff and sales reps in their show participation and travel. That work constitutes everything from negotiating appearances with show managers, to travel and housing.
Additionally, I manage our sales rep product inventory and show materials, which numbers 500+ SKU’s of product, (both hard and soft goods).
Previous to TFO I worked in various freelance capacities for a variety of magazines, newspapers and websites. My journalistic work has appeared in Field & Stream Magazine, The Drake Magazine, Florida Sportsman Magazine (2012), FLW Magazine (2013), The Lone Star Outdoor News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Morning Sun Newspaper and The Rockford Squire.
I believe my professionalism, attention to detail and ability as a leader within the fly fishing industry would be an asset to the AFFTA Board.
Patrick “Pat” Straub
A “lifer” in fly fishing guide-speak is a client deemed addicted to the sport and one who is good for several bookings a season. If certain fishing clients are lifers, then I am a lifer in the fly fishing industry—and do not see that changing.
I grew up fishing the creeks of Gallatin Valley, skipping school to do so when the BWO’s or Mother’s Day caddis were thick. While in college in the Midwest, I laid out my path to a future in fly fishing studying fly fishing writers while taking long weekends to fish the Driftless area or spending school breaks at my folk’s winter residence on Sanibel Island, Florida.
Fast-forward over twenty years and I own a well-respected fly shop and guide service in Montana. From helping customers choose a Purple Haze or an X-Caddis or teaching them a blood knot to managing 25 guides on a corporate trip to analyzing margins for maximum profit to coordinating local river clean-ups, my two decades-plus of experience in the industry support my passion for the fly fishing business, resource conservation, and angler recruitment.
The fly fishing industry is as varied as the amazing destinations it can take us. From rural Montana to the flats of Providence, Seychelles, my experience in this industry echoes that vastness. I’ve fished Providence, chased tiger fish in Africa, ran Patagonia’s rivers, and explored regions much closer to home. My background and ability to work within the varied interests of our industry would be a benefit to the AFFTA Board and AFFTA’s members. From my younger years of hustling for guide trips and selling flies to now, I’ve seen our industry evolve. Today, we have many reasons to be proud of our growth; however, the list of challenges facing the fly fishing industry are deep and varied—like my experience in the industry. My enthusiasm for our industry and world-view would be an ideal match.
My twenty years as an independent fly fishing guide and outfitter allows me to relate to the issues facing guides and outfitters. From helping them navigate liability insurance issues to ensuring the guiding industry sustains and grows, working with fishing guides and outfitters is crucial to fly fishing’s growth. Founding the Montana Fishing Guide School allows me to connect directly with aspiring guides and individuals looking to get into the industry.
Witnessing the growth of population in my home valley and the changes to saltwater estuarine environments over the past several decades has instilled in me the necessity to be active in resource conservation. As the father of two daughters, the future of their ability to chase tarpon and bonefish in the Keys or steelhead in the Columbia drainage and cutthroat in Montana is at my core. We cannot have industry growth if we do not have places to fish.
Owning an established fly shop, one which opened in 1984, has given me experience as a retailer and a buyer and exposed me to the wholesale component of our industry. Navigating margins, terms, merchandising, staffing challenges, inventory challenges, and everything-else-under-the-sun in fly fishing retail sales is a way of life.
I’ve served on numerous boards so I understand the need to commit to the cause. As an AFFTA Board of Director, I will be committed to supporting AFFTA’s mission, stay ahead of the curve with issues facing its members, bring ideas for membership growth, be a leader for resource conservation, angler recruitment, and most importantly, serve AFFTA members with dedication and pride. Our unique industry demands unique leaders like myself.
I’m Rick Crawford and I am the President of Emerger Strategies. We are sustainability and marketing consulting firm that helps businesses in the fly fishing industry to increase their growth while minimizing their environmental impact by turning their sustainability achievements into powerful marketing stories.
Before starting Emerger Strategies, I spent several years in the sustainability field (solar, biodiesel, green building & sustainability consulting), but ultimately, I decided to follow my dreams, and marry my two passions: fly fishing and sustainability.
I am interested in the fly fishing trade because I want to protect what I love, and I can think of no better way to spend my time than helping businesses in the fly fishing industry to find ways to mitigate their impact on environmental challenges that impact our fisheries, such as climate change, plastic pollution and policy. 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 as the next generation become stewards of the environment and the sport of fly fishing.
I would truly love to be a part of not only growing the sport of fly fishing, but also providing the industry with guidance as it relates to sustainability. Just as brands stand to benefit from a sustainable business model, I believe we have a wonderful opportunity to scale sustainability by working with an entire industry. As consumers are increasingly demanding products that are socially and environmentally responsible, they also want to participate in sports that align with their values, and I would be grateful for the opportunity to shape the future of the fly fishing industry as a Board Member.
I appreciate your consideration and for the opportunity to serve the American Fly Fishing Trade Association and its Members.
Rob is the Stream Access Coordinator for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. Originally from Connecticut, Rob retired from customer service and production management in the printing industry, in order to fulfill his desire to try and make a living in the fly fishing industry. After working in the “biz” in several different roles, Rob felt that he wanted to be more connected to the industry by participating in its growth and sustainability. After three years on the board, including sitting on the Executive Committee as Treasurer, he is excited to run again and work for the successful future for all AFFTA members.
Rob currently lives in Victor, Idaho with his lovely, and understanding, wife, Pam, and two Labradors, York and Holt. When not working or fishing, Rob is chasing elk with his bow, trying to cast his spey pole more that 50 feet and attempting to unravel the mysteries of using a whip finish tool.
With a lifetime of immersion in outdoor recreation, Russ Coburn was bitten by the fly-fishing bug in the 1980s when in his role as banker for Jans Mountain Outfitters (Jans) in Park City, UT, he met Jan Peterson. Jan introduced Russ to his “religion” and there was no turning back.
Russ subsequently left banking to join Jans Mountain Outfitters and commenced to expand the company’s fly-fishing business. He recognized a need for superior fly-fishing trips to the best destinations worldwide and started Jans Adventure Travel in 1990. In the ensuing years he has introduced over 1,000 individuals to the sport and created a cadre of avid anglers who join him regularly for excursions to the Bahamas, British Columbia, Christmas Island, and more.
Over the years Russ has developed Jans’ fly-fishing operations with strategic acquisitions and investments across the industry: Bulkley River Lodge on one of the world’s best steelhead rivers in Smithers, BC; Vail Valley Anglers, the premier guide service and fly shop in the Vail area; and Fishwest, a leading online retailer of all things fly-fishing with a bricks-and-mortar fly shop serving customers throughout the Salt Lake valley.
Ever forward thinking, Russ spearheaded Jans’ expansion from a strictly bricks-and-mortar business and added the global reach of a thriving e-commerce platform to deliver the finest products and services for fly-fishing and other outdoor recreation activities. He is an innovator in navigating the changing business landscape of manufacturers, reps and retailers, and building partnerships and alliances that build value for all parties. Under his direction, Jans has grown from a single store in Park City to 12 locations and a flourishing e-commerce business.
To keep life in balance Russ is habitually on the water, with at least 60 days each year.