Whitefish, Montana-based Gilman Grips is making waves from the rower’s seat. These innovative oar handles are a stellar example of the innovation we’re seeing in the outdoor and fly-fishing industries. We sat down with founder Jeff Gilman to learn more about the product and the history behind it.
Gilman Grips: tell us a bit about the company’s history.
The idea for Gilman Grips Oar Handles began with 35 years of big water kayaking experience. After tearing his rotator cuff a few years ago Jeff Gilman hung up his kayak, but not the river lifestyle. To ease the stress and workload on his shoulders, Jeff made the switch to whitewater rafting. Yet, he found traditional oar grips to be uncomfortable, cumbersome and non-responsive. After spending so much time with ergonomic kayak paddles, he realized traditional oar handles simply couldn’t provide him with the same type of connection to the water. So, Jeff set out to make a high-performance oar handle for people who love to spend their days on the river.
What do you think the future will bring for your company? Any big plans you can share?
The future looks bright for innovative products like Gilman Grips Oar Handles. Fly fishing and rafting guides have embraced the grips as a definitive improvement upon the traditional design. With a carefully crafted ergonomic design, Gilman Grips are significantly less taxing on your body, resulting in less shoulder, wrist, and hand fatigue. Once guides have tried our grips they never want to use a traditional grip again.
We plan to bring our product to the river community and set a new gold standard in comfort, performance, and control. Our Kickstarter campaign gives us an opportunity to bring our product to you as soon as possible, so please, make a pledge and be first on the river with Gilman Grips.
Gilman Grips will benefit everyone who rows. It doesn’t matter whether you row a drift boat, dory or raft, our grips bring a level of performance that’s never been available before. Guides, in particular, will greatly benefit from this improved performance given how much time they spend on the water. Rowing, as with any physical activity you do repetitively, can cause joint problems and pain. Our grips can help alleviate the issues associated with the repetitive rowing motion.
How do you feel AFFTA membership will benefit Gilman Grips? What made you become a member?
We became members of AFFTA to help share this great new concept with fishing guides. Your members are the people who will benefit the most from Gilman Grips Oar Handles. Our goal is to help guides stay out on the river a little longer and to row with more comfort and control.
What’s one thing you wish AFFTA members knew about your company?
Jeff has spent his summers on the river for over 35 years and that passion shows up in our product design.
When you’re not in the office, what are you most likely to be found doing?
In the off season Jeff loves to ride single track on his 450. In the winter you’re most likely to bump into Jeff on the ski lift on a powder day.
“We enjoy the fisheries menhaden support, directly and indirectly, value the wildlife it sustains, and benefit socially and economically from a healthy and diverse ocean environment.”
Our friends at the Marine Fish Conservation Network are staying on top of the current menhaden debate — catch up on the latest, including Draft Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden on their blog here.
Bozeman, Montana – Simms Fishing Products, the preeminent manufacturer of waders, outerwear, footwear and technical apparel heads to the sunshine state to raise awareness, and funds towards restoring, and protecting the Florida Everglades.
The labyrinth of mangrove forests, sawgrass marshes and cypress swamps known as the Everglades is one the most diverse and unique fisheries in the country. For decades, anglers have been drawn to not only the tarpon and snook that reside here, but also the mystic and lore of this South Florida jungle. Watermen who originally navigated this backcountry maze and unlocked its many secrets have become legends, and so have their stories from those early days. The Everglades needs our help, and needs our help fast.
Water mismanagement issues have plagued the Everglades for decades. Now, more than ever, these issues threaten to completely strangle this fragile, one-of-a-kind ecosystem. Damming, ditching and draining, has drastically changed the traditional flow of the river of grass, Lake Okeechobee’s natural runoff of fresh water that once supplied, and balanced the Everglades. In order to protect this resource, we have to reestablish the traditional flow and send the water south once again.
“The Everglades is one of those places that’s far too valuable and more importantly, too special to lose,” says Simms Executive Vice President of Marketing, Al Perkinson. “Florida’s water management issues have been going on long enough. The time is now to implement real solutions that will restore and protect Florida’s estuaries. If we don’t, places like the Everglades simply will not survive.”
The Everglades is the first eastern effort and sixth stop in Simms 2017 Save Our Streams campaign. During the month of September, Simms will offer a limited edition T-Shirt (available in Men’s and Women’s) designed by Jorge Matinez, a Florida native who grew up just north of Everglades National Park. Martinez, a graduate of the Miami School of Art and Design is a diehard angler, fly/lure designer and passionate conservationist. A portion of every T-Shirt sale available through Simms’ retail partners and http://www.simmsfishing.com/sos will benefit Captains for Clean Water, a non-profit organization that spawned from a group of fishing guides based out of Ft. Meyers, Florida who “had enough” of Florida’s poor water management practices. Captains for Clean Water fights to eliminate harmful, large-scale Lake Okeechobee discharges into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie River estuaries by restoring the natural flow of Lake Okeechobee, sending its water south, back into the Everglades and Florida Bay.
“The Florida Everglades are at a vital crossroads,” says Captains for Clean Water’s founder, Captain Daniel Andrews. “Recent legislation – that we helped pass – provides light at the end of the tunnel for the River of Grass. Captains for Clean Water is proud to partner with Simms via Save Our Streams to raise awareness to science-based solutions to Florida’s water crisis.”
About Simms Fishing Products: Established in 1980, Montana-based Simms is the Preeminent manufacturer of waders, outerwear and technical apparel in fishing. The full line of Simms gear is available at specialty and large format retailers nationwide as well as www.simmsfishing.com.
John Frazier, Community Specialist
Our September AFFTA Member of the Month is the R.L. Winston Rod Company, based in Twin Bridges, Montana. The folks at Winston believe in playing as hard as they work — here’s what they had to say about business, life in Montana, and why they’re an AFFTA member.
You’ve got a lot going at Winston. Tell us a bit about the company’s history.
Winston has a long, rich history in the fly fishing world and was actually started in 1929 in San Francisco by technicians Robert Winther and Lew Stoner who combined elements from their names to create the R.L. Winston Rod Company. Below are some company highlights:
- In 1934, Lew Stoner developed his patented hollow-fluted rod design for use in tournament casting competition.
- In the early 1950s, then Winston owner Doug Merrick incorporated the casting characteristics of its famous hollow-fluted rods into a new material: fiberglass.
- Tom Morgan purchased the company from Doug Merrick in 1973 and in 1975, Winston offered a new line of 2 and 3-piece graphite rods that met with great success.
- In 1976, the decision was made to move the company from San Francisco to Twin Bridges, Montana in order to be near the world-class trout fishing of the Beaverhead, Big Hole and Jefferson rivers.
- David Ondaatje bought Winston in 1991 and over the next several years, worked closely with Tom Morgan to learn about Winston rod building and design.
- In 1994, the company began rolling its own blanks and a year later, moved to a new rod facility in Twin Bridges specifically designed for rod building and outfitted with state of the art equipment.
- In the 2000s, Winston innovation became centered on boron/graphite composite, and during this time, the phenomenally successful Boron IIx, series was introduced.
- Winston introduced the Boron III X series in 2011, and anglers all over the world began to experience the benefits offered by third generation boron/graphite composite.
- In spring of 2016, Winston acquired Bauer Fly Reels and moved the company from Oregon to Winston’s facility in Twin Bridges.
- In 2017, Winston introduced theWinston AIR. Winston AIR rods feature a revolutionary new design that combines our new SuperSilica™ resin system with high modulus Boron for significantly less weight, more liveliness, an extremely broad casting range, and higher responsiveness for optimum presentation.
What do you think the future will bring for Winston? Any big plans you can share?
We always have something exciting up our sleeves. First, we are very excited about the launch of our new Nimbus and Kairos rods. We look forward to expanding the Winston experience and these two series do that. Both 100% made here in our Twin Bridges facility in the same manner and attention to detail as our Boron III rods.
As most people in the industry know, we tragically lost our old bamboo shop that was housed in the original Winston building in downtown Twin Bridges, to fire in May of 2017. We are excited about our plans to rebuild and look forward to having our bamboo department up and running in 2018.
As for the future, we will just have to let time tell. We have our 90th birthday coming up in 2019 which is quite the milestone for the fly-fishing industry. Rest assured we will have something special.
Twin is an awesome little town. If someone was going to visit for the first time (say, after the Dealer Summit), what would you recommend they see / experience?
Twin is a small town with a lot going on! Montana Mad Hatters, makers of world famous cowboy hats, can be found on the main street. The Old Hotel offers an exceptional dining experience, one of the best in the state.
Going fishing! Twin has access to four blue ribbon trout streams only five minutes from town each with a distinct personality.
And of course, we’d be delighted to welcome you to Winston and give you a tour of our facility.
How has AFFTA membership benefitted Winston?
For Winston, our AFFTA membership is all about relationships and information. Building relationships not only with our retailers, but with everyone in the outdoor industry. And AFFTA provides us vital information on the state of the fly fishing industry and important environmental issues to help us all succeed and thrive.
What’s one thing you wish AFFTA members knew about Winston?
Yes, Winston is a revered brand known world-wide, but its home is the tiny town of Twin Bridges, Montana. If there was one thing we wish the fly fishing community could know about Winston it would be the character of our workforce. We have a diverse team, all with different backgrounds and experiences. What we all share is our love of fly fishing and upholding the integrity for what it takes to make the truly finest rod on the market. And most importantly, on the water.
When you’re not in the office, what are you most likely to be found doing?
Putting the rods we make to use!