Big Changes at Pure Fishing (Hardy USA)

burk48237

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No news articles on this yet but I had a conversation on the phone today with the Regional Mgr (conventional) for Pure fishing. He's been with Pure Fishing for at least 20 years, he told me that Pure let him go and a bunch of other people in the field and at the office. It's my understanding that almost everyone with Hardy USA is no longer with the company although I haven't heard anything about the staff in Alnwick. Ever since Newell sold it, to a private equity group, rumors have been going around that they have no idea what to do with it. With Jarden Pure Fishing was big fish with Hardy being the small fish in the big pond, with Newell, Pure was the small fish, so they sold it. I have no idea where they are going now. I certainly hope someone in the Fly industry steps up and buys Hardy, lots of history there.
 

sweetandsalt

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I too know of log-timers abruptly gone from Hardy but H.Croston remans (in England).
 

Ard

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I suspected as much even though I had no direct intel on the situation. Last time I tried accessing my account it was impossible. I called many times and got only voice mail so I left many messages. Then last fall the "Alaska" Hardy Rep?? Took an order from me and then I never heard back from him, to this day he has never called, e-mailed or stopped by although I'm told they were at the Alaska Spey Clave down on the Peninsula so I don't know what to think. I have enough reels anyway so nothing was really lost not even my money....
 

sweetandsalt

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Pure did not make Hardy's day. I was hopping that the investment group that is the new owner was peopled with wealthy fly fishing enthusiast ready to loose money on Hardy. But they let go a man who has been with Hardy in the US since Hardy was represented here by Cortland. He knows more about Hardy reel history and their inner workings than anyone on this side of the pond and has long been a resource of knowledge for me and many others. What is at stake here is not simply the disrespect of invaluable human resources, but as I wrote about an old, loved by many, US rod maker recently, the degradation of our angling culture. Well, history is full of sad moments in time.

Most of you have heard that Hardy has introduced new high end rods and reels made in England. They supposedly are NOT destined for North America. So, mystery shrouds the Hardy future.
 

burk48237

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So far the industry press which is an embaressment frankly hasn't covered any of the changes at pure or mentioned Jim Murphys departure from Winston. In the case of Pure they let go of a lot of people, not just at Hardy but on the conventional side too, so far not even a press release on new Strategy/ direction.
 

Ard

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Although I haven't been very supportive ever since my first experience after the Pure acquisition of Hardy I do think it's a too bad sort of thing for the relatively small fan base here. I know that their newer rods gained some traction in the American market but there are some of us who have been owning their rods & reels for over 40 years. I always felt kinda special, you know like a guy who drives an old Saab 99 ;)

I'm glad I have the rods and reels I do but sorry that others may find it hard to follow the brand into the future.
 

cooutlaw

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I do not have any inside track information beyond what has been presented here already, but my gut tells me that the events and changes we have seen lately are only the ongoing continuation of consolidation and liquidation movements within the industry. I'm saddened that a once noble and greater focus of boutique and artistic manufacturing and innovation has given yield to purely corporate bottom line profits and holdings. Where not only the heritage, art, quality, and craftsmanship has become expendable, but so have the long term contributors and anything else that interrupts or causes a hiccup to a quarterly board meeting. I fear this to be the new normal and doubt very seriously that there will be very many players still engaged due to personal passion for the sport in the not so distant future.

What I do hope, is that anglers, in mass, continue to support small and medium sized manufacturers that are still able to streamline their smaller operations and provide personal angler to angler dedicated service and are willing to stay smaller margin and smaller scale to do so. I do believe these minority, tiny market share makers are our last connection to people that are still passionately engaged in fly fishing and unwilling to waver away from our heritage of boutique specialized products. I for one, still want to be able to know where my products came from, who produced them, and pick up the phone and talk to a real live representative whenever I desire.

I do not wish for fly fishing to become NIKE, where every tennis or athletic or running shoe can be had from one giant source produced in a thousand locations with no connection to quality control or any idea where any product derived from...I don't want every fly fishing product to merely be distributed in packaging from a giant source.

The passionate people and exceptionally proud craftsmen engaged in this sport is one of the aspects that has always separated it from others. I really hope we do not lose that.
 

ratherfish

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Comparatively speaking from you all, I don't own enough fly-gear to move the needle, three rods and maybe 4 reels and enough gear to carry in a med-large duffle bag. Nothing Hardy, not that I wouldn't like Hardy, just probably haven't been in the game long enough to get there.

Anyway, I do live in the corporate world of budgets - before I would come down on the Pure group (I am NOT in the sports industry, or retail for that matter) but before I looked sideways at Pure, I'd first look at Hardy and ask this question first - does Hardy have minimum order restrictions. I have seen/known of company's who have got a foothold into their industry, then imposed a minimum ordering requirement that ultimately set them back to dealing more local or through their own venue. Actually, I have an old compound bow and a turkey call that both companies finally got in with Cabala's years ago, in hopes of ramping up (I suspect) sales imposed a minimum order policy - whereas Cabala's did not move enough of their products at the time to continue the relationship.

Look, I have no idea if that is even close here, but profitability, for any business will and must supersede history and the arts of a product. If it isn't moving, it isn't moving, employees and shareholders want their weekly checks.

And yes, I am sad for Hardy, I appreciate history and craftsmanship as much as the next guy - I am actually kinda eat up with it.
 

Lewis Chessman

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As a Brit I'm always interested to read the views on Hardy on this forum, particularly because I feel there's a more honest, practical perception of the company in the States. If I might explain:

In the UK Hardy has dominated the top-end market for over a century regardless, I feel, of actual quality. We (my fellow gillies) have a derisory saying on the rivers relating to well-heeled gents who pay 'top dollar' for a top beat but can't cast and have no watercraft .... 'All the gear but no idea.' Invariably (until the Millennium, anyway) they would arrive with Hardy rods, reels, lines, tapered leaders, flies, boxes, etc., etc., etc. They've bought the Hardy Ethos along with the product, and here in the class-structured UK that ethos is as important as the gear if not more so. It's not just the face, accent and old school tie which has to fit if you're to be invited into the club.
Over the past 20 years or so, though, several Scandinavian companies have been producing such excellent fly tackle that nowadays I'm more likely to see a Guideline, Loop, LTS or Vision rod in an angler's hand - if he's under 70. (Re-investment after that age is a calculated risk!).

Now, I know my own view of the company is as skewed as the designer-label-loving toffs. My background is more blue collar, I'm not a monarchist and I'll happily cut my nose to spite my face. Consequently, I have nothing amongst my 40 fly rods and 20 reels made by Hardy. I resent their frequent association with the aristocracy through both model names (e.g. Viscount, Marquis, Duchess, Prince/Golden Prince, Princess, Sovereign, etc.) and their 'By Royal Appointment' crests, however well deserved. I know that many of these models are damned fine reels but they don't inspire me to aspire to them. I know my place. ;)
Further, there are countless other makers turning out equally serviceable winches who don't appeal to upper class snobbery and I've always preferred to give them my money. Many are American but I do have a soft spot for BFR (British Fly Reels) who used to make perfectly good reels at a fraction of Hardy's cost. Indeed, they made and re-badged for several US companies.

As for their rods, well, I've handled many but never felt that Wow factor we all search for. Older rods always seemed rather heavy in the hand and while newer rods are undoubtedly lighter I've preferred my Vision d-h and Loomis s-h rods along with my boutique makers' sticks, but I won't deny I probably carry my working class prejudices to the riverbank. I've actually read more positive acclaim of their most recent offerings here on the NAFFF than on the UK forums, though I've never met another inverted snob such as myself over here. They just don't seem to be enormously loved by those of us fanatical about our sport in Britain. I do hope, though, that one day I'll get a cast of a modern Hardy from a guest but, frankly, it's not very likely with so many enthusiasts buying Scandinavian rods in preference these days.
Tell you what ..... My current river has 26 rods fishing each day. I'll take a look in the rod room one day week-after-next (off sick at the mo) and make a note of what's on the racks then report back as to what's seeing action.

Now, all that has nothing to do with the company's current problems in the States, about which I take no pleasure in reading. There is no doubt that skilled, talented folk will be looking elsewhere for employment and I can only hope their talents are seized upon by other US-based tackle firms. I did hear of one UK Hardy rep being let go recently, so the issue isn't simply outwith the UK.

For all that I've said, I do hope Hardy can continue as a flagship British company, as much as for my romantic love of tradition (even if it's not MY tradition) than any other reason. I respect them as one might respect Rolls Royce - very fine engineering but not for the likes of me. The whole is very similar to sweetandsalt's recent lament about Winston, not only because it questions the effects of Capitalism on art but because many of us, whether consciously or not, come to identify with a specific company on a very personal level: One beyond the pure form and function of their product, an emotional, moral and aesthetical affinity which transcends simple brand loyalty and sits at our very core. We invest a part of our Selves in them. Then they meet someone new with more money and, broken-hearted, we have to file for divorce and move on hoping to find another lover.

Sic transit gloria mundi.
 
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burk48237

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RATHERFISH, I use to represent Hardy, and at the time their purchasing minimums and margins/pricing were fairly competitive. I do think they had the problem that being a smaller player, It was hard to get large commitments but that was more because of the Open to buys of many small dealers and the fact the bigger players in this small pond of fly fishing have fairly large minimums. In many situations by the time the dealer had placed Simms and Farbank (Reddington/Rio/Sage) they just had very little left to commit in a pre-season to smaller companies.

CHESSMAN, Thanks for the view from across the pond. I've always thought Hardy was a lot like Orvis over here, Kings basically just assuming their market position and an establishment market spot with veterans of the sport but doing very little to engage newcomers to the Sport (up until about 10-12 years ago). Orvis successfully made the transition from the stodgy tweed crowd to the a product young hipsters reading the Drake would consider. Hardy was attempting to make the same transition, one with Greys, some exceptional product for the price. And secondly with their new modern product like the Zenith, Proaxis and the UL DD reel. There is no doubt that many of their new products were as competitive as anything Guideline/Vision are doing. But they have a problem, Guideline and Vison who are basic Euro only companies don't have. They are a world wide company without World-wide infra structure. And supply chain was always an issue, I had thousands of dollars of product on backorder thru the peak of the season and consequently loss credibility and space in several dealers. As a rep you can only deal with a couple of seasons of that. Not to mention the transition of being a company that is for sale during that transition and then sold to big company that is soon sold by its huge parent company twice. That doesn't make for a stable marketing platform.

As far as price I do believe Hardy had a unique set of pressures on pricing. It costs far more to make a quality rod in Great Britain than the US due to labor laws and environmental regulations, OTOH it's hard to sell perceived value with reel/rod built in Korea in the premium market. I was just talking to one of my largest dealers who does a huge Sage Rod Rio line business, but he can't sell Sage reels at premium prices when they are Korean made, not in the Detroit market anyway. I do believe that Hardy when they introduced the Premium Korean product had it fairly value priced, and the sales reflected it. The second generation of that product escalated in price considerably, I don't believe the perceived value helped them at all in the market especially with the helter-skelter marketing of a company in multiple transitions. Hopefully someone who has a passion for Fly Fishing buys them because they have no doubt the most storied history in this industry, I just found an old Kaufmans Streamborn Catalog in my basement from the late 70's. The three featured reels were the Orvis CFO, Scientific Anglers System and the Hardy Marquis, they also featured a few reels from some upstart named Ross. All three of those featured reels came out of Hardys factory in Alnwick.
 

Lewis Chessman

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Thanks for the insight, burk48237, I think you're quite right about the 'Korean Conundrum' and that they know it, too. I'm pretty sure their premier rods and reels are being made in the UK again now?
And do call me 'Lewis' or James, please. :)

I'm sure this will have been posted here before but while we're talking Hardy it's worth proffering again: 'The Lost World of Mr. Hardy'

YouTube

It's 1 hr 36 mins long but a well made film. I hope it helps anyone who doesn't know what place Hardy holds in our collective history get a picture of the company as was and that those who do enjoy revisiting it. I'll be doing that myself this afternoon, I think. :)
 

sweetandsalt

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I understand both Lewis's British and burk's rep perspectives on Hardy, the company and its products. As a young man and angler in the 1960's early 70's, we did not have the plethora of reels available today. Commonly, we had Pflueger Medalist's and the like and British Hardy's, Lightweights and Perfects, etc. My first reel was a Medalist but I aspired to and in the 70's got a Hardy Lightweight...an LRH. Ironically, both of these brands exist today under the Pure umbrella. Sincerely, as a Yank, my desire to acquire a Hardy had nothing at all to do with its Royal seal or even historic relevance, it was simply a superior, lighter weight, better designed and built, spring and pawl fly reel. As the seasons went by I added additional Hardy's; Marquis, Perfect, St. John, Prince, Orvis CFO's...I never developed an affection for the Perfect, however.*

Time moves on and American reels began to proliferate. Quality dessign, machined from bar-stock and , incrementally adjustable drags rather than spring and pawl overrun checks made them far more attractive and effective than my stuck-in-time Hardys. After years of little development under Cortland's representation on this side of the pond, Hardy incorporated a wholly owned subsidiary, Hardy of North America and American influence began to prevail. For better or worse, and I would argue better, this yielded the differentiation between Classic Hardy and S. Korean manufactured, Performance Hardy in both reels and for the first time here, rods too. This yielded excellent Zenith, ProAxis, UL DD and Fortuna X. Korean manufacture made these rods and reel feasible, high quality at an affordable price point. For reference just look at Hardy's gorgeous and great casting, Alnwick made Angel rods...$1,200 and they broke just looking at them. Zenith was a home run (an American analogy) and I opined at the time that it was a better designed and more sophisticatedly fabricated, fairly fast progressive action rod than the current US equivalents like Orvis Helios or Winston BIIIx, both of which may have in part been influenced by it.

I am neither a businessman nor a marketer so I have finite insight into what I regard as a false perspective that "Made in S. Korea" suggests lower quality or prestige than Made in USA. Hardy's Fortuna X, Sage's Spectrum MAX or Taylor's Revolution Z and many more are superior reels to a number of US built brands. Sure, I have respect and admiration for many of our core American fly fishing tackle manufacturers but it is not based on loyalty or tradition but on quality and performance. For me quality of performance emanating from design and build excellence far exceeds "Great Old Brand" regardless of country of origin or age of company. So, I had in our Montana rod rack a Sage Igniter and Taylor Truth right next to oneanother and there was zero dissention that new in camp, American designed but Korean made Douglas SKY#6 was lights out better than a famed and widely beloved US rod of the same configuration.

I belive that Hardy of North America established an avenue and precedent for the synthesis of high end western design, advanced materials and quality Korean fabrication as a format to produce top performance rod and reels outside the traditional restraints of long established brands. Does this mean I am forgoeing my great Sage and Loomis rods? Abel/Ross and Nautilus reels? Not hardly, but it does mean I am prepared to embrace the rods and reels of new little companies like Forum member Taylor Fly Fishing whose Truth/Revolution Z outfit I fished extensively this season is better designed, built and even finished than many a famed US maker's outfits.
The fate of Hardy under confusing Pure ownership changes is unclear at best. They do posses the assets of one of the industries best rod and reel designers in England as well as deep pockets. It remains my hope that they will reformat and creatively prosper as is my wish for all of our traditional brands that have fallen on stressful times. Time and our willingness to support them by purchasing their products will, tell.

My Hardy Zenith/UL DD outfit doing what it was intended to do with a dry fly on complex presentation oriented water.
W13 226 Beaverhead Brown 7.10 s.jpg
 

bonefish41

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IMHO the issue with Asian mfg is price point. How many different rod mfg are in Korea? Does a retail 250 rod and a 600 rod come from the same factory..the latter pushes value over the cliff. If we dumped all the Asian fly rods and left only USA made rods would the flyfishing world come to an end? No...but it would only be for the elite high rollers or as that socialist, front bencher, Lewis, opines the royal/squire class...not so we would still have the used market on Ebay:)
 

burk48237

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IMHO the issue with Asian mfg is price point. How many different rod mfg are in Korea? Does a retail 250 rod and a 600 rod come from the same factory..the latter pushes value over the cliff. If we dumped all the Asian fly rods and left only USA made rods would the flyfishing world come to an end? No...but it would only be for the elite high rollers or as that socialist, front bencher, Lewis, opines the royal/squire class...not so we would still have the used market on Ebay:)
First, to be clear Korean Workmanship is only fractionally cheaper than the US. There's a reason that even on the conventional side the product from Korea and Japan tends to be premium product. Korean workers especially in CNC on the reel side are skilled craftsman, I suspect they are on the graphite fabrication side as well, as our Japanese. The meme of far east cheap labor simply doesn't apply to S. Korea and Japan. OTOH product from China, Vietnam and Indonesia is decidedly cheaper to manufacture, and QC tends to be weaker. For the most part it is also copied intellectual property too, unlike Korean and Japanese production which is innovative.

As far as Hardy (Sweet and Salt) I would argue the second round of Korean Production with the Zenith-Proaxis-UL DD and Fortuna were exceptional products and priced very competitively at about 15-20% less than the comparable domestic product (which is about what the cost difference is-especially if you consider marketing costs too). IF they could have shipped to meet demands they would have been an overwhelming success. BUT the second round with the Zephurus-Wriath , etc., escalated in price to the point where it was relatively equivalent to the US made Loomis/Sage/Scott/Hatch/Able territory where perceived value and aspiration didn't meet up with the competition. The reality is those companies had far superior marketing and selling Hardy Korean product for the same price with-out that level of marketing was daunting for most retailers. The support frankly regionally since Pure took over was mediocre at best.
 

ia_trouter

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Although I haven't been very supportive ever since my first experience after the Pure acquisition of Hardy I do think it's a too bad sort of thing for the relatively small fan base here. I know that their newer rods gained some traction in the American market but there are some of us who have been owning their rods & reels for over 40 years. I always felt kinda special, you know like a guy who drives an old Saab 99 ;)

I'm glad I have the rods and reels I do but sorry that others may find it hard to follow the brand into the future.
I don't know for sure if it is the same outside the US (I suspect it is), but I find it sad when an iconic brand goes away. It doesn't really die though. Whether a Hardy reel, and old IH farm tractor, or a fine wristwatch, those who truly appreciate them will carry the torch and the nostalgia lives on a very long time.

I think I prefer this to a great brand being acquired for peanuts, then whored out by releasing substandard products at deeply discounted prices. It happens because it works, and consumers will buy the name, at least for awhile.
 

bonefish41

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"First, to be clear Korean Workmanship is only fractionally cheaper than the US..." as in total cost of production of a completed rod?? If that be true then TFO with reasonable retail price points makes a significantly inferior products to the 600 plus other Korean rods... Does the factory that makes TFO make blanks/rods for anyone else?...What factory did/does Hardy use? If total costs are fractional, why do the rod newbies use Korean mfg why not new US mfg...Shimamo's Loomis is the red-headed step...it's the Bass boys that drive the Lexus...It's the US consumers' dollar that drives flyfishing...how many sustainable pieces of the pie are there? How many do we spend thrifts really need?
 

sweetandsalt

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First let my inform that I have never been to any east Asian countries. I have friends in the fly fishing industry that have though so some of my data is second hand. Also I am not a businessman but I understand what price point is.

TFO makes a fine cost/quality ratio product which I have good experience with as that is the brand we use to teach and equip our veterans with disablists with in PHWFF. I have a couple of their rods and reels myself. In the excellent video posted above of eth rod shop that is unique to TFO, note it is modern, the craftspersons are hard working and diligent as well as having a break to eat and play games during. However, let me draw your attention to one impotent detail, the blank rolling process. A machine assisted, multi-blank simultaneously process is employed made feasible by relatively simple, single flag pattern rod design. At the shop of a high end rod maker like Sage for example, the blank rolling table is the bottleneck of rod production as each individual blank is hand rolled using more complex paterns and overlapping flags of differing property pre-preg graphite (multi-modulus). It is in fact this complex fabrication and super careful alignment process that differentiates a Sage, Loomis, T&T for example rod in price and performance from a TFO.

There are at least two other if not more rod shops in S.Korea. There is one who's workmanship and attention to detail has attracted some western rod companies like Hardy, Loop, Rajeff Sports, Douglas Outdoors and Taylor Fly Fishing and others to employ their fabrication services as their experience with advanced composites and more US style hand craftsmanship yield results on par with and even, in some cases, superior work to some less well equipped and/or staffed US rod shops. It is obviously costly to build a new rod shop here at home and these Korean shops makes it realistic for a passionate but small company designer to have his work realized at a reasonable price. I would imagine that if a rod like my new Taylor Truth were built in the USA, its rice might be at high end Sage level instead of in the $600's. I grasp even if I disagree , that a Korean built rod has less appeal and concern about future warranty then a Sage, et al. Nor am I replacing my Sage or Loomis rods with Korean built ones...but if Korean built is better than an equivalent US made rod I am going to be fishing it with zero prejudice or concerns about its origins or future replaceability.
 
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bonefish41

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SS That's a rhetorical big "IF"...because as many including you have stated there's more than mere assembly to create the rod and where does that more come from...where does that river run through it exist south of the 38th parallel? Does it come from here...England or are these things called flyrods just as Gary Loomis has alluded ...are just tapered composite cylinders...we as consumers accept the marketing hype...the pseudo esoteric(s) we give them...soon there will be self-casting rods just like self-drive cars...all we have to do is move our arm and the rod does it all...
 

sweetandsalt

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bonefish, It is not clear to me what "IF" you are referring to. Are you talking about taper design? Build integrity? As you know, I favor some of the same kind of Sage's you do for flats fishing but I have supplemented them with Hungarian Stickman T8 and would not hesitate based on my trout fishing experience to fish Taylor's 8-weight too.
 
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