In partnerhsip with Mustad Hooks, we will be hosting a live tie on the @flylords Instagram AND Facebook, with our friend, Svenddiesel. Tune in tonight, November 5th, at 7pm MT/ 9PM EST, for an after hours, live-tie hangout!
In preparation for their new Heritage line of fly fishing hooks, we had a chance to sit down with Reid McKinstry and Katie Hale at Mustad to learn more about the brand, their history, and what it takes to be an almost 200-year-old brand in the fishing industry.
Flylords: Who is Mustad?
Reid: Mustad is a very old (we’re actually the second oldest fishing tackle company in the world behind Orvis), historic, fishing tackle manufacturer that’s lasted through the centuries through a constant desire to improve and innovate. We started Mustad as a wire business in 1832 and eventually started building fishing tackle in 1877. Interesting enough, we actually invented the automated hook-bending machines. Now, we’re really pushing new technology in everything that we do: new machinery, new finishes, new points, new kind of everything, to kind of facelift the brand and take it into the next century.
Flylords: Can you give us a brief rundown of Mustad’s history and founding?
Reid: Oh boy. So, the company was founded by Hans Mustad. It was a family-owned company that started in 1832 in Gjøvik, Norway, which is where the head office still is. Originally, it was a wire company where we built all kinds of wire and metal products. One of the original products were zippers for example, so we were a major player in the zipper world for many years. We made all kinds of stuff, from cast-iron waffle pans to consumables like staples and paperclips. Anything that really had to do with wire or metal products, in the founding.
The company was owned in the Mustad family for six generations before it was sold in 2012. For 6 generations we had operations of all over the world, and the biggest division has been the fishing tackle division, as a whole. Both the auto-line company, which caters specifically to commercial fisheries. Since our entry into the fishing-hook industry, we’ve been constantly evolving and trying to continue to develop hooks that are ahead of their time.
Flylords: How long has Mustad been involved in fly-fishing?
Reid: Fly-fishing has always been a big part of Mustad’s history, so obviously, being a Norwegian company, fly fishing has always been really popular there, and we’ve been active in the fly fishing space developing hooks, techniques, patterns … We even had manufacturing facilities where we tied flies over the years at different points in time.
We actually used to have these display boards that have all these really elaborate flies that are tied by champion fly tyers, some who are Mustad employees or worked for our tying factory. We had them both in Norway and then one in the Philippines that specialized in tying flies at different points in our history.
Flylords: Would you say that’s kind of what sets Mustad apart from the competition?
Reid: One thing, in particular, is that our wire is a slow-drawn process, so we control the consistency really well. Wire kind of has grain in it like wood, so when it’s drawn or stretched, it can kind of crack or have voids put it in, so because we draw our own in that different process, it’s much more consistent so that the wire’s less likely to break or have defects. That’s one of the key things that nobody else does. All the other companies in the business, they all source wire openly on the market, which means it’s a faster-drawn wire. Basically, it’s something that would be made for fences or other textiles, so it’s a high-volume usage kind of item.
The other thing is, because we make our own wire, we make our own wire diameters.
Pretty much every Mustad hook that you would use is built on different wire diameters. So, if you’re using a two, four, and six, those are all built on 3 different wire diameters, whereas most other companies, because they’re sourcing open-source wire, don’t have the availability of as many wires sizes, so they would group usually 2 or 3 sizes together, so a 2 and a 4 are probably built on the same 1.06mm wire, and then the one-aught and two-aught would be built on the next-size wire up. So that’s why it’s not always an apples to apples comparison, because we’re able to be more flexible with our wire.
Flylords: What issue does Mustad aim to address or improve in the fishing hook space?
Reid: So, again, we’re trying to continue to develop new and innovative technologies, as well as staying on the forefront of the shapes and the techniques, because fishing has become very technique-focused. It’s not like it was even 20 years ago, where it was 10 different models of hooks you can kind of go catch anything with any hook, right? Now, the fly fishing patterns have gotten much more complex and, just like the rods, the rest of the industry has elevated itself. There are new lines, there are new materials for rods, reels, all of those pieces. We’re trying to push the envelope, basically, to stay ahead of the trends, find the next big technique that is going to take off.
Flylords: What is Mustad’s vision for the future of the standard of a fly hook?
Reid: If you look at it, in most historic products related to flies, they’re almost all tied on Mustad hooks. If you look back from the mid-’90s and before, all your Clouser Minnows and all of those staple flies, were all built on Mustad hooks.
So, I think the vision now is to look back on that heritage of who we have been and everything that we’ve done, but then put that progressive spin on it now. So, then, be more technology-focused and be more technique-focused. Like I said earlier, we want to be more aggressive on speaking with the fly tiers, more aggressive on understanding the trends, so that we can develop a new hook specifically for that new technique, that new pattern, or make a better mousetrap, for example.
I mean, that’s kind of where we’ve gotten to is, if you want to make something really basic, it’s easy to find the product to do that, but if you want to find that perfect product, you’ve got to design something from scratch or design it specifically for that need and application.
Flylords: So, how is Mustad going about making those changes to fit the ever-changing needs of fly tyers and anglers?
Katie: I would say having more, or even stronger relationships with people in the fly community and working closely from the very concept to get product in the hands of the people that are out there using it. By working and fine-tuning that all the way to the final stages, where then, if people are invested in the product from the beginning, it’s going to be a good product, and then it’s going to work in the regions where they’re fishing it. This way we know who it was developed for, with that end consumer in mind.
Flylords: What are some sustainability efforts Mustad is a part of?
Reid: We’re really working to eliminate our plastic consumption. We’re working on a major packaging change that’ll go into effect in 2022, where we’re massively reducing our plastic usage and going to a more sustainable packaging approach across the board: recycled materials, biodegradable materials, things like that. That’s kind of the biggest thing that we’ve worked on.
The boxes that we’ll be using will be an opaque, are actually made with a bioplastic. So, again, one of the things we wanted to do in this space was not green-wash, but actually, be who we say we are. We know it’s very important in the fly fishing community.
So, the packaging is going to be both reusable and made out of a bioplastic, which uses a lot less energy to produce because it’s bioplastic and it will break down faster than normal plastic.
Flylords: So, we’ve been hearing about a new line that Mustad is working on. Can you give us a sneak peek as to what that may look like?
Katie: So, the Heritage fly hook line … like Reid said earlier, it calls back to the fact that Mustad’s been in the fly game for 143-years, at this point. With that, we’re just taking all the technology that we’ve been building on in recent years and applying decades and decades of historical knowledge with the new technology for this program
Flylords: And what does that new technology look like?
Reid: So, the two big areas of technology that we’re using pretty much across the board on the new range is a new point technology that we’re calling Alphapoint, and Alphapoint tech is an improvement to make what is both the sharpest hook on the market as well as something that’s extremely durable.
The other kind of improvement over the entire range and this is going to be, aesthetically, the thing that people are going to notice right away is the new finish, which we call TitanX. This is actually a nano-coating that bonds to the steel. It’s kind of like a matte gray finish, so it’s a totally different look. Most of our fly hooks were either bronze, black nickel, or duratin, so it was a high chrome black, high chrome tin, or the very old-school brown. What’s so special about the TitanX nano-coating is it will make the hook much smoother, greatly aiding in penetration capability.
Flylords: When do you think we’ll be able to get a peek at some of the new Heritage line?
Reid: Well, while we don’t have an exact date to give yet, May/June 2021 we should have inventory going into the market. But, you can probably expect to see some teasers before then.
Thank you to the Mustad team for taking the time to sit down with us to provide a look way back into the roots of American fly-fishing as we know it. If you’re interested in learning more about Mustad’s products, you can find more information HERE.