When it comes to fly fishing and the outdoor industry, constant innovation and ingenuity are synonymous with the spirit of sport. News of the next rod or wader release from our favorite big names in the game is often met with widespread excitement and attention. However, the hundreds of small companies that our favorite big brands started out as, often times get overlooked when bringing their ideas to the market. So, in an effort to support, what we believe is, the foundation of the fly industry, Flylords is looking to bring a spotlight to the little guys. Here, we’ll highlight the up-and-comers in the industry we hope to see in every angler’s local fly-shop one day.
For this installment, we went on a mission to discover if we finally found the best way to get your stuff back. In no way do we want you to lose your stuff, but if you do, Karmik Outdoors has your back!
I am not going to lie, I am the worst offender when it comes to leaving rods, nets, etc. at the boat ramp. Blame it on my ADD, but regardless, I am no stranger to the stress of scrambling back to the ramp or access spot to check if my beloved gear is still sitting where I left it.
When I met Robert from Karmik Outdoors at IFTD last year I was immediately intrigued by his solution to this issue. Our fly boxes, rods, nets, reels, and other gear do not lend themselves to traditional tags. After our conversation, Robert sent me home with a couple of decals and other products to try which you can now find all over my stuff.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the packaging for the Karmik decals was the quality. This is not your average sticker sitting in your sticker collection (If you are reading this, odds are you have a sticker collection). The decal is not one that would ever fade, rip, or wear. I had three different options to pick from based on which piece of gear I had. The Normal Decal, the Anywhere Decal, and the Bag Tag.
I threw the bag tag on my favorite hip pack, put either the hi-viz decal or non-reflective decal on my fly boxes and net, and lastly got all of my rods marked with the anywhere decal. Since I am a bit of a gear nerd, I had a lot of gear to register. The process is quick and easy and I know if I lose any of the items I’ll be so glad I threw on each tag.
To test out how you would get your stuff back, I passed my fly box to my fishing buddy to see what happens when someone scans the decal. We found the process extremely easy to get your stuff back. I got an email with the preferred contact info of who found my fly box immediately. This gave me some serious piece of mind. With anything, we do have to rely on the good of people to scan the decal in the first place and not steal your stuff. I like to believe people would want to give it back, especially since “Reward” is printed on the decal.
Karmik Outdoors founder, Robert Gillingham, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the product and the other ways it is being used.
Flylords: What is Karmik Outdoors?
Robert: In the simplest terms, we exist to help people get their gear back. With our service lost gear is returned at about a 78-90% return rate within one day. Karmik Outdoors is a resource for outdoors folk to ensure their gear is identifiable and returnable.
In a longer form, we are a company that exists to strengthen and enhance the experiences of outdoors folk. Our mission is to make deeper connections between adventurers, their gear, and the brands they trust. We like to say that we are an outdoor company that happens to be in tech. The outdoor culture is rooted in who we are and that will always be our north star.
Flylords: Where did the idea for the decals come from?
Robert: How the idea came about, essentially, I found a fly rod and wanted to get it back to the owner. I posted on all the usual lost and found forums and notified the fly shops, and got responses, but not for the rod I had in my hand. If this rod had some form of identification on it I could have gotten it back to the owner quickly. I figured there has to be a better way than using a sharpie. The idea of using a QR code and ID number to link a person’s contact info to an item quickly came to me. I knew they had to be various sizes to fit fly rods, nets, fly boxes, camera equipment, phones, and other outdoor paraphernalia and various color options and we are always critiquing what we have to offer more and better.
One thing I want to say, people are not buying decals from us. They are buying a gear recovery service, the decal is how the service works. They are buying a lifetime decal for their valuable outdoor gear. Decals don’t work on everything, so we came up with an aluminum Bag Tag as well as a sewn-in option for clothing and other soft goods.
Flylords: How does Karmik make a difference?
Robert: Our core values at Karmik are Connections, Conservation, and Community. We seek to strengthen all three.
- Connections: To the individuals, we help restore people’s faith in humanity! Most fly fishermen have lost something, be it a rod or a fly box, or a net. If you lose something and get it back, we made a difference in both your and the finder’s life. We want to make connections between people. Maybe when they exchange the gear the owner buys the finder a beer and they strike up a friendship, who knows, we hope it happens.
- Conservation: We proudly sponsor groups that help the outdoor community. Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Mountain Girl Film Festival, Chukar Chasers as well as other groups. We have gone through a few iterations of our packaging and processes to eliminate single-use plastics. We are also launching Karmik Cares next year. That will be the non-profit arm that we use to enhance conservation efforts.
- Community: We use local suppliers/providers as much as possible. There is a local company that employs special needs individuals and we use them for kitting our product. We believe that our small Mom and Pop retailers are your best source of information, help, and gear. They are also where people go to drop off or look for lost items. We are proud to offer our decals in the small shops and like to use them as a “Safe Drop Off Location” for finders and owners to meet.
Flylords: Are you partnering with any brands to make custom Karmik items?
Robert: YES!! This is one of our pillars. In line with our community and connections values, we like to partner with brands. We offer a co-branded decal and work closely with brands/manufacturers to make a decal to fit their brand and enhance their product as well as customer experience. Currently, we work with MFC, Sea Run Cases, Kestrel Glassing Systems, Col Mountain Tech, and our first brand partner Sawyer Paddles and Oars. We have had quite a few successful MFC fly box recoveries.
Those people said they are much more likely to buy an MFC box with this service in it. We help products stand out and offer more value with a lasting service. If you are a brand or manufacturer let’s talk about how Karmik can work with your brand.
Flylords: What is it like owning a small business in the fly fishing industry? What are some of the struggles that come along with that?
Robert: I have enjoyed what I have been able to experience thus far. It’s always fun to hang out with people who share your passion and shared experiences. It’s been fun getting to know people in the industry and I look forward to doing more of that, hopefully, while fishing!
The hardest part for me has been learning the business side of it. For example, when shops are placing orders for the following year and what brands need and want. You have to get used to hearing “no” or pessimism about your product or idea. That’s fine, it’s not for everyone but it’s a hard pill to swallow sometimes.
Flylords: Tell me a little bit about your other business!
Robert: We are launching Karmik Solutions very soon. While getting my decals in the fly shops they asked if they could be used for their rental gear. Shops have a hard time managing and keeping track of who has what fly rod or set of waders. We are building a complimentary system to help fly shops manage their rental gear as well as a rental portal where customers/clients can reserve gear ahead of time.
Flylords: What is next for Karmik Outdoors?
Robert: I alluded to some of the big things coming up… Karmik Connections, more brand partnerships, more features and enhancements to our service, a rental management platform, and conservation sponsorships. We have grown our team and will continue to grow as the brand grows. We are expanding to international markets next year. We are also looking at bringing on some investment to really accelerate growth. The big picture is not going to change and we will continue to help people get their lost gear back. We will continue to strive to enhance Connections, Conservation, and Community but we are expanding our reach.
Thank you to Robert for taking the time to answer some of our questions! If you would like to check out how to make sure your gear will make it back to you if you ever lose it go check out Karmik Outdoors!