Introducing the Staying Afloat Series, where we take an inside look into the lives of many different fly fishing guides, shops, brands, and lodges across the world in hopes of finding out how the CO-VID is affecting them, what they are doing to help, and how we can do our part to help them.
For this feature, we interviewed longtime fly fishing industry professional Tim Rajeff who is Co-Owner of Echo Fly Fishing, a small, personable company of fly-fisher folk residing in Vancouver, Washington. Currently, Rajeff Sports distributes Echo Fly Rods to the world and Airflo Fly Lines to North America.
Flylords: Tell us about the 3D printer masks? Where are you donating these? Do you think other manufacturers with these printers should be doing the same thing?
Tim: Lisa in our office lives with a nurse that forwarded a video and the 3D file to make the mask frame. While the masks are not NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Health & Safety) or FDA approved it was really cool to make some. We want to make sure people know we are not a medical company and that the masks are not certified. Here is the link to learn more about the masks that we made.
Flylords: You mentioned the Echo Fly Fishing production facility has had to close. Was that a state mandate? How is Echo Fly Fishing going to cope with these changes?
Tim: At the end of March 25th the governor of Washington state is mandating that all businesses that are not on the official federal list of “essential” businesses be closed. All businesses that are on the list can remain open but must comply with all the regulations regarding personal protection and “social distancing” maintaining 6 feet to the nearest person. I guess fly fishing isn’t essential to the government but is to many of us who have made it more than just our hobby. We, of course, want everybody to stay virus-free and support the people who are caring for those that need medical attention. We are coping with the closure by making sure our co-workers have financial security and that their health insurance will be covered while they are away. While we won’t be able to ship orders to the shops we will continue to work on next year’s product designs and will maintain inventory so when the virus has passed we will be there for the shops and people that want to get back to the sport we/they love.
Flylords: For people who still want to go out and hit the water, do you have any advice for them?
Tim: If you are allowed to hit the water stay safe and don’t hang out closer than 6 feet from your homie. Try fishing by yourself and enjoy some quiet time. An old friend once told me; “fishing by yourself is solitude without loneliness”.
Flylords: As a business have you ever had to experience a situation like this before?
Tim: Kath and I started Rajeff Sports in June 2001. We started the company with Airflo fly lines as the only product we offered. Things were slow and then September 11th hit. We had to let one of our two co-workers go and we were not sure we would make it. We synched up our belts, borrowed money from a couple of family members, and said Fu#&*t we are going to make this work. We knew we could make stuff that would help people enjoy their favorite sport and gear we could be proud of. Kath and I worked long weeks to help the company be successful and believed enough in the business that we didn’t take a draw for 9 years. She worked evenings at a restaurant and I taught casting lessons and some hosted travel to keep Rajeff Sports afloat. While we have seen some tough times we feel bad about the damage to people’s lives and to the economy the virus is having. It some ways it reminds us of the pain we all felt after 911 and though the financial storm of 2008 and we feel confident we will be there when the dust settles.
Flylords: What are you most afraid of?
Flylords: When all this blows over, where is the first place you want to send a cast?
Tim: Winter has a grip on my bones and when the virus passes and we can fish and laugh I would like to be with friends at a secret spot on Abaco.
Flylords: Anything else you want to add?
Tim: We should start the “indoor casting society”. People can use our Micro Practice Rod’s to improve their casting. Evan in our office already has people that have made up games. I will keep you posted if we come up with any official games likely to involve beer cans or bottles as obstacles.
Be sure to check out out Rajeff Sports on Instagram at @echoflyfishing.
This series is being helped made possible by the generous folks at Fat Tire and New Belgium Brewing. Throughout the “Staying Afloat Series” we will be sending beer to people who are really in need of a “pick me up”. If you have a good story for someone who deserves some beer shoot us an email firstname.lastname@example.org