Featured image by Justin Carfagnini
Introducing the Staying Afloat Series, presented by Fat Tire, 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 COVID-19 is affecting them, what they are doing to help, and how we can do our part to help them.
Flylords: Who is Scott Hunter? What is VEDAVOO?
Scott: I’m a Wyoming trout bum relocated east. I came out here to go to school, then built a family and a business. VEDAVOO started with a goal of building really high-quality gear here in the USA – something we’ve never quit doing. We’re known best for our Sling Packs and Daypacks, but we build all kinds of clever accessories to make time on the water better for our friends. Hard to believe it’ll be 11 years in June!
Flylords: Can you tell us a little bit about how the CO-VID outbreak affected your business?
Scott: It’s been really tough. Unfortunately, we had to lay off the core of our crew – – – but two of us (Meridith and I) are still sewing from home to keep orders rolling. It’s typically REALLY busy for us this time of year – but sales have definitely gone down with people locking down and stocking up like they have to. Small shops like ours are getting hit really hard because we count on consistent sales to keep things running.
Flylords: What are some ways customers can support you and your team?
Scott: Honestly, the best way is to pick up a gift card or to place an order for a new piece for their kit, or to upgrade from their older pack to one of the new raft-vinyl built ones from the X Collection – which we launched just before this all hit. We also just got in four new t-shirts we put up for sale and have a bunch of stickers and quick build accessories ready for sale. Fly wallets, reel cases, wader wallets… anything helps.
Fortunately, we build a great product worth buying! Even if customers can’t use it as much as they’d like right now, better days aren’t far off. I’m hoping folks give us the opportunity to build for them now, so they’re ready to roll when the clouds lift.
Flylords: You mentioned the VEDAVOO production facility has had to close. Was that a state mandate? How is Vedavoo going to adapt to these changes?
Scott: Yeah. Our Governor closed all non-essential business down last month, and we’ve been essentially homebound since. I’m glad personally that he took this situation seriously – but it’s been bad for the shop.
It’s kind of cool in a way. I’m sewing again in my basement – where it all was built – like I did for so many years. Some of our customers have actually been excited to get a piece built during “Back to the Basement” days. I’m hoping it’s not for long.
We’re also looking at this as an opportunity to innovate – developing new gear to help people enjoy more experiences outside when they can.
Flylords: As a business, have you ever had to experience a situation like this before?
Scott: Never like this. I started this path back in 2008/2009, right after the recession hit. It took a while for things to bounce back, and made it a harder road than it COULD have been. But it was a blessing in some ways. I couldn’t afford to blow money I didn’t have on big marketing and a ton of help. So, I taught myself to sew in my basement on an old machine I found on Craigslist. I learned to be lean, and focused more on what our gear NEEDED to do rather than pack it full of needless “stuff”. That simplicity has become a hallmark of what we do. Getting lean when you need to can be a game-changer. I’m glad I started with a taste of that … makes me more ready to do what I have to do now to keep us rolling.
Flylords: Tell us a little bit about the Online Iron Fly you’re running.
Scott: I’ve been a big fan of Pig Farm Ink for a long time, so when this mess blew in and locked people down, I reached out to Jay and the guys about putting together a virtual event. They loved it – and we kicked it off at the beginning of April. It’s a 3-week event – with a new challenge kicked off each Wednesday. The trick is – people can’t use traditional materials (other than hook and thread). They must scrounge up materials from their house – stuff that anyone could have – and make their best fly. Judges pick the top two of the week, which face off in a live challenge on Instagram that Friday.
In the first week – “bathroom” materials from band-aids, q-tips, and cotton balls faced off against flies made of loofahs and feminine products. The output was amazing – and ultimately a classic salmon fly tied by Matt Bagshaw (@mattfinfeathers) with ONLY stuff he found in the loo won the week.
I can’t wait to see what the next one brings!!!
Flylords: For people who still want to go out and hit the water, do you have any advice for them?
Scott: Anyone you can touch with your rod is too close! I haven’t been personally able to get out (yet) with obligations at home with the kids and sewing (when I can) for Vedavoo. When I do, I’ll probably be on some smaller waters with less pressure, or will put my Water Master in and do a little float. Either way, I’m not going to be sharing a boat or a ride to the water with anyone other than my little boy.
Flylords: What are you doing during the downtime to stay connected to fly fishing?
Scott: Honestly – this isn’t forever. I’m looking at it as a time to really get myself organized. I’ve been tying a ton of flies and getting my gear in order for all that is to come. That and take care of my boys (15, 2, and >1), and sewing!
When all this blows over, where is the first place you want to send a cast?
I NEED to see the ocean again. I’ve been daydreaming about tossing into the salt for Striped Bass. Can’t wait!
Cheers to Fat Tire and New Belgium Brewing for making this series possible. 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 email@example.com.