We got the chance to meet up with Roly Peto from Fulling Mill and ask him a few questions
Are you pleased with the path you’ve taken so far?
Overall, yes. Of course, we’ve made our fair share of mistakes, but they’ve been outnumbered by the better decisions and the growth has, eventually, followed. Everything we have done over the past five years has been with the aim of improving the consistency in the quality of our flies and the overall range and availability of our flies. I believe it’s fair to say that the team responsible for this have succeeded in what has been a herculean effort on many people’s part, but they have pulled it off and all credit to them.
As a trout angler the Tactical Range is of great interest, can you tell us how that came about?
As I understand it back in, around, 2010 more and more people were getting into
“competition style” river fishing and looking to release their fish. To better serve them, it was decided to launch some of the top selling patterns in a barbless format under the Tactical range, so as to make them easily identifiable to the customer. This move has been a huge success story one which we continue to add to.
Are barbless the flies of the future?
Certainly, as long as the swing of people wanting to release their quarry continues, so too will the popularity of the Tactical range.
Do you have to spot a “fad” fly that you could take into your range quickly or do you wait and see if it becomes established?
We work on a four-month cycle to produce a fly, as such if we looked to cash in on all fads, we’d create chaos at the factory and so we tend to let them pass. If, however, a proven seller, such as the Zelda fly comes along, we’ll add it to the range as and when we can and watch it fly off the shelves year in, year out.
Are traditional patterns still an important part of the range?
Very much so, as I’m sure you can imagine, whilst many anglers are always looking for the latest flies to try, far more just want to use their trusty old favorites, many of which remain top selling patterns year after year. The “Bibio” for example, comes in the top three every year, without fail.
I guess you must be offered many flies to be considered to be added to the Fulling Mill catalogue. Can you tell us a little about the selection process and how often you take on a new pattern?
So, this is very straight forward. If we see a fly we like, with a proven following and a willing contributor who we call a ‘designer’ we will work with the designer, counter sampling to the point of approval from them and then launch the fly in our catalogue and online. We then pay the designer, 7.5% of the net sales revenue from that fly, forever. This way, all interests are aligned, and everyone benefits fairly. However, before all Fly Culture readers rush to their post office, for a fly to have a proven following, we need it to sell by the bucket load already, think high hundreds, for it to be worth our while in producing. For the smaller batch production runs, there is always our Custom program, whereby we can replicate any fly for both individuals and businesses on a private basis. For further information please get in touch. Minimum orders of 15 doz per fly, per size will apply.
Hook quality is important right?
HUGELY and we only work with the best, Hayabusa, Tiemco, Gamakatsu & Owner amongst others to ensure our customers have the best chance of landing that fish of a lifetime. It always amazes us that people don’t ask more about the provenance of the hooks we use, maybe they simply trust us to use the best, commercially available hook for the job, which I can assure you we do. Our own range of hooks has recently taken off too, sales are well up on last year and we are very excited about launching the full offering in the states, as of January 2019.
Salmon flies must make up a large part of your sales. Does this move more slowly in terms of development of patterns compared to trout flies?
Funnily enough the Salmon Fly range accounts for only slightly more than 5% of our European sales, that said, we have always and will continue to keep an eye out for any new patterns. In terms of development pace, yes, it is a little slower, we receive fewer samples on this front and in general, the dealers aren’t clamouring for more either. Its been a tough few years for salmon fishing, especially in Scotland and along with the decline in catches, we’ve noticed a slightly reduced appetite for the flies too.
Pike is a growth area for fly fishing generally. Are you seeing the same when it comes to flies?
Very much so and we’ve been quick to embrace it. From old classics like Dougie’s Sparkler, through to the more recent Wiggle Tails on to the latest Sparkler Tube Flies, designed by Steve Carew, we’ve got a pretty effective range, the demand for which is only going one way. Furthermore, I should mention the fact that we’ve completely overhauled our range of pike leaders, so you’ll never lose another critter at the bank. These developments all brought about by working with leading people in the field, such as Dougie Loughridge and Paul Clydesdale, only strengthen our offering and we’re seeing more people using the Pike Fly Range as a good way of bridging across to fly fishing from that of coarse fishing.
Is there anything else you think our readers should know?
Yes! We’ve recently overhauled our blog and it is worth a look. Please check it out.