Author: Will Rice
Trouts Fly Fishing is constantly on the look out for new and innovative products when it comes to fly fishing gear. We usually find those products originating out West and close to home. In the case of Finn Utility, this proved not to be the case.
I first came across Finn Utility's Streamer Wallet via a friend of a friend. Before I even had a chance to use it I showed it to fishing buddy and photographer Tim Romano. "What do you think?" I asked. "This is going to be perfect for my hike into XXXX Canyon this weekend. I hate carrying an entire streamer box for that hike." At that point, the streamer wallet was shoved into Romano's pocket. To this day, I've never seen it again.
We gave Ryan McDonald, Founder and Chief Designer at Finn Utility a call and decided to meet up this summer in Las Vegas at the International Fly Tackle Dealer. It was Finn's first big fly fishing show. We met up, checked out their line of fishing bags and accessories and placed our first order shortly after.
We're excited to bring in another really unique product to Trouts and Finn Utility gets the shine of is this month's Spotlight.
Trouts Fly Fishing: it sounds like Finn Utility takes the concept of "hand crafted" very seriously and that you put quite a bit of time in constructing the bags yourself? Tell us more about that.
Finn Utility: Hand crafted is very important. Working with my hands is a big part of what brought me to start Finn. Folding materials, feeling the thickness of the sheerling, understanding through a physical connection before you start constructing your prototype is important. This is where the product gets its DNA. We design and redesign every piece to get a better solution. Sewing all the prototypes myself, this is what making a product line is all about.
Trouts Fly Fishing: you come from a family of fly fishing enthusiasts. Can you talk about your history with fly fishing and how you were introduced to the sport?
Finn Utility: Fly Fishing is in our blood, an introduction was not needed. My mothers side of the family was the fishing side. She is an amazing fly fishing woman. Her father and his father - and so on - all fly fished. My brother and I just got handed down our great grand fathers fly rod an old "Leonard" bamboo rod. Its kinda like “A River Runs Through It” - just think Maine not Montana.
Trouts Fly Fishing: All of your bags and other fishing products are designed and manufactured here in the US. Tell us a bit more about the sewing collective you use for manufacturing - how does all that work?
Finn Utility: We use a family owned operation for your manufacturing. The owner and his father used to work the dicut machine together - a job that has big consequences if one persons timing is off. Both his daughters and there husbands work there. They love what they do. I will go over and work with them on the products and sew along side. We are very lucky to have such a cool manufacturer.
Trouts Fly Fishing: There are a ton of fly fishing packs on the market right now - tell us how you go through your design process and how do you ensure you are creating something new and useful that is not already in existence?
Finn Utility: I am a strong believer in functionality, durability, and, testing along with the old saying - Keep It Simple Stupid. At the moment, a design is moving from the sketchbook to the prototype phase - I like to break the bag up into connection points and access zones. For example with this backpack, how do we close the top or connect the shoulder straps, what’s the simplest way to attach a couple of rod tubs with out having them stick up to high or hit the back of you leg? After we get all the pieces together and highlight the fly fishing functions we feel are important, we test it out and rework as needed. We’ll send one to a shop have them test it. One of the guides - Frank down at Mossy Creak Fly Shop - gave us wonderful feedback on the Essex side bag - the process in never ending.
Trouts Fly Fishing: We tend to beat the tar out of the fishing products we use here - and so do our customers. How do you manage quality assurance and what does your product-testing look like? If something does go wrong with a Finn Utility product, how do you deal with it?
Finn Utility: We do our best to build the best. We look over every part of the bag from the stitch locks to the rivet sets. Everything needs to be tight and done right. If something does go wrong, we put that customer at the front of the line. The last thing we want is a warranty department. Product testing is either fishing and doing it in real conditions, or testing in the shop, "Failure Analysis".
Trouts Fly Fishing: It looks like in addition to your fishing packs, you've starting designing and producing travel bags. What else is on the horizon for Finn?
Finn Utility: We are going to keep our roots in the Fly Fishing, introducing new bags that cater to bamboo and fiberglass fisherman. This in not to say we won’t entertain the idea of a more utility piece. My neighbor Zack is a world class cook, NYC’s finest. He asked me to put together a high-end knife roll. It’s one of the new products that not totally fly fishing – but I do see guides using it on river trips and for traveling cooks at lodge events and dinners.
Often times stepping outside the Fly Fishing world and doing something new teaches you something about a product you had in mind for fly fishing - some little twist that’s innovative. It’s all about learning.
And there you have it….