Tuesday, February 28, 2023

02.28.23 Alright, here we go Simms...

    So let me start off by saying I was only trying to do the right thing. I ordered a pair of "custom" G3 bootfoot felt bottomed waders from Simms directly in January 2022, and as the box states "Custom waders built for Mr. Colin Archer". I received them and put them into service in March 2022. I purchased and installed the Simms Hard-bite studs before I wore them for the first time. All good.

     I used the waders for the spring into early summer 2022 and then in the fall into early winter. During a fly test in January of this year I noticed both boot "toe" fronts coming undone and collecting sand and 

sticks inside. Wow. That must be a manufacturing thing, let me send them back. This is surely an easy fix and well within the 1 year warrantee Simms hangs their hat on. But let me rewind. After using waders, mostly in the rivers during the spring 2022 season the Simms Hard-bite studs wore down, like really down. So I went into my collection of fishing gear and found some Orvis Posi-Grip studs that were designed for felt bottomed bootfoot waders. I removed two of the Simms Hard-bite studs and replaced them with two of the Orvis Posi-Grip studs. These aren't aluminum gutter screws, they're basically the same thing. To note, it cost me $75 to send them by ground UPS from N.J. to Bozeman. That's on me. Below is my letter sent back to Simms along with my waders.

     Last week I went to visit Mom in Florida and when I got home I checked my email. One from Simms stating the following,

     "We're happy to let you know that your item has been shipped". Great I thought. Must have just been a quick re-glue on the boot fronts and I'm all good to go, just in time for the March 1st opener. But then a few emails down from three days earlier there was another Simms email,

And in that email it states, "After a thorough evaluation, we have determined that your product failed for reasons other than defects in workmanship or materials. (Now in bold) We are unable complete a repair that meets our performance standards and the product appears to have reached the end of its serviceable life. When this determination is made, a red stamp is applied to inside of the product. This stamp signifies a product that is no longer eligible for future repairs. Based on the evaluation of it's use...(Here we go, blown gasket coming)...we trust that your Simms product contributed to positive fishing memories". And in the salutation, "Thank You for choosing Simms and we look forward to serving you in the future". I thought I was going to have a stroke. Just as this was all going down the USPS truck rolls up and drops off a package from Simms. In the nice new box were my waders just 

just as I had sent them back to Bozeman, Montana at the end of January. But now they had the Scarlet Letter stamp on the inside. That just infuriated me more. 

     I called the Warranty and Repair Department and no one picked up. My next shot was with customer service. I got a nice enough guy on the phone and explained my story. Now I was pissed, and I think rightfully so. Let's just side with Simms. Don't you think, if this wasn't on them per se, that maybe they'd reach out to the customer and discuss a possible solution, which could include a repair with a bill that I would have been willing to pay? Or would you just send the waders back to New Jersey from Montana with a Scarlet Letter in the waders and the above Dear John letter sent via email. And to note, any customer should be treated as someone in the pro-program, but maybe a tad more consideration?

     So I was good until the agent "went and talked" with the repair guys who told him that any warranty or repair claim "was null and void" due to the off-label studs I installed in the boots. Now I knew I bought and installed the Hard-bite Studs, you can see the pictures, and refer to the original post when I installed them, HERE. And when I ordered my waders in January 2022 I asked if they could install them, but they wouldn't. I then almost lost my shit, and I am sure my tone, and a few select words, confirmed that. But I always try to do the right thing, respectfully. This isn't a wah-wah-wah thing, this shit just ain't right. 

     After I hung up with my blood pressure around stroke numbers I got an email (above) stating I should send pictures showing the bottom of the boots, which you see below. I turned them over, took a pic, sent it. It was then I realized I had installed two Post-Grip studs after seeing the Hard-bite Studs 

ground down and flush with the felt on the bottom of the boots. In that long letter, with lengthy explanation and pictures and blog posts as evidence, I included the screen shot from their website, from several pages, and no where does it say anything about how a warranty would be determined to be void. 

        In a post from the other day I posted about another happy Simms customer who received the same Dear John letter from a guy who ordered waders in October 2022, just a few months ago, and got his letter and waders returned, just like mine. Here it is again, and he too got the stroke inducing line, "we 

trust that your Simms product contributed to positive fishing memories". After he posted it on a fly fishing forum the post blew up, over 330 replies, here's some of what anglers said, 

     Now I'm no tough guy, try not to be an internet keyboard tough guy either. The only time I may come off as an a-hole is when something comes up regarding the ASMFC and striped bass conservation. But this I thought was worth posting, especially since I found other similar situations with Simms. 

     So this morning before jumping on Zoom work stuff I got another, and probably final email, from Simms (above). "Unfortunately the damage to the boot foot caused by those Orvis studs is a clear warranty violation (now I'm a violator) and not something we can fix. (To note while on the original call after the agent talked with the repair person he said "the leaks and damage", I never claimed anything about leaks, they don't leak! See the original letter I sent). We do understand this is a very unfortunate situation. If you want to use your pro account to order a new pair of the custom waders, (they're not really custom, but made to order), and have them rushed then we are more than happy to waive the $65 dollar rush fee for you". And then the knife in the chest, "Just as a reminder professionalism and courteous behavior towards our staff is a condition of the pro-program". 

     Professional and courteous. Can we say Simms handles their customers professionally and courteously? Myself, and the other guy, weren't looking to get over, weren't looking to get something for nothing, weren't claiming that 10 year old waders had something wrong with them that Simms should repair. Both waders, less than a year old, one pair a few months old, and not with daily use on them, just needed a little Simms love. All they had to do was re-glue my "toes" and I would be on my way. I knew that, and was still okay with spending $75 to have the "pros" do it. C'mon man. So I sent my final reply and will now figure out how I will proceed further. One thing, don't you think if a company is going to call a customer a violator, by violating a products warranty, that the rules of engagement should be written and provided to the person purchasing "custom" waders??? I guess not. 

     With my blood still boiling I had to see who I could contact at Simms/Vista for some help. I found a guy, a Montana fly fisherman, named Chris Metz. He might be able to help me out. He just happens to be Vista Outdoors CEO. He's been in that position since 2017. Vista Outdoors is the parent company for 

a bunch of outdoor, binocular, gun, bike, and yes, companies such as Simms. Vista bought Simms last year for $192 million dollars. Surely they could afford a little glue on my boot foot toes. But come to find out early this month the board of directors asked Metz to resign, abruptly, after they voted a "loss of confidence in his leadership". Now Metz ain't leaving the company, he'll stay on as a regular old employee. I don't think he'll mind because he's already cashed in making $3.9 million in 2020, $14 million in 2021, and $12.5 million in 2022. (from salary.com). According to Twin Cities Business, Metz will receive, "a lump sum payment equal to 100% of his current base salary", which is $1,096,154, that's 1.1 million dollars. 

Maybe Metz can just send me some of that Simms boot glue and I'll do the repair myself. 

I am not an influencer. I'm just The Average Angler who was looking to buy one of the best pair of waders out on the market today. I share this so you know what I went through, and what the other guy went through, to avoid it happening to you if you are in the market for some waders before our season starts. I don't know if things are changing in the fly fishing industry, but I'm 0 for 2 the last few days. 

02.28.23 Ya'll wanted some winter....

     In a recent post I predicted that some cold weather would be coming and the rivers would drop in temperature from the mid-high 40's down into the high 30's by this week. Well that came true and will no doubtedly affect the opening-dayers hitting the rivers and bays tomorrow on March 1st. No doubt they'll be out there. In this day and age everyone has to be first, because first is knowledge, first is power, first, really, means nothing. Except you caught a fish and froze your ass off. 

     We had some snow overnight which is a good thing for the health of the rivers and bays. Cool, fresh, filtered snow does water good, and good water is good for good fish. Parts of the Poconos got 6 inches of snow, Sussex County up to 4.5 inches, and Bucks County 2.5. 

     Water temperatures and bait, that's what you should be thinking about if you have switched your brain over to think like a striped bass. I usually check out the mid-Raritan Bay temps in Keansburg but above is the Raritan Bay at the Arthur Kill. It's funny when you start talking about striped bass. Most 

anglers will have some opinion, usually based on experience, about where the striped bass are and what they are doing at any particular moment. Most honest and humble ones will always add the caveat at the end of their dissertation by saying, "But what do I know", meaning, no matter how much we think we know about striped bass we really don't know much as these fish move with the tides and are as unpredictable as the weather. 

     While this blog is about fly fishing, mostly for striped bass, it's not only about how and where, but, for me, more of a love and study of striped bass. I believe that we, here in New Jersey, have the best striped bass fishery on the East Coast. Yes, bigger fish in the Chesapeake, more, as far as concentration of fish in the Raritan Bay and way up the Hudson Rivers, along with a great summer fishery up in Maine, but more so for New Jersey because of the extended season, say March till December, and the varied locations you can find striped bass. I really believe the best fisheries are in the bays and rivers now, and that includes some of the nastiest industrial and urban waters around New Jersey. 

     I also believe that our best beach fishery days are a thing of the past. Does it still exist, yes. But not like it was. I believe, again, what do I know, it is due to a multitude of factors. First, the fish have minds of their own, and I'm not in their heads, although I try to think like a bass. Here's a few more reasons. Beach replenishment has killed the beaches. Structure is gone, natural habitats for mussels, crabs, and other baitfish has been decimated. When's the last time you've heard of anglers raking crabs? That's a thing of 

the past. There's the proliferation of bunker, now, or again, from adults to peanuts, that arrive in the spring and are present through the fall. Healthier bays and rivers that have become places where baitfish migrate to and striped bass winter over. Warmer water, and I'm not all-in on the climate change thing, but when's the last time we had ice over conditions in the rivers and bays? And yes, while all those juvenile baitfish that grow and then move out in the fall have to, or we hope to, get intercepted by bass, even that has changed. Fish used to stay, and wait if you will, but now it's baitfish, like mullet, spearing and rain fish emptying out, and the passing bass are either there or not. Remember those good old mullet run days, it was a thing of when and where, not if. October, and maybe now as late as mid-November, has become the new September. 

     I know the beaches connect, but more like a highway these days, natal waters like the Chesapeake, Delaware and Hudson with the bass's summer retreats up north of Montauk, Block Island, Cape Cod, and Maine. In recent years the New Jersey summer fishery has diminished. It used to be that crab flies and poppers could consistently catch first-light bass in July and August, and keeper plus sized bass,but that seems to have dropped off. I'm not trying to be a Danny Downer, and people still catch fish, but the fishery has changed. 

     For anglers in the know, who put their time in and keep their findings off of social media to avoid spot burning, there are bites now that can last for weeks, in places you can't even fathom. But these are the night time creeping while you're sleeping only room for a few buds spots. They're not picturesque, not connecting you with nature, can be sketchy, but that's where the fish are, consistently. Yes, you can hire a guide or take your boat out and fly fish more gentlemanly or ladylike, but who wants to do that? I'll save that for when my body starts to break down, well a little more. 

     Yes, this past fall we had an incredible chasing-down-the-beach bite from top to bottom along the Jersey Shore, but I'm not talking about fast moving fish blitzing on bait. What I'm talking about is fish that settle in, stay for a bit, and can be caught on different tides, time of day and moon phases, and pretty consistently. To me that is what demonstrates a healthy fishery. 

     With my anticipation building all winter for March 1st I think this ill-timed cold weather will surely affect any chances of me catching a fish tomorrow. That's okay, it's part of the game. Every year, to my dismay, Dave Showell from Absecon bay Sportmen's Center, who I hear is a great guy, holds a contest for the first three legal bass weighed in at his shop. I hate that there's a bounty on bass, but, legal bass are legal bass, and anglers are allowed to keep one for the table, so I have to shut the %$#@^ up about that. But even though the temperatures have dropped in the last few days I believe this year may be the quickest these checks are distributed. Surely some angler from New York or the Raritan Bay will take the two hour ride south with that fish that's been on ice all night to collect their prize. Or will it be the locals who fish the Great Bay the ones to score a few hundred after soaking bloodworms throughout a cold and damp tonight?  We'll know by tomorrow afternoon for sure. 

Monday, February 27, 2023

02.27.23 Got my H2 back from Orvis...

     So after a month or so I got my H2 back from the repair department. The reason I sent it in was because the "coating" on the rod had been coming off for years. When I sent it in in 2017 for a busted tip I asked them to evaluate it. I got it back with a new tip, but nothing regarding the finish. On January 30th I recieved the above email stating,

"Upon inspection of the grip and paint, this rod shows cosmetic issues from being left in the elements or standing salt water for long periods of time. This is evident with the oxidation on the epoxy of the guides as well as label along with the grip showing some dryness". Huh? 

Mmm. Now this rod has been used, a lot, and hard, that's on me, but to insinuate that it's been left in standing water, salt water, just isn't accurate. How would I do that? I responded back and didn't get a reply. I just got an email stating it was back on it's way to New Jersey. Did they address it futher? Only time would tell. That's okay. Rods aren't meant to last a lifetime, no matter what a companies policy states. Orvis has a solid 25 year guarantee, "no questions asked....it doesn't matter, we'll fix it", as seen below on their website rod page. The Helios 2 came 

out in 2012, 10 years ago, there's a lot left on that 25 year, "no questions asked" guarantee. Below is the press release about the Helios 2 launch. I have to say I loved the H2 line, as well as the Hydros and the 

Access, but those are long gone. I haven't purchased, or thrown, the Helios 3, and I have heard they are that good. But back to my rod, which I swear to you, wasn't left in standing salt water. Used, yes, used hard, definetly, abused, some might say, but it has landed countless fish, and served me well. And as you know, no matter what, I'm an Orvis guy. 

     So below are some pics of what I got back from Roanoke, Virginia, where they repair the rods. You can see the "coating", and I'm no rod maker, has peeled away, and has been "bubbling" for years, like maybe 8, but I pushed through and just used it. When I sent in back in 2017 I thought I'd mention 

to them. I mentioned it so they knew, in case it was a thing, and, yes, hoping they may make good on it. On this go around they replaced the mid-tip section, and you can see it all shiny and new in the top photo above. I read the words on the label on my rod when I opened it, "Your fly rod is back and better than ever". I'll take their word and am grateful for the replacement of the mid-tip section. But would it have been such a big deal to replace the other sections, or the entire rod, with something else? The guides all look as if they are going to pop as there is separation in the epoxy around each of them. I say, whatever. I love this rod, it will fish well this year, and I will catch fish on it. 

But is there a different and bigger story going on here?

     For a while there, in fact for as long as I could remember, most companies had a 100% replacement 100% satisfaction guarantee. Now that's great, maybe it wasn't good business, but it was too good for the consumer. And what I think happened, some company, maybe Orvis, was super liberal in that guarantee and it forced every other company to have to sign on to it. I was never for that. Didn't fit when you tried it on, maybe didn't like it, return it like you did any other product. Defect, waders leaked on the first outing, that's on the company. But, break a rod, use a product for 20 years and then send it back? I'm telling you to go F yourself if I'm them. We have ruined it, regardless if the markup is 200% and they still make money either way, the shit just ain't right. And know, Orvis charges $60 to send a rod in for repair, and that's OK with me. We have to own something in this. Now that brings me to Simms.....

     Now I'm having my own little thing with Simms right now, but I'll digress. While searching the internnet to see if any of the fly fishing magazines, blogs, or opinion writers have written on this, I found the above letter from a post that was posted yesterday. It was written from an unhappy camper who purchased a $800+ pair of G3 waders in October 2022, that's less than 6 months ago, and he hasn't fished them for two of those months. The above is the reply he recieved back from them. Below is Simms statement, standing behind their warranty....

     You can see that within 365 days "Waders- repairs on us". But that's for something that went wrong, "a defect in material or workmanship", but they also state above "Simms will make every effort to repair your gear for a reasonable fee", not that sounds reasonable. But they guy didn't get correspondence back, he did get the above letter, with his waders, stating, "When this determination is made, a red stamp is applied to the inside of the product. This stamp signifies a product is no longer eligible for future repairs". WHAT? WTF? It's like the guy was trying to pull a fast one over on Simms! All he wanted to do was get his waders fixed and go fishing? 

     But what got the guys goat, and caused him to put up a post titled "FU Simms", was the friendly line, "We trust that your Simms product contributed to positive fishing memories", talk about putting salt in the wound. Now figure this, Northeast guy, got them in October, maybe fished a few days into December, and then nothing for the last two months......."memories"....c'mon man, he didn't even catch a fish!

     So I am facing a similar situation with Simms, but I am taking the high road. I have been back and forth and submitted all kinds of supportive data for my case. You'll remember I have journaled my journey into buying my own pair of G3's last January, getting them and putting then into service in March. We shall see how it plays out, although my hope is little.  

     The guys post blew up, 353 comments regarding it, with a lot of support of Patagonia and Orvis. Simms was recently sold, in July 2022, to Vista Outdoors, for $192 million dollars. Simms was started by guide and fly fisherman John Simms in 1980. He's 85 now, and is still hardcore, that's him below. I wonder with the original owner at the helm would stuff liken this have been handled? 

     Everything has become a business these days, healthcare, fly fishing, well it is, but has it gone too far the other way? The pendulum always swings, it used to be this way, goes way too far the other way, and where it should be is somewhere in the middle. Orvis, either replace or fix my rod and I'll pay for it, Simms just fix the guys waders, and to you I say be careful who you align yourself with and where you spend your money. Like they say, and how I roll, "It's better at times to ask for forgiveness then it is to ask for permission", and I think some of these guarentee and warranty claims by the businesses treat it more like that. Claim something, get the sales because of it, and then go back on your word or make the customer go through hell fighting for it. Just wait until you hear my Simms story......

Sunday, February 26, 2023

02.26.23 Quick run up to TightLines...

     I took the traffic free 80 minute ride north on Sunday to TightLines Fly Fishing in Parsippany. Andrew and Nancy Moy have packed their winter weekends with a mix of good presenters and fly tyers. Today was Jersey guide Zach Flake who plys his trade in the northern New Jersey rivers in the spring and fall and the Barnegat Bay in the summer. It was standing room only to hear about the early 

spring bass action in waters you're porobably not all that familair with. It's definitely a boat fishery and Zach can take you out fishing skinny, and not so skinny water, in his Florida flats skiff. He talked about 

some of the baits he encounters and one jumped out at me which was the mummichog, also known as the common killi. Last year, exactly a year ago and a day, I posted some weighted mummichog flies I had tied up, HERE. One fly he talked about was the Pole Dancer, see below. The Pole Dancer was designed by Capt. Charlie Bisharats. It's a fly that mimicks what the spin guys are throwing with their surface plugs. 

     It might one worth tying up, but you need, I think, some virgin foam that you can kind of Dremel out and shave down. While I was there I supported the local shop, as we all should do. I found some nice 

ostrich plume, some killer marabou, and some hooks Andrew recommended, along with some mono thread for tying. After Zach's talk he busted out the appointment book and filled in several days for the 

spring. You can find him at FlyWay Charters, HERE. If you need to break out of the Cabin Fever you've had and aren't ready to hit it on Wednesday then take a look at TightLines line-up for the rest of the spring. Taylor next week, then Nelson and Squimpish the week after. For the tyers you can sign up for a class and then after is a presentation, or you can just go for the presentation. Worth the ride for sure. 

Sorry for cutting you off Tim, and don't forget Tim Flagler on March 25th!