If you have guided fly fishing or worked in and around fly shops you’ve probably heard the acronyms of AFFTA and IFTD mentioned. AFFTA which stands for American Fly Fishing Trade Association is the sole trade organization for the fly fishing industry. It is comprised of a community of fly shops, manufacturers, guides, outfitters, travel companies, sales representatives, and media professionals within the fly fishing industry. The goal of AFFTA is quite simple “sustainable growth of the sport of fly fishing, individual businesses and the fly fishing industry as a whole”.

AFFTA puts on an annual event called IFTD, the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show. The IFTD is the fly fishing industry’s premier business-to-business trade event. The show kicks off later this month from March 30th-April 1st, 2022 in Salt Lake City, Utah, so we thought we’d get in touch with Lucas Bissett, the Executive Director of AFFTA to learn more about the Trade Association and the upcoming 2022 IFTD show. Check out the full interview with Lucas below.

Flylords: Tell us how you ended up becoming the Director of AFFTA?

Lucas: I was on the AFFTA Board of Directors from 2018 to 2021 when I resigned to take the Executive Director role. The prior President of AFFTA resigned in early 2021, I stepped up and took over the back end of the website and membership management as a volunteer. The board went on a nationwide search and through a hiring committee received over 300 resumes and conducted nine interviews. After the months-long process didn’t yield a viable candidate, I was asked to apply for the position as I had been doing most of the work behind the scenes for the position and had intimate knowledge about the organization and where the strategic plan was supposed to go. After applying and going through a rigorous process, I was offered the position in June of 2021.

Flylords: Are you excited about the upcoming IFTD show? What can we expect?

Lucas: I am very excited about IFTD in late March in Salt Lake City. We as an industry have not been together in over two years and we are way past due for a gathering. We have added a Dealer Summit on the front end of the show for our retailers. At IFTD this year we have big plans to redesign the experience around the show and what attendees and exhibitors alike are getting out of it. I want there to be a much larger focus on coming together to discuss the big picture of our industry and how we want it to look moving forward. To that end, I will be hosting roundtable discussions to discuss industry gatherings and industry surveys. Expect there to be many fun events throughout the show as well as helpful and timely educational seminars during the week. The goal of this show is to come together to reconnect and redirect the industry to reflect the changes we are seeing due to the pandemic and increased participation.

Flylords: How do you see AFFTA changing over the next few years with the new leadership?

Lucas: I see AFFTA going through a few iterative changes over the next few years. For one, we want to focus much more heavily on membership benefits and to make sure our members feel represented by their trade association. Next, I want there to be a whole new level of transparency created by more extensive and effective communications with the membership and how knowledgeable the membership is when it comes to the vision and direction of their association.

Also, we as AFFTA need to create a new industry gathering or gatherings that reflect how our industry is doing business with each other and discover any new additions to a gathering that would be beneficial to the members. Lastly, AFFTA needs to create and distribute new industry surveys that incorporate what the industry needs to make better business decisions.

Flylords: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about or mention?

Lucas: AFFTA is going through some pretty serious transformations. We are looking to diversify our focus, our vision, and the path our industry takes. In order to make those visions a reality we need the support of our industry and our membership. Now is the time to stand together to fight as a unified voice and AFFTA has an opportunity to be the banner we all stand under as we stand together.

For more information on AFFTA check out their website here and for more information on the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show in Salt Lake click the link here. 

Dates of the IFTD Show: 

Wednesday, March 30th, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm

Thursday, March 31st, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm

Friday, April 1st, 9:00 am to 2:00 pm

Click the link here to register for IFTD.

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