Bar Flies Events to Build Community
Fly tying attracts a certain segment of our membership who are interested in learning, developing skills or showcasing their favorite patterns and techniques. Spending a few hours at a bar, restaurant or brewery enjoying a drink and sharing time with fellow anglers and conservationists appeals to others. Combine the two and make it sound fun and inviting and you’ve got a recipe for a chapter event sure to be a hit.
Many chapters have adopted this type of event as a perfect “off season” activity to augment monthly meetings when the weather tends to be too foul to fish for most anglers. They go by many different names – Bar Flies, Hackles & Hops, Scuds & Suds, Hooks & Hops, Vises & Vices and more – but the methodology is often the same and the attraction evident in the younger, more diverse people who turn out! If you’ve got a few interested volunteers willing to take point, it’s well worth a shot to add this to your repertoire.
Your Volunteer Operations Staff has tips and ideas to help you succeed, but the following key elements and logistics below will get you pointed in the right direction:
- Pick the Right Venue
There are many types of locations that work well for an event like this, but to keep things easy for your volunteer planners, and to minimize the work and risk, it’s often best to choose a bar, brewery or restaurant that can handle the food, drink and the liability that comes with it. Your chapter is simply using their space – hopefully offered for free since you’re bringing them business – and bringing the customers to them on a slow weeknight or weekend afternoon/evening. Be sure to talk through what fly tying is, agree on how trash and cleanup will be handled and esnure your volunteer leaders know what they must do to keep the establishment happy. Some things to look for in a venue:
- Adequate space and tables off to the side for your expected attendance
- Good lighting for fly tying and/or adequate power outlets for plugging in individual desk lamps/lights
- Tables that can handle clamp-on vises if needed, not too thick, and not too fancy that they might get scratched
- Good parking, decent food and a nice selection of beer, wine and soft drinks at relatively affordable prices
- Pick the Right Date & Location
You know your members best, and it may be that a weekday evening will be more attractive than a Saturday or Sunday start at 2 or 3 p.m. Try both and see what works best for you – keep tweaking until you find what’s best. Choose a location that is a convenient drive for a large portion of your members, or consider moving around among two to three venues in different parts of your territory – though moving locations means building agreements with multiple establishments.
- Knock Down Barriers to Attend
Many people don;t think they are good enough tyers to join in. Others have never tied, or have no interest in tying, but wouldn’t mind stopping by to meet, mingle, enjoy a drink and a bite and talk fishing in a relaxed atmosphere. When promoting your event, be sure to make it clear that it’s open to everyone and a low-stress environment. Key phrases proven to work include:
- Whether you like tying flies, or just like drinking beer, this is a fun evening/afternoon among fellow anglers
- Beginners welcome, the chapter has tying gear and materials you can use and experts ready to help teach you how to tie
- Learn some of the best patterns for fishing our local waters
- If At First You Don’t Succeed…
So you hold your first Bar Flies event and two people not on the board show up. This isn’t failure, it’s not a sign that people aren’t interested, it just means you had a great time tying flies and meeting two new people. Have fun, take a step back and assess your date, time, venue and how well you communicated and try again. Move locations, get the word out earlier, reach out directly by phone, text or email to members you know personally who tie and invite them to the next event. Over time, this event will grow and be an easy and simple activity that’s as fun to plan as it is to participate