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Montrose Reel Maker Creates A Destination

Colorado Outdoors is Mayfly headquarters but includes a hotel and residental development


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Ross Reels has manufactured fly reels in Montrose since the early 1980s. After acquiring the brand from Orvis in 2013, parent company Mayfly also brought in manufacturing of sister brand Abel Reels from California in 2016. 

The big news for 2019: The company moved its factory across Montrose to a 164- acre project on the Uncompahgre River dubbed Colorado Outdoors that also includes a hotel, trail and new residential development. 

With the move, the company more than doubled its footprint to 41,000 square feet, making for more efficient manufacturing, President David Dragoo says. “It has a flow, and you can slide and move machines around. It’s more of a destination.” 

Innovation has been a big part of Mayfly’s strategy. “It was good to get Ross and Abel back to being small, nimble companies,” Dragoo says. “It’s really helped with product innovation and product released. That has really accelerated. 

“There’s nothing in [the Ross] catalog that was in it three years ago,” he says. “Ross hadn’t had any new products in six or seven years. We’ve probably done more in three years than they did in 15 combined.” Dragoo points to the new-in-2017 Animas reel as a prime example; he says sales have been more than triple the initial forecast. 

And that’s without big-box stores. “It’s a nice feather in our cap – small business selling to small business.” 

Case in point: Ross left Cabela’s in 2017 after 27 years. “We have more than covered their absence with those specialty shops,” says Director of Sales Jeff Patterson. “We’ve led the resurgence of the brand. That means a lot to a lot of people. The same story goes for Abel Reels. Everything in the Abel catalog is new.” 

That includes the Abel TR, released in summer 2018 with a retail price of $395, about $200 below the previous entry level for an Abel, which Patterson calls “the Mercedes-Benz of the fly-fishing industry.” 

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Eric Peterson

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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