As I write this, alone in my study, the rain lashes against the window outside. The wind is howling, and the only light (apart from my laptop screen) comes from flashes of lightning, starkly illuminating the room and casting odd shadows. Was that really a hand reaching for me? Or was it just a tangle of fishing rods leaning against the wall? I’m too nervous to look away from the screen to find out. Except I’m also getting chills looking at the screen, as I examine horrors less of a supernatural kind, and more of a fishing industry kind. You see ghouls and spooks don’t always reserve their best work for evenings of trick or treating, sometimes they come to find you in the supposedly safe tranquility of fishing tackle – as the next few tales will describe.
So, as one of my favourite childhood horror authors once said: “reader beware, you’re in for a scare…”
The fires from hell
After acquiring Storm in 1999, Rapala Corp was preparing for its global launch of the lure brand by 2002. Much of the responsibility fell to then brand manager Aku Valta, who was charged with revealing Storm globally at the European Fishing Tackle Trade Exhibition (EFTTEX) in Milan, Italy that summer.
Aku takes up the tale: “The stakes were high as, despite the relatively strong brand position on the home market, we knew that there were tremendous growth opportunities elsewhere.”
Aku was particularly excited about a new lure board he had on the stand, ready to show the world what Storm had to offer, but he never could have guessed what the wicked witches of trade shows would throw his way…
“The weather that week had been sensational, in fact almost too good,” says Aku. So good, that perhaps you could not dream of horror rearing its ugly head… But on the evening of the show set-up day the temperature rose high inside the venue. It was as if Satan himself were at play in the show aisles, taunting the hard working stand builders with piercing yellow eyes in the ever fiery environment,
“To my shock I realised that my precious lure board had started to melt!” says Aku – his lures had began to drop like corpses from the board.
“Devastated, I spent half of the night organising some tape fixes for the board of which, to be honest, looked still pretty ordinary the next morning.
“I still cannot believe how the customers and press let me off the hook with this disaster. We launched the hard baits, did well and followed up with soft baits a year later with massive success. By then I had the softies nailed to board beforehand!”
The tale of the cursed meeting
Sometimes professional success can come at great personal cost, as former ICAST Trade Show Director Ken Andres once discovered. His chilling tale takes us to the golden surroundings of Montana in the Fall, with the icy fingers of winter threatening to take hold on the unforgiving landscape at any moment.
“I had just concluded a very successful meeting with Ben Bulis and Jim Klug from the American Fly Fishing Trade Association and Simms’ KC Walsh about co-locating ICAST and the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show. We had the rest of the afternoon kill so we decided to fish the Yellowstone.”
What should have been a memorable afternoon of fishing quickly turned into a personal nightmare for Ken. His good deed for the fishing industry would become a personal curse for his next fishing trip. He explains: “I caught only one rainbow, had about 100 whitefish, I hooked myself twice and broke off six world class fish on 3x tippet. What should have been a great ending to some great meetings for the fishing industry ended in a spectacular fail on the water for me. I still get chills thinking about it now!”
Ken swears he sometimes sees a cackling whitefish in his dreams chasing him through dark, dense forests with an intent of pure fishing evil on its mind (I swear that guy has been following me on my fishing trips of late too).
It came from the deep
As for my own fishing industry horror story, I invite you to join me in the neon glow of the backstreets of Shizuoka, Japan.
I was there visiting the headquarters of a big Japanese lure brand and was invited to dinner. But we didn’t just head to the hotel restaurant, we loitered through the darker back alleys, away from the crowds into dimly lit doorways cloaked in mist. I should have known an ill wind was blowing my way.
I’m pretty well-versed and adventurous when it comes to Japanese food and I let that be known to my host – perhaps foolishly. An evil smirk hinted at the corners of his mouth as he ordered some food in Japanese to the blank-eyed waiter.
We ate and we drank and eventually emerged a peculiar and haunting small dish that immediately set my heart racing when I saw its strange, gloopy, murky-white contents. I tried it and struggled to hold back the grimace as its cold, slimy texture crept down my throat. It wasn’t until later that I plucked up the courage to ask what the heck it was. The chilling answer: shirako. I’ll leave you to Google that one…