Fly Rod & Reel: End of a Magazine Era

I headed Fly Rod & Reel magazine for about seven years, until 12 days ago when I got the dreaded, but somewhat expected, death sentence. That sentence arrived with a phone call from the owner of Down East Publications who said that I was being terminated immediately, not because he or the board of directors was unhappy with my work or the quality of the publication, but because they didn’t consider the fly-fishing industry’s support of the magazine to be sufficient. I wholeheartedly disagreed, and said so, but I’m not the one paying the bills.

Last issue of Fly Rod & Reel magazine.

So, with immediate termination, what comes next? That’s a good question but you can bet that one outcome will be an increased presence on Anglers Tonic. Being the editor of a magazine is a privilege and one that I took very seriously, but being released from the daily demands of the position—even if it is only for a short time—is a little refreshing, too. What I’m seeing in front of me right now is a blank canvas. Books? Another editor position inside or outside of fly fishing? A major push on Angler’s Tonic to make it the authority in the fly fishing digital field? Travel writing or bookings? Or do I take a different road, a completely different path?

I’ll be figuring this out over the next few weeks but, again, you’ll see more here soon. So, make sure you take a look at the spring issue of Fly Rod & Reel, my last of course, and what may very well be the final issue of the publication that anyone ever sees. You’ll notice a change in the layout, which looks busy in my opinion and was outside my control, but the quality of the content and writing is indisputable. Make sure to read the three essays I included in the mag, especially Jeff Day’s Whiskey Jacks, along with Chris Santella’s take on fishing GTs on Christmas Island. All good reads, for sure.

Thanks for all of your support of the magazine, and my work, over the past seven years, both industry folk and common readers. It was a good run.    GT

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34 Responses to Fly Rod & Reel: End of a Magazine Era

  1. James says:

    Sad to hear! FRR has been a longtime favorite of mine. Your content is always top shelf and you’ll always have my support. Best!

  2. Derek Johnson says:

    It seems my earlier attempt to post got lost so I will try again: This change baffles me. I consider FR&R to be the best of its genre. It is as good as Shooting Sportsman used to be when Michael McIntosh, Galen Winter and others wrote there. You have a great stable of writers. No where else is there as strong a conservation voice as Ted Williams, (or a magazine with the guts to publish same), Gierach is simply the best, and worth the price of the subscription, Leeson is refreshingly honest in his equipment reviews (maybe that is a problem?) and the list goes on. Good luck with your future endeavors. I sure hope FR&R survives.

    • Greg Thomas says:

      FRR is not going to survive. It had become streamlined to the point of impossibility. Everyone in the Down East office (the parent company) is doing more work than they want to and I think they just looked at FRR as a pain to deal with. I could tell the stories but it doesn’t matter at this point. I just think there was a lack of interest in the pub from very top down.

  3. Guy says:

    Wow. FR&R is the last magazine to which I subscribe…literate and beautiful, with a minimum of “adverticles”, and of course it has hosted Ted Williams for some time. Your editorship kept the mag fresh and relevant. Now what?

    • Greg Thomas says:

      Now what for me is a question. Now what for FRR is anyone’s guess. As I said previously, I don’t think you’ll see another issue of the magazine. And right now they are not doing much for themselves in the PR department so I don’t know that they care about keeping a stable of writers. Maybe they’ll do something digital but they’d have to pay contributors for their work and that doesn’t seem like something they care to do. And when that happens you don’t have anyone to work with.

  4. jason wyll says:

    Greg,
    sorry to hear about your job, but I’ll be curious to see what’s next. Good luck with the
    search. You should probably go fishing and think about it.

  5. Shaun Jeszenka says:

    Greg,

    It is extremely disheartening to hear about the demise of FR&R. I was an avid fan since my teens. Now that you are back in the business of doing more fishing, give me a call.

    Shaun Jeszenka

  6. Greg,
    It takes years to build authority, assemble a team and build an audience of loyal followers.
    I would say that if they were unable to recognize the value they had in you and their product, then shame on them. Its cliche but when one door closes, another opens.
    The door is open at Tail Fly Fishing Magazine.

    Dr Joseph Ballarini

  7. Ehor Boyanowsky says:

    Mystery solved. Couldn’t figure out why I got no response from you who has always been so conscientious. My condolences. Hope you find a niche that keeps the fires burning and do contact me when you are in the environs. Am still working on an addition to Nighthawk’s original pioneer cabin.
    Take care of yourself and the girls.
    E

  8. frank amato says:

    Greg:
    You and the writers of Fly Rod & Reel were the best and it is sad that the fly fishing industry did not support your efforts. We find it extremely difficult to publish our fly fishing magazine, Fly Fishing & Tying Journal, too. The advertisers in general don’t support it even though it is filled with good to great articles about the sport they make things for! I think it was short-sighted on their part not to support FRR as well as our magazine. I think they are very myopic and prejudiced. Frank Amato

  9. Greg Patterson says:

    I subscribe to most of the outdoor magazines. I was shocked today to get a copy of the Shooting Sportsman in the mail in replacement of Fly Rod and Reel. I thought FR&R.
    was the best of the fly fishing magazines.

  10. Rob Mann says:

    Just got the notice today, what a disappointment. Shooting Sportsman looks like a fine magazine, but I am a fly fisherman and am not interested, will miss FR&R and some of the outstanding talent demonstrated by many contributors. Ted Williams – keep the faith, we need you now more than ever.

  11. Well, I late to the party as usual and sorry for the occasion. I loved FFR and will really miss my favorite magazine. Thanks Greg, keep us posted on your whereabouts!

  12. Pingback: Fly Rod & Reel Magazine is Done - Ed Mitchell OutdoorsEd Mitchell Outdoors

  13. Eric Pomerantz says:

    I don’t do the blog thing, so I only learned of the demise of FRR when an issue of Shooting Sportsman showed up in my mailbox. What a shame! Fly Rod & Reel was the class of the industry. The quality of the writing, the credentials of the contributors and the honesty in its presentation to its readers will be sorely missed. I recently received a survey from another flyfishing magazine and in answering their questions honestly, I pointed to FRR as the example of how to do it right.

    I will miss each and every one of your fine writers and reviewers. The civilized world of flyfishing just got a bit coarser with your magazine’s passing, and the lack of respect showed to the readers by not even allowing for a farewell issue? Well, that just says it all.

    Good luck to all of the fine people who made FRR such a great publication. I wish for each of you the time now to go out and enjoy some fishing, while you still can!

    Sincerely,

    Eric Pomerantz

  14. Robert Angus says:

    I was very sorry to hear of the demise of Fly Rod & Reel. It was a well-written and well-produced magazine and I looked forward to each issue. Does anyone want a cheap 2-year subscription to Shooting Sportsman? I don’t hunt.

  15. Neil Wallace says:

    The only magazine to which I subscribe for any topic. Everyone I now who fishes gets it and that’s not enough? All the kudos in the prior posts are spot on

    To think my mail will never again brighten my day with the arrival of FF&R is sad

  16. Andrea says:

    When we received a copy of Shooting Sportsman today in the mail, I must admit we were a tad confused. I thought maybe the publisher bought a list and was trying a promotional mailing. It was quite disappointing to read the letter that accompanied the magazine.

    As someone who has been involved in publishing my entire adult life, I am sad to see the change in the industry overall. I certainly wish you well.
    Andrea

  17. gary visser says:

    FR&R has been an example for any publication to match for thoughtful writing and attracting the best authors. Ted Williams alone is worth the price of the subscription. I has hosted some of the best fiction/non-fiction writers and photographers and moved carefully toward “experience” instead of “here’s where I went and caught this” journalism. Thanks for your work Greg, your work was well done and appreciated.

  18. Rick Minogue says:

    Hi Greg,

    I loved FRR, and always read it cover to cover within a few days of its arrival. The writing was beautiful, the articles were well chosen for their variety and seasonal appropriateness. I really appreciated the observations and analysis of Leeson, Gierach, and Williams. As you communicate with them, please send each our loyal readers’ warmth and gratitude.

    Great job, best wishes, and thanks for your good work.

    May the next door open, but not so soon that you miss the sacred space between challenging gigs.

    Cheers,

    Rick

  19. Doug Scott says:

    Just received a hunting magazine in place of FRR. It had a note that FRR would no longer be published. I’ve been a long time subscriber and was not pleased to find out about the demise of FRR in this manner. I’m not a hunter and have no interest in the replacement magazine. I guess there is no graceful way to inform subscribers that FRR has stopped publishing. Jobs have probably been lost and that is far more important than my disappointment. I hope for the best to all those that put out such a fine publication for so many years.
    It really is a shame because the writing was top notch and I looked forward to receiving the magazine each and every time it arrived in my mailbox. Thank you for all the joy your have given me for so many years.

  20. brad wistrom says:

    Greg, so sad to read of your magazine’s demise. Quality of the writing – Ted Williams in particular, always look forward to his articles – stands out vs. the competition.

    I don’t understand the comment by your publishers, “not enough support from fly fishing industry.” One doesn’t want to turn the magazine into a giant advertisement for a sponsor’s products which has already happened to other fishing publications (not just my opinion) who shall remain nameless here. Unbiased articles on places to go, techniques to try, as well as Mr. William’s conservation articles are reasons I’ve continued with Rod and Reel.

    Ideally all of you can connect with one of your competitors, Fly Fishing, etc. and keep going with the quality of your stories.

    And thank you for an excellent publication over the years !

  21. Erik says:

    Greg,

    Just got around to opening the copy of Shooting Sportsman that mysteriously arrived in my mailbox, so coming to the realization that FR&R is no more a little late. Was hoping this might all be some extravagantly bad April Fools joke, but guess we’re a little late for that. First, very sorry for your personal loss. Next, sorry for the loss of all the loyal FR&R subscribers and readers (self-included). Definitely looked forward to every issue, the stories and adventures shared, and the places we were led to dream of. And not sure what I’ll do without a semi-regular Gierach fix going forward.

    As for my new replacement magazine, if that is what Down East thinks “industry support” looks like, then maybe this is all for the best. I for one already get more than enough catalogs and travel brochures as it is. Recognize that publishers have to make money, too, but really??? And between the editorial “homage” to FR&R and the “You Wear It Well” piece, think I threw up in my mouth a little. Will be placing a call to see what other options I may have with the publisher…maybe I can get a refund to put toward a pair of those $259 Beretta denim pants (seriously?!?!). Nah, The Drake recently raised their price (and not just for bait fisherman), so guess I could put those dollars to better use.

    Well, definitely end of an era. Thanks for all of your efforts, as well as those of the contributors, providing a great read and experience over the years. Wish you the best!

    Thanks,
    Erik

  22. Chris Trimble says:

    This is very sad, but par for the course. Excellence is too complicated and therefore expensive and time consuming. Crap rises to the top. For many of you suffering from withdrawal, may I humbly suggest the only somewhat regional “California Fly Fisher” magazine that comes in a newspaper form, and is full of the brilliant writing you will lament losing. I personally will greatly miss the humor and honesty of Greg Thomas and Ted Williams’ environmental insight. Best wishes for all the staffs future endeavors. If I continue to receive “Shooting Sportsman” I will happily donate it to my local library.

  23. Bill Johnson says:

    Sent my subsciption payment in Jan. Now they screw me out of my money .May the salmon of paradise fly swim up your colon Bill Johnson

    • Greg Thomas says:

      They told me there would be no backlash about getting Shooting Sportsman in place of Fly Rod & Reel and I laughed. Not that I thought it was funny. I just knew how dedicated my audience is and knew that all of you would be super disappointed. My hands were tied. I’m sorry your not getting what you paid for.

  24. Mario E Ramirez says:

    Greetings Greg, I’ve been reading FR&R since early 1980, still have every single copy. I was offered some sort of hunting magazine as a replacement as if it were a viable choice for me; the ever-failing shallow, narrow and superficial thinking of empty suits when making decisions that impact real lives– your staff’s lives, your life, and everyone in your families. But life goes on, my friend. I want to take this opportunity to offer my heartfelt thanks to you and your colleagues for the outstanding work and uncompromising commitment to excellence present in every published issue of FR&R. You’ll be missed by this old fly fisherman! Best of luck to each of you and my warmest and kindest regards, Mario

  25. John Sanders says:

    I just received an issue of Shooting Sportsman, which was really odd since I don’t pursue that sport. I called the publisher to ask why I had received it, and they said it was a transfer from a mag subscription that had ceased publication. When she told me it was FRR I was absolutely stunned. Receiving new issues of this great magazine were as anticipated as a fishing trip. It was truly a great resource in so many ways. Obviously somebody at the publisher is nuts. I would have paid twice the subscription price if they just wanted more income. It is a loss for all fly fisherman. Greg – you should seriously consider starting a new subscription emag along the lines of Catch. There are plenty of us who are happy to pay for a subscription to meaningful and helpful content. Most of us don’t hesitate to spend $15 on a spool of fluoro tippet, for goodness sakes. Now I know why you had an article in the issue of North40. Thanks for the years of great writing, keep at it, and good luck.

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