Simms: a Montana fishing story
Posted on 02 February 2016
By DAVE REESE
From a warehouse on the outskirts of Bozeman, one small company is making big waves in the world of flyfishing. Simms Fishing Products creates top-quality clothing for fly fishing.
From boots and waders to jackets and pants, Simms focuses on quality and innovation. The company was started in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in 1982 by John Simms, who also created the Croakies line of eyewear products. In order to bring the Simms line of fishing products to a higher level, K.C. Walsh bought the company and moved it to Bozeman, where it could be closer to the Mecca of fly fishing in Montana. Walsh introduced the world's first Gore-Tex wader and with the company's patented seamless crotch design "turned the market on its side," Diane Bristol, Simms' marketing manager, said. "This was a great innovation for the fly-fishing industry."
The company worked with Gore fabric products to develop a five-layer wader, which still is the standard by which all other waders are judged, Bristol said. The company introduced its G3 line of waders last year, and those were met with "resounding success," Bristol said. Design and performance have been the cornerstones of Simms' products. You won't see a $99 wader in the Simms catalog. Most retail for more than $350, but come with lifetime guarantees - and they work. From fishing guides to weekend anglers, people who like to fish know that Simms products are the best. "Our products are more performance oriented that require more attention in the manufacturing process," Bristol said. Simms employs 75 people at its Bozeman facility.
Twenty-two of those people will work on a single pair of waders before they are shipped. Simms exports their products to over 20 countries, and last year the company last year was selected by Gov. Judy Martz as the top Montana export business with more than 50 employees. Going up against industry giants like Orvis, L.L. Bean and Patagonia has not deterred Simms. "If we'd have sat back five years and rested on the fact that we had a Gore-Tex wader, we wouldn't be where we are today," Bristol said. "We are always innovating." Another one of Simms' groundbreaking innovations was the introduction of the "Windstopper" line of fleece products. The jackets and vests combine the comfort of fleece with wind-stopping ability of a nylon product. "This was another one of those cases where once you buy it, you can't go back to the other kind of fleece," Bristol said. People are what help make Simms successful, Bristol said. It's no coincidence that Simms just happens to be located near some of the world's best fishing.
From the Madison River to the Yellowstone and the Gallatin, Simms' workers don't have to go very far to test their equipment. "It's really a fun place to work because people enjoy and understand what they're making," Bristol said. "We get letters from people saying they wish we made cars." On the Web: www.simmsfishing.com Photo cutlines: Dwayne Oliverson (left), Donna Vincent and Matt Bentle work in the production room of Simms fishing in Bozeman. Steve Hermansen, left, and Justin Watterson work on cutting the expensive Gore-Tex fabric that goes into making Simms breathable waders.