It might sound a bit pretentious for a company as young as Ahrex to tell it’s story now, but we get a lot of questions on when, how, where, why and who when we’re on shows and from retailers and distributors. And prompted by J. Stockard, I decided to ask Søren and Morten some of these questions and let them tell the story.
Let’s get the “who” done with first.
Who are Ahrex?
I’ll do the introductions, because Søren and Morten are to modest to say anything nice about themselves.
Ahrex consists of Søren Flarup, who’s the managing director of the company.
Søren has a professional background in graphic design, so he’s also in charge of the company’s visual identity and brand design. And most importantly – he does all the technical drawing and computer work when it comes to the fly hook design. At the moment, Søren’s fly fishing passion is tropical fishing for bonefish, tarpon, tuna, barracuda etc.
Morten is in charge of sales and social media. Morten background is fishing, originally as a salesclerk in a small tackle shop, and after that co-owner of one of Europe’s largest fly tying wholesale businesses for 24 years until it was sold last year. Morten has also published several fly tying and fly fishing books, both as author and as a publisher. For a number of years Morten also wrote numerous articles, and is one of Scandinavia’s leading fly fishing photographers. Morten is considered a pioneer in fly fishing for pike in Scandinavia.
I suppose it’s needless to say that both are avid flyfishermen and excellent flytyers. Morten’s brother, Henrik, is also involved in Ahrex – he takes care of accounting, stock and basically tries (as much as it’s possible) to keep Søren and Morten in check.
How old is Ahrex?
Morten: The idea is naturally somewhat older than the official start date for the company, but as an official company Ahrex is from February 2016.
Why did you decide that a new hook brand was a good idea?
Morten: Through the network I had from many years on the road selling fly tying materials, I had a feeling that there was a place in the market for us. We had some ideas for hooks that we didn’t see on the market. Another issue often heard was delivery. So a goal from the beginning was to keep hooks on the shelves at all times. And more than anything, we just love hooks!
Søren: We had some ideas that we just wanted to put out there and the first hooks we sent on the market were the Nordic Series. These are designed specifically for the Danish national fly fishing sport, sea trout (Searun Brown) fishing in salt water. We worked together with some well-respected anglers on some of the hooks and got invaluable input. Claus Eriksen from Go Fishing had the input to the NS 150 shrimp hook, and one of his ideas was the slightly larger hook eye. Claus wanted a hook that was easy to thread with cold, wet hands, so there’s a very practical and simple reason behind that. Small ideas like that are among those that set us apart from others. And coastal fishing for sea trout is just in our DNA.
How do you design the hooks?
Søren: All the design takes place “in-house”. On some hooks, like with the NS 150 mentioned above, we work with experienced anglers, who have an idea. We take their input, come up with a design, and send it back and forth until we’re all happy. Of course we are in close dialogue with our manufacturers, so that we don’t come up with something that impossible to produce.
Morten: Some of the hooks are unique to us as they truly are our own design. Others are more generic, even if they are also our own design. It’s for instance not easy to come up with a brilliant new design if you want a classic streamer hook in your selection. On the other hand, we did feel there was a place in the market for something like our NS 115, a slightly shorter and heavier streamer hook, so sometimes small changes are enough.
You have hooks for sea trout, salmon, tropical salt water, cold salt water, pike, trout, modern big-streamer hooks and more. Which are your favorites?
Søren: That’s hard to answer, but if I have to (yes, you have to, Søren) I think it’ll have to be the Home Run 420 double hook. I’m very pleased with it, because – well, it’s just plain beautiful, I think. And I believe I’ve been successful in designing a hook that lends itself well to many types of salmon flies.
Morten: I think my favorite is the Trout Predator, which was designed in collaboration with Swedish fly-tier Andreas Andersson. Being a professional fly-tier you know what you want and sometimes a change which is maybe only a fraction of an inch can make a difference. It’s a great hook (also for pike and other species) and it was great seeing those first sketches made on a napkin on Andreas’ kitchen table become a hook. I also have to mention the FW570 which was designed in collaboration with Russ Maddin. A hex/hopper hook much needed.
What’s the focus going forward and what’s coming?
Søren: At the moment we have no major launches on the table, but some additions are in the works. And of course there are always ideas on the table and we get lots of ideas from fly tiers around the world. We met up with several world class tiers at the IFTD in Denver and we got some really important feedback from them, which we will incorporate in our future lineup.
Morten: Our ambassador team is very important in that regard – we get lots of “requests” from them, and some might become a reality at some point. Some bring ideas on completely new hooks, others wish for a bigger or smaller version of a design already in our lineup, and it all goes in the little, red notebook, so to speak. One of my main focus points from the beginning has always been to be a stable and reliable supplier keeping everything in stock, and we have every intention on keeping it that way.
Søren: Our latest big release was the Salt-series for tropical saltwater species and with that, we feel we’ve come full circle, but rest assured, we’re not done and we probably never will be.