When April and her future husband, JT, first started dating, they found the most joy in driving up in the Colorado Mountains, listening to music, packing a take-out dinner, and fly fishing. Wading out into the cold water and patiently casting, they could give each other space or fly fish together. “It was a really great way to start our early dating years, and it’s been something that we have continued to enjoy as a family ever since,” April Archer, CEO of SaraBella Fishing, shared with The Business Download. Colorado-based SaraBella Fishing manufactures premier fly fishing rods in all shapes and sizes and works to connect people with the beauty and peace of the outdoors.
While sitting around the campfire together, with a couple of kids and few career changes later, April, JT, and their friend Scott Grieble began playing with the idea of starting an inclusive fly fishing company with gear that welcomed a broader group of anglers. “The next day we woke up wondering if anyone wrote those ideas down, and we talked about and what we were going to do next,” April recalled. “So it happened pretty quickly from that campfire conversation to registering the business.” The trio set about building a brand that stood for inclusion, sustainability, and American-made fly fishing rods. “From the very beginning, we’ve wanted to welcome and include all anglers,” April shared. “I always like to say the fish don’t discriminate and neither do we.”
SaraBella creates high-quality fly fishing equipment for all skill levels, heights, and hand sizes, with parts that originate in North America. From their graphite rods to their flexible automotive-grade paint, SaraBella chooses components for their quality. The one part that comes from overseas is the highest quality cork, coming from Portugal, but the rods are hand-wrapped by SaraBella’s team by survivors and veterans in their home workshops. The rest of the rod production/assembly takes place in Erie and Lafayette, CO. Then the final decals are applied, often by April herself, and several coats of epoxy are applied to secure the thread ad decals. The finished rods are paired with hand-cut and sew rod sleeves and aluminum tubes both of which are made in Colorado.
Even SaraBella’s hardware is manufactured in the US, and through a partnership with a local lumberyard, their reel seats are made from hand-lathed recycled Colorado Hardwood. “For a lot of these trees, you can imagine their past life. They probably have great stories, and some aren’t native to Colorado but they grew here,” April said. “It was a nice way to take something that had lived one life and give it a new life.”
The team at SaraBella isn’t just dedicated to giving Colorado trees new life. Through their partnerships with nonprofit organizations like Healing Waters, The Mayfly Project, and Casting for Recovery, the artisans at SaraBella hope to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors as well. “When we form a strong partnership with a nonprofit, we ask that they have a good impact on the sport and the industry and bring people to flyfishing, so we ask that they have a water piece and an activism piece, and each of those touches on a different set of demographics,” April shared. “Our hope is, by doing that we can bring more and more people to the sport.”
For example, Project Healing Waters helps with the rehabilitation of disabled veterans through fly fishing, and their partnership with SaraBella provides another outlet for healing. “The first veteran we had hired was the rod-building coordinator for Project Healing Waters. SaraBella would not be who we are today if it weren’t for him and his expertise and wisdom that he shared with us before he passed away,” April shared. “We continue to volunteer when we can with Project Healing Waters and support through in-kind donations, and we have hired a lot of the folks that take their rod-building classes and are looking for part-time work.” Their partnership with Casting for Recovery, a nonprofit that enriches the lives of men and women with breast cancer through fly fishing retreats, brought in some of SaraBella’s best rod-builders. Their partnerships aren’t fully focused on fly fishing, but instead involve important organizations working to protect water, the environment, and Colorado.
By encouraging their artisan rod-wrappers to work from home, SaraBella lets them work at their own pace and reduces the environmental impact of manufacturing. As an outdoor company, SaraBella is keenly aware and extremely conscious of the impact its products can have on the environment. By recently joining the Flyfishing Climate Alliance, SaraBella pledged to become a carbon-neutral company by 2030. “Despite all of the challenges that 2020 threw our way, we’re still looking forward to the future, and we know we can dig deep and do better,” April said. “I really do believe that through conservation, we can bring in more people to the sport and make some good changes.” As they share their knowledge and audit their environmental footprint, the folks at SaraBella are confident that they can offset their carbon production in well under a decade.
After years of operating as a direct-to-consumer, online-retail company, SaraBella is working with retailers across the country to bring more people into the sport. “If fly shops want to carry our rods, if fly shops want to receive our rods but can’t afford to carry them if they have customers that they want to help order, we’re glad to partner with fly shops in that way, and do everything we can so that that brick and mortar fly shops can still be successful today.” Customers who aren’t sure what sort of rod they need can also consult SaraBella’s staff through a video conference where they will discuss the best components to suit that customer’s needs.
At the end of the day, SaraBella just wants to get more people to fly fish. By creating these custom and ready-to-fish rods, and making them accessible to everyone, SaraBella puts more people in touch with the sport and with nature. “In 2020 many people discovered the outdoors as a way to be healthy to manage their mental and physical well-being at a relatively low cost, whether it’s going on a walk or getting outside or sitting by a lake,” April shared. “I hope people continue to do that, and I hope Sara Bella and the broader outdoor industry can make big progress in being more inclusive in that way.”