I met Ross White at a bridge over Denver’s South Platte River. We were equally hip, both riding fixed gear bikes and sporting cordura canvas packs. The only difference was that White made his backpack. As we rode along the river, I realized he had strapped his 8 weight to the frame of his bicycle, out-hipping me yet again. His setup reminded me of the surf bums in Tofino, BC who tote longboards on the side of their beach bikes.
In the past decade, White has worked as a museum security guard, guitar maker, flyshop rat, and bamboo rod maker. These days he spends a considerable amount of time over a sewing machine cranking out products for his line of handmade flyfishing apparel, Deli Fresh Design. “I’ve always been interested in bag design,” and his time working at M.W. Reynolds (think Filson + guns + flyfishing gear) helped solidify his design ideas. “I wanted the most simple bag design possible. This way I get to spend more time fishing and less time thinking about gear.”
We biked along the Platte River Trail until we hit Elitch Gardens Theme Park where we found a few rising ditch donkeys. White unhooked his rod from the bike and had his line wet within seconds. I abandoned my set-up and took notes as he cast to the stubborn fish.
White’s designs are about as minimal as you can get. His thought is the fewer the bells and whistles, the fewer things to get your fly line caught on. While some of the products don’t have the straightest stitches and the logos tend to be a little off-center, these imperfections show the character of each of his creations. The wet-fly wallets are a blend of canvas and velcro, yet feel substantial enough to trust with your favorite streamers. The reel koozies will protect your line holder and are sure to spark a conversation at the Deckers parking lot. He also produces a line of wallets, handkerchiefs, and camera accessories to keep his sewing machine from sitting idle.
We ended the night at Confluence Park. A fisherman downstream caught a beat-up rainbow with a bundle of Powerbait while his girlfriend stared at her phone. Our rods stayed dry. We shared a couple tallboys and traded and urban fishing anecdotes. White had the best story. “I once saw what I thought was a gigantic carp right here. It was just upstream of a group of swimming kids. When I got closer I realized it was a bloated, dead raccoon pinned to the bottom of the river. I probably should have told the kids’ parents.”
You’ll probably never see Deli Fresh Designs in every fly shop in the US, but White hopes to make it into a few Denver retailers in the near future. White predicts that fly shops will need to have their own unique flavor to stay alive in the ever-changing retail market, and carrying locally handmade gear could help the shops do so. In the meantime, check out the Deli Fresh Design website and see if anything catches your eye.