Mark Falvai of Qualicum Beach displays the fly fishing gift set

Entrepreneur ties one on for the holidays

Qualicum Beach fishing tackle designer unveils fly fishing advent calendar

Mark Falvai’s Qualicum Beach home is overrun with flies, but he doesn’t need an exterminator.

He’d rather have more flies.

Falvai, the 43-year-old designer, carpenter and entrepreneur who founded Allure Tackle in 2012, introduced a fly fishing advent calendar to his product line this year. And it quickly became a “golden egg,” with orders coming in from around the world.

“This is the first year I’ve done the advent calendar, and it proved to be a bigger project than I expected,” said Falvai, a mid-Island raised father of four. “When you start adding it up, there’s 23 flies in every box, so that’s 23 flies before you even have one project. So that’s thousands and thousands and thousands of flies you’ve got to tie or purchase from local tiers.”

Advent calendars, first used by German Lutherans in the 1800s, are special, 24-day calendars used to count down or celebrate the days leading up to Christmas. Originally featuring simple paper “doors” that were opened to reveal the next day on the calendar, they have evolved to included boxes with chocolates, small toys, beauty products and any number of items, including beer.

Day one of the Allure Fly Fishing Advent Calendar boasts an oversized door that reveals a waterproof, rigid plastic case to store the mix of wet and dry freshwater flies awaiting behind the next 23 doors.

“I’ve always been a fan of advent calendars; we’ve always bought them for the kids,” said Falvai, who runs the business with his wife, Joanne. “And I’ve always been crazy about fishing and always made fishing gear with my company. So I thought, ‘Wow, wouldn’t that be fun.”

While Falvai has tackled a project that marries his lifelong passion for fishing to a successful business plan, that “fun” has also turned into a great deal of work. For its first three-plus years, Allure created custom-designed flashers, spoons and lures suited for fishing salmon on the west coast. Falvai took up fly-tying for the first time this year, and has hand-tied most of the advent calendar flies himself.

“I’m self-taught — and YouTube is a marvellous thing,” Falvai said with a laugh. “Once you learn the basics, then you just go nuts. You start designing your own, seeing what other guys have done and making it better or simpler.”

To fill the demand he has hired out additional fly-tying to a few other enthusiasts in the local area, and also purchases flies from other Canadian suppliers who tie flies for resale. But he continues to work day and night in his family room, which has been converted into a workshop with shelves and tables littered with feathers, string, beads and other materials used to create the flies.

“It’s beyond full-time,” he said. “It’s been 18 hours a day, everyday, for months. I had nightmare after nightmare about getting enough flies.”

With all the flies hand-tied, each advent calendar box is a unique, one-of-a-kind collection. The box itself was designed by Falvai from the model of an old, distressed fly storage box created by legendary Briton Richard Wheatley. Unlike his salmon spoons and flashers, Falvai has shipped calendars to Australia, Germany and the U.K., among other places. He said customers have found the calendars through internet searches ranging from “fly fishing” to “advent calendars” to “gifts for men”.

“It’s really taken off,” Falvai said. “And there’s been quite a bit of buzz about it, too. We’ve been on Breakfast Television in Calgary, been in Western Living Magazine and a whole bunch of online shopping guides and gift guides.”

With the traditional Dec. 1 deadline for beginning an advent calendar nearly here but interest in the flies still high, Falvai had created alternate packaging that turns the calendar into a 24-piece gift box.

He said some people will still purchase the advent calendar as a gift to be opened all at once for the holiday, but added the item will now be a mainstay of the Allure product line going forward.

“Definitely, people like the box set thing for gifts, so we’re going to go into Father’s Day and other things like that,” he said. “But even the advent calendar itself, we have future advents on the drawing board. I knew this would be a hit and I wanted to do this one first, but I still want to do about three or four different ones.

“This is a starter.”

The Allure Fly Fishing Advent Calendar can still be purchased ($69.95) locally at Coast Sports, across from Wembley Mall in Parksville; at Qualicum Beach Pharmasave and at A Step Above inside Qualicum Foods in Qualicum Beach and at the Wabi Sabi surf shop in Coombs.

Calendars and gift boxes may also be found, and more information is available at looksthatkill.myshopify.com.

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