Sunday, January 23, 2011


Well..I did it. Yesterday (Sat. Jan 22) I made the four hour drive to the fly fishing show in Somerset, NJ. Left the house a tad before 5 am and walked in the door of the exhibition hall at 8:50 am. And am I glad I did! Just as I had been told by some of the exhibitors at Marlboro, the vibe in the hall was palpable. More people, more buzz, and virtually all the best known brands and names in the industry, Jersey is now generally acknowledged as the largest fly fishing-only show in the world. It took the entire day, but I think I covered every booth on the floor, and squeezed in three seminars, two featured fly tying presentations, and a casting demonstration by the inimitable Lefty Kreh. The crowd was 6 people deep surrounding the casting pool, but I was able to get close enough to get a couple of pictures. Just three weeks shy of his 86th birthday, the world reknowned fly fishing legend was in classic form as he imparted nuggets of wisdom from his more than 50 years as an outdoor writer, fly inventor (Lefty's Deceiver), rod designer, author, fly casting innovator/teacher, and, I might add, entertainer! What sets Lefty apart from his elite peers, is his effervescent personality. Beyond his unparalleled knowledge and experience, people flock to him to bask in the genuine warmth of his personna, and to smile and laugh at his quips and anecdotes until their faces hurt, all while learning something that can really help them be better flycasters and fly fishers. I have seen Lefty several times over the last 25 years, and he was every bit as vital and animated yesterday as I have ever seen him. I don't think anyone involved in flyfishing would disagree, that no one person has done more to advance the sport, and in the most delightful way, than Bernard Victor Kreh.

In the realm of fly design, the creator of arguably the most widely fished and tied fly on the planet, is Bob Clouser. Bob was also in attendance in Jersey, and gave a tying demonstration of his classic Clouser Minnow, showing in great detail all the nuanced elements that are part of tying this versatile pattern correctly. I won't list all the talking points, but the first thing Bob pointed out was the most common mistake he sees in Clousers tied by others. All too often, the weighted eyes are tied in too far forward, i.e. too close to the hook eye. The correct placement is at a point one third of the total length of the hook (measured from the front of the eye to the back of the bend) back from the eye. Also, I gotta tell ya, Bob is no slouch in the entertainment department either. I was priviledged to be in the room to see and hear Bob and Lefty trade quips and laughs with each other for most of a half hour. The two are long time friends and fishing partners and had everyone in stitches as they held court in the Featured Fly Tiers room at the show. Truth be told, another reason I chose to make the trip to NJ is that these guys haven't been to the Marlboro show in years, and they are not getting any younger. Their influence on our collective fly fishing lives and the industry that serves us is deep and wide, and will continue to be, long after they are gone from the scene. It was a thrill to once again get close to them and to draw upon their expertise and generosity. I hope I get the chance to do it again.

There were so many other highlights for me at the show too. I own and fish TFO flyrods, so I spent some time at their booth, as I did in Marlboro. The difference at Somerset was that, save for Flip Pallot, I think their entire pro staff, including Lefty and Bob, were in the booth at one time or another, as was company founder and president Rick Pope. Rick was gracious enough to spend a good fifteen minutes of one on one time with me in a give and take over the new BVK rod series. In the process, he shared some great insights on rod building and design, along with some tidbits about how Lefty and Flip collaborated on the BVKs. He broke down, in great detail, the differences in their casting styles and corresponding preferences in rod characteristics and performance, and how those elements were blended to arrive at the final product. Fascinating stuff. I also drifted back and forth between the Hatch Reels booth and the Nautilus Reels booth and had nice conversations with both Jesus Marmol of Nautilus, and Hatch company president and CEO John Torok. I very much like both manufacturers' line of products, and when I am ready to pull the trigger on a new reel, these two makes will be at the top of the list. By the way, neither was at Marlboro. Nor was Sage, G Loomis, and a number of other well known equipment manufacturers. I was also intrigued, as were a number of other attendees, by a new reel manufacturer from my home state of MA called Cheeky Flyfishing . Company rep Ted Upton took the time to show me some prototypes of these incredibly light-weight, but seemingly durable machined annodized aluminum reels that will be available in six or seven colors. Customers can mix and match different color reel housings, spools, and reel feet for a personalized, and, may I say, aesthetically pleasing array of combinations. They hope to roll out their full line of sealed drag reels in sizes that will handle everything from trout to tuna sometime in the very early spring. Check 'em out.

All in all, I got enough extra out of the Jersey show as compared to Marlboro to warrant another trip down next year. It helps that I have a daughter in the NYC area who allowed me to crash at her place for the night after the show, thereby avoiding the marathon of driving down and back home the same day, or, in the alternative, having to shell out $180 for a hotel room. I'll wrap up this post by mentioning that the thermometer bottomed out at 12 degrees below zero this am (it is now Mon.) here in central Massachusetts. My scheduled trips to Florida in mid March and late April cannot come soon enough!


  1. That's a great report, Craig!
    Sounds like you had fun down South...

  2. Very nice write-up , felt like I was there! Went to the Pleasanton show here on the west coast so missed out on Lefty. Hope to get to a show next year that he is attending!