Every year the largest fly fishing show on the East Coast kicks off in the mid-Atlantic state of New Jersey. Held at the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset, the show brings over 400 fly fishing suppliers, retailers, guides, outfitters, authors, fly tyers, and educators under one roof and attracts nearly 150,000 people over three days. Hank Hewitt and I brought Block Island Fishworks to the show for the first time this past weekend both as a vender and speaker in the ‘Destination Theater’ venue. This event offers anglers the opportunity to ‘geek out’ on new gear, plan their next fishing trip, and learn from the sports best fly fishers in classes and seminars held every hour in a dozen different rooms. There’s so much at the expo that many of the people come from as far away as Vermont and Virginia and make a weekend out of it.
As a retailer this offers time to see some of the newer products before our season kicks off in May. It’s nice to be able to actually look at the quality of a product before we order it. Some of the new gear that caught our attention included the Aquaz zip front boot foot wader. This features a water proof zipper down the front for easier access without having to remove your jacket and suspenders. As simple as this sounds it’s never been successfully done. On the rod forefront is the resurgence of fiberglass rods, particularly ones made by Blue Halo. Virtually unbreakable, these freshwater rods have a soft, easy casting action and come in a variety of eye popping colors. The latest trend of ‘Tenkara’ fishing had a large presence at the show with several companies representing this old Japan fishing style. Tenkara is a Japanese mountain stream method of fishing with a rod, line affixed to the end of the rod, and fly — no reel (think cane pole fishing). This style of fishing has existed in Japan for over 200 years but didn’t appear in the USA until 2009 and has steadily gained a dedicated following.
The expo also included the International Fly Fishing Film Festival featuring nine short films with a common theme of fly fishing. These are not “A River Runs through It” type of films, but more of an independent nature presenting various quests for species around the world and the men and women in pursuit. One film titled “MTK” featured fishing guides and conservationists fishing Montauk, NY and talking about the greatest success story in saltwater conservation — the striped bass recovery — and how we are headed right back at an exponential rate.
The highlight of the weekend, however, was meeting Joe Humphrey. Every sport has its legends and flyfishing is no different. We were fortunate enough to have a booth next to a production crew making a movie about his life, and between seminars he would stop by and visit. Joe Humphreys is a nationally known fly fisherman, conservationist, author, and educator — a living legend. He has been a fishing instructor to both common folks and VIPs for over 40 years. His pupils have included former President Jimmy Carter, former Vice President Dick Cheney, basketball-coaching legend Bobby Knight, and many others. At 86 years-old he still lectures and teaches fly fishing at his Allenbury, Penn. school. “Live the Stream: The Story of Joe Humphreys” has a trailer on YouTube and is building funding via Indiegogo.com to complete production — check it out.
The town of Somerset, N.J. will also host The Saltwater Fishing Expo from March 10 to March 13, and we will be there to present at least two seminars on fishing Block Island. At the local level, a fishing expo will be held Feb. 26 to 28, at the Providence Convention Center, hosted by the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers. This makes for a good excuse to get off island for the weekend and get the tackle boxes ready for the summer.
Catch 'em up!