It’s been years since my fishing companion, George, and I have missed the Marlboro, MA fly fishing show. Each year it’s held in late January; a perfect time of year to take one’s mind off what seems like an endless winter. I do know that we have often talked about attending the sister show held in Somerset, NJ. We have been told it’s the largest East Coast fly fishing show, attracting many more vendors as well as a greater variety of speakers and topics. Well, without hesitation I can report it met our expectations. George and I boarded the short flight from Portland to Newark, NJ where we were ultimately met by our good friend Tom. After settling into the hotel, we gathered at the hotel’s pub. George and Tom enjoyed a few beers while I consumed yet another black coffee and continued to study the “program.” In addition to hundreds of vendors, this show included lots of well known fly tiers and numerous speakers. With all the speakers (stars and would be stars) scheduled throughout the day, I found it was worthwhile to pencil in the day’s activities. No surprise, the pub was full of like-minded fly fishers although clearly most appeared to be vendors relaxing after Day 1 of the show. Day 2, Saturday, would be our day.
I am happy to report the show did not disappoint. Our strategy to get an early start and arrive as the doors opened was a good move as it allowed us to wander the aisles of vendors for a couple of hours in relative solitude before the crowds arrived. The show’s strategic location between New York City and Philadelphia assures a crowd, at least by my standards. As usual, on the main floor I enjoyed numerous conversations with product vendors, conservation organizations and outfitters representing exotic destinations ranging from Belize to Kamchatka. This show solidified my desire to spend a week chasing bonefish in Belize. Like the Marlboro show, I most enjoyed the professional fly tiers and speakers. The highlight in the fly tying department was Chris Cohen hands down. This guy makes spinning deer hair an art form. I spent 30 minutes mesmerized while Chris created a sunfish from a colorful bundle of spun deer hair. He is an amazingly talented fly tier. On the speaker front, Jeff Currier entertained his audience with a great talk about carp, the trophy in your backyard. Jeff along with his wife, Yvonne, wander the globe in pursuit of every imaginable fish that will take a fly. He continues to call Victor, ID his home, but when I asked Jeff how much time he spent in Idaho last year, he said perhaps nine weeks. The carp talk was captivating, in part, because as it turns out most of us have carp within a few hours of home. These fish are often very large and not easily fooled. That’s consistent with my experience as several years ago I hired a guide in southern Florida to pursue grass carp in the canals. It was every bit as challenging as you may have heard and I credit the guide with my success that day. I know my home water, the Kennebec River, is home to a healthy population of common carp. Perhaps this spring I’ll make time to pursue the trophy in my backyard. After Jeff’s talk, I returned to the main floor of show to meet up with my friends to wander one last time through the aisles of vendors. Before heading out the door, I insisted that George and Tom, both accomplished fly tyers, have a look at Chris Cohen’s spun deer creations. They too were impressed!