Sunday, January 26, 2020

01.24.20 Thoughts of The Fly Fishing Show...

    I, like many other FFS visitors, spend part of the hours walking around the hall trying to figure out whats the hot thing this year. In the past it had been the Orvis Helios line of rods, Chocklett's Game Changer, Bob Popovic's new book Fleye Design, Jim Matson's Pulse Discs, and this was Dave Nelson's Squimpish Flies line of hair and blends. I'll get to more on that but had to explain why Nelson's picture leads this post. 

     I missed last year due to school, and actually may have missed 2018, so this is the first time I've been at the new venue at the New Jersey Convention and Expo Center in Edison. For years it was held at the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset. I have fond memories of that place for many reasons. I remember the FFS being THE PLACE to get the latest info on destinations, gear, fly tying and anything fly fishing. Why? Because those were the days before the internet and cell phones. Info had to be in print, brochures, magazines, books....or imagine this, face to face and mouth to ears. I also worked at The Fly Hatch breaking down the shop in Shrewsbury and setting up and working the show.....and then breaking it 

The Fly Hatch booth, Fly Fishing Show, 2003 I think
down and setting up the shop again. Theresa and I had a booth of our own in 2015. I remember having a great time. It took a lot of work and cost me a boat load of money. I did a few presentations, partied too hard, and in the end got a few trips out of it, but it didn't cover the thousands it costs for a booth. And, I'm not sure now, but Chuck didn't pay presenters back  then, nor cut the rent for the booth if you spoke. 

     Theresa and I got there about 1030 Friday morning and were met with guys with flags trying to get us to park in a dirt lot and take a shuttle to the venue. We bypassed that and found a spot right in front of the center in the street. The parking lots were packed with trucks from vendors, vendors employees, and friends of vendors. They might have to rethink the parking. I was going to buy my tickets on-line, remembering the days before the internet where you would wait in a line so long you didn't think anything for sale would still be available by the time you got in, but the prices were the same, $18 for one day...ouch, if you purchased them online or in person. Dick Dennis took my cash so I started the day seeing an old friend and familiar face. The second person we ran into was sweetheart Joe Calceveccia, who ties up his mean "Striper Dragon" and offers chocolate on the sneak from his years working for a chocolate candy company in New England. 

     So not to make this post way too long. The location of the entrance is annoying, you walk and walk and walk until you can finally enter. It's big! And tall! There is so much carpeting, thats not taped down, I sure someone busted their ass at some point over the weekend. There were more destinations that I can remember. Lots of rod and reel booths, some busting out with guides and reps and friends of guides and reps that you couldn't easily get down the row. It was confusing to navigate through....just my opinion. Beers were $5, at least the Coors Lights were, and that seemed fair. Food from the venue and from other outside vendors looked good, and people were eating and walking and hopefully not tripping. 

Fly Fishing Show, Edison, 2020
     It seemed dark to me. Dark green carpet. Black ceilings. Green booth dividers and green partitions. The only thing that broke up the green was whatever the vendors hung off the metal partitions. Edison had white walls, and green and white drapes. It doesn't sound like much......

Fly Fishing Show, Somerset, 2014
Now let me say this......I very well may be in the minority, guys and gals may love this place.....but.  

 But, what I remember the most of the show was the anticipation of and the clocks ticking down to show-closing time for the bar hang located just through the covered walkway leading to the hotel. To me, that is where the true connections were made. There were meet and greets, and some sides drawn, it was political- not like Republican and Democrat, but camp vs camp, and at times kind of just almost tension-tight enough where fists were gonna fly. And way after midnight you either stumbled upstairs or took the long walk of shame to your hotel across Davidson Ave. It was an easy flow. For some it didn't matter as their "camp" took to reservations at a local restaurant or just a hotel room or floor hang. This year I wasn't part of it so I don't know how this venues post-hang goes. For two years, or for at least the Friday night party, I was either in the parking lot casting in the dark or studying for my FFF CI test, which I took at Somerset twice in the cold and snow......and failed both times.

       So to the show. I know some people and I don't have to name drop, as many others do, for whatever that gets them. The people that I was happily to run into I consider friends, from what I consider good, to some just social, to others just because of the business. What's funny is the guys I consider friends I don't spend much talking about fly-fishing, its a moment to really engage on how they've been, hows the family, and how is your physical, (man their getting old), and mental health. 

     I popped into Jonny Kings fly tying session. What I really wanted to talk to him about was jazz piano and when his next gig is because I want to take my daughter to see him. When I got to talking with him with a few other friends he pointed me to Dave Nelson's booth, more on that later. We were also drawn to the Angling Ireland booth. When we went there in 2018 I did not fish. If the practice takes off I would like to return there in September and make part of my trip a fishing trip, maybe 2-3 days for salmon in the River Moy. 

     So we got there at 1030 and we were going to pick up the kids at 130 since they had a half day. That went to 230 and finally 4 by the time we got out of there. It was just nice to catch up with friends. I thought the Regal Booth was great, and the vices they are offering are really nice. Allen Landeer and Jason Taylor put on some good tying shows. I have to upgrade my vice soon, its spent to long in my damp basement and is all rusted up and what not. Funny, while writing this and taking a look at the new Regal website I guess they purged their pro-staff and I'm no longer on board....oh well, I still like their vices.  

     As with many others, nowadays, the FFS is not the place to purchase things. Years ago it was. Guys would be juggling rods and waders and bags of stuff. Now, you see most people looking and touching and walking around with a small bag of materials or destination brochures. Every year we would get the post-show report, "this was the biggest $$$ show yet, the vendors are all happy an made money". Hopefully that was the case this year. Guys I talked too, guys like me, have what they have and are happy, and what they bought was materials, usually the bottom-of-the-bin stuff that you have to dig for, or some eyes, or some tails. I almost went for a bunch of money at Brad Buzzi's booth, looking to gather what I need to tie up blueback herring flies for this year's Delaware River run, but I figured I'd put a list together and give him a call. Dumb move, he had great colors and I sure they are gone. Next door Scott Stryker had his line of flies, which are really must haves, especially if you throw squiddy flies in New England.

     And then the show favorite, at least for me, was Dave Nelson. I heard it from some friends who are legit tyers that I should go check it out. In fact we all walked over together and gave it a look. Andrew Hamilton from Orvis was there browsing and he said he couldn't wait to check out this years stuff out as he bought it last year and its great. Its always good to see Andrew, he's the best fly fishing model I know, especially when it comes to holding fish. We put each other on magazine covers and in fly fishing books. And, as always, it was hard to pry my wife away from him!
     The material is synthetic, a cross between bucktail and polar bear. It comes in just hair or a blend. Dave, who I don't know all too well, has been one of the top tyers for years. The times I've seen him

are behind the vice at the shows or in the bow of Rob Lewis's drift boat on the West Branch of the Delaware. I first heard about his line, Squimpish Flies, in the back of Bob Popovic's most recent book, Fleye Design. There was a buzz at his booth and later that night when talking with friends most mentioned the Squimpsih booth and materials. I bet Dave had a very, very good show. I spoke with him for a bit as he explained the sounds like its very time communing and labor intensive as its all done by hand. When I think of the evolution of blends I have to go back to Ian's Devlin Blends, Senyo's Laser Dub and Steve's SF Blends, all which greatly changed fly tying, especially for the bigger and saltwater flies.

     And then while walking around looking for the bathroom we found an interesting booth, and an interesting man. Vito DeVito, yep, thats his name. An accomplished artist and sculpturer? who Theresa and I just hit it off with. Now, as a photographer, well a guy once with a few cameras that tried to made a living doing it, I can appreciate works, but the prices, even of my own stuff, always made me cringe. Speaking of photos, Jim Levinson's pictures looked fantastic when hung, and hopefully he sold them and they will grace the walls somewhere soon. But as we talked with Vito I was drawn to this sculpture that was on a rotating base in his booth.  It was titled 'The Ambushers". It was three striped bass that were on a bunch of peanuts. It is beautiful. If I had the money, $6,000, I would have bought it right there. 

     Why would I spend that much money on a piece of art. I'm not a fine art collector. But what I am is in love with everything striped bass. This would be a tribute to my love and passion for this species. From what he told us there are seven castings made, five are sold, this is the sixth, and the seventh is staying in the family. So, if my wife really loved me she gave Vito a note that she is gonna send him a deposit, again if she truly loved me. 

      So then there was a sad moment. When I first walked into the show I quickly saw the guy from Mass. or Maine that sells the fly rod holders for the boat. I said to Theresa, well I caught myself, "I need to get those for my....." Ouch. That hurt. No more boat. But I did see a cool boat outside when I toured the 1.4 mile along the exterior of the building looking for the entrance. It was a Stealthcraft. A composite 16 footer that looked like a drift boat with power. I thought now this may be a great boat for the Delaware River, not the Upper, but near me in Trenton. It's called a 16' Power Drifter Sled, and at a show price of......$23,795.  Now my wife, if she truly loved me, should have put a deposit on that too!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

01.15.20 Quick break before the winter comes....

     I had some time between morning and evening patients so I took some mental health time and headed to the river. With my new NJ Fishing License on board I hit the PA side, where, I think its legal to still fish. According to the PA Fish and Game website the regulations allow fishing from the State line up river until and past the Calhoun Street bridge. Thats the line of different regulations as far as keeping striped bass are concerned.

     Two hours left on the falling tide and 42 degree water temps had me thinking maybe a holdover bass, or walleye, or muskie might be lurking around. The wind was honking but I made the best of my hour and didn't get blow over into the water. Didn't get a tap but it was fun to explore a bit. This spring I'll be mostly on the Delaware with a few beach trips mixed in.

     I'm still hoping to make it to Marthas Vineyard sometime in June. While my old fishing partners have moved away from that trip, and I did last year also, the thought of sight fishing gets my juices flowing.

Now, thats my last trip til spring, or at least February when the walleyes really start to bite, or so I am told.

01.15.20 Look to New Jersey to screw things up....

     This post surmises a recent post made by Tony Frederich the VP of the American Saltwater Guides Association.

     Basically it appear that most states, well some, are trying to do the right thing in protecting the striped bass before the moratorium sets in in 2024, my prediction. Thirty years after the Atlantic Striped Bass Conversation Act was passed October 31, 1984. Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island are working to reduce the killing of bass while attempting to balance a fishery for anglers and meeting the 18% conservation equivalency (CE) as set both by the ASMFC. Basically the spineless folks at the ASMFC acknowledge that overfishing is occurring and that "science" is showing poor numbers in both YOY and older bass. 

     Leave it to New Jersey to be assholes. Connecticut abolished their Bonus Tag system in order to help out. Here in Jersey, a State without a commercial fishery, we've "allotted" ourselves, 215,000 pounds per year to anglers who want that "Bonus Tag Fish". You know the one that you are supposed to apply for, pay, and then return...... According to Frederich NJ "sold" 5000 bonus tags in 2018. And 1100 were returned!! That means between the boasts and the beach only 1100 fish were harvested. Now thats a joke. 

     As we wait for New Jersey to complete their submission for an 18% CE, here's what they are proposing. 24-28" minimum, which would decimate the 2015 year class of fish, a Bonus Tag for a big fish either 35 or 43", and then another tag for the Sept-Dec 31 season for another 24-28" fish, a program that was in place in 2019, if you didn't know and take that schoolie home to eat. That was on top of the 2019 regs stating you could harvest from boat or beach one fish 28-43" and then the other, not in order, had to be over 43".

    Also remember, the Bonus Tag Bonus was in something extra, doesn't mean you have to catch legal sized fish and then get the "Bonus" fish, order doesn't matter. 

This my friends, weather dead-on accurate, or slightly off, shows New Jersey doesn't care about sustaining a striped bass fishery at all.  

Thursday, January 9, 2020

01.08.20 Have to catch the right day.....

     I'm have pretty much found all of the resources I need out here in Mercer County except a place to get my hair cut. I cant beat the Red Bank House of Fades so after getting whats left of my hair tightened up I went home via the beach. 

     Last two hours of the outgoing from the Hook down a town or two. At the end of the ebb tide the birds were very active on the bar picking, which I believe was at sand eels. Started with a Deciever but went to a Bard Buzzi sand eel fly that both didn't get me a touch. Wind was starting to honk with a threat of a squall during the day. 

     Besides the birds the only other thing I saw was a seal cruising the trough but going up empty. Nice looking water. Gin clear. Would have been able to sight cast to them if they were there. 

     Leif and I fished last Saturday with one fish each. The next day, in the same neighborhood, Jack, Charlie and Hugh put on a clinic with each having a multiple double-digit day of really nice bass to 25". This time of year they are here one day, not the next, and then gone till the spring. 

Jack Denny photo from Facebook
Ok, thats it for me till the spring. I think.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

01.04.20 On the board for 2020....

     Went to bed last night with no intention of going fishing today. Did get some texts last evening for Joe stating he had a handful of fish in the afternoon. Well woke up at 5am and startled Theresa who said, 'What's up?". I said I had a dream I went fishing and she said, "So go."

     I picked Leif up at 630 and we headed north. Settled into a spot and on the fourth cast I got 'On the board" for 2020. I had a feeling it would be. double-digit day of micro bass but it was one-and -done for both of us. Great looking water both north and south. The water temps were somewhere above 40,  probably 45 at the Hook and 42-43 in Deal. You could feel the difference.

     That will probably do it for me until March when I start looking out here in the Delaware River for those early spring stripers. I might give the walleye fishing a shot as I have seen boast in the river in February, and not to far of the shore. The Fly Fishing Show is January 24, 25, 26th and after missing a few years I might take a ride up.

     Go through your gear. Send the roads in for repair. Tie some flies. Get ready for another year.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

12.01.20 Happy New Year!

Just to time stamp we end the decade with 568,951 different user views.