Sunday, November 12, 2023

11.12.23 Great day at, and not at, The Fly Tying Symposium.....

     I mentioned it the other day about picking the lead image for a post. It's done to attract the reader but also sets the tone of the content in the post. So this is the best image from my day at The International Fly Tying Symposium. It's an image taken well after the doors had closed and some 75 miles away. I've always said the best work done at these shows doesn't occur within it's four walls. 

     The show was held at the Double Tree Hilton where part of old The Fly Fishing Show used to be held. Entering the doors made me feel like I was going back to visit my old grammar school. There was the lobby where many private conversations were held and then the bar where many a nights attendees would stumble out to the elevator to head to their hotel room after a great night of good times with old and new friends. 

     This years show was nice. I am sure people got what they came for. I don't know what the attendance was for the first day but there was always room in the aisles and in front of tyers and vendors booths. 

     One thing that is interesting, I find, is the layout and placement of the booths. A popular booth was the picking booth which guys and gals love to hit early and hard. It's the place to find a score or find something or some part of something that once lived that you just needed to have. I scored a coveted black bucktail for $4 and a small bag of jungle cock, and not splits, for $2. Later in the day after seeing Joe he told me of a white saddle he found and tucked away. It was a good one that was marked $15. We went back and it was still there and after him deferring the purchase it came home with me. 

      But the thing is this. To be fair. It is right to locate the "garbage" pickers booths across from vendors who aren't selling things for $2, $10 or $14 dollars. Now, in that booth I did see jungle cock that went over $100. I wanted to buy some. I even spent some time looking through Harry Huff's bin of the same where it was all nicely packaged and graded but I couldn't pull the $120 trigger. I'm just cheap. And 

Huff's shop, Streams of Dreams, is made up of large scale inventory take-overs as he buys things in big bulk. Evidence of that was the Down-N-Trout Outfitters tags still on the packages of materials. For those that don't know DNT was a fly shop down in Point Pleasant. They rolled the same time Choinard had The Fly Hatch in Shrewsbury. I wish those days of two shops on the Jersey Shore existed. 

     Throughout the week there was rumblings of a potential Popovic's/ Clouser appearance in the making. Clouser couldn't make but Bobby did, and it was very refreshing to see. One of the reasons he was there was to introduce Ahrex's new Bob Popovic's line of hooks. Now, they are calling them Beast 

Fleye hooks, and they are, but after talking to Ahrex co-owner Morten Valeur, he explained that these hooks are in sizes 4/0-8/0 for the big flies but will offered down to size 2 and up. One thing I will say about hooks, in my limited knowledge, is you can tie a fly on any hook and it may appear proportionately cute and shiny which presents well. That is great for the fly tyers out there. But there are fly tyers, fly tyers and fly fishermen, and there are fly fishermen, and woman of course. 

      For those that fish, well hard, sometimes it's all about the hook. Does it ride right? Is it sharp enough? And, sometimes, is it still in one piece? Bouncing flies off the rocks, dragging them through the sand, or pinging Clousers off the cowling will let you know if you have a good hook. Dull hooks don't work. I think I am going to further explore the Ahrex line. I have been tying on the Bob Clouser Signature series and Bluewater hooks. I even got sucked into buying the Gunnar Swimbait Hook having got caught up in that hysteria. When I put it in my vice I was like, "Alright, what am I going to do with this"

     Bob, a Renzetti original gangster, set up near the Regal Engineering and Ahrex Booths. To his right was Steve Silverio, who represents both companies and is a well known fly tyer. I thought I had taken a few pictures of him at the vice but I don't know what happened. But seeing Bob in front of Regal was kind of like, well, whatever. I think in a perfect world he would have a had his own 8 foot booth, with some Renzetti-ish stuff around, flanked by Ahrex hooks and signs. It was kind of like, and I don't know anything about Nascar, but having a Ford driver set up in front of the Chevrolet booth. Does it matter in the long run, no. But as far as the vibe and taking a picture to capture the Ahrex/Bobby/Renzetti scene, uh and one of the most famous fly tyers, yes it was just off a bit. 

      It's always good to see Joe Carey who took the ride along with Bob to the show. We caught up on things and we always talk about getting the band back together for one more trip. He gave me the opportunity to hold THE original Beast Fleye, tied way back in 1973. I felt like I should have had white gloves on flanked by a security guard on each side. One thing to note, check out the carpet in the background. Carpet! We love carpet. Glued or rolled we don't care. Edison doesn't have carpet. 

     On a side note I finally got to meet Fritz Miller, "Who the hell is Fritz Miller?", that's an inside joke. He was getting one of his flies critiqued by Bob and it was nice to meet up with him. We, in fact, live close to each other, and fish the same waters. 

      I had planned on staying for most of the day and did a couple of laps looking for something new, or something old, something I needed or did not. I usually drop about a $100 at the saddle bins but this year I passed. There comes a point where you really do need something but can't remember if you already have it or not. In the end you either double buy or go without it. 

I like saddles. I need more. Maybe in January I'll pick some up. While Brad Buzzi had bucktail flying across his counter the elusive black was not in his collection. I had put a special order in with him and he explained to me how excruciating and difficult it is to get black bucktail correct. The ones he dyed just went sideways. So having scored one black bucktail for $4 as I walked around I found this kid from Baltimore selling bucktails as, High Guys Fly Materials. I'm not sure but I would think somewhere

cannabis may have been involved in naming the company as they are not from high in the rockies but low lying Baltimore. I picked up another, because I was looking for any, black bucktail. This ran me

$10 along with this sick Egyptian/Cleopatra/head dress of an ostrich plume for $20. Twenty bucks sounded high, no pun intended, and right away my head went to, "I could get it cheaper at Amazon". But you know what, I thought it was big and thick and long and would make for great Snake Flys, or put in the mix of another larger fly. So I PayPal'ed that "high guy" $30 and went on my way. 

     Lunch break for Bob and Joe came and we met up at the upper bar for a bite and for me a Guinness. Some guys were in small groups of two and others very interested in the Michigan vs Penn State game. 

     Back inside I did another loser lap, well not really, to make sure I didn't miss anything. I stopped by the Joe and Joe Show, Calcevechio and Cordiero's booth, and really just had a good time with them. The boys made the trip down from Massachusetts and are bunking up with Brad down the Shore. 

     Joe, of Saltwater Custom Flies, and originator of the Striper Dragon, will be doing a presentation this Tuesday at the Atlantic Saltwater Flyrodders meeting at Klee's. Come down and check it out. 

     Throughout the show I continued to see flies hanging from these wooden display things. I had seen them before and I believe the first was at Jonny King or Dave Nelson's booth a few years back. Jersey guy Joe Nicosia had them for sale and after looking at the different sizes and how they held flies, hook 

eye to magnetic spots on the top, I took out my phone, QR coded it, and sent the $70. After I hit the send button I was like, "Dam, that's alot of money", but then I thought it's just a great way to keep completed flies out of the way at the vice or for display if you're doing a talk or demo. But back to them, they are called FlyHub, and I went for the $45 for the stand and an extra $25 for the rotating base, don't be cheap, by the rotating base.  

     So by then I was pretty much done. Many laps, a few Guinness's down the hatch, some money spent, and few handshakes to people I have known and had met for the first time. I made my way into the hallway where "Cheech" Pierce was giving a "Deer Hair Hacks" presentation.  It wasn't my jam so I turned to call it a day..... and that's when the best part of my fly tying show really began. 

     As I walked out with the sun glaring on my starboard side I looked over and said, "That's f'in Ben Whalley". Not like in a star struck way but in a like, "Why is he tucked away back here?" kind of way. I had been at the show for five hours and never heard or seen of him that entire time. He was at the Kismet booth. Kismet Outfitters is Abbie Schuster's fly shop located in Edgartown. Stephen, the fly shop manager, was holding the booth down and Ben had grabbed a corner of it. Also in the booth was Levi, who I'll get to in a bit. 

     Ben and I caught up a bit over a few Guinness's and Chuck Furminsky came and bellied up next to us. Chuck and his son Ben are owners of both The Fly Tying Symposium and The Fly Fishing Show. Who owns what these days I'm not sure. These guys have been around for a long while. We had Chuck now, and Ben was at the bar during my first stop for the earlier lunch. There were some questions. Some opinions offered. There was some insight shared. I did have a question for Chuck about which of the shows was his favorite. Just his personal favorite. He thought about it and answered, "Lancaster". I was surprised because I always thought the Edison show and it's location was the epicenter of the fly fishing world. It's a show I haven't attended but when I mentioned it to Bob later he could see why Chuck would have that opinion. I have never been, maybe I'll go this year. 
     Back at the Kismet booth Stephen kept Levi and I in check. I don't know Levi. He's a late 20 something or maybe early 30 something, well, what I would call, a kid, respectively. But he came firing on all cylinders and it was kind of fun, especially with a few cocktails in me. Not everyone thought it was cute as I got a little feedback from some people within earshot. But, it was late in the day, the good times were about, or could maybe, be about to begin. If this was going to be like shows past. 

    Michael Gallart was in the area and I wanted to introduce him to Ben. Mike's the President of the Long Island FlyRodder's and has a place up in Maine which is Ben's stomping grounds. Hopefully some time they will be able to fish together. 

      On the Kismet booths table was a small collection of fly wallets. I love fly wallets. Not the cute little trouty or salmon fly ones but the big ones that hold big flies. The ones Stephen had on display were sweet. I'm not sure if they were meant for sale but I was lucky enough for him to allow me to 

purchase one. They are made by Finn Utility. A Vermont based company that, at this time, may be out of business. But I'm such a fan of fly wallets I dug in and bought it. My only concern, and I have seen this before, is that the riveting and salt water don't mix well. It's like the clasp on the back of some of the hats, same brassy looking metal, that in the end corrodes, weakens, and breaks in time. 

     I told Stephen that I'll definitely drop in the next time I'm up in the Vineyard. Kismet has been open a few years and it will be a new stop for me after Coops and Larry's having been my regular stops while I'm fishing around the Vineyard. 

    And then there was a big decision. I had two big ticket items already in my bag. That fly displayer and the fly wallet. Otherwise I had been pretty good. It was off to see Joe Cordiero and just find out more about these Flatwings. Again, my interest had become peaked after Laura gave me that 2001 issue of Fly Tyer magazine that had an article about Ken Abrams and Flatwings inside. Ken Eukland was there with some guys looking at the materials Joe had for sale. Ken swears by Joe's saddles and that is all he uses. 'They last a long time", meaning you cvan get a lot of flies from one saddle. So then I got sucked in. I too went into the rotating display and started to pick a few up to buy. They are graded and priced accordingly. It would have been my biggest purchase of the day.

     Joe then came to me and said, in a real stand up guy fashion, "Have you ever really fished a Flatwing before?". Adding, "Put those packages back, buy one of my Flatwings, fish it, and then come back and see me". 

      And so that's what I did. I wound up spending just a few dollars to get going rather than a nearly $300 investment. This move was much more palatable, and surely saved my marriage at the same time. I really appreciated him being fair and honest, plus the entertainment there was just a hoot. 

     And now the show was just about winding down. Some vendors and tyers had made plans to hit the dinner that accompanied their entrance in the show. Others were making plans on their own. There was going to be a good hang somewhere is was just a matter of where and when. In the end a group of us took the 75 mile ride down to the Shady Rest where only good food, drinks, and times happen. 

     On my way down I had to stop at a pharmacy and get some Benadryl. You see, somehow, I'm allergic to beer, and at times bread, and beer and bread together just wreck me. Those few Guinness's hit me like a ton of bricks, or like a bad reaction to a bee sting. Earlier at the Kismet booth Levi basically called me out, well made fun of me, about my dripping nostrils as I inquired about the Finn fly wallet. So my grown up drinking day was over, Bayville water would have to do. 

      We scored a table on a busy Shady Saturday night that was located under a screen that had "Running the Coast" playing. It was just a fitting if not a well choreographed setting. As the players to my left, who've been in the game for a long while, held court, Levi would, without much thought or hesitation, just chime in unfiltered at times. At first, I didn't know if I was annoyed or just fascinated by him. He made us laugh. He showed such an interest. And, he really knew a lot about everything. He was a true student in the game of fly tying and fly fishing. 

     Outside of Cordiero's Old Fashioned the refills of water and soda kept everyones palates lubricated. No high test was needed to make this a good hang. Those drinks washed down a few of Bob's tomatoe pie's. Brad and I split a sausage and anchovy and there was a mix of toppings on the others. Bob let us eat in peace and then made a cameo before we all called it a night. And then the magic happened. 

     You know when you just sit and watch and kind of get the feeling that someone in front of you should just hang back a bit and stay in their lane. Well I did that last night watching Levi. And then, in an instant, I knew, after watching Bobby's reaction to him, that I was all wrong. Sometimes, holding back and just shutting up, is not what is needed at that moment. I think we may have all felt that as well. 

     I don't think Levi had ever met Bob before. The rest of us had. We've sat in the presence of a great man in so many ways. But what I saw last night was a true innocence and passion and presence by someone who was so into the moment that is was palpable. And it was a two-way street. It has been a long time since I have witnessed a more genuine interaction between two human beings. They were the center of each others universe in that moment. So much the rest of us had nothing to contribute and could have just not even been there. It was great and made my day. 

     Bobby went on to hold court for a while and was gracious enough to give us each a Pop Fleye hat. By 930 the Benadryl was starting to kick in and my eyes were getting heavy. The guys had a shorter drive to their beds to rest up for day two of the show so I left them huddled around Bob. It was a good day, for me, and hopefully the others who attended the show, and it was most definitely for Bobby and Levi.