The Fly Fishing Expo
by Dave Micus
t's been said that Maine has only three seasons: winter (of course); mud season; and black fly season. Massachusetts, at least to the striped bass aficionado, has only two:
striped bass season and off season. We've made the mistake of falling for a fleeting lover, and unless you're rich enough or poor enough to be an itinerant fish bum, you'll have a five and a half month wait from the time the bass leave in late October until they return from the Chesapeake in mid-May. Perlerorneq is an Inuit word that means "sick of life" and refers to the extreme depression brought on by the long, dark, Arctic winters. It perfectly describes the off-season.
While we wait we seek solace in other things; fly tying, book reading, alcohol drinking. Then in late winter comes the first flicker of hope: The Fly Fishing Expo. This is a show held every year during the second week of March, and is timed in such a way as to give those of us who are about to jump out of our skin --"I'm ready to stick fish hooks in my veins," one friend lamented-- something of a sedative to get us through the next two months.
The Fly-fishing Expo is a chance to check out new gear, buy fly tying materials, and meet and mingle with celebrity fly fishers (odd that there is such a thing). The usual suspects were at the Expo; Lefty Kreh, Lou Tabory, Jack Gartside, Bob Popcovics, et. al. Most of these fishers are good sports (I once got a free private lesson on tying the clouser deep minnow from Bob Clouser himself) while some are curmudgeons, and I say that with respect and affection, as I believe curmudgeonism to be one of the higher levels of fly fishing (and am nearly there myself).
This year I had an opportunity to talk with Jim Murphy of Albright Tackle. I've known Jim for a number of years, and have always had the deepest admiration for him because it was he, when he was with Redington, who introduced the unconditional guarantee on low priced rods. The rest of the manufacturers had to follow suit (even Loomis, albeit kicking and screaming), and if you ever slam a car door on a low or mid-priced rod with an unconditional guarantee you should say a silent 'thanks' to Jim. I cast the Albright EXS, an attractive rod with high quality components that can throw line as far and accurate as a Tom Brady pass. Though Albright's top rod, it is still a reasonable $350, and as soon as I can justify to the bride my need for yet another rod I'll add it to the quiver.
I had an awkward moment when I bumped into a former fishing partner, which can be as uncomfortable as meeting an ex-spouse. He's a good guy, a very good fisherman, and we fished together for close to ten years, but there was always this weird competitive vibe, and I found myself trying to out fish him because he was trying to out fish me. That's not what fishing should be about and now I usually fish alone to avoid that 'ha-ha-I-caught-more-than-him-oh-no-he-caught-more-than-me' emotional tug-of-war. But we're still friends and ended our conversation on a positive note, though we were both astute enough not to suggest any fishing dates.
There are usually some good bargains at the show. (Fly fishers dig owning fly fishing stuff and I think a review of past economic trends would confirm that fly fishers have, through the years, been in a good bit responsible for post-recession economic recoveries.) I can usually find something I need, though I probably have everything I need (and then some) so it's really something I want, but that's just splitting semantical hairs. This year's big bargain was a Scientific Anglers Spey Line that retailed for $69, on sale for $10. Every year fly lines are on sale at the fly-fishing expo, and every year I buy a few, bring them home, and put them in a box with all of the unused fly lines I've bought at past shows. One of these years I'll have my own booth and just sell the lines I've accumulated.
I also bought something that was way out of character: a guided steelhead-fishing trip to the Salmon River in Pulaski, New York. I usually won't pay (or travel) to fish, mostly because I'm too cheap, but partly because I have great fishing right out of my front door, but a friend and I have talked for the past few years of taking this trip, and, in the grip of a too-long and too-cold winter, I decided it might just be the catharsis I need.
But there's a deeper reason for this trip. I've always felt that steelheading was my destiny, what with being named 'Micus,' pronounced "my kiss," which is the Latin name for steelhead and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Fishermen are a superstitious lot, and Karma like this can't be ignored. I'm hoping that the gods are kind, because afterward it's back to perlerorneq until the striped bass arrive in May.
Dave Micus lived in Ipswich, Massachusetts where he was an avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer, instructor and "star" of an episode of the outdoor show, Fly Fishing America. In 2006 he made the move from sea level to the Rocky Mountains of Montana where he has taken up fly rodding for trout, hunting and enjoying life in the "Big Country."
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