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Impressions from the Denver Fly Fishing Show

by: David Coulson 1/5/2014

Attending the Denver Fly Fishing Show most of last Saturday, I was left with a lot of impressions from the day. 

First off, it was a great day, in large part, because it was spent in the company of friends, Bill, Tom, and Ron. Sue let me take her, er my new fishing vehicle, and I’m pleased to say it handle the snowy weather well. 

We arrived at the show a half hour after the doors opened.  Traffic was surprisingly light based on past years.  While I suspect the weather played a part in that, even given the cold and snow I’m not sure it was as well attended as it might have been.

Second, it definitely was a fly fishing show. Unfortunately, at least from my perspective, someone forgot that fly fishing is a lot more than fishing for trout.  I recognize that trout fishing is core to the sport, but in years past at least lip service was given to other species.  Outside of destination booths, a couple presentations selling trips to the tropics for the big three, bones, tarpon, and permit, a couple tiers on deer hair, a single “warmwater” and carp fishing presentation, I didn’t see much else.  Come on folks, where were the programs on bass, sunfish, pike, lake trout, walleye, redfish, stripers, and the myriad of other species that will take a fly.

I was also disappointed that the programs were for the most part identical to the year prior.  Repeats are good, as there will always be new folks, but in truth a large number of the visitors are repeats.  It would seem that some thought should be given to providing them with new material. 

There was a good mix of booths.  I didn’t feel inundated with travel/trip booths.  There were plenty of shops, club/organization booths to hold my interest for several hours.  Had there been better programs, I would have wanted to return Sunday, as it was by three I was done shopping, done visiting, and one poor presentation was enough.  Time to go.

There were some bargains to be had and I did alright on the fishing jacket I was in the market for and even found a few books.  But I didn’t find anything in terms of fly tying material to get me excited.  Ten to fifteen percent off overstock and non-selling merchandize just isn’t going to open my wallet.  I'll head to the neighborhood shop or order online instead.

I visited a couple of manufacturers booths.  It always amazes me how they’re interested in pushing their ideas, rather than hearing what your needs are.  At one of the line manufactures, I suggested I needed lines that behaved themselves in a float tube basket, especially for long casts (over 50-60 feet).  They suggested a certain running line.  I asked him, if he fished from a float tube. “Yes,” he replied.  “Have you fished that line from a tube,” I asked.  “No,” was the response. I had, and it went in the trash at the end of the day.  I recognize that I’m not the norm, but you’d think they would put representatives in the booth that know their products better.

Do I think the show is all it could be?  Not even close.  I think the show is in a rut, and would do well to rethink their programs and celebrities.  At a minimum, at least half of it needs to be sustainably new, different destinations, different species, and anglers presenting more than nymph and dry fly fishing for trout.  So do I recommend attending the show?  Yes, if you’re a fly fisher, especially if you fish primarily trout and are a beginner.  Will I go next year?  Without a doubt, especially if I can get a couple buddies to join me. However, barring major changes, it’ll be a short visit. 

Blog content © David Coulson
Member comments
opencage, CO   1/6/2014 6:24:51 AM
Had a good time there with you, Bill, and Ron. It was my first time there and will put up a short blog from the first timer's / beginner's perspective later. Thanks Dave.
Tiny Stevens, CO   1/7/2014 1:53:04 AM
Dave, Do you expect the Sportsmans show in a couple of weeks to be the same way? Same stuff as the last couple years, with the exception of the tank demos ? What can we, as anglers do, to make the shows better? Do we need to email the show sponsors? Or the organizers? Just wanted your opinion. Tiny
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO   1/7/2014 8:21:10 AM
I expect the Sportsmans Expo to be heavy with destination booths, a few manufacturerers and light on retail outlets. They have more general fishing programs for the most part. I'll be working a tying booth part of the time so I'll enjoy it. There are several things that drive change at shows. Number one is attendance. If it doesn't give value then folks don't show. No folks and they start looking to "fix" things. Sending the show folks emails will be heard and answered, but unless the numbers are down, why change? My needs don't necessarily align with what's good for the business, which is why I'll always have a hard time getting the fly lines I like. I'm a very, very, small minority who use them. Not much money with folks like me.
Luke the Dog, CO   1/7/2014 9:32:17 AM
Huh, I was there on Saturday too, but maybe I was in a different building? I thought the show was great, heads and tails above the quality of the ISE show! In a primarily trout-fishing state, the mix of 'other-species' gear and presentations was exactly what I expected. I was able to try out a whole bunch of rods I'd never cast before, from a 6' quad cane rod to a 13' Beulah spey setup, and I picked up a whole bunch of tips from the long line of pro fly tiers who were set up there all day long. I had great conversations with several manufactureres about their products and what I would buy if they made it. I don't go to shop for gear, but the deep discounts are there. I guess the show is what you make of it...
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO   1/7/2014 9:53:24 AM
The show is a good one. The point I was trying to make, is that from my perspective, it falls short of my needs. I've been tying flies for over 40 years, and other then an occassional new material, there is very little new. My collection of stuff exceeds many well stocked shops, and the book display while impressive, I have over 1/2 the titles and have no need for the other 1/2. If your fly fishing is primarily trout, with an occassional foray to the salt to fish for the big three, permit, tarpon, and bones or maybe a carp now and then. They had it covered. I fly fish primarily for warmwater species, which includes carp, but also includes sunfish, wiper, white bass, walleye, pike, muskie, black bass, perch . . . and I fish the salt for reds, trout, flat fish, and more. The show didn't offer me much on those fronts. Finally, the program seemed a watered down version of last years. Point is, from my narrow perspective, the show didn't meet MY needs as well as it might have. And no comparisions were made to any other shows.
TigerHunter, CO   1/7/2014 10:42:51 AM
Thanks Dave... These shows usually aren't my cup of tea. Every couple years I decided to attend one, and every couple years I'm reminded of why I don't go. I was planning on attending The Fly Fishing Show this year, but had a few things come up. I'm going to make it to the ISE for at least one day. Hopefully I'm blown away with how great it is... I think my main problem with not enjoying these shows is about halfway through I realize I could be fishing instead of walking around inside thinking about fishing.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO   1/7/2014 11:34:56 AM
I'll be at the ISE Friday evening to tie at one of the booths and most of Saturday. I may tie on Saturday if they end up being short, but otherwise I'm just going to wander around and pick on folks. I agree, most day's I'd rather be on the water.
David Coulson
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