By Justin Pickett
The Atlanta edition of the Fly Fishing Show made its debut at the Infinite Energy Center on February 3rd and 4th, and we were there to watch it go down.
I’m a little behind, but there’s never really a bad time to talk fly fishing. With crazy schedules forcing us to divide and conquer, Louis attended on the 3rd, and I the 4th. With other bigger, successful, annual shows preceding Atlanta, this event would surely be compared to the others that came before it. In the weeks prior, the Fly Fishing Show had already stopped in Denver, as well as Somerset, which boast big names and big crowds. Louis and I both wondered if Atlanta would be able to stack up to the other show stops, and, in the end, I think we were both happy with the results.
Walking onto the showroom floor, I was pleased to be greeted with the immediate, loud chatter that I often associate with large, indoor shows such as this. The large crowd was scattered amongst the aisles, and there was a group of anglers at every booth, jib-jabbing about fly fishing. I made my way around the perimeter booths first, running into a few old friends, as well as some new friends. Stopping to speak with Oliver White for a bit, I was able to see Lefty doing a demonstration on the casting pond with folks, like Flip Pallot, watching eagerly. No one can resist watching Lefty do a casting demonstration. Making my way around the block, I was pleased to see a great presence by the local fly shops, outfitters, and guides. Many were there to promote their fisheries, some of the Southeast’s most diverse. Other local Georgians were repping for some of the bigger names, such as tarpon maniac Joel Dickey (Thomas & Thomas). Dotted amongst the local establishments, were the lodges from both near and far promoting their fisheries as well.
Along the left wall of the show was one of my favorite stops during my meandering. This wall was lined end-to-end with a stout group of fly tiers, constantly putting thread to hook while speaking to fellow anglers and tiers alike. Local names like Henry Cowen, Kent Edmonds, and Adam Harman, mixed with the likes of Enrico Puglisi and Tim Flagler made for quite a talented display of tying. The most intriguing tier that I met that day had to be 14 year-old Tradd Little. This kid has some serious skills and can spin up anything you wish to see. When you have career tiers standing over a youngster in order to admire his bugs, you know you’ve found something awesome. I even bought a half-dozen flies from him.
Going along with the demonstration theme, there were plenty of casting demonstrations to attend throughout the day. Lefty, Flip, and Simon Gawesworth were just a few of the anglers I saw at the head of the casting pond while I was there. I really only got to see some of Lefty’s, and wish I had been able to come the day before in order to catch some of the other great casters’ demonstrations, but that’s life. Next year I will plan better to attend both days so I can fit absolutely everything in. I would certainly recommend you do the same if you plan to catch all of the show without missing out on something.
The rest of the showroom is taken up by the booths filled with products, both new and established. There were a few new products that were there to show off, but the majority of the companies that attended mainly showcased their 2016 and spring 2017 line of products, and only whispered of things to come at IFTD. Regardless of “new” or “old”, it’s always great to get your hands on gear before you buy. For those that may not have easy access to some products, this is a great way for them to do so. If you are in the market for a new rod, this is a wonderful place to narrow down your choices. Every major rod manufacturer was present, as well as some smaller, homegrown rod companies.
One of the coolest booths by far was the booth setup by Dave Whitlock and his wife Emily. Undoubtedly, many of us have read one of Dave’s books, or purchased some of his art. He’s the reason I know as much as I do about bugs, which likely isn’t much compared to him! During the show, he was graciously taking pictures, signing books, bookmarks, notecards, and basically anything you wanted him to personalize. They are two of the most genuinely nice people I’ve ever met, and getting to briefly speak with them was a treat.
A crazy, fun conversation between Aaron Tyre (River Through Atlanta), Conner Jones (Cohutta Fishing Co.), Jako Lucas (Capt. Jack Films), and myself was a great way to shut the show down. One of the best things about the show was the chance to catch up with old friends, make new friends, and speak with the anglers that you look up to…all in one place! In my eyes, the show was a great success and, with that, I see no reason why this show would not continue to grow from year-to-year. The turnout was wonderful, and the show itself was well organized and offered much to every angler of every skill and interest. The only gripe that I could have to say about the show was the limited space on the casting ponds. I would like to see a wider casting pond that would (realistically) allow for more than one or two anglers at a time. But I’m glad to say that this is really the only thing that was somewhat of a negative. I spoke with tons of folks at the show, and many commented on how having the show in “Hotlanta” was a surefire bet for success. No doubt, with a large demographic and beaucoup travel options, ATL is an attractive locale. Being the busiest travel hub on planet earth, it’s the only place that anyone can literally one-stop shop when it comes to making their travel plans. And flying is just an option for those faraway places. Infinite opportunities abound within just a few hours’ drive in any direction. It is no coincidence that one of the largest regions we are seeing growth in the fly fishing demographic is in the southeast. Undoubtedly, this growth will continue and translate into Atlanta fly fishing shows for the future ahead.Justin Pickett Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com email@example.com Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!