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2-05-05 - Matt and Josh manning their sales tables!

Mike Kauchak and Jamie Riani of CustomFish.com showing off some of their impressive life-size prints!

2-05-05 & 2-06-05 - The Tinley Park Fishing and Outdoors Show, and the Chicago Fly Fishing Show

Just like last year, another weekend spent not ACTUALLY fishing but hanging out at the Tinley Park Fishing and Outdoors Show. As always, it's a great show.

I think the best way to sum up the TPFOS is to say that first, all the funds raised from the show go to the high school boosters; in other words it's a charitable show. Entry fees are minimal ($4 this time around). Vendor booth fees are also VERY reasonable (I think they start at $75). This show is the show for every angler at every level.

If forced to describe the show's features, let me start by saying it is a huge "flea market" of fishing! Lots of used and new equipment to be had at good prices.

I'd also have to point out that the TPFOS is a great place to find folks who are new on the scene. Vendors who may not be able to set up at a fancy show can easily afford the booth price. In other words, look to the TPFOS to find some up-and-comers. For example, last year one of the biggest surprises was Route 37 Fly Rods.

This year was no different; Matt & Josh were there offering lots of gear as well as promoting Matt's Reel Repair and Drift Guiding ventures. Matt & Josh are deadly in the high flows...when the water isn't fly fishing friendly these are the guys catchin' the big ones!

The other big surprise was Mike and Jamie of CustomFish.com - I had actually been emailing with Jamie the week before the show - imagine my surprise when Rich told me there were these guys I needed to go see with these awesome large print work (such as Life-Size Trophy photos for your wall). I left the Fat Booth right then and there to go introduce myself, not having any prior clue they'd be at the same show I was at. In any case, I found the folks who can print my stuff HUGE and print irregular sizes (like my panoramics).

Meanwhile back at the FAT Booth, if you were a fly angler ours was probably the place to come see! Last year I spent the 2 days tying; this year Bob Brown (aka. Gumbo) took that role and man did he produce. First, Bob put together a beautiful display housing many of his own Spey and Dee fly patterns as well as some timeless flies (i.e. the Glen Grant). It was an eye catching display (and at his asking price of $450, it would've been a steal for anyone who purchased it). Visitors on Saturday got to marvel at Bob tying a pattering similar to the Orange Heron; on Sunday Bob spent much of the morning creating his married wing pattern, the American Eagle.

Bob's married wings are ready for the hook...

Time to get those feathers in place.

Bound down first loosely, then tightly, and adjusted as necessary.

The wing is now in place.

Time for the cheeks.

A topping of Golden Pheasant Crest is added.

The finished American Eagle, ready for head cement.

Once dry, the fly is placed in its final destination; this fly is a "Fishing Hat" fly!

Bob Brown and Rich Brown in the Fish Fat Booth.

FAT as always was there to talk about guiding the SE WI Tribs for Salmon and Steelhead as well as the upcomming 2005 Iowa Fly Schools. While stuck inside, the weather outside got up to 55F - the spring run may be starting early this year - I know both FAT and I had our minds in other places (not the tribs, but bed...lack of sleep all around). Anyway, I'll be at all of the IA Fly School dates this year to help out, so check 'em out. You can't get a better deal, especially if you're just getting into fly fishing.

So why was I at the Fat Booth this year? Well, I brought with 10 of my custom rods that are currently available for purchase - I figured "why not"; yet another little something at the TPFOS for the fly angler in all of you.

A view of the Chicago Fly Fishing Show.

Casting demonstrations were conducted in the "center ring".

Joseph Meyer (corner left) is busy tying while Frank Nardo and a fellow TU member encourage membership.

Heath Sershen was also busy at the vice today.

One of Joseph's finely tied dries, destined for the trout of Argentina.

But this report isn't just about the Tinley Park Show; the same weekend in the same town a second show was going on; the Chicago Fly Fishing Show. Technically, it's a "NEW" show. More precisely, this year's Fly Fishing Show in Chicago was put on by a different set of organizers from the previous show held at Drury Lane.

Sunday afternoon I got to head over to the CFFS; my main reason for going was the PEOPLE who were going to be there. Compared to the TPFOS, the CFFS is a glitzy, glamourous trade show. Yes, there's still stuff to be bought and sold, but with booth prices starting around the $750 level you're not going to find the up and comers here.

After paying my $12 to walk in, I wasn't surprised by what I saw. As I expected, it was basically the same group of vendors as prior shows. Mostly established companies that have been around for a while. I'd have to say that perhaps as much as 50% of the vendors were lodges; if you're in the market for a "trip of a lifetime" package well then this may have been a great show for ya.

One of the best things going on at the prior Chicago shows was the tying area; this year I either didn't see it or it was outright absent. Kinda disapointing. There were the usual casting demonstrations as well as the opportunity to test cast rods, even the kind of rods you'd never be able to afford. Presentations were going on around the clock, so if that's your thing you could easily spend a day there, if not the whole weekend.

Overall though, the CFFS (in my humble opinion) continued to be mostly about pay-to-play; local businesses simply can't afford the price tag to set up shop for the weekend. For example, while Joseph Meyer of One More Cast was at the show, the lack of a One More Cast booth was readily apparent. There's something lacking in a CHICAGO Fly Fishing Show when GREAT local business don't participate, and I suspect that's mostly due to the cost-prohibitive nature of the show. While there's great stuff to be had (i.e. Bob got to hand pick a Kingfisher Skin for $25) much of this show is about mass-marketing and perhaps maintaining that elitist part of Fly Fishing that I just don't like.

That said, I again went to the CFFS to simply get to spend some time with my buddies off the water. It was great to run into Frank Nardo of Troutwalker Guide Service (formerly Nardo's Fly Fishing Guides) and the current president of the Gary Borger TU Chapter which servers the Northern Suburbs of Chicago. Heck I think it has been almost a year since we last got to talk in person.

Over at Dan's Tackle I got to visit with Heath Sershen (HDS) of Sershen Media. You may remember him from the Pet Fly Smackdown...he's the 2005 Smokin' Tahoe MVP (for losing too us ;). He's definitely in for a rematch this coming winter. While Heath spent most of his time tying, his brother Shawn was also there in support of MongoFly.com and his own custom rod building efforts. As always, the Sershen clan is a pleasure to spend time with; I even got to put my hands on the Sage 00wt. fly rod. In a word, "Delicate". I also had the pleasure of meeting Bob Long Jr. who is currently organizing the 2005 season of Mayor Dayey's Fish 'N Kids program - if I could find more info online trust me, I'd link it - it's sounds like a GREAT program.

As mentioned before, I had hoped to run into Joseph and was glad to find him at the Chicago TU booth. After watching Joseph tie a couple really nice inverted parachute patterns, I surprisingly got involved in a hearty debate regarding TU's mission vs. FFF's mission with one of the EDTU members (I must appologize as I can't remember your name). We agreed to disagree, but in reality I would like to state that for the record, my personal beliefs put me more in line with FFF's goals and ideals.

Despite this disagreement, I must say that my intial conversation at the show spurred an ongoing discussion online with Joseph. This email exchange has opened my eyes more to the fact that TU's narrow mission is NOT in dissonance with FFF's broader mission. While Joseph and are are still debating the details, despite our differences of opinions, I still generally support and appreciate what TU does for our resources. Perhaps having yourself challenged, engaging in discussions such as this, is one of the greatest benefits one can derive from an event that otherwise I'd probably consider a waste of time.

  MP 

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