Monday, February 10, 2014

I Was At The Show... Really

I promise, dear. I was there.

Two full days wandering the Fly Fishing Expo held in Winston Salem. The problem is that I have absolutely no proof of it. I bought nothing. Accumulated no pile of free swag. Took no photographs of significance.

I missed every presentation that I meant to see (Sorry, Dean. Twice.), still have every business card that I left the house with (like this retired old fart really needs a business card anyway), and left no imprint, whatsoever, that can be pointed to.

Worse still, I have no product news to report, no hot gear to review, no industry revelations to pass on.

In short, I’ve epically failed as a blogger/reporter/whatever it is that I’m pretending to be doing here.

At least there are no new tattoos.

Instead, I wandered the aisles with old friends, made an abundance of new ones, and was reminded by each that the joy of this sport lies within the folks that you come to know. My back is sore from two days of standing on hard concrete and my ribs ache from laughing for most of it. The feet feel like lead, yet the spirits soar. My fingers hurt from a hundred handshakes, but the warmth of each and every greeting still radiates up my arm and comforts me like a favored fleece.

The fly fishing community is something special.

In the absence of solid evidence, I have to rely on my compatriots to confirm that I actually was there. So here's an urgent plea for backup. And, at the same time, huge thanks go out to:

First and foremost, Cameron Mortenson (The Fiberglass Maifesto) for having me along, sharing a room, and letting me play with his case full of fly rods. It was a pure pleasure and time that I hope we can repeat down the road. My respect for what you do continues unabated.

Ethan Smith (SmithFly), and his dad, for making the trip down with his terrific gear, allowing me to stow my camera bag behind his display, and not complaining when I occasionally “played saleman” with passers by. You’re a good sport, Ethan, and now a good friend.

My new partner in fly fishing crime, Cory Routh (Ruthless Outdoors), and his dad as well, for keeping the evenings entertaining, whether the place runs out of beer or not.

(To all three of you, and to Tom "Another Quarter-Mile" Gould, three words. Sexual Chocolate Stout.)

Tom Sadler (Mossy Creek Fly Fishing and current president of the Outdoor Writers Association of America). Chris Hunt has been telling me for some time now that you and I would hit it off big. For once in his life, he was right.

Kent Edmonds (Temple Fork Outfitters) for letting me bend his ear, and his fly rods, every time we cross paths. I always look forward to spending a moment (or thirty) with him at each of the shows. I hope that he doesn’t mind the distraction. He’s truly one of the good guys.

Smith River fishin’ buddy, Darrin Doss (Darrin Doss Photography). It was great seeing him at the show and, better yet, meeting the better half. Jennifer, thanks for letting Darrin come out to play with me now and again. Sorry about getting him hooked on musky. And the best of luck on the upcoming half-marathon! Better you than me.

Thomas Harvey (Southern Fly Photography) for not having his camera along, thus making me feel better about not using mine. Oh, and for being as entranced with Lefty as I am.

Dave Grossman (Southern Culture on the Fly) for, well, just being Dave.

Reba Brinkman (Hunter Banks) for keeping the loose bunch of Western Carolina misfits in some semblance of order (how, I’ll never know) and for being kind to me for no apparent reason. It’s good to finally be formally acquainted.

Joel DeJong (A Year on the Fly, Hex Fishing). Glad to finally get to shake your hand, my friend, after all these years. And I look forward to that thing (nod, wink) as it gets going.

Richard Griggs (Carolina Mountain Sports) for always being there for the outdoorsmen (and women) of our state. At the shows, in the shop, on the forums, you’re a treasured resource and good friend.

Paul Puckett and Brad McMinn for making our sport look so damn good. Paul’s Bugger Beast art and $20 original pieces (that’s a joke, folks) are totally fun and I’m thrilled to see Brad’s work being so overwhelmingly well-received at the show. Long time coming.

All my Triangle Fly Fisher mates that wandered the aisles. It’s always a blast to share time, on and off the water. I count myself lucky to be associated with each and every one of you. If you're in the Raleigh/Durham/CH area...

Lefty and Bob and Joe, who, by now, I feel like I can call by first name, though they look at me funny when I do. I’ve watched each of them demo more times than I can count, yet with every presentation I pick up some new tidbit to make my stroke better. (Now, if I'd only apply them.) These gentlemen are the treasures of our sport; our past and our archives.

And then there’s our future. I walked away deeply impressed with the young bucks of Pursuit Anglers and their incredibly beautiful and useful ties. Great young men with infectious attitudes and real joy in the creations that come off their vises. Our sport is in great hands for many years to come.

Finally, my most profound thanks go to the couple of you who stopped me in the aisles to say hello, having somehow recognized my face from these goofy pages. I cannot begin to express how humbled I am and appreciative of these greetings and your kind comments on what I’m doing hereabouts...

…even though I’ve failed you completely, yet again.

Just the same, please tell Mary that I really was at the show. If you don't, she might just believe that I'd actually slipped off and done something else.

Like, maybe, go fishin'... again.


Chris said...

A broken clock is right twice a day... glad you two finally hooked up... it's about damn time!

Feather Chucker said...

You definitely had me interested in the SmithFly gear. I looked at their site more last night. I think I might end up getting the small pouch. That seems perfect for mtn streams. It was nice talking with you even though it was brief. It was nice seeing Thomas. I noticed he left his wife at home. Probably tired of people oogling. It would be nice if we could all get out together and chase some white bass this year. Last year was kind of a bust for me.

Unknown said...

I'll cover for you anytime Mike! Thanks for the mention as well. I'm humbled to be mentioned in a post with the very people I look up to in this sport!

Michael Agneta said...

No gear, no worries. What an enjoyable post. Definitely nice to see the people, rather than the wares, highlighted.

cofisher said...

The people always make it worthwhile. That's why I go. Maybe next year Mike.

Unknown said...

I missed you a few years ago but it was a joy to finally shake your hand. I can't believe you left without any swag. Your a better man than me. I got home and wondered if I had misplaced all my money....No, wait, there it is... in that bag of gear and fly tying stuff I really didn't need

Mike Sepelak said...

True dat, Chris. But it ain't right for long. :-)

I don't hit the stream, anymore, without a SmithFy pouch of some size on my belt, Kevin. Bombproof. Functional. Simple. That's how I like my gear.

Thanks for the cover, Darrin. And isn't it cool to be in such good company? We're lucky lads.

And it's the people, Mike. Absolutely. Still waiting for your next Charlotte visit...

Next year, Howard. Denver. I promise.

That's why I stayed away from the stuff, Joel. I'd come home broke, for certain.

Capt'n Preston said...

Hi Mary - Yes lots of use really did see Mike (covering for you again...) at the show in WS ;-)

Mike Sepelak said...

Thanks P!