_Somerset, New Jersey_--The Fly Fishing Show wrapped up it's sixteenth Somerset event on Sunday, sending home 200 exhibitors, 9,000 visitors, and several thousand pounds of fur, feathers, and fly tiers. This is an enormously entertaining event for a fly fisherman, but it's no place to take anyone with an abiding fear of insects. Witness Paul Whillock's incredibly realistic "Flies As Art", exquisite reproductions of anatomically correct stoneflies, mayflies, caddisflies, even a frighteningly accurate praying mantis. These things will fool any trout if you're callous enough to toss one in the water. Of course, this may not be saying much, as the intelligence of trout has recently been called into question. But they've also fooled U.S. Customs agents, who, citing federal animal import regulations, confiscated Whillock's luggage the first time he tried to bring his work into the states. For more on Whillock's "Masterclass Flies", check out his web site here.
This show is about as close to a trout stream that a cash-strapped, Manhattan-stranded outdoorsman can get in the month of January. Like many northern trout anglers, I scratch the itch by hunching over a tying vise, whipping up patterns for the spring. I use an old Renzetti Traveler that has served me well for years but is getting a little worn around the jaws and doesn't handle the small stuff like it used to. So when I saw Norm Norlander, inventor of the Nor-Vise Fly Tying System, giving a demonstration of his product I figured I might get an idea of what I was missing. Which is apparently quite a lot. If you're a fly tyer and have never heard of this system before you really should check out his site, or at least watch these two demonstration videos (video 1, video 2). All I can say is it's a good thing I didn't bring much cash with me. If I had I'd now be out 300 bucks and eating neck hackle soup for the next three months.
There were hundreds of fancy products at the show, but a refreshingly simple (and relatively inexpensive) one that struck me as noteworthy was a new line storage system designed by a Belgian named Roland Henrion. The Smartfisher attaches to your power drill and strips both fly line and backing off your reel in seconds, thus saving the reels of saltwater fly fishermen everywhere from the corrosive effects of salt-encrusted line (Dad, are you reading this?). The real genius in the design lies in a soft-rubber drill bit that attaches to your reel and lets you re-spool your line just as quickly. Check out the Smarfisher web site here, or watch this demonstration video if you're interested.
Another standout was Van Staal's new titanium-bailed spinning reel. For years the company has offered a bailless reel that's been the industry standard for both form and function. The bail-equipped version, introduced to appeal to fishermen who aren't comfortable with the unconventional bailless reel, is just as well-crafted, and features a manual trip mechanism (so your bail won't accidently flip over mid cast, sending your expensive plug halfway across the Atlantic). Yes, these are extraordinarily expensive. Yes, they are extraordinarily beautiful. And yes, they will outlive both you and your grandchildren. I had to stand a few feet away from the jeweler's case containing the display so I could freely drool on the floor instead of the glass top.
I only got a taste of the show before catching a train back to the city, so if you'd like more information check out their web site here. Tight lines.
Online Editor, fieldandstream.com