DRiFT/ISA Early Show

The Mayslake Peabody Estate is a very lovely place to hold a local fly fishing show.

Or course if you walk around the grounds and learn about the history of the place, it’s a little like going to the Church of Fly Fishing.

If you went there and went to a seminar, you were in a room with stained glass windows with spiritual messages inscribed beneath them. It was once owned by a religious order and there is a chapel on the grounds where weddings are performed.

So if you said of your trip to the show, “I went to church,” you wouldn’t be lying, any more than when you tell your friends about that giant fish you lost.

And what is church without preachers? 

DRIFT, ISA, NIFTY, Steve Martinez, Brad Bowen, Craig Riendeau and others all preached to the faithful followers with tales of big fish, fancy flies, and  how they would lead them to that mythical land of giants be they bass, crappie, steelhead or the new king, musky.

There were casting lessons, DRIFT was in the front yard teaching beginners and Doug Taylor was out back leading the faithful through the ritual of two handed Spey cast, and doing it with a British accent. His friend Neal was there as well, a couple of ex-pats with the long, long, long rods.

For those in need of guidance, there were yes and I’m doing this pun, guides. My friend Austin Adduci of Grab your fly Charters was there, as was Steve Martinez of Indigo Guides, the enigmatic and at times controversial Brad Bowen brought a stuffed Musky and enough buck tails to keep any tier busy making articulated flies for the fish of a thousand casts, or more. Of course the early show would be amiss without Craig Reindeau creating some sort of fly that is part something from the local toy store, part from the fly shop and part glue and perhaps something from a hidden closet where he keeps the voodoo.  (He’s from the South, in case you missed his seminar.) And two very cool “dudes” from Black Earth Angling, Kyle Zempel and Ben Lubehansky who guide in Southern Wisconsin, I’ve fished with Kyle and he’s an excellent guide and a heck of a photographer. Ben I just met but he shares some of my ideas about fly tying and presentations.

For those in need of artifacts, there were shops:  Corens, DuPage, Orvis, my buddy Matt from the Driftless Angler had giant nippers, glazed coffee cups and bags made from recycled waders-all at reduced prices, always a favorite with the faithful. I had a short chat with the gentleman who made Tenkara  Rods and furled leaders for those of you interested in Tenkara. Don’t ask Kelly Gallop about them though, he’s not a fan. I think there’s something good to say about those rods, but I’ll let the Patagonia people talk about them.  I caught with Mike from Hawkeye Fly Tyer and finally got some jungle cock nails and will probably buy a full pelt from him as he has a couple that are in good shape and not all that expensive. I also bought some other stuff which I consider my donation to the cause.

I spent a lot of time talking to tiers and checking out what patterns they had, what they were selling or demonstrating, Rich McElligott always has something of interest and brought along a new pattern and mentioned that one of his flies had been picked up by Rainy’s, which is always good to hear from a local tier. Some might call that a blessing.

The I headed outside to chat with the guys from Rocktown Adventures who brought with them a couple of Kayaks and miscellaneous gear like anchors and vests that could be added to a kayak for safety and convenience. If I’d of had the money with me, I might have bought that Jackson boat they had. It was fully rigged and ready for the small ponds and rivers that we fish around here.

If John had a potluck planned, it would have been a complete service. But the root beer stand was a good touch and I can vouch for the root beer. 

But what surprised me most were the kids that I saw in attendance. Moms and dads and kids walked about the place, took advantage of the free casting and tying and enjoyed the seminars.  I’d call them converts, or at least I hope they convert.

I do have a criticism of the show, it was somewhat noisy, but the seminar room was a great addition. Also no manufacturers were present, but if John keeps the show at the Peabody Estate, I think it would grow and attract some of the prominent names in the manufacturing of gear and equipment. But as the first show of the year, it’s a good local show and the tying clubs and groups all help with volunteers and so we can be thankful for that and for working at bringing fly fishing to more and more people.

And for that, can I get an Amen?


Writing and Photo credit: Stuart Van Dorn