Somerset, New Jersey, January 24, 2009

The road to The Fly Fishing Show began around 6am. I drove to Dulles airport and picked up SteveL, who flew in from Hawaii to attend a conference in the nation's capitol, then headed over to Philadelphia to get Jin.

The three-day event featured over 176 exhibitors and loads of lectures, seminars and demonstrations by some of the best anglers and fly tiers in the nation. We stopped to chat a bit with Tom Baltz at his booth before making our way through the show. He had an interesting setup on his table that consisted of a small fish tank with an angled mirror on the bottom that showed how his parachute flies would lie on the water. With the mirror, you also got a fish-eye view of the fly.

Trying to stay together was almost impossible. I would see something interesting one booth and stop to fondle it but when I looked up, Steve and Jin were swallowed up by the crowd. There were lots of new rods on display. I was especially interested in the shorter saltwater rods by G. Loomis and Redington. These are specialized sticks designed to fight big fish at close quarters and they begin at slightly shorter than eight feet to heavier weights around 9 to10 that top out in a rod a few inches over eight feet. I gave the Redington Predator rod a wiggle test and found that it would great at throwing flies with very little line out the top but had enough beef in the lower half of the rod to horse out fish from heavy cover. The 7' 11" 8-weight would be great for hunting big bonefish in the tight mangroves at Rat Island. It's price point was hard to beat too. At $199, the rod offers great value.
There was a ton of fly tying material on sale but no real bargains. I looked at a lot of hackle and most of it was ok if you're tying woolly buggers but much too coarse and webby for parachute flies. If you didn't have access to a full service fly shop then stocking up at the show was a no-brainer but unless you saw something that you just absolutely could not get at your local shop, it wasn't really worth buying tying material at the show. In these tough economic times its better to spend your money at your local shop and help keep them in business. There were some good bargains if you were looking to fill out your fly box and most shops at the show were offering a 20 percent discount on bigger (more expensive) ticket items.

Simms had some new jackets on display and I thought their new fleece hoodie was great. And I know some people really like the color but the orange and loden G4 jacket was bit too flashy for my taste. I prefer more subdued colors unless I really want to be seen when I'm on the water. The Headwaters waist pack looks pretty cool and can hold lots of stuff--maybe too much stuff. It's weather-resistant and not waterproof, just like their new Dry Creek Flats Pack and Dry Creek Hip Pack. These packs look really sharp but feature zipper closures instead of the roll-top, clip-down opening on their older model waist pack. The zippers will leak. Anything other than a light drizzle will eventually leak into these bag. I have the Simms chest pack, which features a 'water resistant' zipper, and water got in through the zipper and flooded the interior and my cellphone. But these are great looking packs and will work fine for hauling gear around, just don't get them too wet.

I picked up Dick Brown's book 'Fly Fishing for Bonefish' and the author was kind enough to scribble some kind words on the intro page and also gave me one of his new bonefish patterns. I'm going to try this one out on the flats when I visit Hawaii this summer. The book is a re-issue of Brown's original book and everything has been updated, with new information, photos and illustrations.

We stopped to watch the spey casting demonstration by Simon Gawesworth, which was awesome, and later I stopped by the casting pool to watch Joe Humphreys demo a few bow-and-arrow casts during his 'Casts to Catch Fish' program.