Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Over the last weekend, I attended the Florida FFI expo in Crystal River Florida. That was my second flyfishing show in two weeks, and most likely that will do me for the year. Unlike the Atlanta show, this one had few vendors but lots of folks outside with fly lines in the air. Also unlike the Atlanta show, there were a number of folks that I recognized, which I guess is only natural as I have been peripherally involved with the Florida FFI for quite some time. Sad to say but I have been hanging around long enough that I am beginning to notice some good folks are not around anymore.

I drove up with two other guys. One is a fly tying instructor who had a booth at the show. The other is just an avid fly caster/angler/tier who sort of set flyfishing aside while his two sons have pursued things like Black Belts and becoming an Eagle Scout. Either, or both of these gentlemen have the chops to become a CI if they set their mind to it. With that in mind, I urged them to drive up a day early so they could observe the CI and MCI testing. From afar, of course.

The next two days were simultaneously laid-back yet tightly scheduled. There were plenty of informational seminars to attend and nonstop casting classes on multiple fields. Like most shows, it was difficult to decide which to attend and many sacrifices had to be made due to too many good things going on at the same time. It was pretty much nonstop from breakfast until dinner, and then there were social events in the evening.


I personally found it successful as I had two particular questions for two separate experts, and through sheer luck, I managed to run into both of them during their downtime. Actually, it really wasn’t all that lucky since the venue was not very large. I knew if I kept my eyes peeled I had a good chance. The problem is experts draw crowds quickly, and you have to share ‘em.


There are always those who can find fault in almost any organization but few can deny there is a special bond amongst avid fly anglers. Whatever you may think of the FFI, this minor show in a niche market like Florida draws real fly fishing talent. The knowledge, willingness to share information, and patience of our teachers, both expert and otherwise, is a very impressive thing. At least around here, if it were not for the FFI I do not think this would take place.


The real surprise of the entire show was the keynote speaker at the event-ending banquet. How often does that happen? The featured speaker was a guide named Steve Huff, who is legendary in saltwater circles, but quite possibly unknown throughout much of the fly fishing world. I do not know the number of world records he has guided his clients to, but I do know it is very large. His clients have won numerous tarpon tournaments and he, along with some famous clients, is credited with solving the puzzle of permit on fly. He is commonly referred to as the greatest Keys guide ever.


I was lucky enough to spend a few minutes with him and it was very surprising to see how humble, almost embarrassed, he was with all the attention. And how he would really, really rather be out fishing than doing this sort of thing. So, why did he do it? Someone asked.


BTW… I know the IGFA is also an organization that gets some negative print, even here on SL. I do not have a dog in that fight. I do appreciate his answer to a rather pointed question from the peanut gallery though. It seems he always rigs his rods to IGFA specs. When asked why, he responded that some anglers see flyfishing as a pastime, while others see it as a sport… and sports have rules.


So, when someone who has been inducted into the IGFA hall of fame, is responsible for multiple high profile saltwater tournament wins, and numerous world records, gets up to talk you might expect some vainglorious braggart to shower you with numbers and dates, right?

Not one word.

Instead, he spoke about passion for flyfishing and how lucky he is to have been the other guy on the boat when those competition anglers achieved their trophies. His humility, appreciation for the opportunity, and simple love of flyfishing was as unexpected as it was inspiring. When he was finished I think he might have been a little embarrassed. The convention hall sat in shocked silence, well at first anyway.


Having just endured two flyfishing shows I had observed a number of passionate persons. There were those passionate about making a buck, and others passionate for notoriety. Thankfully I caught a glimpse of a few who are actually passionate about flyfishing.


How do we make more?