Tag: International Sportsmen’s Exposition

The secret to success at the International Sportsmen’s Expo

ISE’s Denver show is officially over, so I can now disclose the secret of exposition success…

Yeti Coolers

Running out of chilly beer just before the show closes requires a Yeti Cooler. Being awesome means bringing two.

MG signing off (to rest my arms after breaking down the booth doing all those 12 ounce curls)

Barry Beck says “Cathy can outcast me with one hand tied behind her back”

Cathy Beck denied this was the case, and said she’s just getting set up. It wouldn’t be the first time, as you’ll soon find out.

I had a chance to sit down with Barry and Cathy Beck, the first couple of fly-fishing, at the Denver International Sportsmen’s Expo. They’ve been in the fly-fishing business their whole adult lives, running a fly shop, hosting guided trips throughout the world, and capturing images that are found in publications galore. They need little more in the way of introduction, so we’ll get down to the nitty gritty.

Transcript follows…


Kelly Galloup and I talk meaty flies, new books and lines (and why we wished more women fly-fished)

Ask any of my fishing friends what my favorite fly is and they’ll tell you it’s undoubtedly the Sex Dungeon. Who wouldn’t love a fly with a name like that? What a lot of people still don’t get though…trout love ’em too. Particularly big trout. I’m also known for taking plenty of skunkings, but that’s because most of my casts wind up catching my hat. The inventor of the Sex Dungeon doesn’t have this problem – he’s Kelly Galloup, lifelong fly-fisherman, guide, and proprietor of the Slide Inn on the edges of the Madison River in Cameron, Montana.

Mr. Galloup is well known in fly-fishing circles for his what could be considered unorthodox techniques – huge, articulated flies with tandem hooks, and the use of fast sinking lines in moving water – but he’s probably best known for the “jerk-strip”, whereby the fly is retrieved by jerking the tip of the rod, and line drawn up as the rod tip is moved back towards the fly. The jerk-strip, along with all the rest of Kelly’s heavily researched methodologies, were first described in his 1999 book Modern Streamers for Trophy Trout.

I was walking through the International Sportmen’s Expo right after the show opened, and Kelly decided he’d put me in a headlock (former martial arts practitioner that he is) and drag me over to the loudest part of the convention center available to share his philosophy on fly-fishing as well as spill the beans on the new Scientific Anglers Kelly Galloup Streamer Express and his soon to be released book Modern Streamers 2. What I learned from the thirty-seven minutes to follow was that Kelly Galloup is without question one of the most enthusiastic, open-minded, and downright salt-of-the-earth people participating in the sport of fly-fishing today.

I could have spent the next couple of days hashing out the substance of the interview, parsing the question and answer “guts” of our talk, but the whole bit was just too damn good (and a hell of a lot of fun). Hence, it’s being published here as a first ever podcast. Enjoy.


I’ll add that after we turned off the microphone, Kelly was still talking fishing, and we continued on for at least another ten minutes until I realized I was way late for the next call. I wish I could have stayed.

Kelly Galloup will be at the International Sportsmen’s Expo, Denver, through Sunday, and will continue on to some of the other shows throughout the country. Check the schedule for his appearances here.

And by the way, thanks Kelly! It was as real as it gets.

Editor’s note: Approximately fifteen seconds of the audio doesn’t exactly relate to fly-fishing, but it was about 15F outside; hence we were subconsciously wishing we were sitting on a beach drinking beers. Or at least that’s the best excuse I could come up with.

International Sportmen’s Expo 2010: Coming soon to a convention center near you

The folks running this year’s International Sportsmen’s Expo have agreed to put on the show without the need to sit in the dead center of the room so you can actually enjoy it. The default viewing format is 3D, but you won’t see anybody fighting over anti-gravity rocks by shooting recurve bows from atop technicolor flying dragons. It’s therefore a shoe-in to win an Oscar.

The Denver show takes place beginning next week, specifically January 7th through the 10th. It will continue on in San Mateo and Sacramento, CA, Phoenix, AZ and Salt Lake City, UT thereafter, but the Denver proceeding is a really big deal. Why you ask? Because I’m going to be there, which means you’ll have a chance to tape a “kick me” placard on my back. Fun, fun, fun!

Last year I brought you interviews with casting instructor David Phares, flyfishing luminary Lefty Kreh, and Colorado fishing guides extraordinaire Pat Dorsey and Chris Ramos. Not one to rest on my laurels, this year’s schedule will provide extra bunches of family friendly enjoyment…


ISE Denver a standing room only affair

Line outside the ISE Saturday open

Well worth the lines

I whizzed by the International Sportmen’s Exposition last Thursday afternoon, and spent the better part of the day there the following Saturday. The first round was consumed primarily in ‘closed door chats’ – at this event it meant stopping every ten seconds for someone to say hello to the subjects (as well as mumbling “who’s that dude with the tape recorder”) – you can find summaries of those here and here. It was not particularly calm, but still cool and collected. Saturday was a different story, time was spent mostly fighting crowds. Good crowds – the place was jam packed.

Miscellaneous notes derived from non-existent notepad

Greg Pearson with trophy Atlantic Salmon

I bumped into an old friend, Greg Pearson, who is representing Waterworks-Lamson and Scientific Anglers in the Mountain West with San Miguel Mountain & River Products. We spent some time reminiscing, and the rest arguing which was better, Greg’s trophy Atlantic Salmon catch from Nova Scotia (a life sized picture of which was now strewn around on the backboards of manufacturers’ booths), or the boat full of schoolie yellowfin tuna I ran into one fine day in Mexico (which only Greg ever saw pictures of). Greg won. Also, this guy is not only one hell of a fisherman, but an accomplished artist too – you can check out his finer work here, and the creativity he invoked on my behalf while jazzed up on Steve Schmidt’s coffee here.

My good Australian buddy Craig Berg succumbed to peer pressure and picked up a closeout Sage Fli 6-weight for a spring trip that’s now securely past the planning stage. Blue Quill Angler made the deal, and their cash registers were not otherwise hurting for some ringing. In fact, I noticed both a lot of deals to be had and a lot of people taking advantage of them. The fly fishing industry may think it is on shaky ground (or maybe it’s just the mainstream media trying to kick everyone after blowing their credibility in the real estate market), but there is certainly some pent up demand for new fly fishing gear if the price is right.

Continuing on the wheeling and dealing front, John Mazurkiewicz, also working with Scientific Anglers, gave me the scoop on SA’s oft-labeled ‘overpriced’ line, the Sharkskin. He said it not only was selling well – it was selling out! This didn’t surprise – the product was described by my friends at local Denver purveyor Discount Tackle as a big step above anything else on the market. And when I opted for a Rio Gold as a recent replacement they took me in the back, under the guise of showing me some pictures from a redfish hunt down in Florida, and proceed to kick my ass for the decision. While the bruises are still healing, I tried stopping by the Discount booth during my visit. It was three deep with people picking up product, meaning not only is innovation still alive and well in fly fishing, but commerce has not hit a brick wall yet either. One of my 6-weight WF lines is on its last leg – I’m opting to test the latest and greatest come spring, thereby avoiding another beating AND contributing to the economy.

Catch Magazine

I chatted briefly with Brian O’Keefe, one of the Drift movie anglers who is also co-founder of Catch Magazine. He noted that producing great content and drawing advertisers is a 24/7 endeavor, and they’ve got their noses to the grindstone – O’Keefe’s ability to teleport himself around the exposition floor (with the machine he stole from Dr. Who no doubt) is a good sign that the working pace was accurately described.  I personally love the online magazine format they’ve put together – in my opinion the future is bright there. Of course, I’m biased – Catch’s latest release included an outstanding piece by Adam Barker, centered primarily on Utah, and with emphasis on several waters I frequently got skunked on frequented while there. Oh, the memories!

Finally, I joined David Phares on a short speaking engagement.  I’m only saying this for the benefit of women attending the remaining ISE events where Mr. Phares will be: Dave is going to try convincing you ladies that he’ll tie up a beautiful fly with a lock of your hair – he tried this on the female friend with me (bad choice – she doesn’t fish), and above the warning calls of the lovely gals working beside him. He’s a charmer, and you’ve been warned!


I received an email this morning from a friend who attended Saturday. He’s a bit older than me, and dropped fly fishing years ago when work consumed his every waking moment. I’ve been taking him out over the last few seasons, hoping to reinvigorate his interest (and get him to subsidize my stream-side lunches)…

Nothing has fired me up as much as Lefty’s lesson.

Lefty casting

My free sandwiches are in peril!

Everyone was in great spirits, and despite the economic difficulties facing our world right now. In one respect, however, the show got lucky. We had balmy weather the first of last week here in Denver (highs in the upper 60’s are enough to make anyone happy in January), but by the time I left Thursday a cold front was moving in. Nevertheless, I did get to meet several of the folks working the event, and they were asses and elbows keeping things running smoothly. Which it did, so they deserve like 99% of the credit – mother nature gets the rest.

Bottom line – the show was a resounding success, and I’m already looking forward to next year.

Q & A with Fly Casting Instructor David Phares

Brought to you by the International Sportsmen’s Exposition (1). There are details at the end of this post regarding how you can get some free tickets to the ISE Sportman’s Show in San Mateo, CA, January 8th – 11th, but you have to learn how to cast a fly rod first. So read on.

David Phares is an avid fly fisherman and professional casting instructor from Chandler, AZ, who will be making presentations (pun intended) at the upcoming ISE event. He agreed to do an email interview here for the benefit of those who won’t be in the Bay area a week hence, and despite the significant harm that might befall his outstanding reputation as fly-rodder and teacher by remotely associating himself with the blog of someone who has hit more inanimate objects (and fellow humans) with flies than any other person on earth (2).

Here you go folks, now get to learning…

MICHAEL: I’m sure you meet a lot of folks that are picking up a fly rod for the first time ever. Knowing casting a fly line is a fairly complex action, what do you stress in lesson number one that gets the beginner on the water quickest?

DAVID: We are most interested in making sure that student has a good time, and sees some success. While this is not rocket science, it is a matter of physics, so we make sure they understand the physics of making a piece of string go flying through the air, dragging a fly. If the student does not enjoy the experience of learning the sport, they will not carry on with it. The learning has to be fun.

MICHAEL: Professional golfers practice daily - as a result there are always plenty of everyday people on the ranges trying to emulate their discipline. Fly fishers don’t really have a Tiger Woods to copy, and there aren’t casting ponds in every suburb either. So what can fly fishers do to keep their casting stroke in top form?

DAVID: Just like Tiger, you PRACTICE. Only you have to make sure that what you are practicing is correct. It is too easy to practice bad habits. With fly casting it is not hard to know when you are doing it right as the fly line shoots out there and lands where you want it to. Also, we encourage target practice, as just throwing line is only half the task - you have to put the fly in the right place in order for the fish to take it. This can be accomplished with a couple of paper plates with a big nail holding them down out in the park or a retention basin just down the street. You do not need water to practice, except for the roll cast, that is, and I have done that in an irrigation ditch.

MICHAEL: I think one point that is probably on the mind of every fly fisher, particularly as belts tighten, is how important equipment really is. Is the choice of rod and reel purely personal taste, or has your experience dictated particular types of gear for fly casters at different levels of proficiency?

DAVID: One of the things that has always amazed me it that even a novice can tell the difference between a really good rod with top-flight line, and a "Yugo" of the fly fishing world. A top flight rod and high quality line make all the difference in the learning curve and success for the beginner. The choice gets harder with the fact there are some really nice fly rods out there that are selling now for under $200, where in the past you had to spend twice that to get a good rod. The rod and line are the critical parts of the system, for sure.

The secret is to find the rod and line that work for you. Go to the fly shop and cast them until you find what works. I have a good friend with whom I fish and he uses a rod that casts like a broom for me. He loves it. What can I say?

MICHAEL: As fly fishing has progressed in popularity over the last couple of decades, we’ve seen people chasing wider and wider varieties of species, and with that comes an expanding breadth of equipment as well as casting technique. Are there any basic rules of thumb fly-rodding enthusiasts need to know that can help them ease the transition from say, hauling Crazy Charlies in strong winds to nymphing in a tiny freestone?

DAVID: What the hell is a "Crazy Charlie?" No, seriously, the secret is to spend some time learning about the fish you are going after. Each species has its own set of challenges. With this rapid growth in fly fishing has come a wide assortment of books and articles (both hard copy and on the net) about fly fishing for just about anything that swims. And, you never want to ignore good old "local knowledge." Ask at the fly shop, or go to a meeting of a local fly club and ask around. Most fly fishers are little John the Baptists at heart, and they would love to share what they know with you.

MICHAEL: You live in Phoenix, and there aren’t a lot of trout streams or tarpon migrations running through there. Assuming you do a lot of destination travel, where’s your favorite place to fish? And, considering that casting a big rod all day, every day, during a planned outing can be physically arduous, how do you, personally, keep yourself prepared?

DAVID: I just wish I traveled as much as I would like. Actually Arizona is a fly fisher's paradise, as we can fish year-round for a wide variety of species, and we are located pretty close to some great destinations, as well. While I fish locally as often as I can, I do love to travel and fish both South Padre Island on the South coast of Texas for redfish, snook and sea trout; and I try to get the Norfork and White Rivers in Arkansas each year as well.

MICHAEL: Back to the golf bit… Golfers in medium to low handicap ranges periodically take on the advice of the club pro to help them adjust their swing and (hopefully) knock a few strokes off their game. Do professional fly casting instructors do the same for their clients? And if so, what are the corrections you most often target in the intermediate to advanced fly caster’s method?

DAVID: One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is to bypass good instruction. The Federation of Fly Fishers, local Trout Unlimited clubs and local fly shops can all provide that kind of start for the beginner. For years we taught hundreds of novices in our local parks and recreation programs.

As for the intermediate and advanced casters, there is probably a second opinion on this, but I feel "if it works don't fix it." Going back to golf for an example, I would never try and teach a new golfer to try and swing like Arnold Palmer, but that ugly swing worked for him. If the caster can get the fly where he or she wants it most of the time, I would be loath to try and make his cast look a little prettier by tampering with it.

MICHAEL: Besides receiving professional casting instruction (and tying flies until their eyes are crossed), what else can fly fishing enthusiasts do to improve their ‘game’? Do you have any book, video, or other instruction-related materials you’d recommend?

DAVID: Hey, I have been tying flies for years, and my eyes are not crossed! They might be a bit fuzzy some times, but not crossed.

One of the really unique aspects of the sport is that it offers so many different ways to enjoy it. In addition to the actual fishing for everything from bluegill to great white sharks, and as you mentioned tying flies, you can also take a class in rod building; [additionally] spend time on the internet researching destinations and chatting with locals in diverse areas on what it takes to get there, where to stay, and what is the best guide in the area. For me, the planning of a trip as always been almost as much fun as the going. I am blessed, too, with three really good guys with whom I fish, and they add a great deal to the enjoyment of fly fishing for me. Fly fishing is a social event for me. And, I am just now introducing two of my grandsons to the sport as well. It is just getting better and better every year.

MICHAEL: Have you ever had a beginner get so aggravated they break a rod over their knee? What rod would you recommend for such folks?

DAVID: I have never had a student with that kind of a temper, but I have had some that just could never quite "get it." However, I have seen guys on a golf course do that, so maybe it says something about fly fishing vs. golf!

When we teach casting we are always on the lookout for those who seem to come to casting naturally, and we move them up to better rods when we see that. As for the poor guy who continues to struggle (we have never had a woman who could not learn to cast - even some seniors do quite well), then we might suggest after repeated sessions they may want to stick to bowling. As much as I love fly fishing, it is not for everyone. We owe to the beginner who trusts us to be honest with them. I do not sell equipment, so that may be easier for me than a shop owner, but they have to do it, too.

MICHAEL: I know you haven’t seen me with rod in hand, but does your casting crystal ball tell you whether I will ever be able to toss a weighted crab pattern to a group of permit without spooking every single one?

DAVID: Michael, I may not have seen you cast, but the mere fact that you know that you have to cast that weighted crab a good distance to that school of permit tells me all I really need to know about your casting.

The single most important thing for every caster to remember is that must wait on the back cast and not start forward too soon, or you lose it all. That back cast is more important than the forecast, every time. Even experienced casters can get excited when they see that school of permit for the first time and forget that vital lesson.

MICHAEL: And finally, regarding all those folks out there who have accomplished the previously mentioned feat…where are the big dollar endorsement deals from American Express?

DAVID: When you find that out, send me a personal email, okay? The best I have done is that I have been lucky enough to have sold two fly patterns to Umpqua, and so I get a little check each quarter for my developmental efforts over the years. I doubt that you and I will ever be in Tiger's league when it comes to the big bucks, but then that's not why we take a rod in hand and hit the water, is it?

En how! We all now know that fly casting is one parts physics, two parts practice, and many parts fun. Problematic for me – back in the day I dropped Thermodynamics 101 in favor of accounting, I’d rather drink beer and watch college football than hit the park, and I only fly fish because it gives my friends the opportunity to razz me just before buying my lunch (ok, so that’s fun) – but there is still ample hope for the rest of you!

And now that everyone is a bit more informed, there are some free tickets to be had. The ISE is offering 10 passes to any of the four days of the San Mateo, CA event, and you can get up to two of them for yourself by leaving a comment below with your true name (so you can pick up your tickets at the will-call window), real email address (so I can confirm with you), and the simple announcement of the day you’d like to attend. It’s first come, first serve as usual. And anyone that would like to quiz Mr. Phares further while they’re there can find him at the Discover Fly Fishing booth or in the Fly Tying Theatre.

(1) Special thanks to the International Sportsman’s Exposition, Gilbert Fly-Fishing Programs, Spin Communications, and Chocolate Communications.

(2) While the editor’s flies have impacted with plenty of rocks, trees, and poling platforms, he has actually only hit one person other than himself. Fellow fly-fishing enthusiasts are, however, still welcome to scatter when he shows up on the water.