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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Lincolnshire, Illinois

    Default Midwest Fly Fishing Expo, Warren Michigan

    I attended the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo in Warren, Michigan. It's sponsored by the Michigan Fly Fishing Club (MFFC). I was lucky that I had a business trip that took me to Ann Arbor the two days before, so on Saturday morning, I was able to hop over to Warren in less than an hour.

    First, a little story about my attempt to attend this expo last year. I live north of Chicago, about halfway between that city and the Wisconsin border. The Des Plaines River runs behind my home. Two days before the expo last year, I walked down the steep bank to the river to kick some woody debris that had collected there back in, when I slipped, smacked my head on a nearby tree, and slid halfway into the river. I don't think I've ever been clocked like that before. I could have 1) been knocked completely out, and 2) slid into the river and drowned. As it was, I couldn't even stand up, and crawled back to my house, where I lay down until I could stand up without falling over. I went to the doctor, and a concussion was diagnosed. I was slightly dizzy for 5 days afterwards, so a long trip to Warren that weekend was out of the question.

    Back to the more recent past, I was really looking forward to attending this year. It's held at a community college, which has a nice large expo space, and free parking. I have to say that the MFFC did a really good job setting this up. It was well organized and members were all around the entrance to help attendees. Kudos to them!

    Upon entering the expo, I felt like a kid in a candy store - I am sure many who read this can relate. One thing I liked is that many "professionally" run expos have a bunch of non-related booths, selling cleaning products, time shares, etc. Not here; every booth could be tied to fly fishing, or at least fishing.

    My first stop was to my "home" fly fishing shop, The Driftless Angler, based out of Viroqua Wisconsin. I'd spoken with Mat Wagner, the owner, and had purchased a pair of Patagonia wading pants from him, so went to pick them up. He kindly offered to hold onto them until I was ready to leave.

    That reminds me of one of the things I noted about the exhibits. The Driftless Angler shop was the only one related to that area of the country. There was one more booth that represented an Atlantic Salmon lodge in New Brunswick, Canada, and one representing a bonefish lodge in Belize (IIRC). The rest of the booths, if they were really tied to a region, were tied to Michigan - fair enough.

    My next digression: Mat Wagner of the Driftless Angler said lots of visitors to his booth would say, "Wisconsin, interesting," and move on. They simply don't think of the Driftless Area as a fishing destination. (his booth seemed pretty busy, though - it was combined with the Artemis/Athena women's fly fishing booth, also very busy). When I lived in Portland, Oregon, I fished only in Oregon; it was as if there was a 100-foot brick wall at the Columbia River. When I moved to Vancouver, Washington, just across the Columbia, I realized how much good fishing was within 50 miles of me, that I could have been fishing before. That seems to be the way a lot of Chicagoans and even Michiganders feel. I feel just the opposite; I've fished the Driftless exclusively, and have never wet a line in Michigan. That will change now that my eyes have been opened.

    I had four specific objectives in the visit: I wanted to try rods by three manufacturers whose wares I'd never cast: Scott, Douglas, and Thomas & Thomas. I wanted to get some dark grey rod winding thread for my 2 weight project. I wanted to scope out guides and accommodation for my planned trip to Michigan in late April or early May. And lastly, I was looking for a book on North County (Yorkshire) flies. But mostly I wandered up and down the aisles, looking at what was available.

    I was able to cast my very first choice (honestly, based on Sweet and Salt's reviews), the Scott G series 8'4" 4 weight, right away, within 10 minutes of the expo opening. I have about 1/70th of S&S's expertise, but I must say, it was one of the nicest rods I've ever cast, and I'd place it above my two 4-weights, a Hardy Zenith 8'10" single-piece, and my Sage LL 7'11" two-piece. Even in my relatively inexperienced hands, it was sublime. Curiously enough, the Scott booth didn't have this model available. I found it at a fly shop booth.

    My next rod to cast was one I didn't expect. I went to the Douglas booth, with the intention of casting a Sky, but after wiggling a range of rods around, ended up casting the Upstream 3 weight 7'3" 4-piece. Again, a lovely rod, and probably as good as any for the Driftless Area.

    I then cast the T&T Avantt, 8'6" 4 weight. It might have been a tad too fast action for my tastes, but the attention to detail were stunning, and the grip had the best cork of any fly rod at the Expo. It was the best looking rod I saw at the show. Still, it left me wanting to try more T&T's in the future, to see if it is indeed, "The Rod I'll eventually own."

    I did wiggle a few rods by other manufacturers, Sage (I tried the X in a 905-4, very nice, of course, and should be for $900), TFO Finesse Trout in 8'9" 4 weight), and Echo (Boost in 8'0" 4 weight and Dry in 9'0" 4 weight). I would not be disappointed to have any of those, even the less expensive offerings from TFO and Echo.

    I only saw one booth that had winding thread (and only a couple places that had any rod building stuff at all), but it had the dark charcoal grey winding thread for the stealth 9'0" 2 weight I want to build, so I grabbed a spool of that.

    There were two book store booths there; the first place I visited didn't have what I wanted, but the proprietor suggested I head around the corner to David Foley's booth; he has some seriously great classics, lots of older books, lot of author-signed books. I picked up Robert Smith's "The North Country Fly" for $50. Well worth the price, to me, at least. He had an original copy of T.E. Pritt's "North Country Flies" for $650 or something like that, but had a boxed reprint for only $100. I passed, but might regret that.

    I spoke with a bunch of guides, lodge owners, outfitters, of places in Michigan; most, but not all by any means, focused on the Au Sable. I wonder if that river gets too much love...It made me consider starting out on a lesser-known river in the area. There were almost too many choices for me, so I didn't end up booking a trip, but will in the next couple weeks. There was also a booth specializing in recreational properties in the area. I'd always thought I'd get myself a place in the Driftless Area, but I'll have to consider this as well, after I get a little fishing done there.

    I came close to pulling the trigger on a rod I had not even considered buying. There was a booth that was called "Top Ten Tapers" that had some bamboo fly rods. The owner makes bamboo rods based on what he considers to be the top ten bamboo tapers; an interesting concept. He also had a half-dozen older rods that had been restored, and I almost bought a 7' something 5 weight Leonard 2 piece with extra tip for $350. I need a bamboo rod like another hole in my head, but have wanted to buy a genuine older rod for some time. What stopped me is that I just don't know a good vintage bamboo from a bad one. The price was good, but I'm a firm believe that you get what you pay for, and this might have been a mediocre rod for a good price. But I do plan to talk with the owner later on.

    So, I was able to realize all four of my objectives. That left me time to visit just about every booth there and enjoy what they had to offer. I did end up getting some tin non-toxic weights, some UV Cure, a couple of stickers, and a few colors of fly tying thread I was looking for (olive, dark olive, and grey). And a lot of pamphlets and even a cool neoprene reel cover from the Au Sable Lodge. I was too antsy to attend any of the presentations, but did sit and watch some of the individual fly tiers.

    I drove back to Chicagoland, and the weather was good until I hit Indiana, when it started raining, then started raining harder. It only added 10 minutes to my trip, though, so not too bad.

    So that's my visit summary; I had such a great time there, I was giddy as a schoolgirl the whole time. If anybody else who frequents these pages visited, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Hudsonville, Michigan
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: Midwest Fly Fishing Expo, Warren Michigan

    I didn't attend the show this year, still nursing a sprained knee, but that's a show you could spend a week at.

    There is another show coming up this weekend in Grand Rapids Mich. at the Van Andel Arena. Not onlyfly fishing gear but many fly fishing vendors are going to attend. If anyone is interested contact Nomad Anglers 616-805-4349.


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