Marlborough — New England’s only, little fly fishing show.
That, at least, is the sentiment that many have expressed in recent years. The talk was often about how the show used to be: how it used to be bigger, how it used to be better attended and, people’s favorite, how it’s not like Somerset.
The Marlborough Fly Fishing show 2014 proved to be an exception. In conversation with a few people, all noted how they thought this year’s show was bigger, and how more people attended. The only question was: will it be the exception, or the beginning of a trend?
Part of the complaints were about people’s expectations. So many of the vendors, and the true fly fishing devotees, travel to Somerset that they can’t help but compare it. If you’ve ever been to the Somerset show, you know that the Marlborough show is much smaller. But this complaint has always struck me as a bit hollow.
Marlborough is not Somerset — and that’s part of the point. I agree it would be entertaining to have some more booths, and more fly fishing celebrities (if that term even applies to our sport). But then, for the show to be that size, you’d have to trade New England for New Jersey. I know which I would choose, any day. Moreover, there’s a certain provincial charm to Marlborough; it’s large enough for variety, and small enough that everyone knows everyone.
Take my experience. I’m a relative new comer to the Marlborough show, and I ran into tons of people I knew. You couldn’t make a loop around the show without running into someone you knew. I like that.
Among the many I saw, I ran into Marc Aroner, my friend and the craftsman behind Spinoza Rod Company. I hadn’t seen Marc since our week on the Margaree earlier this summer (read the post about it here). Marc is a great storyteller, and we stood and talked for a while. That, for me, is what makes the show worth it.
That and a few other highlights. Among them were a a few new booths from new manufacturers. Two of those booths are accounted for by Scott Hunter and the Vedavoo team, and by Ryan MacDonald, the founder of Finn Utility. Both of these New England-based companies are making beautiful, hand-crafted packs and accessories, though of very different aesthetics. (Expect profiles of both later this spring.) Also new this year was 3-Tand, the reel and accessories manufacturer that has hit the market hard. And, finally and inevitably, there was a Tenkara USA booth — and one that was well attended at that.
There were a few notable absences. Cheeky Reels wasn’t there, for the second year in a row. (This is can’t explain, though if anyone can, I’d welcome to know — share in the comments below.) Also absent were a few notable authors and speakers, who have been present in past years, but were absent this year.
Through all of it there were, as ever, a few highlights this year. Among them for me was:
– The bamboo rods by Rolf Baginsky, the German bamboo rodmaker whose work is extremely finely wrought. This year, he had two putters with bamboo shafts and cork handles that were stunning.
– Finn Utility, which I didn’t know anything about, was a highlight if for no other reason than the surprise of it, the quality of the products aside.
– David Foley’s collection of sporting books, which I always love perusing.
– Rich Murphy and his flies — always entertaining, always obsessively crafted and considered.
– And Tenkara USA, whose presence will, I hope, be a permanent presence, just as it deserves to be.
Driving in through the snow, and emerging to a car covered in thick, heavy snow, the fishing season could not have felt further away. I was grateful for a few hours of talk that reminded me of warmer months, even if it was at a small fly fishing show.