Earlier this month, I learned about Amadou, a spongy fungi that has “amazing” fly drying
qualities. It’s made from bracket fungi, the mushroomy scales that grow on trees and old wood, and is sometimes called “horse’s hoof fungus,” even though it doesn’t come from horse hooves. I held a big piece of it and found it to be very lightweight, cushiony, velvety to the touch and just … different. If someone had handed it to me and said, “guess what this is,” I never, ever would have guessed it to be a fungus.
Anglers use amadou to dry their flies – by squeezing soaked flies between two layers of amadou, which sucks out all the moisture. According to Wikipedia it’s highly flammable and ancient people used it to start fires, including “Otzi the Iceman” who was carrying it on his 5,000-year-old remains.
Amadou was just one of the new things I learned about when Tim and I went to a fly fishing show in Winston-Salem earlier this month. Actually, it’s called The Fly Fishing Show, and Winston is one of just seven stops it makes on its 2016 tour, which looks like this:
2016 Show Schedule:
- Denver, CO January 8, 9, & 10
- Marlborough, MA January 22, 23, & 24
- Somerset, NJ January 29, 30, & 31
- Winston-Salem, NC February 5 & 6
- Lynnwood, WA February 13 & 14
- Pleasanton, CA February 26, 27, & 28
- Lancaster, PA March 5 & 6
It ran for two days, Friday and Saturday, and brought together manufacturers of gear, apparel, fly tying equipment and supplies, guides, books, a little art, and demonstrations and seminars by some of the sport’s finest. There was even a giant pond set up in the middle of the venue, the Benton Convention Center, for casting demonstrations.
We picked up a few tips from Wanda Taylor, who stepped up to the plate and filled in for a scheduled demonstration from LeftyKreh when he had to skip the day due to some health issues. Wanda was the first woman certified by the International Federation of Fly Fishers as a master certified casting instructor, and the first female Orvis-endorsed guide in the southeastern U.S. And she was awesome. The two things that stuck with me most – the importance of keeping my thumb in place to aim my cast, and how to use a double haul to turbo-charge my cast. She once taught someone seated next to her on an airplane how to do it using a giant rubber band.
And, we saw a demonstration of Tenkara, which uses only a rod, line and fly – no reel. Apparently, it’s original to Japan, where it was practiced by fishermen in themountain streams there. However, I have to say it looked pretty darn similar to how I learned to fish as a kid at my cousin’s house. My aunt and uncle had a little stocked pond, and lots of bamboo poles with nothing but a line and a hook that we kids could use to our heart’s content. I’ll never forget it because I once pulled my rod out of the water without paying attention and the hook (and worm-part) caught me right in the old nostril.
We also enjoyed meeting Emily and Dave Whitlock, who do it all: flyfishing, instructing, lecturing, art, books, videos. Dave is a native Oklahoman who resigned his position as a research chemist more than 40 years ago and pooled his talents in painting, illustrating, writing, photography, fly fishing, fly tying and lecturing to embark on a new career as a full-time professional in the art of fly fishing. Emily is an accomplished fly fishing instructor who has degrees in botany and biology and is a conservationist in the true sense, willing to work for preservation of the natural world and the understanding of why it’s so important. Their biographies and accomplishments are extensive and can be read here. (The home furnishings journalist side of me immediately began drawing comparisons with Bob Timberlake.)
There were lots of guides and outfitters there promoting flyfishing trips and packages to fantastic places like Montana, New Zealand, Alaska, Norway, Denmark and Cuba (basically, just about anywhere, but those are on my list).
But oh, the flytying supplies. This really blew my mind, especially my quilting-enthusiast self. When I’m not working or, now, flyfishing, I’m quilting, and with a few exceptions, I do all of the piecework and quilting by hand. And many times, while I quilt, Tim is right next to me tying flies. We’ve got it down to an art – we can do our flytying and quilting in the living room, while we watch television.
We share a need for bright light, strong glasses, needle threaders, good clippers and snippers. We’ve both had to save spools of thread/wire from the jaws of our poodle, who thinks they’re toys. And we appreciate and enjoy the color, patterns and textures of both worlds.
Fly fishing, and fly tying, is a beautiful, quirky, exotic, colorful place. Some may disagree with me, but I’m learning that it requires a lot of patience, a strong sense of adventure, continuing education, respect for the environment and conservation, and enjoyment of solitude. Since my fly fishing education began in August, I’ve spent many Saturdays and Sundays fishing in water that has numbed my toes (even through layers of neoprene and wool), casting over and over and over until my hands, back and legs ache. On those days when I have come up empty, I’ve still loved every minute of it.
When I was among those folks in the Benton Convention Center, I knew every one of them felt the same way. And I really like that mindset and the people and stuff that go with it.
Like all the colorful threads, feathers, wires, hooks and hairs used to make flies. Looking around at all the natural elements that go into making a stonefly or a nymph or a woolly booger, I realized that this couldn’t be that much different than how America’s native population prepped their fishing gear. I found it all absolutely fascinating, and one of the most creative “made by hand” pursuits I’ve ever seen.
And the tools! SO specialized. Hair stackers (my favorite) and hackle pliers and bodkins and bobbins and… “What in the world is that, Tim?”
“A bead threader. You put the bead in the little holder and then you take the hook and it goes on.”
Oh. Of course. Actually, it’s a cool little tool, with a magnet on the end, to help big man-hands pick up and mount teeny tiny bead eyes.
The folks at the fly fishing show, my first exposure to a mass of fly fishermen, also dress in a certain way – olive drab and khaki, field coats, some Barbours, a few real Aran sweaters, neutral colored fleece and outerwear, a few pops of blue… kind of a blend-in-with-the-river look.
On several occasions, I turned around and had a very difficult time picking my husband out of that group as he blended in so perfectly. I was well into a discourse on why I want to fly fish in Iceland, with a man I thought was my husband, until I took a good look at him and realized it wasn’t. “Oh, excuse me. I thought you were my husband,” I said to a guy who was young enough to be my son.
Here are a few photos of my experience.