The British Fly Fair International is the one remaining mega-show for fly fishers and fly tyers and it is being held on February 11 & 12 at Staffordshire Showground
When I became involved with shows that included fly-fishing 30 years ago (but it seems much less than that!), there were lots of thriving shows. Fisherman’s Row at the CLA Game Fair was huge, in contrast to the pathetic event of recent years, renamed by the PC brigade as the ‘Fishing Island’. In May we had Chatsworth Angling Fair and its thousands of visitors, which spawned other shows in June at Broadlands and at Woburn. With the old Partridge of Redditch, of hand-made hooks fame, I took part in the Scottish Game Fair, and at Lowther Show tied flies and took fly fishers along the river to look at the creatures trout eat. And in the years leading up to 2006 Oliver Edwards, Paul Little and I took part in John Norris’ six-day show at his shop in Penrith. Alas, in the following ten years all these shows either died or the fly-fishing component has almost vanished.
These shows enabled the visitor to see some of the world’s best fly dressers at work, to try new rods and lines, to buy hooks and threads and perhaps a new vice or bobbin holder, and to examine and purchase fly-tying materials such as cock capes, mole skins and the odd unusual offering. I recall one of the latter: older readers will recall Ellis Slater, a Brummie who, with his wife, had a little stand with lots of natural materials. I was walking past when Ellis called, “Malcum, cum ‘ere. Have one of these skins. Patagonian tree shrew. Luvly dubbin’!”
We have one Mega-Show left: British Fly Fair International, which this year will be held at Staffordshire County Show Ground (leave the M6 at junction 14), on February 11 and 12. Amongst the great fly tyers will be Marvin Nolte from Wyoming, Barry Ord Clarke from England, but who dwells in Norway, the lovely Marc Petitjean of CdC fame, who is the greatest innovator when it comes to fly-tying tools, our own Paul Little and lots, lots more. If you are not the best at some tying technique, go and watch them and talk to them. You will find no better collection of tyers anywhere.
You need some fly-tying materials? Natural feathers, of things like snipe and bronze mallard and CdC taken from mallard (or maybe woodcock), are in abundance at Cookshill. Nigel is there with Lakeland and Pat with Flytek, and if you want some nice capes, try Chevron Hackles. There will be rods and reels, fly-lines and leaders, landing nets or all shapes and sizes. All under one roof.
When I cannot go fly fishing and I need tie no more flies because the boxes are full, I like to read about fly fishing. Paul will have his Coch-y-Bonddu stall heaving with books old and new, while Jon will have a nice selection of the books he has published on the Medlar Press stand.
You need a fishing holiday? Of course you do: several angling-tourist companies will be there. You need a drink?: there is a bar. You need to sit down for a spell?: go to the Fly Fair Forum or Fly Tying in Focus area and relax, and learn. You would like some advice on casting?: just outside is a casting area with demonstrations by our top casters.
Do not neglect our angling charities, which do a magnificent job in conservation and in promoting our sport. The Wild Trout Trust and Grayling Society are vital when it comes to our brown trout and grayling streams and every fly fisher ought to be members of both, whilst the Angling Trust stands up for all angling and anglers and deserves our support. Fly tyers ought to join the Fly Dressers’ Guild.
Do you need to look for some new fishing? Some leading clubs will have stands where you can find out about the waters they control: for instance, Lancashire Fly, Yorkshire Fly and Prince Albert who have lots of fishing scattered throughout northern England, and more local clubs such as Fenton, Blithfield and Derby County.
And last but not least, the first stand you will see when you come in through the main entrance will be the Fly Fishing & Fly Tying stand. Come and talk to those who put the magazine together. And it’s a good time to renew your annual subscription.
BFFI is the biggest fly-fishing show in Britain and one of the biggest in the world. Don’t miss it!