Fly Fishing Show Garden State Exhibition Center

Fishing show offers plenty for all anglers – On Jan. 27-29, the Garden State Exhibition Center in Somerset played host to the annual Fly Fishing Show . In the absence of other hobbies this winter it seemed like a good idea to learn something new.

There is no better place to learn a new hobby than at an expo where some of the greatest outfitters, manufacturers, lecturers, and authors in the sport are gathered by the hundreds. Those responsible for the show obviously understood how overwhelming an experience like this could be for a newcomer. They carefully placed a few booths in the lobby of the exhibition hall just to ease an unsuspecting newbie into the world of fly fishing.

The show ran all day for three days and even though the $14 entry fee seemed high for some of those in attendance, many took advantage of the access this show allowed them to some of the greats in the field of fly fishing.

A.K. Best, a renowned fly-tier, angler, and photographer, was at the show imparting knowledge that he has picked up on the rivers and streams across the country.

“There are no more beautiful places in the country than on trout streams,” Best said during one of his seminars.

Fly fishing seems to be much more complicated than more conventional means of taking fish. If you think about it though, the basics are the same. No matter how you plan to catch your next fish, chances are you’ll be using a rod, some line, a lure, and a reel.

The main difference is that the lures tend to be smaller, the rods longer, and the reel, according to Best, is only used to hold the line when your not trout fishing. However, many experts at the show agreed that once you escape the realm of trout you would use your reel a lot more.

So, it’s not really more complicated, but it certainly must be more expensive, right?

Not really.

Like most hobbies, fly fishing is only as expensive as you want to make it. Truth is, it’s not hard to quickly spend a lot of money on fancy equipment. There were many manufacturers at the show that had rods and reels over $800 each, but if you talk to a sales representative for any of the big name companies like St. Croix, G. Loomis, or Sage, you’ll find reasonably priced high quality equipment.

For the more experienced fly angler the show must have been like an amusement park. Where else could you pick up expensive toys and play with them without fear of being reprimanded? There was a large area at the back of the exhibition center for prospective buyers who wanted practice casting fly rods from some of the most well known manufacturers. Those new to the sport usually left the testing to the pros, and watched intently hoping to pickup a few helpful tips.

Every hour of the show was packed with seminars and lectures that were included in the entrance fee. You could easily spend the entire day in a classroom and miss the entire show.

The speakers ranged from New Jersey striped bass anglers, to well-known stream and river nymph anglers like Ed Engle.

If you have the opportunity to visit this show next year, do not let it pass. Chances are, after you leave you’ll start to get the itch. For some, scratching the fly fishing itch means opening the door to a new hobby, one that demands constant attention, but one that can easily grow into a new passion.

Once you get past the fancy equipment, the beautifully tied flies, and the exotic guide services, your left a little bewildered, but there was not one person in a booth, strolling the aisles, or signing autographs that wasn’t helpful.

Spend a few hours with this crowd and you quickly realize that regardless of skill you are always welcome.

Doug Skinner writes about the outdoors for the Courier-Post. He can be reached at

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