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A day at the International Sportsmans Expo
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I stood for a moment atop the steps and looked down at the rows of lodges, outfitters, fly shops and other booths in the fly-fishing building at the International Sportsman’s Expo in Sacramento.

In the center was a strip of plastic with a slick of water for fly casting demonstrations. It looked like a slip and slide for Paul Bunyon.

It was the first stop of my Saturday at the ISE, so I took an extra second to breathe out any residual stress that would hinder my absorption of all-things fly fishing.

The whole room was abuzz with my people. People that like, maybe even love, to fish with a fly rod and bait made out of the delicate fixing of feathers and hair to little hooks.

Don’t confuse my excitement with any sort of exceptionalism, because the building filled with jersey-wearing bass and striper fishermen are my people, too. I just currently happen to be particularly enraptured by the fly method of the fishing vortex.

I joined the crowded ranks and weaved my way past the fish pitching, gathering a healthy supply of business cards, brochures and booklets. I spent some time talking fly rods with a Sage representative, and I contemplated a trial session in the casting pool with the newest rod I don’t need, but the casting lanes were closing for another demonstration.

Plus, I tend to have an open-casting stroke. When I bring the rod back my shoulder drifts out rather than rotating up. I imagined whipping some curious Boy Scout in the cornea with an undisciplined back cast.

This would probably ruin his fishing curiosity, not to mention sight, for the foreseeable future.

The booth members were largely polite, but there were a few that ignored me because I didn’t fit the demographic. A youngish-looking bearded dude with a filthy, faded fishing hat doesn’t really look like he has $4,500 to burn.

I will admit part of me wanted to write a scathing review of their elitism, because come on, just because the only patron around is one that doesn’t fit your profile doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say, “Hi”.

Sadly, the worst perpetrator was a lodge from my home island. It was embarrassing, but the lodge is no longer locally owned. That’s probably why.

Sometimes when corporations get a hold of land they turn them into “properties” and nouns and adjectives like, “deluxe,” “spa” and “private runways” start replacing things like “campfire” and “locals”.

I talked to many of them anyway, especially the Alaska ones. We talked weather, limits and booking which has been improving since the economy got grilled by a recession.

I spent most of my time at the fly fishing theater, listening to experts talking about striper fishing in the delta, trout fishing on the Truckee or general fishing on still-water.

Part of me was envious. All these speakers get paid to fish. Sounds just about perfect, but if I took people fishing for a living would it be fun anymore?

If I had to fish, rather than got to fish, would the passion remain? Probably, but I’m going to keep my day job anyway and stay on my side of the sportsman’s booths.


To contact Jeff Lund, email