A day on the river with Jack
World-renowned guide, author and fly-fishing innovator Jack Dennis is returning to Grand Junction April 5-6 for the 15th annual Western Colorado Fly Fishing Exposition at the DoubleTree Hotel.
In addition to Dennis’ guest appearance and his popular “A day on the river with Jack Dennis,” this year’s expo features a full day of fly-tying by many of the best tiers from across the West, special tours of Ross Reels and Scott Fly Rods in Montrose and Whiting Farms in Delta and a showing of the 2013 Fly Fishing Film Tour, “The Adventure Continues.”
Dennis’ return to Grand Junction marks a turning point in his busy and varied life.
After 47 years of outfitting and guiding fishing trips from his homebase of Jackson, Wyo., Dennis recently sold his business and moved to Salt Lake City, where the weather is moderate and the airport is close.
“Frankly, my wife and I were tired of the long winters,” he said in a telephone conversation Monday. “And the airport is real close so I can get in and out real quickly and some of my kids and grandkids live here.”
The 30-minute conversation was typical Dennis – meaning mostly one-sided, educational and very entertaining.
“I really like Grand Junction and the people there,” said Dennis, adding he considered moving here when he pondered his “semi-retirement.”
“I could easily have lived in Grand Junction,” said Dennis, who will give his presentation during the expo’s banquet April 6. “Right now it’s as if I’m just putting my feet on the ground, it’s a whole new life.”
The old one was as interesting as it was busy. He said he spent more than 200 days a year for the past 38 years traveling to speaking engagements around the world.
“I put 7 million miles on my cars and got another 3 million on Delta (Airlines),” he said. “I can’t say enough good things about Delta, they’ve been great to me.”
But the pressure finally caught up with Dennis, 65, last year. He was in Phoenix for yet another appearance when he suffered a heart attack.
“I logged a lot of hospital time but I’m finally getting my strength back,” he said, his voice a bit weaker but still carrying plenty of the familiar Jack Dennis sass. “It took a while to get my total strength back and I lost a lot of weight.
“It was nice to weigh 150 pounds again but that didn’t last long,” he laughed. “Now, I’m looking forward to a new life. What I really want to do now is talk to people and give back for all the great times I’ve had.”
That giving back has taken several shapes. One is his involvement with Reel Recovery, a fly fishing-based cancer recovery program for men (http://www.reelrecovery.org).
He also still loves to teach, devoting much of his time to developing instructional DVDs, including his latest, “Teaching your kids to fly fish.”
His second gift is learning to give back and is the title of his presentation April 6 during the expo’s evening banquet at the DoubleTree Hotel.
“I call it ‘The Gift of Fly Fishing’ and it’s, like, what’s the purpose of all this fishing we do?’ he said. “The whole point is that there is something more in all this fly fishing.”
He said the idea came during the move out of his Jackson home when a 30-year old magazine fell out of a box, opening to Robert Traver’s famous ode, “Testament of a Fishermen.”
“One of my guides didn’t even know who (Traver) was and yet we grew up with him,” said Jackson, and you could hear the wonder in his voice. “So I put together 10 or 15 things, things that say, ‘Is it truly just fishing or is it humanity?’
“I think the folks in Grand Junction will like it.”
Tickets for the banquet and Jack Dennis presentation are $35 adults, $15 for youth 13 and under. Tickets sales close April 2.
The Fly Fishing Film Tour, being shown April 5 at the Mesa Club and Theater is a collection of breath-taking fly-fishing videos from some of the world’s best adventure filmmakers.
Information and discount tickets at Western Anglers Fly Shop, 413 Main St. or online at thef3t.com.
For expo information and schedule, go to http://www.grand-valley-anglers.org.