Expo’s behind-the-scene support runs deep, steady

It bears noting that the Western Colorado Fly Fishing Exposition set for Friday and Saturday at the DoubleTree Hotel is sponsored and run by the Grand Valley Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Federation of Fly Fishers.

This hard-working committee of volunteers, led by Pat and Carol Oglesby, Steve McCall and numerous others, has steered the expo into its 14th year and has seen it become the largest fly-fishing show between Denver and Salt Lake City.

In 14 years, expo watchers have seen child prodigies (Tyler Befus, now 14; Taila Oulton, 16; and others) mature to become young adults with followings of their own. Featured speakers have included the very young (Tyler Befus, 9 at the time, and his two sisters, Ava, then 7, and Vivian, then 5, along with mom Lisa and dad Brad, no ages given) to some of the best-known fly anglers and guides in the business, including Bob Jacklin, Mike Lawson and the always-entertaining and irrepressible Jack Dennis of Jackson Hole, Wyo.

This year’s headline speaker hasn’t yet acquired the throw-down name as have some of the others, at least to the casual angler.

But ask around and you’ll find Kirk Deeter of Pine is well known around the inner circles of the fly-fishing world, which is where such repute might count the most.

Respect from your peers, no matter what profession it is you pursue, is the hardest of all to gain.

Attempts this past week to reach Deeter went unanswered for the simple reason he’s been working somewhere in the jungles of Bolivia. That locale fits well with his announced expo topic, “Fly Fishing off the Grid,” and you can be sure he’ll have some tales to share when he is in Grand Junction.

The expo includes free tours Friday, visiting Scott Fly Rod Co. (not Sage, as was incorrectly listed last week) and Ross Reels in Montrose and Whiting Farms in Delta, where geneticist Tom Whiting produces what it’s safe to say are the world’s best fly hackle.

In previous visits to the feather factory, you might have received an offer to dig through bags of discarded hackle, but that ended shortly after age-old rocker Steven Tyler showed up on “American Idol” with his long tresses adorned with feather extensions. As a result, hair dressers began storming the doors at Whiting, snatching up everything that didn’t “ba-a-wk” when pulled.

Suddenly, fly tiers had competition for Whiting’s Pro-Grade saddle hackle, and saddles that once went for less than $100 were seen hot-listed on eBay for $500 or more.

The demand has softened a bit, said Phil Trimm at Western Anglers in Grand Junction, one of the expo’s main sponsors.

“We had trouble getting hackle for a little while but it’s eased off since then,” Trimm said. “The (feather extension) trend has tapered off in America, but I hear it’s still strong in Europe.”

Some dishonest dealers aggravated the shortage by raising their fees and then pointing to Whiting as the cause.

But don’t blame Tom Whiting. He’s steadily held the line on his hackle prices, a move that’s brought plaudits and continued support from the angling community.

“Tom’s been great,” Trimm said. “It’s the unethical guys who were giving him a bad name.”

Trimm recounted a story of Whiting personally calling a dealer in California who was inflating hackle prices and telling him to desist or lose all future business with Whiting.

Whiting, along with Jerry Schaefer at Western Anglers, and local companies such as Ross Reels and Scott Fly Rods, have provided years of loyal support to the expo, and it would be remiss to not mention who it is that allows us to enjoy this end-of-winter fishing celebration.


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