OUT: Jack Dennis headline speaker at Western Colorado Fly Fishing Expo

Doing what he loves best, Jack Dennis takes time to show a proper knot during a seminar at the 2007 Western Colorado Fly Fishing Expo.

You can almost hear Jack Dennis saying, “Keep it low” while instructing an angler in the fine ar tof fly casting. Dennis, one of the West’s top casters, will be featured at the Western Colorado Fly Fishing Expo March 27-28. Bruce James/ Special to The Daily Sentinel

When the Western Colorado Fly Fishing Expo opens its doors March 27 at the DoubleTree Hotel, a familiar face will welcome you.

Renowned fly tier, guide and fly fishing ambassador Jack Dennis of Jackson, Wyo., will be the featured guest and speaker for the 11th annual fly fishing expo.

The expo starts March 27 with a tour of the Scott Rod and Ross Reels companies in Montrose, a special on-the-water clinic with Dennis and a meet-the-fly-tiers gathering at 5:30 p.m.

The real fun starts at 9 a.m. March 28 when the first round of fly tying and seminars begins. All events Saturday, except the evening banquet, are free.

Information at http://www.grand-valley-anglers.org  or call 434-3912 or 210-7941.

This will be Dennis’ third trip to Grand Junction as the expo headliner, and he’s always attracted a big crowd, both for his formal presentations as well as the informal sessions that might rise like a hungry trout at any moment.

Most anglers already are familiar with Dennis’ remarkable ascent to the top of the fly fishing world.

He sold his first flies at the precocious age of 14 and five years later founded Jack Dennis Outdoor Shop in Jackson, which for some of us gadabout anglers, has become a second home when testing the waters of southern Montana and northwest Wyoming.

This not only is one of the West’s premier fly shops, but under Dennis’ tutelage has also spawned an entire generation of well-known guides, fly tiers and writers, including Jeff Currier (also an Expo favorite), Scott Sanchez and others.

And more than a few of us still revere and refer to our dog-eared copies of Dennis’ original fly-tying guides, “Western Trout Fly Tying Manual, Vols. 1 & 2,” which came out in 1974 and 1980, respectively.

Dennis always gets a kick when someone offers one of those paperback manuals for autographs, and he laughs when he sees the cover photo, which is himself more than 25 years ago.

For the later but-no-less-avid generations, Dennis offers more than 20 fly fishing videos, including a set of “How To Fly Fish” DVDs in cooperation with Cabela’s outdoor stores.

He will have copies of his books and DVDs at the Expo for sale and will gladly autograph any personal copies.

His craggy face has been seen on TV here and abroad, in magazines and newspapers, alone and with some of the world’s best-known actors, politicians (hey, nobody’s perfect) and athletes.

And it’s not simply hero worship.

He’s also has been honored by his peers, being named “Ambassador of the Year” for 2001 by the Federation of Fly Fishers. That, perhaps, has been his greatest honor, he said.

“One of the highest honors you can ever receive is to be honored by your peers,” said Dennis.

Many anglers, particularly those with an eye on the long-range future of the sport, might say Dennis’ most lasting contribution has been his involvement with Fly Fishing Team USA.

Once a frivolous pursuit of well-heeled donors who succeeded at making money but failed when it came to competitive fly fishing, Dennis took over the team’s reins and literally cleaned house.

He initiated tryouts, pursued some of the nation’s top anglers, scouted young members and never hesitated to tell people what they didn’t want to hear, namely, they had to improve (i.e., learn how to fish) to beat the competition.

Today, the U.S. fly fishing team is considered among the best in the world, and several team members are the best in the world when it comes to chucking a fly at a recalcitrant fish.

Dennis last year stepped back from his captain’s role on the U.S. team, leaving the honor and responsibility to Grand Junction dentist Anthony Naranja.

It’s not like Dennis has disappeared from the fly fishing scene. His sage advice and wisdom still are sought but he’s at the stage of life when family and personal time takes precedence.

But he still loves teaching, he said during the 2007 expo.

“As I get older in life, I’ve pretty much planned I want to keep teaching until the end,” Dennis said. “I especially love teaching these kids, they’re the future of our sport.”

In that vein, the Fly Fishing Expo will offer special youth and women’s fly fishing classes. Of particular note will be several youth-oriented fly-tying demonstrations provided by some of the West’s best young fly tiers, including Taila Oulton of Gunnison and the brother-sister duo of Tyler and Ava Befus of Montrose.


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