Fly fishers from all over Texas and nearby states attended the Texas Fly Fishing Expo aptly named Destination Texas. This was the first time it was held at the Grapevine Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. Over the last two years, fly fishers, fly casters, and fly tyers held the event in New Braunfels in the Texas hill country. The change in venue was to hopefully increase the number of participants.
There were allot of fly anglers gathered this year, but I'm not certain if it was as big as it could have been. Russell Husted, Texas Council president, and the Texas Council board did their best to bring in crowds. The numbers were certainly larger on Saturday than what I remember in New Braunfels.
Irma and I pulled our travel trailer over 600 miles from the Rio Grande Valley to this year's venue and stayed at the Vineyard Campgrounds and Cabins just a mile or two from the convention center. We were centered between the main activities and Oak Grove Park where the casting and evening activities took place. We were right by the water and even tried about thirty minutes of fishing.
The Vineyard Campgrounds were well kept and secure. Its probably more costly than what we usually pay for, but it was certainly worth the money. If we stay in Grapevine again, we'll stay here, but probably closer to the water.
We came in a couple of days before the expo started and left on Monday. The extra time allowed us to enjoy our retirement and relax a little bit. We were in no hurry to get back except to go see Zephyr (our 112 pound yellow lab).
This year I didn't have any casting lesson responsibilities. Instead I gave a presentation about fly fishing the lower Laguna Madre and spent two days tying the Mako fly. Before leaving to the Expo I rounded up flies from the Rio Grande Valley Fly Tying Club members. The flies were to be used by the Expo fly tying committee as door prizes. Contributing some south Texas coastal water flies were Dr. Jack Keller, Captain Bryan Robinson, Mark Machado, Charlie Villarreal, and myself. Although only Irma and I represented the Valley, the flies represented our excellent tiers.
At the fly tying area we got together with our great friend. Jere Anderson who this year received the Conservation Award from the International Federation of Fly Fishers. Jere is an accomplished fly tyer and has earned the Bronze Fly Tying Award. He's working on his Silver award and serves as an inspiration to all who want to improve their fly tying skills. Among the elite fly tiers who attended were Fred Hannie, Mike Morphew, Dutch Baugman, and many other incredible tyers. I wish I could have attended some of their sessions.
Irma and I had fun at both the Fly Fishing Film Festival, BBQ, and awards banquet. It was so much fun mingling and having a good time with friends. Fly fishers are a special group. They are service-oriented, always willing to help, and downright friendly. They also like to party.
This year was very special because I was privileged to be recognized by both the International Federation of Fly Fishers and the IFFF Texas Council. This summer I was awarded the Dick Nelson Fly Tying Teaching Award. This to me is a very big deal since some of the legends of fly tying are previous recipients. I received this award at the banquet. The Texas Council honored me with this year's Conservation Award. This recognition is very dear to me since it's something that I've worked on all of my life. This award plus the special recognition I received in July from the commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, George P. Bush made my year.
It was exciting and a great pleasure to meet Kelly Gallup, Jen Ripple and her wonderful mom. They were down-to-Earth folks that really love fly fishing and have a passion for sharing their knowledge with others. Kelly gave a warm up presentation at the BBQ and it was sparked with anecdotes and funny comments. I wasn't able to attend their formal presentations, but from what I heard from those who did, they were all awesome. And, Jen's mother stole the show every time we talked to her. She's so witty and fun!
Keira Quam and Molly Semenik were also around to make the Expo a great event. Keira and her Texas Parks and Wildlife folks are an important part of why Texas fisheries are so prized. Our angler education programs are steered well throughout the state by the many individuals who put their heart and soul in to teaching youth and families about the great outdoors.
Molly Semenik is one of the best female fly casters I have ever met. Better than that she is one of the best fly casting teachers I have ever met also. She is one of our IFFF Board of Governors and although she's from Montana, she fits very well here in Texas. Last year I had the opportunity to take a continuing fly fishing education class with her. Her teaching provides practical information and tips for all fly casters, beginners to advanced.
TFO representative, Kimberly Penick and Irma had a great time. They enjoyed laughing, bidding against each other at the live auction, and sipping moscato. Obviously girls have a way of bonding and I enjoyed their laughter and wit. Can't wait until next time.