Despite an iffy weekend in terms of weather (hot and muggy on Saturday, rainy and cold on Sunday), the 2009 Troutfest fly-fishing exposition proved to be a big success. Featuring a blend of fly-fishing legends (Lefty Kreh, Joe Humphries, Bob Clouser, David Perry), wannabe legends and those just interested in the sport itself, the festival was an impressive conglomeration of some of the most friendly, genuine people we've ever met.
My wife, Betsy, was along for the trip, and we worked diligently in doggedly humid conditions on Saturday morning in order to set up my booth. We were one of 10 vendors -- artists, crafts people, fly-tiers and guide services -- under the big tent on the front lawn of the Townsend (Tenn.) Visitor Center. Nearby, over a dozen individual tents housed other artists, bamboo-rod builders, outfitters and outdoor-clothing dealers.
We were very fortunate to be positioned among some extremely talented and equally friendly people under the big tent. Our next-door neighbors, Alan and Shirley Folger, were our BFFs for the event, as we traded stories, advice, snacks, hay (more on that later) and coffee. Alan is a very-talented artist, who is as hopelessly addicted to fishing and fish art as I am. His preferred medium is colored pencil, which provided a nice contrast -- and complement -- to my artwork ... and vice versa. As a result, we both enjoyed a successful event, despite a Sunday that was pretty much washed-out by the remnants of a mid-May cold front (blackberry
In fact, when we arrived on Sunday, a Saturday night downpour had turned our tent into a swampy mess. But, thanks to a little help from Alan and Shirley and Ila and Delaney Perry (and Betsy's work in tracking down some Troutfest volunteers), we covered the near-ankle-deep muck with several bales of hay. While that resulted in a certain barn-like feel (and smell) to the tent, it was much better than the alternative.
I met so many great people, including some fantastic new customers, over the two days in Townsend. Michael and Justin, who were our other next-door neighbors, were enjoying their first event of this sort, showcasing Michael's acrylic trout-themed artwork and Justin's pen-and-ink renderings of trophy brown trout. Justin is also an accomplished taxidermist ... and someone I'll reference to some of my duck-hunting buddies (who, judging from the decor of their homes, "shoot to stuff").
I also had a great time getting to know Nathan, Amy, Ian, Charity, Randy, Nes, MJ, Carol, Doug and the rest of the vendors situated nearby. Everyone was very dedicated to their craft -- and all were uniquely talented. I was honored to be among them.
My good friend and fly-fishing guide, David Perry of Southeastern Fly, and his family were also in attendance, with David providing three hours of fly-tying demonstrations in the fly-tying tent. I'm sure he gained a few friends -- and probably several clients -- thanks to his accommodating style and extreme knowledge of the sport.
The festival-coordinators -- especially Byron from Little River Outfitters, Joe and Dan -- did an amazing job juggling the challenges presented by the weather and the crowds.
Troutfest 2009 was a big success, and it's something I'm looking forward to returning to in 2010. With the event finished and Betsy and I exhausted, we're going to enjoy a couple of days in the mountains ... and maybe get out and fish a little too.
Tight lines everyone.