Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Troutfest 2010

I love Townsend. Enveloped by the Tennessee foothills of the Smokies and situated near an entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the town is a welcomed contrast to the hustle and flow of the nearby mountain towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. It’s a sleepy place; laid-back and unpretentious, quiet and relatively void of commercialism. It’s also the host of a gem of a fly-fishing festival called Troutfest.

The event, held annually in Townsend, Tenn., is a fly-fishing exposition and fundraiser sponsored by the Little River Chapter of Trout Unlimited. One of the largest venues for fly anglers in the southeast U.S., Troutfest devotes all proceeds to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Fisheries Department, Friends of the Smokies Fisheries Scholarship Fund and other youth educational conservation projects. Troutfest is an extremely cool, highly-educational event that highlights the pursuit of fly-fishing by focusing on instruction, equipment and education of the craft.

This was my second year to participate as an artist/vendor in Troutfest, and quite literally, I lost sleep in anticipation of it. Friday night’s stay in the mountain-top cabin we rented brought little rest, as Betsy and I awaited the chance to meet new people, to learn more about the sport we love … and to hopefully, sell a few paintings.

On Saturday morning, weary, but faking it as best as I could, I helped Betsy set up our 10 x 10 booth area with an array of original paintings and limited-edition giclee prints.

[Note: There are two reasons why I would be one of the first people voted off the island on the TV show Survivor. One, I’m horribly grumpy when I’m hungry and two, I’m an absolute moron on limited sleep. However, unlike the islands Survivor participants inhabit, Troutfest sold caffeinated soft-drinks, allowing the opportunity for me to stay somewhat coherent for just a mere $3 worth of Diet Pepsi’s. Thank you PepsiCo, for your sweetly-uplifting beverages.]

Despite the threat of thunderstorms and torrential rain (what else?), the weather held off for the better part of the festival, allowing attendees to enjoy Troutfest’s offerings of expert instruction (the phenomenal Lefty Kreh, joining fellow legends Joe Humphries and Bob Clouser), fantastic fly-tying (my good friend David Perry held court for four hours on Saturday morning, entertaining his audience with an array of big-trout streamers), outstanding artwork, great food and live music.

Our booth partners – on one side, Wiley Henson promoted his cabins-for-rent in Idaho and Wyoming, while on the other side, Brent and Chris Bonar showcased some amazing custom-built fly-rods – were fantastic people who made the two-day festival even better than it should have been. Betsy and I were also thrilled to visit with friends we met at last year’s event, including fellow-artist Alan Folger (and his wife, Shirley), Ian and Charity Rutter and Townsend-based watercolorist MJ Montgomery. We also met some new friends and welcomed both existing (it was great to see you and the family, Sophia and Keith!) and new customers into our booth. Everyone in attendance was genuine, friendly and very interested in fishing … making the two days at Troutfest a fantastic and fast-moving couple of days.

Officially rested (sort of), packed-up and back in Murfreesboro, Betsy and I are very thankful for our time in the mountains. Townsend is one of our favorite places to go, and we’re incredible fans of Troutfest and the many Trout Unlimited volunteers who work so diligently to make the exposition so successful. Thanks Byron, Dan, Joe and the many TU folks who made Troutfest 2010 a big hit. We'll be back in 2011.

It wasn't all fly-fishing expo ... here are some other photos from our weekend in the mountains:

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