By Walt Gasson
The bright lights of Denver
Were shining like diamonds
Like ten thousand jewels in the sky.
– “Denver” by Willie Nelson
I’m a big fan of the old Red-Headed Stranger, and I couldn’t help but think of this tune when I was on my way to my first in-person fly fishing show in two years. I felt like I was breaking out of solitary confinement.
And it got even better as it went on. Yep, the show was a lot smaller and a lot of the big names and many of the smaller names were MIA. Yep, it was heavy on Colorado-based businesses. Yep, the food was expensive and the parking situation was less than perfect. But after two years in lockup, who the hell cares? It was a reminder of how much I love this business and the people who make it what it is. Moreover, it was a reminder of how much of this business, even in the 21st century is about person to person contact.
The big news was the venue. The old Denver Merchandise Mart was, to put it bluntly, a dump. The carpets were frayed and the restrooms were nasty. You had to surrender any semblance of personal space upon entry. For a guy from Wyoming, where social distancing was invented, it was way too small for what that show had grown to be. The new venue – the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center out near DIA – is a big step up. What may be more important is that is gives the show room to grow. There was some grousing about the cost and the parking and whatnot, but this is the venue of the future for this show.
If the venue was the big news, the people were the big draw. I don’t know how many people I talked with – a lot, for sure. And to the person, the verdict was the same: It was just great to be back together. I talked to everyone from industry veterans like Jim Murphy from Pure Fishing and Steve McLaughlin from Front Range Anglers. I talked to young folks with emerging companies like Ethan Whitson from the Guide Network. My buddy Garrison Doctor from RepYour Water said it best: “This is what I missed. This is what makes it great – being here with people who love fly fishing as much as I do.”
Amen, brother. Amen.