The Marlborough Fly Fishing Show

A couple weeks ago, I* made my way to the Marlborough Fly Fishing Show. It was awesome.

But, unlike the boat, sport, and outdoors shows of my youth in middle America, this show had a much different feel. The word that comes to mind was concise, and it was such a good show, too.

Like everybody else, I was excited to see the national names and the possibly pick up a gizmo and tying materials at cut-rate prices. But the thing that stood out the most about the show was the amazing amount of local guides, tiers, and shops that filled up the booths.

I wanted to share some of the great things I saw to the folks that weren’t able to make it out.

1. Local

It seems to me the best part of the show was seeing all of the great local people, who were representing the area. I have recently adopted New England as home and have been more than stoked by the good fly fishing compared to where I moved from in the panhandle of Texas.

One of the booths was held by The Deerfield Fly Shop , which has been my go-to to load up on info and gear before hitting the Deerfield or tribs. If you want some souped-up articulated streamers custom-formulated for the Deerfield, get ahold of local tier Jay Aylward. I ran into him at the show, tying up some awesome Gongas.

Jay Aylward putting together some gongas.

If you are in the eastern section of MA, get hold of Geoff Klane of Brackish Flies. He was whipping up some awesome flies for sea-run trout, and I fell in love with a Danish pattern he had called “Agerhønen.” I can’t wait to try it out. He also guides all over the eastern half of MA.

I also got to meet one of my favorite fly fishing artists: Ryan Keene. I love his pieces, and, if you didn’t know, he is originally from the area (and, a super-nice dude, too).

2. Conservation and Community

I was happy to see some of the busiest booths weren’t those with the bargain fly bins, but, those covering conservation topics. These were organizations such Stripers Forever, Massachusetts Environmental Trust, Native Fish Coalition, and several chapters of TU, all of which were doing some great outreach.

The group that was a real stand out, though, was Project Healing Waters. I talked to one of their members, named Charles Mezger, a Vietnam vet himself. He was very passionate about helping the new generation of veterans cope with injuries (mental and physical) by helping them learn to tie flies and fly fish. It’s a really neat program and they mentioned that they can always use volunteers, especially for helping with fly tying. Get ahold of the New England Chapter if you have any interest.

3. Dreams

From Ragna’s and Matthia’s own admission (and verifying my initial thoughts), the Massachusetts show was pretty small. But, also, by their own admission, “It was the best show [they] had” during the tour so far. There is enough water in Massachusetts alone (let alone New England) for me to cover in one lifetime, but with flights often below $500 to Iceland, a boy can dream.


Probably my favorite thing I saw though had to be these:

These fly boxes were made by Jay Burge of Finest Fly Tying Benches of Colorado. The craftsmanship was just amazing, and I loved the details. He also makes just fabulous benches. He told me that one of the benches probably takes about 16 hours start to finis,h and he uses upwards of 50 different hardwoods for all the different benches and boxes he puts out.

I, being the poor graduate student that I am, picked up a box even though I wanted one of the tying benches. I didn’t really have the extra money for it, but thought they were just too cool to pass up. Remember, a boy has to have something to dream about, right?

C:\Users\Joseph Drake\Downloads\IMG_20180120_123007.jpg

Full disclosure: I get nothing from these recommendations or references. I just met a whole bunch of really great people that took to time to talk to a stranger and are working hard to make their and others’ fly fishing pursuits become realities.

It was a great show. Hope to see you there next year.

*Hi everybody, I’m Joe Drake. I am really excited to join the team. I have been described as a “recovering field biologist”. I am a student at UMass Amherst, who is presently working towards my Ph.D. in the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Before I made it to New England, I grew up in Southern Indiana where I did cut my teeth fishing for ‘gills.  When I’m not studying or working, you can find me out in the woods, on the river, or in my workshop.

During a hiatus from college, I worked for various federal agencies and universities across the Western U.S. (living out of the back of my beat-up Ford Ranger) for four years. Although the West stole my heart, I am in love with the East’s native brookies.  I am constantly trying to discover the next thin blue lines with those forgiving fish that can help me feel like I can tie a fly worth fishing.

I have also been known to use (GASP) both graphite and fiberglass rods (isn’t that a thing people get worked up about?). I also think indicators are just bobbers, and, sometimes you need a bobber.

Keep up to date with my work or get in touch at my personal blog or on Twitter at @VAN_DLL.


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11 thoughts on “The Marlborough Fly Fishing Show

  1. I agree, excellent show! Not only did I leave with some new goodies I learned some new techniques for tying and fishing. Can’t wait to fish. Has anyone been out on the rivers in southern NH? Heard it’s going up to 50 on Saturday so I’m thinking of trying some nymphs I tied. Not sure where to go?

  2. I wasn’t able to go to the show, but appreciate reading your report, Joe. Good craftsmanship displayed in those pictures. Salmon fishing in Iceland sounds like a good proposition. Is that $500 flight there the round trip price?

    1. Depending on when you fly and how early you book, there are some flight you can find round trip for ~$500! Don’t know how long that luck will hold but fingers crossed that it’s long enough for me to afford a trip.

  3. I look forward to the show every year. My son loves to go too, which is fun, and my daughter is now forcing my hand to take her. So I usually end up there with the whole fam on one of the days :). We all had a good time on Friday this year.

    1. That’s a great family outing! So important to be together, if possible, I’ve found. Some of my best memories involve fly fishing with my children.

  4. Hi Joe, good report. I manned the MA/RI TU booth on Friday and met many good folks interested in trout and conservation. This was my third year doing the show for my local chapter: Pioneer Valley TU, which would be your chapter if you were a member. Remember, all TU events and meetings are open to the public, so you are certainly welcome to attend our meetings. In fact, our February monthly meeting is this coming Tuesday, the 13th, at the Holyoke Elks Lodge (up the hill from the Holyoke Mall) and this will be our annual Fly Tying Extravaganza with a dozen plus guys demonstrating their favorite flies, at least one fly shop (Mike Didonna of Deerfield Fly Shop can’t make it this year), custom rod makers, bamboo rod collectors, and some real deals on flies and tying materials. More info on our Facebook page: . I’ve met several UMass students while fishing the Swift, and wonder if we have met there? I look forward to your next posting.

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