In March 2020, I attended the Fly Fishing Show in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In the two years since then, I haven’t been to any gathering larger than my family holiday get-togethers. As positive tests and infection rates are dropping and health protection mandates are being lifted, I am torn between uncertainty around travel and crowds and the excitement of getting back to some sense of normalcy. I have been reluctant to go to sporting events, movies, and other large events. Other than my children’s musical or sporting events, I have been either at home or fishing. It seemed fitting to me that attending the Fly Fishing Show would be a worthwhile event to attend and welcome myself back to events.
I wrote one of my first blogs about the sense of community I felt and an appreciation for what I learned from the experts that speak at the Fly Fishing Show. Walking through the crowded aisles in the Exhibition Hall yesterday, I had moments of claustrophobia, but exploring the booths of feathers, fly fishing gear, fly tying supplies, and information brought me back to a childlike excitement.
I met my friend Mark there, and we plotted out a schedule to sit in several seminars taught by Matt Grobert, George Daniel, Lou DiGena, Gary Borger, John Shaner, and Joe Humphreys. They were all very informative, welcoming, and open to questions. In between the structured talks, we walked through the Exhibition Hall, and I marveled at the expert fly tyers. I was able to have nice conversations with Tom Herr, Bob Romano, and Joe Humphreys in the Hall.
Talking with Joe Humphreys was especially exciting for me. Joe is a legend of fly fishing, leading the Fly Fishing Classes at Penn State, publishing three books and multiple videos all focused on passing along the knowledge and joy he has gained to younger generations. At the age of 93, Joe mentioned he was still fishing this past week and was looking forward to a great spring of fishing. His book, Trout Tactics, is a wonderful text on understanding streams, reading water, fishing tactics, and approaches for all conditions. I stood in a line to get a chance for him to sign my copy and to get a chance to thank him for helping me through his writing. He spoke to me for a few minutes, as he did with each person who waited for him. He signed a wonderful note in my book and stopped for a picture with me, even though he had already gone over his half-hour-long book-signing time slot by over an hour. It was a joy and an honor for me to spend a few moments with a Legend. He joked that when he was referred to as a legend, that it just meant he was old. I won’t forget those moments with him.
This week my Trout Unlimited Chapter lost a stalwart and talented board member, Jim Tingey. Jim was a retired elementary school teacher and tremendous artist. His commitment to conservation and education followed a similar path to that of Joe Humphreys. Jim participated in Trout in the Classroom activities for our TU chapter and particularly loved the City Catch event in Baltimore. As a conservationist and advocate for catch-and-release fishing, he created Catch and Release Artwork as a “flat taxidermist service” for memorializing special fishing events. His watercolor paintings brought to life the vibrancy of beautiful animals. He was a wonderful advocate for passing along knowledge and his joy of fishing, as well as connecting young people with the outdoors. Even as his health was fading, he continued to commit his energy to helping young people and preserving our streams and riparian forests.
This week reminded me of the importance of sharing our knowledge through maintaining our commitment to conservation and community. Joe and Jim have exemplified that commitment through their lives. Attending The Fly Fishing Show rejuvenates my feeling of connection and support from like-minded people who share similar passions and goals. I am grateful for the time I spent with Jim and appreciate how his work and art helped so many others.