Muchas gracias a mi primo, Stevie, who informed me of this event. These shows are strange. You never know if it’s going to consist solely of old men and the smell of moth balls (which for the most part, described this place to a T). However, due to the awesome lineup of speakers, a few of the younger than 50 crowd attended. This, in no way implies that I possess a hatred for the geriatric community. I simply enjoy hanging out with folks my age from time-to-time.
When we arrived the said old community of volunteers and diehard members of the local Trout Unlimited (TU) chapter took our $5 entrance fee. They were very polite and eager to help us out in whatever way possible. We walked around and checked out the various vendors. I’m always slightly reserved when I walk from vendor to vendor. I don’t know why? Maybe, because I hate selling things to people who don’t need them and therefore, hate the sales pitch. It’s a strange, almost obligatory, communication that seldom leads to anything memorable. Usually, after I awkwardly walk past a few times, I approach, engage, and converse if something strikes my interests. I also don’t like to look foolish, which is easy to do when discussing fly fishing. It’s not that I don’t study. Simply put, and a little cliché, the more I learn, the less I know – that is, in relation to fly fishing.
After waiting on Mr. Cherwek to wrap up his presentation – only ten minutes behind schedule – we sat-in, or should I say, stood-in on Colby Trow’s talk. The lack of time management skills in our society always amazes me. It’s crazy; people think it rude to interrupt someone who is taking more time than allotted. However, what is rude, truly is making me, the upcoming speaker, and 50 other people wait, just because you didn’t time your presentation. Have some fucking respect, dammit! Rant over. Sorry about that…
The venue offered about 30 chairs and they were all taken when Mr. Trow took the floor. He is comparatively young, – for a fly fisherman. He and his twin brother, created an empire with respect to fly fishing here in Virginia. With standing room only, a shitty sounds system (seriously, invest in a decent PA or borrow one from your old washed-up musician friend), and eager ears we listened intently.
As we typed notes into our iPhones, Colby discussed the various fishing opportunities in Virginia. He started small, with mountain streams (some of my favorite places to get lost for an afternoon or weekend). Then moved to freestone creeks, such as the Jackson River tail waters. The Jackson is both famous and infamous in Virginia for different fishing-related reasons – a discussion for another time, perhaps. More importantly, it’s on my to do list. Hopefully I’ll fish it sooner rather than later.
Next, he moved on to spring creeks. Spring creeks are pretty interesting, because the water flow generates through springs – hence, the name – and therefore, remains a similar temperature throughout the year. This offers year round fishing. Mossy Creek, is probably the best well known of these spring fed creeks. Increased access and creek restorations greatly increased the fishing quality. The Trow brothers played a large part in making this happen. Furthermore, they even named their fly shop after the pasture-lined creek.
From here, Colby wrapped up his presentation early. Thanks again Mr. Lack-of-time-management skills. I’m not blaming the previous speaker entirely. Maybe the day started late, or the first speaker took too long. There are endless possible reasons…So, Colby informed everyone that he would be happy to discuss the smallmouth, musky, and carp fishing on the larger rivers (James, Rappahannock, Shenandoah) if we stopped by the Mossy Creek Fly Fishing vendor booth.
When Colby finished, the crowd thinned out a lot. This is not to say that the next speaker didn’t have much to offer. It is to say that Mossy Creek Fly Fishing and the Trow brothers are pretty well known and respected. Stevie and I managed to grab a couple of seats pretty close to the front. Beau Beasley, a retired fire fighter, writes a lot about fly fishing. He is most well known for a couple books he authored. Fly Fishing Virginian and Fly Fishing the Mid-Atlantic. The former I read extensively during my first winter as a genuine fly fisherman.
Beasley conversed with us about popular fly patterns that worked well in Virginia. Most of the patterns were, for lack of a better term, multi-species friendly. That is, for example, they worked for smallmouth bass and trout. From clawdads and critter mites, to Walt’s popper and a not so multi-species friendly articulated musky pattern. Beau does well with engaging the crowd. He is very animated, and involved. He will be the first to tell you that when it comes to fly fishing, he doesn’t know it all, but would love to help you find the answers!
When I say conversed with us, I mean it. He didn’t use a PowerPoint presentation. He walked around, made eye contact, and asked questions. I don’t know if this is the best way to learn, but it’s up there. I tend to like an eclectic approach to just about anything, but he presented the information well. The jokes seemed they were rehearsed almost too well. There is always room for improvement.
For lunch we hit up Tippy’s Taco House across from the hospital in Warrenton. It was everything a little taco joint should be. Cheap, quick, and relatively delicious. I went for one of my favorites, fish tacos.
First off, this dude knows poppers. For those of you not in-the-know, poppers, or popping bugs are a type of fly that sit on top of the water and you pull on the line to make the fly “pop” along the surface. To steal a line for Beau’s presentation, the reason this is such a productive way to fish lies in the fact that sound travels four times faster in water than it does in air. So, when the “pop” takes place, lots of our aquatic adversaries can hear it. Also, and quite elegantly put, this is why you don’t catch shit when you wade through the water with heavy feet, or why you come away from a hotspot empty handed because you made a lot of noise accidentally slamming your paddle into the size of your canoe/kayak.
Also, as a side note, Stevie and I were only accompanied by maybe ten other individuals for this presentation. Granted, he was the last speaker of the day, but it was only around 2 PM. Dinner ain’t that early and Walt is relatively well known. I thought more would be in attendance. I’m glad I attended.
Walt’s Poppers: they’re quiet famous. He started tying these fish catching cork poppers about 58 years back. The reason he started tying them? Back in 1957 (if my elementary school math still holds sound) Walt could buy a loaf of bread around 20 cents. He could buy a popping bug for around $1.20. So, you do the math. These little guys were crazy expensive! In the modern day (and adjusting for inflation of course) this would run you anywhere between $6-$12 a pop (pun most certainly intended). Depending on what kind of bread you buy, that’s a hard pill to swallow.
So, Walt, being a friend of the blue collar man, and probably one himself (although, he didn’t specify) decided to start making popping bugs. He simply couldn’t afford to keep paying the price and he wasn’t about to give up fishing. He struggled with the proper techniques and equipment as do most individual when they set out to learn something they know very little about. Eventually he became an expert at making poppers and made a name for himself along the way. Throughout his long and ever-present career as a fly tying expert, he has received royalties from several companies who produce his popper and worked with awesome individuals in the fly fishing community. Strangely, when I Googled him, I didn’t get a lot of information. I found an article that Beau Beasley wrote and look forward to getting a copy. I would enjoy learning more about Walt and his fly tying/fishing experiences.
When Walt gives presentations, he generally tells people how to tie the flies. However, for reasons somewhat unknown, and for the very first time, Walt decided to tells us what materials he uses and more importantly where to get them. This is like a world-class chef who has one very famous recipe. The recipe is well known, but without the vegetables from a specific location or the herbs and spices from grandmother’s garden, the recipe doesn’t quite work. Walt gave us his grandmother’s garden. He gave us his GRANDMOTHER’S GARDEN!
He didn’t specify if we could share this information, but I think I’ll keep this one relatively private for now. If you really want it, I’ll email it to you as long as you promise not to mass media blast it. Additionally, my notes aren’t perfect. He said the reason for telling dealt with him being contacted by an author who wanted to write a book about creating popping bug and other top water fly tying patterns. However, Walt wasn’t comfortable giving his ingredients list out to this guy. So, maybe he just wanted to share it with a few well intention-ed fly fishing enthusiasts who weren’t trying to get rich off of someone’s life work? Maybe, since he lived in the Warrenton area when he first started tying the popper, he thought he would share it in the same location? Maybe he’s terminal and wanted to share it before he left? Hopefully, it’s not the latter, unless he himself is willing and ready.
Truth be told, I don’t know why he shared this information with us, but I do know one thing. The recipe and the supply list is not the simplest. Even though I heard it from the man himself, I doubt I will ever attempt to recreate the process with as much attention-to-detail as Walt puts into these poppers. A little info here: he does 6 layers of paint, lacquer, etc… on his poppers. 6 layers!
Interesting note: One of the famous colors that Walt ties is a blue popper. The color is hard to match and the only way Walt matches it every time is by “leaving a little left over from the previous batch”. Then, eyeballing it with the new batch, he proceeds. Sounds risky to me… However, Walt didn’t created this blue popping bug. A friend of his that lived down in Richmond, Va. did. The gentleman from Richmond, whose name I neglected to type into my iPhone was in his nineties around the turn of the previous century. Harry Murray contacted Walt to get some of these blue poppers. Walt thought he should get them from the creator of the pattern down in Richmond. However, by this time the gentleman was blind and could no longer tie the pattern. Therefore, Walt took over and began tying them, but he wanted us to know this color was not his original work and that the credit belonged to someone else. Walt’s a very humble man. I like that.
Walt went over on his allotted time, but he was the last speaker. So, I didn’t mind in the slightest…Stevie and I wondered over to Mossy Creek’s booth and spoke with Colby about chasing some carp. I recently sat in on a presentation by Dan Dutton of River Rock Outfitters and Falmouth Flats Fly Fishers, and he mentioned setting fly fishing goals. Well, my goal this year is to catch black crappie and carp. The former should be easier than the latter, hypothetically speaking, but you never know. Colby recommended some techniques and flies. He was helpful, very relaxed, and authentic when it comes to fly fishing.
Then we headed over the Beau Beasley’s booth. He was nice and I introduced myself. We previously chatted via email and Facebook about his event, the Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival which takes place this Spring. If you’re available, you should attend too. The classes, speakers, and vendor lineup is pretty amazing. He sold out all 30 copies of his book, Fly Fishing Virginia. At $30 a pop he made a nice little chunk of change on those babies.
For our last stop of the afternoon, we made our way over to Walt’s booth and picked up a bunch of his poppers. These babies are authentic and tied by Mr. Cary himself. At only $2.50 a piece it was a deal too good to miss. Especially, after hearing about the time commitment necessary to make them. People will tell you, these poppers by Walt last for a very long time. You can buy poppers from just about anywhere – even Walmart (link not provided on purpose) – and they will work. But, the paint will chip, the legs might come off, and the hook may come out. With over 5 decades of experience tying these popper, Walt’s won’t break easily. Enough said.