International Fly Tyer's Symposium 1997
By Martin Joergensen
The night before the show we agreed to check out the Meadowlands Hilton in Secaucus where it's held and pick up our name tags.
Immediately upon entering the lobby we started bumping into all kinds of nice people - old friends and new friends. We proceeded to the tying area where we were met by more friends. There was a lot of shaking hands and saying 'Good to meet you'. One particular hand shaker was Steven Schweitzer who I had looked very much forward to meeting. He shifted his Gin & Tonic to the left hand introduced himself with a firm shake of the other one. We immediately clicked. How could it be different? Both fly tyers, both fly fishers, both into computers and both caretakers of the best fly fishing web site in the world - at least that was what we told each other - repeatedly.
As it so often happens, we ended up in the hotel bar sipping beer and drinks, joining the gathering crowd, talking until much too late.
The next morning was set up time for me. I don't bring much stuff to these shows - at least that's what I tell myself. And setting up for some tying demonstration can be done in no time.
The crowd started hitting the show immediately. And a good crowd it was. It felt bigger than last year, and certainly demonstrated a lot of interest in the tying. I had a great time tying whatever I could produce in my vise, and the spectators seemed to have a nice time too.
As Bob Petti so precisely puts it, a show like this is 'sensory overload' to anybody interested in fly tying. You see so much, talk so much an meet so many nice people, that I at least have a difficult time keeping track. Hence the following impressions are totally chaotic, out of chronology and most certainly directly wrong in some places - but that's what shows and people do to me.
At a certain time within short after the show opened, the first names started to pop up. 'Hi Martin!, I'm so-and-so from FF@', 'Are you the Joergensen with that web page?', 'We e-mailed a while back' and so on. That's when the fun begins!
A few events do stand out though. First one is Hans W's 52nd birthday. Somtime during the morning of saturday a couple of gents stepped up to my table, handed me some small notes and introduced themselves: Richard Ross and Andrew 'Drewmeister' Nix. Both well known FF@ members, and as it should reveal itself - pranksters in the true FF@ tradition.
The note said that a birthday party was to be held that same noon. The lucky person? Hans Weilenmann! And he had no idea that it was his birthday... and it wasn't!
The joke was thought out by a merry bunch of FF@ pranksters, and was delicately staged and executed with a great effect. There were at least 20 people gathered to sing a song, and Hans was handed a small - very small - cake with all too few candles. I missed one thing though; the gifts... All that celebrating and no gifts?
Well, Hans seemed surprised but happy enough. And he had enough sense to get the picture and the name of everyone present. So we never know what we have coming from his hand. One is for sure though: the pictures can alle be seen in Hans' mug shot gallery.
The FF@ prank was a perfect kickoff for the FF@ lunch wich had been planned well ahead of the show. Tables had been booked well in advance in the Hotel restaurant and we got to sit close together at a few tables with a good view of The Meadowlands. With seats and food came more calm conditions and a time to assess the crowd. And what a fine bunch of people. A few of the listers weren't able to join us - amongst those Harrison Steeves and Tony Spezio - but we sure had a grand time anyway.
There was a lot of talking, pictures taken and as usual when FF@-friends meet, it's like meeting old friends that you have known for a very long time and meet with frequently. As it is so often pointed out, the FF@ factor is there, and people really do, as we say in Denmark, 'go into each others with wooden shoes', meaning there's no shyness and no formalities, just straightforward friendship.
There was also the traditional group shot to be taken. This took a while as these things do. It seems like every camera in the room has to take at least two of those. I didn't take one, but several can be seen online. Look at Hans' or Steven's.
A lot of us had met each other before, and most of us had exchanged private or list e-mails to arrange things. So it was no surprise to most of us that Bob Perry and Hans Weilenmann had some sweet - albeit very different - rods to demonstrate. Hans had brought some very beautiful bamboo rods that made saliva drivel. Bob's rods were more affordable; small glass rods, excellent for the local type of stream fishing.
This demonstration must have stirred the fantasy of some of the other guests and the waiters in the place. A dozen or so fishers trying a couple of rods, means that a few have to do without. The combination of pantomime and ballet is indeed very graceful.
After this great experience it was back to tying, more talking, exchanging flies and lies and so on for one and a half more days.
Altogether an excellent show with many, many memorable moments.