Fly-fishing, Shows, Tackle

The Sportfish Show 2019

Over the past few years, I’ve found that the Sportfish Show at Theale has quietly become one of the fixed points of my fishing season.

If anything, I spend less time at shows than I used to – if you’re not careful, you can end up investing more of your precious free time chin-wagging in marquees or conference centres than actually stalking fish on the river bank, and surely that’s not the point.

Free time needs to be allocated wisely, especially in fishing season (which, if you take grayling and coarse fish into account, is now effectively year-round) and I’m less and less inspired by the big, generic country shows, where fishing has become an obviously poor relation of the made-to-measure shotguns and luxury garden furniture, and even stalwart book-sellers scarcely feel it’s worthwhile to attend.

By contrast, the newer generation of focused fly-fishing shows don’t demand thousands of pounds in pitch fees from nichier designers and makers, who might be worried enough about petrol prices and somewhere to stay overnight – and I think the friendly, egalitarian feel of the Sportfish Show has done a lot to drive this new approach. (Hell, I benefited from it myself, when I spent a day selling Urbantrout caps and copies of my Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing to a constant stream of INNS-bashing early adopters in 2014).

So, true to form, this year’s show offered the chance to meet startups such as Vicuna Dubbing, as well as bump into established celebrities like Jeremy Wade and Simon Gawesworth, who took time out from launching new books and explaining fly-line tapers to go head to head, lure vs fly, in a slow trickle of early mayflies from the Haywards Farm lake.

Pete Tyjas and Marc Bale were there on the Rio stand, and I finally managed to meet the Ripplebox inventor Josh Richards after a couple of years of back-and-forth by email and social media. Peter McLeod, Paul Procter, Nick Measham and Claire Zambuni were there too, all keen to discuss new projects, and I had a good chat with Geoff Wood about the power and accuracy of the Orvis Helios 3. Geoff Wilcox reported huge success from the river restoration project I helped to deliver near Bulford on the Avon last summer, and even Charles R-W skidded in for a few moments, en route to a mayfly hatch somewhere much further west (and who could really blame him?)

The morning crowds thinned out quickly, but after all that socialising, it was quite a relief to sit down with a pizza and beer with the Bloxham PR squad, and watch lots of kids catching their first trout from the new Kingfisher Pond.

Every Sportfish Show feels a little different, depending on the weather and the mix of exhibitors and hot new products, and getting the chance to mix with the most creative minds in the fly-fishing world is more than enough to keep me coming back year after year. I’ve already got the second weekend of May 2020 inked into my diary!

(Photos 1, 3 & 4: Bloxham PR)