Interview: Fly Fishing Show co-director Ben Furimsky

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When we were planning the current issue’s special section on fly fishing in Patagonia, we looked around for the best places to distribute the magazine and we could surely find no place better than the Fly Fishing Show. Started more than two decades ago in Somerset, New Jersey, today the Fly Fishing Show is the largest fly fishing fair in the world. This year, from January to March, Fly Fishing Show events will be held in seven cities across the U.S.  Fortunately for us, the Fly Fishing Show also agreed to be an official sponsor of Patagon Journal and is distributing the magazine. Patagon Journal executive editor Jimmy Langman recently interviewed Fly Fishing Show co-director Ben Furminisky about the expo and Furminisky’s views in general on the sport.

PJ: Who typically goes to the Fly Fishing Show? And any plans to expand outside of the U.S.?
FURIMSKY: The Fly Fishing Show is the world’s largest expo dedicated to the sport of fly fishing.  It started when the current director, Chuck Furimsky, and Barry Serviente combined two smaller shows they produced to form the Somerset, New Jersey, Fly Fishing Show. The Fly Fishing Show is open to anyone interested in fly fishing.  The shows bring in a huge number of new fly fishers each year, and many of the attendees return every year.  Exhibitors include, but are not limited to, manufacturers, retail shops, lodges, guide services, booking agents, fly tiers, and artists.  Currently we have no plans to expand outside of the U.S., but many international exhibitors and attendees come to the show.

PJ: Why do you like fly fishing, and what are your favorite spots?
FURIMSKY: I have been fly fishing for 36 years now.  I enjoy fishing anywhere and for anything, but really favor sight fishing.  I enjoy fishing the flats for permit, tarpon and bonefish, but have a love for stripers in the North East.  I just returned from my first time to New Zealand and really enjoyed the sight fishing on the South Island.  And I'd have to mention my home river, the Gunnison.  I enjoy fly fishing because of the challenge it presents, the places it takes you, and what you can learn about the environment while participating in the sport.
PJ: Have you ever been fishing in Patagonia?
FURIMSKY: Yes, I've been to Patagonia once.  I traveled from Puerto Montt to Coyhaique in Chile and then over the border to the Esquel area.  It was a great trip.  Having only touched on a small amount of the area and only one time, I'd hate to compare.  But I would say it was beautiful and uncrowded, with lots of variety in the fishing.  I'd like to venture further south and explore more remote areas in the future.

PJ: How has the fly fishing industry fared during the recent economic downturn in the U.S.?
FURIMSKY: This is a tough question and you could get very different answers from anyone you ask.  For some, it has done well, but required more effort.  That is the approach we took with the Fly Fishing Show.  We have had to work very hard, but have showed strong attendance through the down economy.  I have seen great signs of improvement.  We just finished our Denver show and many of the exhibitors reported record sales.  Not only were there record sales, but the number was spread out more because of more exhibitors than ever.
PJ: Does the Fly Fishing Show's growth mirror a growth in the industry as a whole? FURIMSKY: The Fly Fishing Show is more of an indicator than mirroring the growth.  Since our shows start in the beginning of the year, they indicate the seasons to come.  We hope to continue to grow the attendance at the Show, bringing more new participants to the sport, and put on an evolving, entertaining, and educational gathering for fly fishers.

PJ: What are some of the highlights of this year's Fly Fishing Show events??
FURIMSKY: This year we have brought back the International Fly Fishing Film Festival to six of our seven locations.  At every location we have special classes for women and kids.  There is an increase in art exhibits, and bamboo, including the Rocky Mt. Bamboo Revival in Denver.  Our extensive list of some of the best fly tiers continues to expand and we have more seminars at any show than anyone could see in one weekend.  The shows are a highlight in themselves.  I only wish I had more time to enjoy them.