April 13th, 2014 berrybrothersguides



For those of you that attended the Sowbug Roundup, it was yet another flawless gathering of fly tyers that has become the best fly tying event in the southeastern United States. The truly miraculous thing was that it went off without a hitch or any drama. The North Arkansas Fly Fishers, the sponsoring group and our local fly fishing club, just makes it look easy. The truth of the matter is that this show doesn’t just happen. It is meticulously planned and carefully orchestrated.


Yesterday I attended the last meeting of the 2014 Sowbug Committee and the first meeting of the 2015 Sowbug Committee. It was the same meeting. Terry Briggs, the 2014 chairman, started the meeting. He called on each subcommittee chairman for an overview of their area responsibility, an analysis of what went well and to discuss any areas for improvement. All were encouraged to offer constructive criticism.


We went over the revenue and expenses and compared them to the previous years (from 1998 forward) and discussed trends, changes and possible changes for 2015. The show is still growing. Based on how other fly fishing shows have declined in recent years, there is some concern among the committee that we should tweak the festival to keep it growing. At the same time, there is a respect for the past and a commitment to continue some of the great traditions that have made the festival a major success for almost two decades.


We discussed the vendors and how to draw new ones as space becomes available. There was quite a discussion on how to best use the space and optimize it for future festivals. We continue to add to our base group of fly tyers and are always looking for new tyers.


We talked about the seminars and how to bring in some new talent. One idea is for my wife, Lori, to teach fly casting every day instead of having multiple classes on one day. One seminar that will remain unchanged is mine on How to Fish the White and Norfork Rivers. We also talked about how to soundproof the seminar room.


There was quite a bit of talk about the Friday night tyers dinner. We want to make it more inclusive by bringing in the general public. That means finding a new venue and the possibility of having an open bar. There was a bit of talk about having a small auction of premium items at the dinner.


I talked about the success of our first fly tying contest and plans for growing the event in the future. The plan is to market it more effectively on YouTube, Face book and the North Arkansas Fly Fishers website. There is also some interest in adding new fly categories to the contest.


Near the end of the meeting Mike Tipton took over chairing the meeting to schedule the meetings for the 2015 festival. We will meet every month to plan and coordinate the next festival.


Success is no accident. It is the result of a lot of work and this group is ready for the challenge. They want to keep the festival fresh and current while maintaining a respect for the traditions of the past. I think that the Sowbug Roundup will improve with age. If you attended this year’s festival and have a suggestion, please contact me.


John Berry is a fly fishing guide in Cotter, Arkansas and has fished our local streams forover thirty years.

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