What makes this show so exciting for many of us who live the fishing life - or write about it - is the opportunity to view the new products for the coming year. They are usually unveiled at ICAST / IFTD each summer. For me, it's also about seeing and testing a lot of products that the public usually doesn't see. It's sort of a crusade of mine - to enlighten the fly fishing world.
You see, this all started with a column I write for Louisiana Sportsman (my Fly Lines column). Many years back, I had looked at several magazines at new products and basically what I read was verbatim from the companies' press releases. I felt this was "fake news" and that consumers deserved better.
I attended the Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF) Southern Conclave each year, which is held in the first full weekend of October. It's the first major public fly fishing show following IFTD. At that time, most of the major rod companies, and several of the reel and line companies exhibited at Southern. So I used Southern as my opportunity to examine and test the new products and write up on them.
These columns were wildly popular - and still are. Trouble is, some years back there was a rift between the FFF Southern Council and their show's exhibitors. Don't know what it was. All I knew is that suddenly I found myself without ample material. Despite the added cost - and valuable vacation time - I started attending IFTD.
IFTD proved to be a gold mine of resources. As good as it was, when AFFTA - the organization that puts on Fly Tackle Dealer - decided to merge it's show with ICAST, the good got awesome! You see, fly fishing or conventional fishing tackle is only a fraction of the overall fishing universe. Accessories, clothing, travel gear, maps, coolers, etc, etc, are a larger subset of both. I saw very, very little of those at the original IFTD.
Which is why I'm a little saddened right now. Back in March, AFFTA announced that in 2019 and 2020, they would split from ICAST and hold their show in Denver in October. There were many solid business reasons to join with ICAST. And one big reason to depart - "Orlando in July". Apparently, not only is ICAST returning to Orlando in July for 2019 and 2020, but on Tuesday they'll be voting to extend it in Orlando to 2024. Yes, 2024!
The majority of AFFTA members are located in the West, Midwest and Northeast. I realize that traveling to Orlando during the middle of "SweatFest" is no fun. Much less having to put up with the worst traffic east of Houston (only a million families here for all the theme parks).
Tomorrow is the first day. Although the exposition doesn't start until Wednesday (and runs thru Friday) IFTD will have a Demo Day in the morning, while ICAST has an "On The Water" event thru midday. I hope to test several new rods and compare them to existing models. And get it done before the midday heat (it was 97 today!).