The Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival celebrated its 21st anniversary on January 15-16, 2022, at the state fairgrounds in Doswell. At the new year’s first in-person retail fly-fishing event, nearly 90 vendors–from lodges, fly shops, guide services, artists, and specialty food vendors to multiple wineries and a distillery–catered to anglers of all skill levels and from all walks of life.
Weekend festivities kicked off in style when more than 40 women from seven states gathered for a Women Anglers’ Pre-Festival Meet & Greet sponsored by Take Me Fishing. Most of the attendees were brand new to the quiet sport, and several had driven long distances (coming from as far away as Ohio, for example) to meet other female anglers. “We’re serious about reaching out to women anglers and first-time fly fishers,” said Festival Director Beau Beasley. “That’s why we doubled the number of beginner casting classes we offered in 2022 with expert caster Wanda Taylor.” Even so, every spot in every one of Taylor’s classes was snapped up. Almost every student in Jen Ripple’s “Becoming an Independent Woman Angler” class was a novice, picking up a fly rod for the very first time. “Our attendees know,” continued Beasley, “that our vendors are friendly and our instructors are ego-free experts who are willing to help novices learn at their own pace.”
Happy to be out of their houses and talking shop, attendees were ready and willing to buy quality gear from some of the region’s top retailers. “We always do well at the Virginia Fly & Wine,” said Colby Trow, owner of famed Mossy Creek Fly Fishing. “Every year I come in thinking that we can’t have a better sales year than last year–and every year I’m proven wrong. We absolutely crushed it again this year. Eventually I stopped even trying to keep up with transactions. It was insanely good.”
Norvise owner Tim O’Neill concurred: “This year’s crowd was very eager to learn and to buy. We had our best-ever one-day sales record in our company’s history; at times it was all we could do to keep up. In short, it was crazy good.” Other vendors also reported record sales.
“After a hiatus because of pandemic lockdowns, our vendors and attendees were eager to get out and get their lives back,” said Beasley. “I expected a rush–until I saw the weather forecast. What blew me away was that folks turned out in the face of a winter storm, which we don’t always handle with aplomb here in Virginia.”
With a successful Virginia Fly & Wine in the books, all eyes now turn to Texas. Unlike the Virginia festival, the Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival was able to proceed apace in 2021, so Beasley anticipates another banner year in Mesquite. “The February 2021 Texas Fly & Brew was the first in-person fly-fishing event since COVID, and folks turned out in spades. I can’t imagine how good February 2022 will be!”
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