A fly-tying expert demonstrates how to tie a fly to a child during a past Eastern Idaho Fly Tying/Fly Fishing Expo. This year’s expo was canceled because of the pandemic.

After building a reputation as one of the nation’s premier events for all things fly fishing during the past 26 years, the pandemic has derailed the Eastern Idaho Fly Tying/Fly Fishing Expo held in Idaho Falls for the second year in a row.

Attracting as many as 3,000 participants some years, the festival invites more than 100 tiers from around the world, and offers hands-on workshops and casting clinics for men, women and children over its two-day event. The event was scheduled for late March. The potential crowds of people have the festival organizers worried.

“We didn’t want to get halfway through sending out requests for commercial vendors, fly tiers, program presenters, and then maybe a couple of weeks later have to turn around and tell them we’re not going to have it,” said Bruce Staples, who helps organize the festival. “We’re not happy about it. We don’t think it’s suitable to do yet.”

Past Fly Tying Expos featured exhibits from the Henry’s Fork Foundation, Nature Conservancy, Idaho Fish and Game, the Teton Regional Land Trust and others. Free and fee-based clinics fill the Friday and Saturday event. The festival was capped with a banquet featuring fundraising raffles. During the last held expo in 2019, artwork, fishing gear and a drift boat were auctioned off.

During the last expo, classes were taught in tying nymph flies, caddisflies, streamers and steelhead flies. Some classes were only for women. Experts also helped beginning fly fishers learn to cast.

The money from the event is used to fund conservation projects and education efforts of the local Snake River Cutthroat chapter of Trout Unlimited.

“The expo has become a national event,” Staples said. “We pull people in from all over the country, mostly from the Rocky Mountain West, but from all over essentially. … The only other two shows I know about that have more is the one in Albany, (Oregon) and one back in Summerset, New Jersey. They have a lot more people around than here in Idaho Falls, but we’ve got the Greater Yellowstone Area fishing-wise that so many people are interested in.”

During the pandemic, the Snake River Cutthroats have continued to present their monthly fly-tying presentations and meetings via Zoom. They also sell raffle tickets for fishing gear to raise funds.

For information on club events, go to the Snake River Cutthroats Facebook page.