The inaugural Natchitoches Fishing Expo was held in Northwestern State University's Prather Coliseum on Saturday, drawing hundreds of people who enjoyed examining the wares of more than 35 vendors that included Cabela's, Academy Sports and Bass Pro Shops.

The Expo was sponsored by the Cane Country Fly Casters.

"We organized the club four years ago with about 30 members as a way to promote fly fishing and conservation in the area," Burley Johnson explained. "We decided it was time to jump into the deep end of the pool with this event to promote conservation and all types of fishing in our area.

"The local businesses have been wonderful with their support and we couldn't have put this on without them."  

No entrance fee was charged for the event, and visitors were free to wander at will and visit the various booths set up on the coliseum floor. A live band provided background music, and there were regular announcements over the PA system about upcoming silent auctions and raffles for everything from hand-tied flies to guided fishing trips.

Certified casting instructors were on hand to help out those who wanted to try casting a fly rod for the first time. For $10, they provided the equipment and a one-hour lesson. Small groups of people stopped and watched as instructors whipped the bright-orange line back overhead and then rolled it out in a perfectly straight line.

More than 35 fly tyers also had tables set up to demonstrate various fly tying techniques, and to sell both fresh and salt water flies. For the uninitiated, they took the time to explain the difference between a midge and a nymph or show the proper way to tie a popping bug.

Lafayette's Pack & Puddles' owner John Williams also had several kayaks set up in Chaplin Lake in front of the coliseum for visitors to try out.

"It's been a nice turnout," Williams said, "and no one has fallen in the lake yet."

Many of Williams' visitors were drawn to the unique leg-propulsion system of the Hobie and Native Watercraft kayaks, hopping in to give the crafts a spin around the lake.    

One of the most-popular Expo events was the hourly seminars presented by expert fishermen. Among them were Norm Crisp and noted outdoor author Pete Cooper.

Crisp shared his expertise on fishing for crappie, particularly during the spawn, while Cooper presented an informative session on surf fishing for speckled trout.  

"We knew this first year would be the toughest but I'm pleased with the turnout," Johnson said. "There's been a steady number of people coming through and it will grow from here."