Thursday, February 07, 2008

Profile NM - Bob Gerding Hunting and Fishing Promoter

Bob Gerding, Winter, 2008.

Just when cabin fever has you climbing the walls, Bob Gerding’s annual hunting and fishing show comes along to bring the great outdoors inside for a few days.

“It’s a great way to bust out of those winter blues,” says Gerding who celebrates his 10th anniversary of hosting the show at the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque.

For three days, outdoor enthusiasts can find hunting and fishing guides, lodge operators, outfitters, outdoors equipment retailers and nonprofit organizations manning booths at the Manuel Lujan Complex on the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque.
There’ll be events for kids, including a rock-climbing wall, laser and BB gun shooting ranges and a fly-casting pool.

Visitors will find seminars on dog training, fly-fishing the San Juan River in New Mexico or the Arkansas River in Colorado, African safaris and quail hunting.

There’ll be recreational vehicles of all types on display and informational booths from organizations such as the state Department of Game and Fish, Trout Unlimited, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, Federation of Fly Fishers and the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

To celebrate the show’s 10th anniversary, Gerding is giving away an Alaskan fishing trip including lodging, meals and airfare.

Door prizes and giveaways include an elk hunting permit on Ted Turner’s Vermejo Park Ranch and a Chama trip including passes on the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad.

The show runs from noon on Friday, Feb. 8th , to 7 p.m. and then 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, the 9th , and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, the 10th. Admission is $7 for adults and kids under 12 years old get in for free. Parking at the fairgrounds is $4.

So who is Bob Gerding anyhow and why does he do this?

“I just love it, these are my people,” Gerding, 69, of Albuquerque says.” It’s like a family reunion. It’s fun work.”

Gerding’s family and friends are all involved in making the show work, as are many of the business associates he’s come to know over his years from his work in the outdoor arena.

You may know Gerding from his deep, distinctive voice, tall stature and mane of silver hair. He hosts the weekend television show “Wild New Mexico,” talks fishing on 94Rock radio every Thursday and takes calls from viewers of KRQE-TV 13’s noon, news show on Wednesdays. He’s even done some voice-over work for commercials over the years.

Gerding says he ended up on the bawdy, heavy metal, radio show because the popular DJ, T.J. Trout, likes to fish.

“He’d come into the store and one day I asked him why he didn’t do a feature like TJ’s Trout picks or something like that on the radio?” Gerding said. “And he said ‘why don’t you?’ ”Gerding has made a lot of friends during his 20 years of working the counter at Charlies Sporting Goods in Albuquerque where he also taught fly-fishing, fly-tying, and published some books.

Then about 10 years ago he left the Domenici family business to start one of his own, putting clients together with outfitters through his company, Bob Gerding’s Outdoor Adventures.

Gerding got the idea for the annual hunting and fishing show while attending outdoor shows in Arizona and Colorado where he was marketing a book. He decided it was time to find a show closer to home and the idea was born.

The shows have proven to be very popular with up to 8,000 people attending last year, he said.

“And that’s not counting the kids,” he adds.

With all the friends Gerding has made over the years, has he every considered going into politics?

Gerding says he did in college for a brief time but after dabbling in the process a bit he decided it wasn’t for him.

“I realized I had too many ethics and not enough money,” he said.

Gerding is a longtime Albuquerque resident who graduated Highland High School.

He holds a business degree from the University of New Mexico where he has been named to the Anderson School of Business’ Hall of Fame.

He is an Army vet who served in the reserves during his college years and spent his two weeks of active duty each summer down at Fort Bliss in Texas.Gerding followed in his dad’s footsteps by going into the insurance business after college but he didn’t like the work and soon found himself managing Albuquerque’s first Orvis fly shop before moving on to Charlie’s.

Gerding and his wife, Harriet, a retired financial advisor, have two sons, Patrick, of Phoenix and Mike, of Denver, both of whom work in the business field.

A daughter, Laura, died at the age of 40 due to breast cancer, Gerding said.

He has a twin, Dick, a Farmington attorney whose likeness to his brother has come in handy on occasion.

“I’ve had him fill in for me once,” Gerding says of an instance involving a family
emergency. “He did some live (television) interviews and nobody knew the difference.”

Gerding said he and his brother took an interest in the outdoors as kids and their dad accommodated them with vacations to places like the Brazos River near Chama.

There the boys learned to fish from mentors like an elderly spinster from Albuquerque who took summers off from her job as a bookkeeper to relax and fish on the river.

Gerding said in those days they learned to fish with worms, salmon eggs and flies like a gray-hackled peacock or the Rio Grande King. Inevitably, they stuck to fly-fishing out of pure laziness because it was easier than baiting a hook all the time, Gerding said.

As teenagers, the two boys then got jobs at the Lazy Ray dude ranch up in the Jemez mountains. Located on the Rio Cebolla above Seven Springs Fish Hatchery, the ranch was where Gerding took on his first client, in teaching a woman to fish.

Gerding said he liked that job because he got to fish twice a day, once in the morning while the clients were getting ready to go out and later in the evening while they were all at happy hour.

He turned out to be such a good fisherman that one of his additional duties was to provide trout for the traditional Friday night fish fry, Gerding said.

It was here that he also discovered the beauty of the Valles Caldera. The ranch was then known as the Baca and was a neighbor of the Lazy Ray’s.

The ranch hands were free to visit and fish on each other’s property in those days and they all took full advantage of the opportunity, Gerding said.Nowadays Gerding still returns to the Valles Caldera to conduct fly-fishing clinics for the public visiting the preserve.

And while fly-fishing might be a very popular outdoor pursuit today, it wasn’t always so, Gerding said. It was a little known fishing method back when he was a youth, he said.

“I’d be fishing down on the Rio Grande by the Taos Junction bridge and people on the road would stop just to watch,” he said. “I’d draw a crowd.”

Then fly-fishing really took off after the Robert Redford’s movie “A River Runs Through It” came out in the 1990s, Gerding said. The yuppie era’s lifestyle and affluence also helped fuel interest in fly-fishing and other outdoor recreational pursuits, he added.

“I can’t tell you the number of outfits I sold and people I taught whom I never ever saw again,” Gerding said.

Gerding figures he’s taught at least 2,000 people how to fish during the course of his career.

Gerding speculates that the next “undiscovered” outdoor activity in New Mexico would be small-mouth bass fishing and Navajo dam would be the hot spot for pursuing that sport.

Gerding says the state needs to do a better job of promoting recreational tourism.

“Outdoor recreation in New Mexico is the most important rural industry we have,” Gerding says.

In the meantime, Gerding is doing his part promoting the industry and one of the primary benefits of his show is potential clients have a chance to personally meet guides, outfitters and lodge operators in the business.

“And there’s no one in these exhibit halls I wouldn’t personally recommend,” he says.

If You Go:

Take I-25 south to Albuquerque, get off at the Louisiana exit and follow it down to Lomas, turn right and head down to San Pedro, take a left and head down to the fairgrounds (now called Expo New Mexico). If to hit Central, you’ve gone to far. The show begins at noon on Friday, Feb 8th and runs until 7 p.m. It picks back again at on Saturday, Feb. 9, starting at 9 a.m. and continuing to 6 p.m. and then again on Sunday, Feb. 10, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults and kids under 12 years old get in for free. Parking at the fairgrounds is $4.

This article also appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican's Outdoors section.

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