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A New Genre
This will likely come as a surprise to anyone who’s ever waved a fly rod in futility, but fishing is one of the fastest-growing segments of the mountain film genre. It’s hard to believe—mostly because action sports such as skiing, kayaking, and mountain biking all promise a rousing show regardless of the outcome (since crashing is always more entertaining than an empty-hooked fisherman). Yet videographers are increasingly focusing on fly-fishers—and producing both gripping and poignant results.
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“It is absolutely, 100 percent adventure filmmaking,” says Doug Powell, who left Warren Miller Entertainment six months after taking ownership of Boulder-based Fly Fishing Film Tour in 2009. Its annual screenings take place in more than 150 cities throughout North America and the United Kingdom, and videos feature angling exploits from British Columbia to Cuba to Mongolia—locations that offer plenty of eye candy. Meanwhile, the advent of relatively inexpensive, high-definition cameras (hello GoPro!) has helped videographers capture exciting hookups and landings.
But the best fishy films also portray compelling characters and quests that transcend the pastime. Eastern Rises, by Colorado-based Felt Soul Media, portrayed a fishing mission to Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula and won Best Film on Mountain Sports at the 2010 Banff Mountain Film Festival. Recent tearjerkers such as 2011’s Doc of the Drakes (in which an angler with Parkinson’s disease fishes the brown drake hatch on Idaho’s Spring Creek) and 2013’s Mending the Line (in which a World War II veteran returns to Normandy to fish rivers he glimpsed as a soldier) dramatize how fishing represents far more than thrills.
Though there’s plenty of that, too, which is broadening angling’s appeal to a younger, more diverse demographic. “Video’s accessibility may help grow the sport,” says Ross Purnell, editor of Fly Fisherman magazine (a sponsor of the International Fly Fishing Film Festival). “At least, that’s the hope.”
The Fly Fishing Film Tour and International Fly Fishing Film Festival both take place in spring (Parker, Steamboat Springs, Ft. Collins, Boulder, and Beaver Creek were among Colorado’s host cities this year). Some film selections appear on YouTube or Vimeo: Check out 2015’s Breaking Through: The Story of Larry Fivecoats by Colorado filmmaker Scott Thompson, who investigates the healing power of fly-fishing.