Take some technically excellent film makers, hook them up with a few fly fishermen, film said fishermen getting on a plane, getting off a plane, wheeling a cart around a grocery store and loading supplies (gratuitous beer shot) into a vehicle. Throw in the not so subtle cinematic sponsor plugs, the self-anointing personal interviews, and attempts at quirkiness in the remote locales being shot. Add spectacular scenery, sweat, lots of whooping, shaky shots of lunkers being played and in the hand. Known as fish porn.
As such, the films in this year’s Fly Fishing Film Tour (www.flyfishingfilmtour.com) are predictable by definition. The grocery shopping trips are the equivalent of the pizza delivery guy with the Freddie Mercury mustache knocking on the front door of Foxy McHotty’s mansion. The personal interviews, in which our sticks sport their sponsors’ gear and sunglass tans, are the swarthy, oiled up guys working on Ms. McHotty’s hot tub out back, waiting for what we all know is coming.
When our anglers deliver their wisdom, all the required boxes are checked: when the guy started fly fishing for species X; no one else really fishes for species X, because; it takes a special breed. Like Debbie Does Dallas, it’s one big cliché. No matter what is actually said, the only thing one hears is some facsimile of, “This is what it’s all about.” Sometimes that is what’s actually said (come to think of it, it’s probably a favorite line in sex porn too).
There’s even fish porn music. Close your eyes, I bet you can hear it.
The actors are all Dirk Digglers. I can’t think of a single person in a recent fly fishing vid who doesn’t consider himself a pioneer into unexplored terrain. No matter the location or quarry, someone’s always planting the proverbial flag, as though Joe Brooks, Lefty, Mel, McClane, Wulff, and Michalak (the Ron Jeremys of fly fishing) are the ones playing catch up instead of the other way around. The legends not only did it first, but they did it with bamboo, rubber waders, and flies made of real fur and feathers. They did it before you could fly to any place in the world on credit, when you really couldn’t drink the water, where the natives really were restless. Speaking of natives, and even before these legendary forbears did the heavy lifting for us, the aboriginals of the world were “sticking slabs” by the buttloads, and wearing loincloths to boot.
I’ve been thinking for some time that the fishing vid is way tired, going back to “The Hatch” even, my favorite of all time. Is this true? Quite possibly. Is it a problem though? I don’t think so. See, you’ve got all this talent out there, kids going to film school, guiding around the planet, raising money to make high quality film products AND engaging in conservation (our event raised money for my TU chapter). You’ve got this bottomless pit of enthusiasm devoted entirely to the sport of fly fishing. Put those things together, and you have money shots that people of all stripes really want to watch. Lines slice the water, whip around reels in a chaotic mess as angry fish gun for far horizons. Fists pump the air, chins sink to chests, rods are thrown in frustration. Then a spent fish eyes the camera in apparent full knowledge that he’s the star of all this. Sure, the viewer wants to DO some of this, but the watching’s pretty fun by itself. Now I ask you, what the hell is porn if not that?
This year’s serving was some of the hottest human-on-fish action I’ve ever seen. The New Zealand piece definitely made me want to go back there, and soon. “Red Like Winter” was the first piece I’ve seen to properly honor the redfish, and “Black Tailed Devils” made me lose my lunch again over the permit grab I blew in the Yucatan last October.
So as much as I yearn for more creativity in fishing films, this year’s tour helped me understand where these guys are coming from. Usually shown at a pre fishing season time of year, the films help us indulge our fantasy lives when we need to the most. The film makers are in the business, and they did it well this year, of capturing how great fly fishing can FEEL, the racing pulse, wobbly knees, the rising howl in the throat, its echo through the heavens. Without a doubt, these guys were the pizza delivery boys this year. They knocked on the doors, and look who opened it wearing nothing but lipstick.
“Evening ma’am, I have a large double meat pepperoni for Muskie McMako.”
“That would be me. Please, do COME inside so I can PAY you.”
When it comes to making films of the experiences these guys are having, I imagine it’s often impossible for them to believe that it’s happened more than once or to anyone else, even though it has. So what if they think they’re the ones pushing the envelope? They’re having so much fun, who can blame them? Then again, they are achieving a milestone when you think about it. Even though it’s all been done before, these guys are the ones putting it all on film.
And we like to watch.