A new breed
Fly fishing videos have gone through an amazing development during the last five years.
When I started watching fly fishing videos many years ago, the recipe was simple: get hold of a couple of seasoned anglers - preferably the classical anchor setup: a younger woman and a slightly older man - hook up with some upscale lodges and some guides needing some marketing and... action!
Some chatting, some fishing, some setting up gear, maybe some fly tying and definitely some panos of nice fireplaces and well stocked dinner tables.
Cut! It's a wrapup!
OK, I might not be completely fair above, because many of these videos are in fact quite good, but there's also a whole batch, which are bland bordering on the boring.
Everything is nice.
Nothing will offend and nothing will stir the idyll. Editing will be slow paced with gentle transitions, slow panos, cameras will be on tripods and there will be no scenes with heart pounding pace. Even the music will be mellow and soft, kind of the type you find in soft porn movies... not that I have any personal experience to support that of course!
There's no swearing, no drinking and no farting. In other words very far from the average fishing trip that you and I do with our buddies - at least far from the trips I do with my buddies where there's usually quite a bit of the above.
I have a whole bunch of these videos (yes, many in VHS format) in my collection. They were for a long time what was available, and if you wanted fly fishing entertainment and education, that was what was on offer.
A few were different, but only in subject and not in style. Be it fly tying or casting, salmon fishing or saltwater, dries or nymphs. We were educated, but no one was harmed, none offended - and honestly only a few were really entertained.
Times they are a-changing
Luckily this has changed. My own first exposure to the new breed of fishing videos was the Trout Bums' Patagonia video.
When I first saw this 2006 release I was almost blown out of my socks!
This was different!
This was more like what I had experienced with friends.
This was what fishing was like.
The tempo is upbeat, the music far from softporn, the editing much more like music videos or modern productions such as videos from extreme sports events like skating, snowboarding or modern documentaries.
And what a relief!
For me personally it was quite a revelation, and for the market as a whole it seemed to mark a significant change. I don't know whether this particular DVD was the initiator, but to me it was a sharp corner, and a lot of the productions to come out after Trout Bum Volume 1 have been much more modern and much better than the far majority of old school videos.
Dogma for fly fishing
A gang of Danish movie directors took an oath back in 1995. They called it Dogma 95 and it set up some rules for their films giving birth to some very significant movies.
The new breed of fly fishing videos were far from Dogma 95, but almost seemed to follow a common manifesto in the same way, prescribing a fast pace, great contemporary music (real music), real people and real experiences. Persons in the videos acted strangely, got drunk, had hangovers, looked ugly, got sunburns and experienced all the things that the rest of us do on our fishing trips.
Gourmet meals in high end lodges were replaced with pasta and ketchup served in front of ragged tents.
The participants didn't drive shiny 4X4's, but worn out pickups and rebuilt Russian military vehicles.
Soothing panos of perfect landscapes accompanied by acoustic guitar were exchanged with the heavy breathing of the photographer, filming while he was running down a dirt road to catch the thrilling fight with a big fish that no one planned on hooking right there and then.
The tendency was pretty clear: it was grunge gone fly fishing. Rough edged hand held images mixed with beautiful scenery. Goatees and casual outfit, beers and hangovers and some hefty rock music to accompany it all.
Everyone's a movie maker
My own theory is that one of the major reasons for the development, was the easy access to high end video cameras and good editing facilities.
DV recorders and software running on the average Mac or pc made it possible for any gifted angler to become a fishing video director. The steep price barrier had kept most wannabees away from really doing anything other than home video style movies, but small, nifty camcorders and cheap software suddenly made anyone a potential hitmaker.
So people started doing videos. Some were more skilled and creative than others and some videos way better than others. But they were for a large part a new breed of videos.
Home burnt DVD's started circulating amongst friends and oneline services like YouTube made it possible to distribute homemade footage easily, albeit in a generally lousy technical quality.
But a few productions made it out on the market as commercial DVD's, and a lot of these inspired other wannabees to become more than just that and unleash their talent for the benefit of the rest of us.
New Zealand is it
It seems like most of the the DVD crop of the last few years have been recorded in one place in the world: New Zealand!
This dream destination with its clear streams and beautiful scenery is not only the place where everyone wants to go, but also the place they want to shoot their video.
Run your finger down the list: Trout Bums, Blue Moon, Trophy Trout, Catch the Moment and many, many more. All shot in NZ. A great place to do a DVD it seems.
One of the things that made me notice a significant change in the fly fishing videos apart from the commercial DVD's was the The Drake magazine's annual Five Minutes of Fly Fishing competition. This is now in its fourth year and seems to be thriving better than ever.
As the name of the competition says you have five minutes and fly fishing as the main subject, but apart from that you are fairly free. The average style is very action packed, fast paced and accompanied by rock music. The video style is much like music videos and not far from the style found in the skater and snowboard community.
Don't expect that any five minutes worth of point and shoot video will cut it. You're up against the best - pros and amateurs - and running through the previous years you will find tightly trimmed excerpts from many of the best DVD's out there including "Running Down the Man", "Trout Bum Diaries", "Drift", "Red Gold" and many more titles, many of which you will recognize from almost any list of the best DVD's from the past 5-10 years.
Of course Drake isn't the only place you can see videos online. There's a lot of videos on the web. Services such as Google Videos, YouTube and Vimeo offer server space for literally millions of videos, and a surprising number of those are about fly fishing. Even though our pastime is a niche, there's quite a number of film about fly fishing, and a large number of these are really good.
Both pros and amateurs post their videos on the web, and even though the quality is generally high in the pro range, there's a really large number of great amateur productions to be found. Some might not be technically superb, but a lot are entertaining and fascinating and made with tonnes of enthusiasm.
HD is the new black!
You might have noticed that when looking at everything from YouTube videos, over camcorders to the latest generation of flat panel TV's. It's gotta be High Definition - HD.
And for a good reason because HD is a vast improvement over regular video formats. I won't go into technical details, PPI, lines, resolutions and whatnot, mainly because I don't fully understand it, but also because it seems somewhat irrelevant to us laymen. HD equals better, and most HD DVD's and online videos simply look better on any screen I can display them on - from my son's hefty 32" Samsung 16:9 to my own meager 20" television in old fashioned letterbox format.
On my high rez computer screen HD-productions generally look astonishing.
The documentary wave
On top of the increasing technical quality, the way better post production and editing and the better content as a whole, fly fishing film makers seem to be taking to a more documentary style where fly fishing content is supplemented and sometimes almost overshadowed by interviews with scientists, experts, guides and other knowledgeable people and often contains an environmental or conservational message. The prime examples are videos like The Hatch and Red Gold from Felt Soul Media whose latest production is very focused on conservation, but others follow like the Flyboys' Raising the Ghost, which deals with dry fly fishing for steelhead, but has large sections of material on the conservation part of the story.
Fly fishing videos from earlier times might mention environmental problems in a passing sentence, but nowadays it is common to let environmental and conservation concerns take a larger part of the production, and some of these fly fishing videos actually have much in common with the nature productions we see from National Geographic and BBC.
And you can watch videos here on the Global FlyFisher in our online video section.