The Fish & The Fly Q&A
An interview with the guys behind the DVD-series The fish and the Fly
We just reviewed the first three DVD's in the excellent series The Fish and The Fly made by Danish filmmaker Niels Vestergaard and fly tyer and flyfisher Morten Oeland.
Since they are based in Denmark as I am, I found it natural to contact them regarding the videos and get them to answer to a few questions about the project. They graciously inclined, and here is they replies to my questions.
1) How did the two of you hook up?
Niels Vestergaard: Morten and I know each other dating back to around 2000 when I was photographing step-by-step photos for a series of fly tying articles for a Danish fishing magazine.
We met 2-3 times each year and were together for a few days where we photographed and tied flies. We got on well together and had great fun. We laughed a lot anyway.
I had made fishing films for many years and at one point I asked Morten if we could do something together.
It was the beginning of many talks around the theme of these films. Morten has extensive knowledge of insects and practical fly fishing, and he is also a superb fly tyer, and we wanted to combine these three subjects.
We live in the opposite ends of the country - there is a 3-hour drive between us, so there was much talk over the phone about the movie project, but a few years passed before we started for real.
Morten Oland: I say that it has been a great pleasure to be on camera because Niels and I have a very, very good cooperation.
But first and foremost it is a great pleasure for me to be able fly around the world and show how I choose to tie and fish my flies. I've been fly fishing instructor for 17 years and still find great satisfaction in being able to inspire people to go in depth with their fishing and maybe see things from a slightly different angle.
2) How long has it taken to shoot and produce The Fish & the Fly series up till now?
Niels Vestergaard: We made the first recordings back in 2005, but we really started seriously in 2006. Every year since then we have had 2 to 4 weeks where we have filmed. We're not working full-time on the project. I always have other movie projects I'm working on, so it has obviously taken some time before we could publish the first DVD on dry flies and the second one on nymphs.
3) This must be a fairly costly project with all the traveling, the gear and everything. Knowing the conditions for producing and selling fly fishing videos I'll have to ask (not expecting you to reveal precise numbers of course): is it good business?
Niels Vestergaard: Ha, ha! No, it's not good business, but the movies have actually sold quite well - especially in Scandinavia and Germany - but they are bought by fly fishermen throughout the world.
It's insects, flies and techniques, it's universal.
My films are not sponsored, so I am responsible for all expenses and The Fish & The Fly series has cost too much of course.
I think that it will balance in the long run, and I'm happy. Until now it has been a great experience to make these films.
I love to do fishing films, and today this job makes 95% of my daily income - the rest is earned on photographic assignments that have nothing to do with fishing.
I have been living as a freelance fishing photographer and journalist for 23 years, so it's in the blood to work with fishing from early morning to late evening.
4) When seeing the videos, the scenes seem to be covered from many angles. Is that obtained with several cameras, or is it just clever and skillful editing?
Niels Vestergaard: In a few scenes from New Zealand, I used material shot by our guide with an extra camera, but otherwise there's only me.
I shoot from many angles and during filming, I think a lot about how it's all going to be edited later on. It's important that there's a flow where we follow Morten closely. As if the viewer was there in person. That is the idea with all the scenes in the films. From the moment Morten chooses a fly until he finally succeeds in getting the fish to bite, fights and lands it.
5) Niels, a question for the gear buffs in the audience: what video-gear did you use? I recognize the GoPro on Morten, but apart from that? Being an old-timer in the business, have you embraced the DSLR's for video?
Niels Vestergaard: My main camera is a Sony PMW EX1, and it's used for all the major scenes.
I also use several different underwater cameras and sometimes use POV cameras like the GoPro.
DSLR's are fantastic and I have a Canon 5D Mk2, which I bought immediately as the DSLR-wave began. It was used for close-ups at first, when we were filming the nymph tying, but since then I have used it in several cases.
There are advantages and disadvantages to the DSLR, and I use it only where I think it works best. For me it is important to use what is best in the situation. The 4-minute introduction to The Fish & The Fly 3 was filmed using both the Sony and the Canon.
When all that works out there's a good reason that I seem "somewhat happy"!
6) Morten, a question for you: how was it to be in front of the camera? You seem to have a hard time not bursting out in sheer exhilaration every time you hook a fish, but I guess you had to suppress your joy just a bit?
Morten Oland: We chose to make the film so that I actually don't say very much. The story is mostly told by a narrator and the images.
I hope that the fish, insects and techniques are in focus rather than me as a person. That was the intention!
The films may give the impression that I am a fairly quiet person who doesn't say much in general, but that is probably very contrary to reality!
Regarding the joy of catching a fish, I am always happy with the fish I catch, no matter whether it's a small trout or a large tarpon.
But I must say that I'm extra happy when we manage to capture it on film. You should know that there is a vast difference between being on an ordinary fishing trip compared to fishing while filming a movie such as The Fish & The Fly.
Let me give you an example:
- First we travel to the other side of the world to New Zealand.
- Then we drag gear and camera equipment into the wild.
- We have to drive and sail far to get to remote places.
- Then we hike for hours, carrying all the gear up and down rivers.
- After many miles we find a big fish.
- Now we have to get camera and underwater cameras in place - hoping that the fish will not spook.
- It can't rain and it has to be calm so that the fish can be seen in the film.
- Now the fish has to be caught.
- You can't make a bad false cast.
- You can't mistakenly have chosen a too thick tippet.
- You can't be using a fly the fish won't take.
- If you do, the fish might spook and everything is ruined.
- And if everything is done right, you may just suddenly have a 7 lbs. trout on the end of your line.
- Then you obviously have to not loose the fish.
- The landing must be done in such a way that people at home in front of the screen can see it all perfectly.
When all that works out there's a good reason that I seem "somewhat happy"!
7) Is there a tight script or storyboard for the scenes, or is it just shoot as you go? You can script in the fish, but there's after all not guarantee that they will be caught...
Niels Vestergaard: Of course I have a clear idea about what we want to shoot in every situation, and I have written a little synopsis before we film the scenes, mostly to remember to get all the details.
But conditions always change - perhaps there is no hatch and we need to film nymphing instead - or the opposite. We need to constantly improvise and get the best out of the situation.
But it's far from always that things succeed. In the autumn of 2011 we were in Iceland for 9 days, where we had to shoot footage for the next film in the series. We were filming sea trout fishing in two rivers, but it stormed and rained almost constantly and the rivers were totally muddy and unfishable. We had nothing to take home. That's how it is to make films.
But otherwise, I would say we've been very lucky with most of our longer trips. Morten has caught many large fish of the right situations.
He's not just an accomplished fly tyer...
That's how it is to make films.
8) Is there more on the way?
Niels Vestergaard: The Fish & The Fly 4 will deal with streamers and fishing with surface flies. We have finished most of the filming, but we still need to do a lot.
It's planned that the filming should be finished next spring. And if that succeeds, the movie will come out next year in November.
It will be the last film in the series.