Published May 9. 2009

Once in a Blue Moon

On the Fly, New Zealand
Publishing year: 
Carl McNeil
Reviewed by: 

I find it hard say anything bad about this DVD. It has always been a golden rule of mine when I review something - even something really good - to find just a tiny bit to criticize, but it took me quite a while in this case.
But here goes: There are no scene entries in this DVD's menu.
There you have it!
That's about the worst thing I can say about Once in a Blue Moon.
So either you see the whole thing, or you skip or fast forward.

Not that I can find any reason at all to skip or fast forward, not to mention not seeing the whole film. I have seen it in its full length many times already, and know that I will do so again, because this is undoubtedly the most beautiful fishing DVD's I have seen.

Simply stunning!

These days every second DVD you see is HD, widescreen, crystal clear and on the cutting edge. Modern gear allows layman to shoot video in a technical quality, which was impossible just a few years back. So everybody shoots HD.
But the step from shooting in HD to producing something like this is a big one. This has much more than technical quality.
This film is well paced, images are well composed, it's very well edited and first of all just so well filmed that it makes me yearn for trout fishing, clear water and New Zealand more than ever before. And that's a lot!

The film is made by Carl McNiel and Jeanie Ackley, and tells the story about the NZ "mouse year" phenomenon and what that does to the fish and the fishing on New Zealand's south island. Through a combination of great ambiance shots, fishing scenes and people telling about the biological factors leading up to such a year and their repercussions on fish and fishing, a great story is unraveled to the viewer.
The way these well built up scenes illustrate the behavior of the mice and the fish, how it's explained and how - time and time again - fish are caught, which support the narrative... well, it's just amazing.
After having seen and loved the latest year's large crop of "grunge" movies with rock music, hand held scenes, grainy footage and a lot of anarchy involved, it's a blessing to see something, which holds the flag of visual aesthetics high, and uses both editing, sound and commentary to keep you glued to the seat, not because you're afraid to fall off the fast paced train, but because you're spellbound.
As much as I love the rough style, I must say that it's great to see a film like this.

Of course New Zealand isn't the worst place to gather material for such an adventure. Anybody who has been there can attest to that, and the rest of us who have seen Lord of the Rings will know that the nature out there must be fantastic.
A bunch of aerial shots establish that fact beautifully in this film. But it is equally well made in the much smaller perspective: the mouse on the floor that jumps and skips when the door slams, the wet mouse drying and cleaning itself after a swim and the tight underwater shot of a swimming mouse.
And in all this I haven't even mentioned that the fishing is well executed too. Nice and precise casts, shots of cruising fish and floating flies, lots of scenes with takes and misses, and fights in water so clear and quarters so tight that it makes you hold back your breath.

I have yet to show this film to someone who has not been ooh'ing and ahh'ing all the way through, and just confirmed my assessment of this as pure bred Global Class.

Go to the web site and see the trailers and rest assured that they aren't just a concentrate of the best scenes of the DVD, but indeed very representative of almost all 45 minutes.

Warmly recommended!


Martin Joergensen's picture


I know you wrote "before any one comments", but I can't help replying to your post, which I find slightly unfair to people like Carl McNeil who made the video. It is of course your choice whether you want to pay the full price for a product, but I find two of your remarks worth opponing.

First of all, comparing fishing DVD's to "ordinary" DVD's (or even Blu-Ray discs), by wich I gather you mean movies, is not really fair. Most international movies sell at least by the tens of thousands and most likely even hundred thousands and millions, and even local ones sell an order of a magnitude more than almost any fishing DVD. The money made from DVD sales on a cinema movie could probably support a guy like Carl for a lifetime. This is not the case with fishing DVD's!
I'll bet you that even though Once in a Blue Moon is a vastly successful DVD - surpassing most other fly fishing DVD's in sales - Carl is not getting rich. Most such DVD's just break even, and the producers may make money off article writing and other spin off income, but most likely have a civilian job as a supplement to the fishing film business.

Secondly, stating that this is value for money is NOT a sign of "money to burn!". I think it's worth every penny at full price, and the number of times I have watched it and the number of people whom I've shown it to, more than makes up for the price. Sure I do get some DVD's for free and it can be considered "free" for me to say this, but trust me: I buy and pay in full for as many, if not more books and DVD's than I ever receive for free for review.

Feel free to wait for the price to fall. That's your choice. But don't expect people like Carl to keep on producing world class fishing films unless you sometimes pay in full and support their projects!

Sorry, couldn't let it just hang there uncommented...


Have not seen the full video yet but am really looking forward to it having seen clips of it. I will wait until the price becomes reasonable(£10 at most), as £22-26 for a 40 minute DVD is extortionate, especially when you can buy a Blockbuster Blu-ray film for £12-15. And before any one comments, NO, I am not missing the point, just pure and simple money sense!! I have bought many low budget out of the ordinary DVD's, and none have been over £10. How anybody can state that this is value for money or a good and reasonable price is beyond me and they must have money to burn!!!

Nicolas Pariset, you just got pwned by the creator. HAHA.

I waited a long time to watch this DVD. I don't know why I waited so long, it's incredible to say the least.

This is so amazing, what a movie. Probably one of the best I've viewed.. can't imagine what it would be like to actually experience this event in person.

Hello Nicolas

With respect - most of what you've stated is quite incorrect, I should know, I made it!
I normally wouldn't bother but I can assure you Once in A Blue Moon was made with the utmost integrity - and I kinda feel that this is being called into question.

The film was indeed made during a mouse year ( I live there in case you weren't aware) - we've actually had three almost consecutive beech mast events with 2010 being the latest.
The main scientist in the film (Rasmus) was in Fiordland that same season we filmed - working on his PhD. The phenomena he talks about, eels, mice stripping vegetation etc he refers to in the movie was occurring while we were there filming - that's actually how we met up.
The mice shown were there in the the bush - nothing was taken it.

As far as pig sized fish go. I made the decision not to solely depict this as it is simply not a true representation of what actually occurs. And besides - it would be irresponsible of me to do so.

The fish we've shown are all good size but quite early season, It was shot in October. They had keyed in on mice but not every fish turns into a pig - A few turn into almost gross fish, but this takes months. You don't just eat a few mice and put on kilos overnight.

Your impression seems to be that during a mouse year every fish is super fat and well into double figures that's not the case - although I'm sure we all wish that it was.

We did show one very large mouse eater - well into double figures. Again, this is at exactly the same time of year at night, that's me holding it. About four other guys will happily attest to that
The challenge is that we just don't have the specialist equipment to film of any quality at night and thats why we used a still.

The one aspect that you are correct on is the still shots of mice in the trouts guts. There are pictures from Fish and Game from a couple of years before, they actually quite well known - If you look at the closing credits we state this. Simple fact is that I wasn't prepared to kill fish for the film, so we put the word out for existing photos.

I can absolutely assure you that the science, fish and story are real and were all captured during a real beach mast event -that's part of the reason it took us so long to produce this film.

I hope that clarifies things for you and I'm very happy you otherwise enjoyed the Once in a Blue Moon

Best Regards
Carl McNeil
On the Fly Productions

It's a very, very beautiful movie, but the "mouse year" thing does not match what one sees.

Absolutely NONE of the fish caught in this movie is a mouse fed trout, and even though they do catch some nice (but out of condition, by NZ standards) mountain rainbows with mice imitation (which is still and amazing feat), there is no huge brown/bow, either caught during the night or during the day, that has the typical "mouse fed" condition.

This is no surprise because the film was no shot during a real "mouse year" ...

So, yes, it is a wonderful movie about NZ fishing, but the interviews about mice have little to do with the fishing which is shown in the movie. The only really large mouse fed trout shown are on old pictures from the early 2000s or late 1990s, which is disapointing considering the story the film pretends to tell. The movie is extra high quality and the pictures are amazing, though.

The PAL version can be purchased on

Hi, Amazon will only stock the NTSC version of the film, so if you were looking for a PAL version, this may be your problem.
PAL Versions will be on EU shelves shortly, or they can be purchased in Europe from
If you are having problems with Amazon with regard to NTSC, I'd very much like to know. Please drop me a line via our website. Many thanks.
Carl McNeil

I ordered this dvd from amazon over 4 months ago, and they still can't say when it will be shipped. Is anyone aware of a similar issue

Kasper Sorensen's picture

I might have come across as overly disappointed, that isn't the case. I like the DVD, unfortunately I can't find the disc anymore, I only have the case :-(. As Martin says, they do catch a lot of fish on mouse imitations in the movie, and I certainly wasn't expecting (or wanted) a how to guide to tie or fish them.

- But yes, I was actually expecting more night action. I personally, got the impression that the goal was to catch them at night, but I saw very little of that.

Btw. Here's another trailer (if the system will let me include the link):

I don't see how you could be disappointed at anything about this DVD!
I can't see how this DVD could be better, well ok, maybe more fish and some girls in Bikinis.
Of the over 50 DVD's on my shelves, this is the best, the most beautiful and the most watchable.
I give it 9/10 (no bikinis)

Martin Joergensen's picture


I wasn't let down at all by the amount of mouse fly fishing, but on the other hand I never expected a "how-to" on mouse fly fishing with documentation. I think the scientists telling about the phenomenon more than supported the mouse theory, but it wasn't my impression that the film set out to do mouse fishing alone.

But of course tying and fishing the mouse fly does support the mouse theme, and to be fair: it seems to me that quite a few fish are caught on these flies.

Still it's one *beep* of a DVD!


I've seen it too.
Simply breathtaking and pretty much sets the standard for fly fishing DVDs.

Kasper Sorensen's picture

Like you, after having seen the trailer, I was really looking forward to this. However I felt a little let down.

The intro was really exciting with an almost fictional story telling narrative, but they didn't carry that style further than the first scene.

I was also disappointed about the climax, they build it up around catching big trout at night on mouse imitations. I only saw something like ten seconds footage of a trout at night taking, what looked like, a mousefly but wasn't able to confirm that.

Apart from the editorial hiccups I think this is a beautiful fishing movie. It was pretty cheap, but then again it's only about 36 minutes long. I think if you were to watch this without any preconception you might have from the trailer, you wouldn't be disappointed.

I don't regret buying it, it was a good price and certainly provides value for money.

Log in or register to post comments