Published May 4. 2012 - 10 years ago
Updated or edited Sep 13. 2015

Video review: Heart of the Driftless

Featuring Reverb

Another extremely beautiful video from Robert Thompson. Driftless has nothing to do with the drift of a fly, but with glacial traces - glacial drift - in this case in southwestern Wisconsin. The DVD also features the portrait of a punk band that has a common passion: fly-fishing in the form of the video Reverb. The DVD is chuck full of great footage, close to three hours altogether.

Robert Thompson
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Robert Thompson is definitely one of my favorite fly-fishing video makers. I love it whenever he publishes new short videos or trailers online, and appreciate it even more when it carries the promise of a new full DVD feature.
We have looked at RT's DVD's before and reviewed Musky Country, a fantastic story about muskie fishers.

The Heart of the Driftless (HOTD amongst friends) trailer was added to our video channel months ago, and the same goes for the trailer for Reverb as well as the sneak preview for HOTD. All these are made to the usual RT-standards, and are as mouth watering and appetizing as I have come to expect.
So when the DVD with HOTD and Reverb combined was in the mail, I tore off the wrapping and stuck it in the DVD-player right away. I didn't emerge until two and a half hours later.
This is my kind of DVD! 2½ hours of high quality, educating and entertaining video for 30 bucks! Talk about value for money!

There are three main features here:
First an foremost the centerpiece, Heart of the Driftless, a really beautiful piece of documentation of some easily accessible spring creek fishing available to the public in Wisconsin.
Secondly the documentary Reverb about a punk rock band, whose lives are strung between the hectic and noisy concerts and the quiet and tranquil hours of fly fishing they enjoy together in between their gigs.
And as a third treat the feature Thunder River. Filmed in Colorado, and telling the story about a long weekend of a bunch of friends on an early season fishing trip.


Driftless has nothing to do with the drift of a fly, but has to do with glacial traces - AKA glacial drift. There's an area in southwestern Wisconsin which has no such drift, hence the term driftless. Because of this geological phenomenon the area has a wealth of limestone streams, spring fed, clear watered and cool creeks that hold 2-3,000 fish per mile and in some places even up to 10,000 fish per mile! Limestone creeks are extremely attractive for several reasons.
They are usually very rich in food, which attracts the trout and makes them numerous and fast-growing. At the same time the water is clear as crystal since the streams are spring fed, and not as influenced by rain and runoff as most streams. Limestone streams usually have a very steady flow of cold, clear, oxygen rich water. Altogether a very attractive package to fly anglers, but usually something you expect to find in the southern UK, northern France and places like Slovenia.
But here we have the same conditions in the middle of the US - in Wisconsin of all places!

Heart of the Driftless is exquisitely filmed as it's always the case with RT's videos, and here he has even upped the ante by including some really breathtaking aerial photography, which are shot with a small chopper/helicam - a technique seen used more and more in film making, even in fly-fishing films. There's a nice extra feature on the DVD documenting this aspect and the work (and hardships) connected with the filming of these very nice scenes.
In combination with more conventional filming and the "RT-signature" interviews with anglers and experts it all amounts to an exceptionally educating and entertaining and truly enjoyable film.


The video starts out as a raw rock B/W documentary, gritty, grained and noisy, but soon turns into a fishing video - about a rock band that fly-fishes. RT brilliantly catches the contrast between the tense and noisy playing and calm and soothing fishing.
Mind you, there's nothing wrong with tense and noisy when it comes to rock music. These guys are obviously having a lot of fun, and so is their audience, and the concert footage serves as a perfect contrast to the fishing and the interviews where the band members tell about their common passion for punk rock as well as fly-fishing.
These guys also fish the driftless area, and there's an obvious connection to the main feature. But Reverb can easily stand on its own feet, and tells a very personal story about the rough touring life, having 22 hours of misery and 1-2 hours of fun playing as one band member expresses it.
The style here is more like a classical documentary, shifting between the music video style filming and production, noisy, scratchy, hand held, B/W, and the fly-fishing footage, which is juicy, green, colorful, calm and in a different state of mind - just as it's expressed by the musicians.
"We go fly-fishing and dry out a little bit... to be honest with you!"

Thunder River

And as if you hadn't already gotten enough great video minutes for your money, you get a very nice extra feature called Thunder River, Colorado 2011, the story of a gang of fly fishers of varying experience going on a long weekend early season trip.
Robert himself tells about the trip in small "interview" bits, mixed with some excellent fishing footage.
There's nothing spectacular about this video, but in many ways it hit a very soft spot with me, because I could so recognize the situation of bringing together a bunch of people who all want to fish, but also have each their approach to the whole game. Some want to sleep in and eat a "healthy" breakfast, others want to be on the water early.
Been there, done that as they say.
Half an hour very well spent in good company and with average anglers like you and me. A great extra.

So what's the verdict? Well, no doubt in my mind. The sheer number of minutes combined with top notch production and a very reasonable price earns this DVD a Global Class rating.


Great review Martin....

Great review Martin. I agree 100%. Great value for money but the quality is what really stands out. I don't think there can be many fly fishing film makers that put so much time and effort in to producing something like Robert does every time.

In my opinion, HOTD is the closest you can get to fishing without leaving your house. And in my case, with a 10 month old baby at home, that is something to treasure! :o)


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