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Across the country, winter brings with it a unique set of ups and downs. For some it means early morning caravans and carpools to get fresh tracks on epic powder days. Others simply take solace in the fact that they can finally remove over-priced sheets of plywood from their windows because hurricane season has come to an end. However, once winter has set in, no matter where you live – if you fish – it’s damn near impossible to not salivate over the nearing of spring. In the midst of winter, and with spring in sight – there’s no better way to celebrate the seasons ahead than to gather amongst other likeminded, beer drinking fly fishing dirtbags and watch the freshest footage painstakingly stitched together into the year’s finest fishing films. Yes – the 2018 Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T) has begun! We recently caught up with F3T staffer, Ryan Thompson to get an insider’s view on what attendees can expect from what promises to be the biggest and best Fly Fishing Film Tour to date.
Thompson: The Tour was started way back in 2007 by the AEG [Angling Exploration Group] crew, the guys that made the original Trout Bum Diaries films – Thad Robinson, Chris Owens, Brian Jill, Ryan Davey and eventually Jay Johnson.
The films they were making and their approach to fly fishing was different than anything that was in the sport’s “mainstream” media at the time. They knew that there were a lot of anglers out there like them, exploring new water and techniques, sleeping in their trucks and getting it done on a shoestring; the type of fishermen that weren’t being represented on Sunday afternoon TV. As a means to reach the people they knew would dig these stories the most, and as an excuse to fish and party their way across the country, they started to bring their films (and the work of some of the other early fly fishing film pioneers like RA Beattie, World Angling & Felt Soul Media) to fly shops and fishing guides’ living rooms. They’d buy a big screen TV from Best Buy, show the films on it that night and return it the next day. They’d decide where they wanted to fish next and then, figure out how they could put on a show there.
Those guys bootstrapped the tour until 2009 but ultimately, they wanted to focus on filming projects and growing their new production company, Motiv Fishing. It was at this point that Doug Powell, Chris Keig and Tom Bie, before he moved on to publish The Drake magazine fulltime, purchased the F3T and began applying some of the tour management skills they’d developed in the ski film industry.
Thompson: I don’t know. Maybe? I’m not sure anyone could have predicted the growth the tour has seen or the cultural shift that has happened across fly fishing in the years since the AEG crew hit the road. There are a lot of factors that have contributed to fly fishing becoming less your rich uncle’s pastime and more a sport that anyone can learn and enjoy, but the guys that started this thing deserve a ton of credit for doing something different, choosing to share it with people across the country, and inspiring a whole new wave of anglers along the way.
Thompson: I first hit the road in 2012. I was guiding during the summer and working on the Warren Miller ski film tour in the fall when Doug Powell and Chris Keig asked me to come help them with the F3T. That first tour I was just learning the ropes from Thad Robinson and Jay Johnson and doing whatever needed to be done on the road. I began managing the primary tour shows with Doug in 2013 and began working on the F3T fulltime in 2014.
Thompson: Several filmmakers who have been around since the early days are still in the mix, folks like RA Beattie and Felt Soul media. They’ve always made great films, though their skills and the technology their using have certainly evolved over the years. Each year it seems the lineup is made up of about half veteran F3T filmmakers and half newcomers to the tour. Those newcomers used to primarily come from within the fly fishing space, but in the last couple years we’ve begun receiving more submissions from filmmakers who have cut their creative teeth in other areas like skiing, climbing or conservation.
Pre-Show Swag Shower
Sold Out F3T from 2017
Thompson: As fly fishing attracts new participants I think a growing number of filmmakers are becoming aware of the stories that exist throughout our sport. Combined with a variety of characters and beautiful settings, those stories provide an appealing challenge for new work. I think these new perspectives on fly fishing-related stories will continue to have a positive effect on film quality, largely via the inspiration that new, unique viewpoints can bring.
Thompson: Yeah, probably. Which is a good thing. The best films we’ve ever had came from filmmakers who were anglers first and were inspired by their love of fishing to share this sport and its stories with others. So – though we may be seeing interest in fly fishing-related stories from filmmakers who started their professional work outside the fly fishing space, it’s still the films that are by anglers for anglers that are going to resonate the most with our audience.
Thompson: Not at all. The ultimate goal of the F3T, regardless of how many shows we do, is and will always be to bring communities of anglers together. We think of every show as a gathering of the fly fishing tribe, a chance to share fly fishing stories with your friends and get fired up to get on the water. Along the way, we also strive to support the local fly shops who are the backbone of this sport and the conservation groups who fight for access, clean water and healthy fish.
Thompson: First off, I wouldn’t be doing what I do without Doug, Chris and our Road Crew. Every bit of this thing is a team effort. That said, the best reward I get out on the road is watching stoked audiences enjoy these films and a night out with friends. You can tell by the energy of the audience as they leave a theater that they’re already thinking about and planning their next days on the water.
Permit Release from Beyond the Horizon
The Star of African Tiger
Gabonese Tarpon from Atlanticus
Cruising Down the Chandalar River
Thompson: Helping to raise funds and awareness for conservation and fishing-related charities is a massively important priority for us, but it wouldn’t happen if not for the motivated organizations who are doing the heavy lifting on behalf of anglers and fisheries. What I mean is that the F3T creates a great fundraising opportunity and platform from which to spread information, but it’s the chapters and volunteers that table at our shows or the groups that put on independent Fly Fishing Film Tour premieres that deserve the credit for educating and engaging our audience.
Thompson: At just about every Fly Fishing Film Tour premiere you are going to see local conservation and charity groups tabling and sharing information. These are the Trout Unlimited volunteers doing stream restoration in your area or the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers chapters working to protect our public lands. They’re the Project Healing Waters groups helping veterans find solace on the water or the Casting for Recovery volunteers hosting retreats for breast cancer survivors. The best thing you can do at one of our shows is chat with these folks, learn more about the work they’re doing your area (and how you might be able to help), become a member and/or sign up for their mailing lists and support they’re fundraising efforts. Buy some raffle tickets, a shirt, hat, etc. whatever they have going on. These groups can’t do what they do without public support and, in many cases, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the fishing we love without their efforts.
Thompson: In 2017 the Fly Fishing Film Tour premieres raised more than $500,000 for conservation and fishing-related charities. But really, we’re just the platform. It’s the organizations, chapters and volunteers that are doing the real work. We’re just glad the F3T can serve as a unique and viable opportunity for these groups to get closer to their goals. In 2018, we want to continue to assist these organizations in their efforts and help them raise even more funds than last year.
Thompson: There’s some really fun and incredibly well-made films this year, so it’s hard to pick one favorite, but Beyond the Horizon by Cold Collaborative is certainly one of the top ones for me. The combination of a great story and phenomenal fishing sewn together by top quality cinematography, editing and soundtrack make that one a really special film.
Thompson: Oh man – that’s a tough one. I think 100 Miles would have been a really fun one to be a part of. The DIY nature of their adventure, the great fishing and the chance to see 100 miles of a remote Alaskan river with a fun crew would make for an incredible trip.
Sponsor Gear Showcase
Ryan Thompson, Stokes the Crowd
Thompson: Now you’re just trying to get me in trouble. The Bozeman kick off is going to be a rowdy one, no doubt. But Missoula, MT and Boulder, CO are generally neck and neck for the rowdy award. Fort Collins, CO has been coming on strong the last couple years and you can’t rule out the dark horse contenders like Nashville, Charleston or Minneapolis. I think any of those spots could take the title this year.
Thompson: Ha! Every stop has its unique challenges for sure, but this job is too much fun to get all that stressed out about. It is nice to get things kicked off and get a few shows under our belt. You start to see the work of the preceding months paying off and get to reunite with friends along the way.
Thompson: There will definitely be some fishing in my future, but first I’m going to log some time with my wife and son. My days with them will be too few and far between over the next few months and I’ll be missing them something fierce by the time this thing is all said and done.
Thompson: We’re also working on some other shows and events we want to try to do in the spring. For instance, we’re working on a set of Southern Florida shows in early May that’ll all be benefits for Hurricane Irma relief. Speaking of shows, we’re adding new ones to the schedule all the time so if folks don’t see their town up there yet they should check back in a few weeks as it’ll likely be up there soon.
Thanks to the filmmakers, fly shops, sponsors, affiliate partners and, most importantly, the F3T fans who make this whole thing possible. There would be no Fly Fishing Film Tour without you and we can’t wait to see you out on the road!