For 11 years now The Fly Fishing Film Tour, or F3T, has been bringing anglers together to celebrate all things fishy. What started out as small run of grassroots get-togethers at a few fly shops around the country, has grown into an international tour that showcases some of the most compelling filmmaking in fly fishing. This year’s tour kicked off a few weeks ago and is now in full swing. And no matter what part of the country you call home, there’s probably a showing near you sometime soon. We recently connected with F3T’s Ryan Thompson to get a little backstory on the tour, this year’s film offerings and what kind of raffle swag attendees can expect.
The Flyfish Journal: For someone who has never been, what can they expect from the Fly Fishing Film Tour?
On the surface the F3T is two hours of independent, short-format fly fishing films. But at it’s core it’s a party, a high-energy gathering of the angling tribe. It’s a chance to swap stories about past days on the water and get excited about adventures still to come. The films themselves aren’t just grip and grin montages (though there’s some insane fish in this one), most are story-driven narratives that showcase unique characters and transport the viewer to waters across the globe.
11 years running, what’s different now, from year one and what remains the same?
The main differences are the quality of the films and the scope of the tour. The filmmakers wanted then, as they do now, to showcase places, people, stories and remarkable fishing, but their skills were pretty raw. That said, the early work by AEG, World Angling, RA Beattie and others, spawned a whole new genre of outdoor film. Sure, there were plenty of surf, ski and snowboard flicks out there, but fly fishing was still mainly found on Sunday afternoon TV.
That first tour went to a handful of fly shops by way of a borrowed Volvo and a flat screen TV from Best Buy that was returned at the end of the run. Local, independent fly shops were the cornerstone of that first lap and continue to be our most important partners.
This year the tour will screen in over 160 cities across the US, Canada, Europe and South Africa. The quality of the films has certainly improved, but the content is still made by anglers for anglers. A few of the filmmakers from the early days, including the crew that took that first tour on the road, are still as passionate about fly fishing film as they ever were and are regularly featured in the tour. We’ve had a film from RA Beattie each of the last 11 years and his piece this year, “Corazón,” is definitely one of his best.
Which films really impressed you this year?
“120 Days” by Felt Soul Media, the guys who made “Red Gold,” “Eastern Rises” and “Damnation,” is one of the best films we’ve ever had. From a pure skill standpoint, the shooting, editing and musical score are all incredible. But the way those elements work together in the piece is what’s really remarkable. I’ve watched it at least 15 times and still get goosebumps.
“At the End of A Rainbow” by Peter Christensen and Rolf Nylinder is another one of my favorites. They spent three weeks in Kamchatka with the goal of showing the unparalleled fishing there, but also the threats that poaching poses to some of the most pristine trout and salmon fisheries on the planet. They were able to pair humor and great fishing with the uncertain and difficult reality facing the Ozernaya river. It’s difficult to strike a balance between entertainment and message, but I think they did a great job.
This is a big tour, 150 screenings, some of them international, how’d you guys end up with showings in Belize and South Africa? Is the size of the tour a direct result of community enthusiasm?
We’ve put a lot of work into this thing, but the size and scope of it is really a credit to motivated folks that host the F3T in communities across North America and now around the globe. We plan and produce 35 to 40 screenings ourselves each year, with the help of a kick ass road crew that spends 6 to 10 weeks on the road. Those are some of the larger shows; Denver, Boulder, Bozeman, Missoula, Boise, Charleston, Nashville, etc. But, the vast majority of the screenings are Affiliate events put on by conservation groups, charities, fly shops or local promoters who use the F3T as a fundraising opportunity and a chance to bring their local fishing community together around a fun event.
We have partners in Canada and South Africa that schedule and promote the shows in their country much the way we do here in the states, producing key events on their own, then helping local promoters bring the tour to towns they otherwise couldn’t reach.
Explain how it works if someone wants to host a show? Is it too late to get in touch with you guys and organize something?
It’s never too late to get a show on the calendar. We have screenings happening every month of the year. Our website, flyfilmtour.com, is the best place to start. You can visit the map on our schedule page and see if there is a screening near your town. If not, cruise over to the “Host A Show” page and learn more about next steps. Fill out the contact form and a request will be sent to our affiliate team. They’ll reach out with more details and help you each step of the way, from picking a date and venue to promoting and executing your event.
What about raffles? Product tosses? Will there be swag?
There is always great prizes… and lots of swag! At each of our primary shows, the ones put on by the F3T Road Crew, we’ll be giving away a YETI Hopper Flip, a Simms G4 pack, a pair of Costa sunglasses of your choice, a Thomas & Thomas Fly Rod, a Ross Reel, a grip of Scientific Anglers tippet, along with a ton of other gear from our sponsors.
We’ll also be selling merchandise at our primary shows for the first time this year, like F3T hats from Costa, F3T T-shirts from Simms and F3T-branded YETI Colsters. 100% of the proceeds from those merch sales will go to fund filmmaker grants so that we can continue to assist the artists who make this whole thing possible.
Each of the affiliate events get some prizes in their show kit and they have the opportunity to gather prizes from our sponsors, local shops, etc. So, every show is going to include some big raffle opportunities.
And on a more philosophical level, why do you see story as an important part of the culture of fly fishing?
I think story is a crucial and integral part of our culture, it is tattooed in our fly fishing DNA. Some of the greatest storytellers of the past century were anglers who used their experiences on the water and in nature to tell deeper tales. We read their words now and though we might be separated by decades, we feel connected by the shared experiences of time on the water and connection with the natural world.
Fly fishing films are still in their infancy as a storytelling medium, but you’ll see in the 2017 Tour that these filmmakers are getting better all the time at combining words and images to evoke emotion and leave a lasting impression on the viewer. There’s a limitless number of stories in and around fly fishing that have yet to be told and I’m excited to see which challenges are taken on by filmmakers in the years to come.
And do you have any cameos in these films?
(Laughs) No cameos for me. My double haul sucks and there’s enough beards on screen as it is.