Last week, the fun lovin’ boys of the Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T) rolled into the Somerville Theater for what turned out to be one very short, and one very long, night. What do I mean by that? Let me explain.
The format of the F3T is a night in three parts: the crew plays a series of short films, breaks for a raffle-packed, cheering-filled intermission, and then goes back to the reels of short films. Beer is served (at least at the wonderful Somerville Theater it is), the crowd gets into it, and the shots of impossibly large fish in far-away places roll on and on, and on. At it’s best, like the Warren Miller and Teton Gravity Research films of the ski industry, these films are meant to quickly work you up into a pre-season lather, safely surrounded by your fellow obsessives who are cheering just as loud, if not louder, than you.
Sounds great, right? There’s just a few problems.
First, most of these films were not made for the festival. For anyone who trolls the web for new fly fishing content, or has a large RSS feed of fly fishing blogs, many of these previously-released films would likely be familiar to you. For instance, I would wager I had seen 30-50% of the festival’s contents prior to the festival. Given these are short films, the effect was to make it feel like an endurance YouTube event — the benefit of YouTube being you can stop to get free beer and food from your fridge, or let your retinas rest after the last large permit swallowed a well-presented fly at the end of a long and arduous journey, one with which you have begun to sympathize.
Second, beer is served. (Did I mention?) What this meant was that, by the end of the show, there was a sizable standing crowd in the back that seemed to grow, and to grow louder, as the night wore on. Given the festival crew was a part of this, and there was a lobby serving beer just outside the door, I was a little surprised — but then, one local and vocal rod rep did put on a good show with a voice that can command a large crowd, if not carry clear across the Restigouche. Still, theirs wasn’t quite the show I suspect many came for.
Finally, the one thing that I did find missing from the festival was any coverage of the craft of fly fishing. Beyond the aesthetics of it, this element of craftmanship is why I am drawn to the sport. In what other sport can you build all of the essential component parts, from scratch? Mountain biking? Good luck. Hang gliding? See you in heaven. But where were the fly tiers? The rod builders? Off screen, whittling away, unseen.
But then, I understand the tour on all three points. These boys have only one night in town to carouse with local reps and guides (or, more, if you check the New England show schedule posted here), and they can only work with what they’ve got. Fly tying doesn’t make for the most riveting of screen shots, but then internet is filled with them. And unlike Warren Miller, this is not a film company: it’s a content curation company taken on the road with all the bells and whistles of raffles, free give-aways, and charismatic hosts. These latter points are not to be underestimated.
The raffle prizes were great. Included was a trip to the Henry’s Fork, an Orvis rod, a pair of Patagonia Rock Grip wading boots (which I mercifully won), as well as some hats, water bottles, and other morsels thrown (literally) to the sparse crowd. If you won something — even something small — the cost of the $17 ticket quickly became a deal. This, I fear, won’t last long. For all the years I’ve been going to the Warren Miller tour, I’ve only won something only once — a Corona tie and matching windbreaker, at that, which I once wore to a formal occasion, in an ill-fated attempt to make the most of a disappointing result. This is due to the large, frothing crowds at these events. The crowd at the F3T Somerville show was small and subdued in comparison.
I have confidence, and hope, that the tour will grow. I also hope they’ll reduce the number of regional showings, so that the crowds grow in size (better to whip everyone into a high-energy, cheering frenzy) and that, once established, they can convince film makers to hold the release of their content until after the conclusion of the tour.
For now, roll on boys. And thanks for the boots. Maybe I’ll buy a GoPro and a remote-controlled drone, and submit a film of my own next year. Either way, I’ll see you there next year.