The 2016 Bumpy Waters Fly Fishing Film Awards – The Epics

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Me, Myself, and Fly Fishing Film — It’s Complicated

I love film. I love fly fishing. Even so, it’s no secret that I’ve been critical of fly fishing films. It’s a complicated relationship.

The film tours/fests have been one of the best things to happen to fly fishing, the worst things to happen to certain fly fishing locales, have raised a lot of money for conservation, and have sometimes exposed divisive attitudes within the “quiet sport.” So it’s a mixed bag.

Formulas and formats sometimes feel tired and the films almost all feel way too long for the simple stories they’re trying to tell.

Is nobody here aware of the Reverend Maclean’s theory on the matter? Norman tells us how it should be:  “I attended the school of the Reverend Maclean. He taught nothing but reading and writing. And being a Scot…believed that the art of writing lay in thrift.” — from A River Runs Through It.

Many of these films feel like a 5th grade book report trying to get to 2 pages. Reusing shots, long droning interviews, and excessive slo mo are the fly fishing film fest equivalents of wide-ruled paper, double spacing, and big blocky print. Festivals should nix any length requirements and judge only by how epic each film is, so mostly story, number of surface takes, and presence of requisite break-off shots.

Annoying over-done drone flying aside, the film tours/fests are events to which I look forward every year. Fishy friends, fishy films, and free swag = a good time.

This year, instead of offering what I’ve been told by the internet is completely erroneous film-making advice, I thought I’d invent and kick off the biggest digital, text-only, awards show ever to hit fly fishing and this blog — The Epics.

Congratulations and/or condolences in advanced to the winners.


The Official 2016 Bumpy Water Fly Fishing Film Awards — “The Epics”

Best fly fishing film festival host

Winner: Travis SwartZ, A.K.A. “HANK Patterson”

Travis was epically “on point” at this year’s Down the Hatch in Missoula. A friend reminded of a comment I made about old Hank after he hosted a few years back. I’d commended his comedic timing and general schtick, but mentioned that he was just a bit “off.” He had comedy potential but wasn’t quite living up to what might be expected of a high-school graduate and the world’s greatest fly fishing guide.

Hank was neither “off” nor merely showing potential this year. He was legit funny, like real comedian-at-The-Improv kind of funny. He also made a legitimately compelling case for the “Hank Patterson for President of the United States of the America” campaign.

Travis was even better. His short tribute to friend and fellow filmmaker, Reese Ferguison, who unfortunately lost his battle with cancer and will not be reprising the role of “Crazy Reese,” at least in this life, was one of my favorite moments in fly fishing. Nearly 1,000 trucker-hatters offered a well-deserved standing ovation for Reese, Travis and their gift to our tribe.

Travis, that was an Epic worthy performance in every respect.

Best Scooter Jump

Winner: The Hog by Fly Fusion Films

With more than 5 minutes of what appeared to be Super 8 film burned before we saw the first river, “The Jump” by Napole… I mean Mark Crapo (along with April Vokey’s moving performance) successfully staved off most of the tomato pitching.

Your Epic is in the mail (not actually).

Best Editing

Winner: Arctic Unicorns

There were probably better technical edits, and some rad looking tricks (R.A. Beattie gets a serious honorable mention) but for my charity donation, Arctic Unicorns was it.

I admittedly know next to nothing about film editing. However, this one brought some beautiful shots together to tell a simple, fun fishing trip story that just worked.

Epic edit.

Best Shooting of the Shoots

Winner: Gold Fever by Burl Productions

If Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon have taught us anything, some fishing trips are about survival.

Epic worthy oarsmanship.

Busiest Filmmaker

Winner: Beattie Outdoor Productions

I don’t know exactly how many films R.A. and his company were involved in this year, maybe only a couple (only, ha!) , but kudos for seeming to show up with a bunch of solid stuff year after year after year for as long as these things have been happening.


Most drone batteries burned up

Winner: Along the Way by Hooke (Honorable mention: Everyone else)

Holy drone shots.


Best Matching Wardrobe

Winner: Along the Way by Hooke

Holy red and black plaid.


Best Bro Hug(s)

Winner: Along the Way by Hooke

Holy uncomfortable hugs.


Most Miles (Kilometers in this case) Traveled on Film

Winner: Along the Way by Hooke

Holy Hookemobile.


Most Salmon Leaps

Winner: Along the Way by Hooke

Holy… Ok, you get the picture.


Best Comedy

Winner: Hank Patterson’s (Un)Official Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing by Hank Patterson

I have no idea if that’s the actual name of this film shown at the Orvis Down the Hatch Film Festival in Missoula. Hank and Orvis, please, please post this somewhere. Anytime you get something like 3 weeks worth of film in one 290 disc set you know you’ve hit the jackpot.

This one is worthy of something like 400 Epics.

Best “why the Hell Am I seeing People Skiing?” Moment

Winner: Steelhead and Spines by the Provo Bros

We get that you like to ski/snowboard and fish.

Uber Epic skiing, we guess.

Best Cinematography

Winner: Good as Ever by Nathan Leavitt & Nate Gunn

Disclaimer: I know these guys. However, this film is just plain pretty. I say that knowing a lot of the behind the scenes stuff, which, like caked on stage makeup viewed up close, usually makes things much less appealing. I’ll stand behind this one though, it’s shot really well.

Epic cinematography sirs.


And the reason you’ve kept reading this far…


Best Film

Winner: Pippa and Els go Fishing by The Orvis Company with contribution from Frederik Lorentsen, Peter Christensen, Simon Perkins, & Toby Burrell

See the Maclean quote above on thrift and art and you’ll see why this may be one of the greatest films to ever screen in front of a bunch of puffy coats. In addition to the super sweetness of mom and baby fishing together, this film actually had a non-superfluous drone shot that worked to help establish place and tell the story.

I dare you not to smile at the fish tail slap and baby splashing spring creek water.

Orvis has since posted this one online and has committed to donate $1 (up to $10,000) to Casting for Recovery for each time this video is shared with the hashtag #LongLiveMoms.

Very nicely done and well worthy of your Epic.


Congrats/condolences (The Epics are complicated awards) to all the winners. Keep making movies. See you on the water.


  1. Spot on Jake. There are a lot of talented people making fishy movies right now. Some have got it pretty nailed down and others are still finding the right balance. As for Hank Patterson, any man who would reenact”A River Runs Through It” and then choose a hardworking mother of three as his Secretary of Labor shows brilliance far above his high school education.

    • It’s the same philosophy Trump uses, any publicity/recognition is good publicity/recognition. “You made the worst movie in history.” = Top of the list.

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