Fly Fishing Films – The Epic Shots You Need

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Don’t Even Think About Making a Fly Fishing Film Without These Shots


Most of the fly fishing film fests, tours and khaki-plaid-flat-brim-mesh-puffy-coat bashes are winding down for the year. We’re actually starting to fish for real, in nature. But, in my tireless quest to provide unsolicited advice to filmmakers, I watched this year’s films intently, took careful notes, and want to make the world a better place by sharing some insights.

How to Make Epic Fly Fishing Films
Master guide, John Rock, rocks a flatty hat at the DTH15

This year I attended the International Fly Fishing Film Festival (IF4), Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T) and the Orvis Down the Hatch Film Fest (DTH15). Tongue temporarily removed from cheek, I have to say I personally enjoyed these events more than I have in years, the IF4 and Orvis event especially. For me, the F3T dragged this year. Never one to hold back an opinion, I think you could/should edit half of the content out of the F3T films. That said, the majority of the 2015 films brought it.

My most epic triumvirate 2015:

  • Ungava: No Man’s Land by Hooké (holy uber epic, watch trailer below)
  • Streamers Inc. (sheds light on a serious issue)
  • Salt 365 (accessible, unique, colorful)

“No Man’s Land” (Trailer) – Official Selection, IF4™ 2015 from IF4™ on Vimeo.


Honorable mention:

  • Sensei (Hank and April in one place, watch trailer below)
  • Distracted (cutthroats are rad)
  • Out of Touch (slowmo redfish takes galore)

“Sensei” (Trailer) – Official Selection, IF4™ 2015 from IF4™ on Vimeo.

In true Hank Patterson fashion, I’m going to take some credit for this year’s solid class by pointing out that last year I insightfully identified the phrases that basically poison your film. One would be tempted to say that I’m 90% responsible for this year’s goodness but I have Google Analytics and I know how many people read that post. I’m, statistically speaking, 85% responsible. The rest was totally due to the energy, talents, and efforts of dedicated filmmakers.

Watching all of these films, I came up with the “The definitive list of shots you must include for your fly fishing film to be monster Epic in 2016.” Yes, Fly Out, I said epic too and that’s even a capital E on that epic. Admittedly, Hank Patterson, did put together something like this once, but that was way back in like 2013 and times change. I watched an Adipose boat load of fish movies this year and I can spot trends. These are the bleeding edge.


The definitive list of shots you must include for your fly fishing film to be monster Epic in 2016.


Slowmo Bear

This was the quintessential shot of the year. If you didn’t have it you just weren’t that epic. See Peter Christensen for how to pull it off like a boss and Hooké seems to have access to the best polar bear talent around.


Slowmo Walking in a Line

We all do it. It’s natural to walk in perfect lines with your crew in everyday life, but it’s especially natural while negotiating uneven freestone stream bottoms, the boggiest of bogs, and tangled evergreen forests in expensive waders. These places are made for walking in lines and practically begging to be shot at 120 FPS. Capture this or your film will just be blah.


Slowmo Cast

Everyone knows casting is ugly in real time.


Slowmo Fly Takes

Noticing a trend? Well good. Don’t even think about making a film if you don’t get some epic fish eating flies like fat gluttons so you can slow it down for artistic effect.


Slowmo Hook Sets

It is absolutely imperative that you also capture the perfect amount of line spray. Too much or too fast and you just look sloppy.


Slowmo Fish Jumps

No, for reals. See Hooké and Sharptail Media for a master class.


Slowmo Fish Lifting

We all want to relish this special moment of triumph with you for about forever and slowmo let’s you drag this special time out ad infinitum. However much we want to see the one-hour fish lift, in real life this needs to be a quick one-take.  Keep ’em wet, yo!


Slowmo High Fives

Round out your slowmo shots with this one. And now that the time taken up by slowmo has helped your little short become a full feature we can move on.


Epic Beard Shot

There was some seriously fresh beard work this year. Next year’s films may hinge on this. Script this shot with an anti-real-job quote and you’ll be so money (except nobody actually gets paid). Also, I can’t wait to see this year’s tastiest morsels of camp food next year.


Epic Fist Bump Transitioning  to Bro Hug

You need this. Try it in slowmo for a fresh look.


Fish Follow

Start with a sombre-faced release (why so sad?) and then follow the fish underwater. Stick your GoPro right on its tail and chase it into the deep. If you are planning a comedy, film the filmer trying to execute this shot.


Time Lapse Clouds or Fog

The entire outdoor film industry would basically implode without this one. It will take you forever. Do it.


Hank Shot

Only if you are ready for the fame and fortune.


Vokey Shot

Only if you are ready for the social media.


Sponsor Product Shot

Only if you ever want to do another one.


Copter Fly Over

Save your coin for this one. Otherwise, here’s the link to the Phantom Quadcopter Company.


Copter Shot of Another Copter




Yes, 3 copters all shooting each other. Minds will melt like we’re viewing a live-action M.C. Escher scene. Try it in slowmo.


Direct Overhead Copter Spin

The dizziness produced by this one will mask any subsequent editing flaws for a good 5 minutes.


Middle Distance Stare

Nothing says, “I’m so freaking contemplative when I fly fish.” like a good slow zoom in on someone looking at some unknown object approximately 220 yards away and 5 degrees above the horizon line.


Oh, and do not forget to make sure all of these shots are backlit. You’re golden. See you at the Wilma.


Doin’ Fly Fishing Films Proud:




  1. Oh man… Couldn’t you have put ‘spoiler alert’ up front? Not all of us have seem the sick, epic, uber, uber sick epic films of this year yet. Will just wait patiently – no, make that ‘wait in epic slowmo’- for next years shows.

    Thanks for the laugh!

  2. Additional tips:
    Put on headphones, put a fan in your face and pretend you’re in a helicopter. Purse your lips and make that ppptppptpppt sound.
    Then put a lamp with a tungsten bulb, to give you that yellow cast, close to your face and hold out go-pro.
    Color grade till you have a C-. at the best.
    Add six minutes of product placement.
    Bleep expletives but not offensive language.
    Call April on the phone and act stupid.
    Only use available light for that great contrasty look.
    Don’t forget the water running off of the reel shot.
    Hold camera low and take a lot of feet/boot shots. Repeat for sand, woods and boat deck.
    Use lots of bad audio and increase gain when the action starts, so no one is confused as to what’s about happening and please skip any ambient sound. After all, every time I’ve caught a tarpon, the only sound was loud obnoxious library music.

    Best advice I never took: Don’t go. Read a book. If you want slo-mo, read one word at a time, out loud. For atmosphere, read a book on beach. Use your imagination.

    Beer is helpful, lots of beer makes it better.
    Good thing some of these events raise money for good causes.

    • Stuart, thanks for the comments. Let’s not forget this isn’t Cannes. Yeah, I’ve been critical. Mostly because of lack of story and creativity but I also know a lot of these filmmakers and they are doing this in their spare time (granted a lot of them have a lot of that). It’s not leading to big studio film deals or any meaningful brand support, so there’s not a lot of incentive. It would be nice to see one of the festivals really step up their acceptance criteria and at the same time offer some real awards. They need brand money though and getting that is like squeezing orange juice from rocks.

      And yes, these festivals mainly raise money for great causes, so beer up and enjoy.

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