Mike Kirkpatrick with backcountry brown trout

RISE Screened in Hamilton

The Waikato screening of this years RISE Fly Fishing Film Festival was held last night at the Lido Cinema in Hamilton. I went along with friends to soak up the atmosphere and gain inspiration for the upcoming season.

Now in its tenth year this niche film event has built something of a reputation for featuring amazing stories of passionate fly fishermen (and women) targeting a range of species in some incredible places – this year was no exception.  After a relaxed, understated introduction from the event organisers, the focus was put on the amazing films – a series of short films followed by the main feature.

The short films kicked off in dramatic style with ‘Aquasoul’, a story of two passionate fly anglers Brett Wilson and Peter Morse, who’s lives have taken them on very different paths, yet they both find themselves casting together in a fly fisherman’s paradise – the Great Barrier Reef.

“Blue Bastards are one of the most charismatic and enigmatic of fish species… some people could end up going home in a straight jacket because of them!”

We were treated to some incredible fishing, from stalking along white beaches to walking vast shallow flats, from throwing long lines towards big GT’s to casting into holes in the reef for a lucky dip of species… this place really is one of the great wonders of the world. The action was incredible as both anglers connected with a variety of powerful and often colourful fish. The footage of the GT ‘hits’ was simply breathtaking. Underpinning all of this drama was a genuine story of the joys and challenges that faced two fellow fly fishermen.

Another film ‘Yow – Icelandic for Yes’ took us to Iceland to witness a fly fishing trip to this hostile, freezing, volcanic land, where the elements are as much of a challenge as the fish. If you like exploring very wild places in pursuit of salmon and trout, and you also fancy the idea of surfing in a blizzard, this is the film for you!

The third film entitled ‘Those Moments’ took us on a tour with fishing guides on their day off, and included visits to Alaska, the Bahamas and British Columbia. The fourth and final short film ‘Carpland’ headed to the USA and highlighted the often overlooked subject of fly fishing for carp. From a personal perspective I can see exactly why they are overlooked!

After a short break we settled in to view the main feature film of the night, ‘Backcountry – South Island.’ Expectation was high following last year’s highly acclaimed ‘Backcountry – North Island.’

“Backcountry is outside your comfort zone, somewhere a bit special”

The new film included a few familiar faces from last years North Island based film. Mike Kirkpatrick a professional fly fishing guide from Nelson took a few days off from Guiding to take a ‘walk-in’ backcountry trip with an old fishing buddy. The size and quality of the brown trout was amazing. A telling remark from Mike revealed that catching big trout was always welcome but the most important characteristics for him were the quality and beauty of these wild fish. A perspective that I fully agree with. A reality check came towards the end of their trip when Mike’s mate lost the-fish-of-a-lifetime, due to a forgetten landing net. Early on in the battle Mike attempted to land the huge fish by hand, by grasping it above the tail. The big powerful brown wasn’t having a bar of it and threw Mike’s hand off in forceful style. While we all shared the frustration it was comforting to see these things can happen to the best of us!

We also once again saw Andrew Harding, who is developing quite a following on YouTube for his own movie clips. This time, he and Nick Reygaert, the founder of Gin-Clear Media took a multi-day rafting trip down a very remote river, camping as they went. High numbers of naive trout attacked flies with little hesitation, giving both anglers a considerable workout.

Rene Vas was also involved again. As Director and founder of The Manic Tackle Project, Rene is responsible for bringing some of the biggest tackle brands to New Zealand. In this film he reveals that these days the hardships of backcountry camping “are not my scene.” Just as well the jet boat that took him and his buddies up to the headwaters was fully stocked with home comforts!

Another highlight was seeing English fly fishing writer and casting instructor Paul Proctor describe his anxieties as he prepared to cast to a ‘pool master’ brown…  “the 100 ways I could stuff this up!” This part of the film took the viewer through the whole process of fly selection, casting, hooking, playing and the final delight and relief at getting the fish in the net. A sequence that captured the sentiments of many fly fishermen when they encounter a really big fish.

The night was very enjoyable and certainly set the mind thinking about the new season and the fresh challenges that lie ahead. Backcountry here we come.

More about the RISE Fly Fishing Film festival >


James Barnett