November 13, 2013
Fly Fishing Film Review: 'Waypoints' Hits The Mark
By Kirk Deeter
Over the past few weeks, Tim Romano has talked up the premiere of the latest movie from Confluence Films, "Waypoints." The film was shown for the first time at benefit events throughout the world on November 8 (including some put on by Romano and his Greenbacks cohorts that raised more than $10,000 for restoring flood-damaged Front Range rivers). I was fortunate to attend a screening with the filmmakers, Jim Klug and Chris Patterson, in Bozeman, Montana.
I generally like fly-fishing films. I think they're good for the sport. I think they get people thinking about fly fishing, and conservation, and wild places. But to be completely honest, I think a lot of the short form stuff pretty much amounts to rolling grip-n-grin photography. Which is fine, because I like looking at colorful fish as much as any angler. But as a writer, I can't help but reserve a deeper level of appreciation for quality words that capture the essence of not only the action, but also the culture. I like them wrapped in themes, and I like them to have substance. Most of all I like them to inspire.
Which is exactly why "Waypoints" impressed me deeply. Jim Klug is the founder and director of operations for Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures. He's guided and traveled throughout the world, and is an accomplished photographer. But he's also a gifted writer, who can turn a phrase, and plant your feet firmly in the water. His opening narrative for "Waypoints" was a grabber:
"We can all identify the important milestones and significant stopping places that collectively shape our journey through life. As we live our lives, we are shaped by the significant events and occurrences that ultimately identify and construct who we are and who we become as people. This is also true for our identity as anglers, where we define ourselves through the fish we catch, the people we interact with, and the places that fishing takes us throughout the world. As young anglers, such milestones might include the first time that we pick up a fly rod. Our first fishing trip with a father, grandfather or friend. And certainly the first fish caught with a fly that we've tied and created ourselves. As we grow as anglers, these pivotal events and experiences evolve as well. A memorable catch. Trips to far-off waters. And for many, time spent fishing with our own children. For those of us lucky enough to have discovered fly fishing, there is little doubt that these are the events that improve, expand and ultimately enrich our individual journey through life. These are our WAYPOINTS."
Catchy metaphors and illustrative phrases—"The Yellow-lipped emperor...a strange and outlandish fish that seems more at home in the pages of a children's coloring book than in the skinny waters of the Atoll"—thread throughout the narration. In some moments of the film, you can almost close your eyes and still appreciate it.
But don't, because you'd be missing out on what the rest of the production team brings. Patterson is best known as the lead director and cinematographer of Warren Miller Ski Films, and in "Waypoints," as with past Confluence projects "Drift," "Rise," and "Connect," the visual and audio work all melds nicely, with pace and precision. Denver Miller's cinematography work is illuminating. You feel like you're fishing. You can almost smell the atmosphere.
Of course, I think the large appeal of this film is that it is aspirational, in that it transports viewers to virgin fisheries throughout the world that few of us will actually see in person. In this case, the locations are southern Chile, the Venezuelan jungle, St. Brandon's Atoll in The Seychelles, the Tongass in Southeast Alaska, and northern India. I have been fortunate enough to personally connect (no pun intended) with three of the vignettes. I have fished with Oliver White in South America (not in Venezuela, but in nearby Guyana for arapaimas), and I have been on the helicopters with Andres Ergas in Chile. I have spent time fishing in the Tongass. That is only relevant in the context that, having been to some of these places, I can say that what's captured for the screen is spot-on, raw, and very honest.
The DVD is now available for $29.95. Whether you're thinking about a stocking stuffer, or a good virtual vacation to be enjoyed in your favorite armchair, I highly recommend it.