Punks & Flies: An Interview With "Reverb" Filmmaker Robert Thompson

Growing up I had two passions: fishing and music. At Christmas I could never decide whether to ask for a new fly rod or new distortion pedal for my guitar. Those two passions always created a strange juxtaposition. On one hand I was addicted to playing in a punk band, getting sweaty and loud at basement shows, while on the other I loved a quiet river. This is why Robert Thompson's soon-to-be-released film "Reverb" struck such a chord (pardon the pun) with me. "Reverb" follows three members of old-school Chicago punk bands that join together frequently to flyfish the Driftless area in Wisconsin. As I think Thompson and I are somewhat kindered spirits in our love for loud music and soft rises, I caught up with him to find out more about what I'm already calling my favorite fly film EVER.

JC: Are you a true punk? Did you grow up listening to the bands in "Reverb?"
RT: I wasn't a true punk but in my early college years I went through a period where Husker Du, Suicidal Tendencies, Black Flag, Ramones, 7 Seconds and the Dead Kennedys were in heavy rotation.

JC: What stereotypes about flyfishing do you think you're breaking with this film?
RT: Well, I suppose in this instance it's hard to wrap your head around a bunch of old punk rockers fly fishing, let alone liking the small stream technical fishing found in the Driftless. It's not that punk rockers wouldn't fly fish, I would just think if they did it would be more on the salmon, steelhead end of things...you know, a little more fist-pumpy, rock 'n roll, screaming drag kinda deal, not quaint spring creek trout fishing. So, in terms of the piece itself, it's not a travel/adventure, exotic location, in search of the biggest fish thing. It's a story about these three guys, their history and experiences in the early punk scene and their passion for flyfishing, which in a lot of aspects is greater than their passion for music. And, it's all set right here in the Midwest. These are the stories that interest me.

JC: Which band member was the best flyfisherman?
RT: Actually, they are all very capable fishermen. They know their schizzle. Herb's (bass player: Rights of the Accused) dad was a flyfisherman and taught him at a young age. Larry (singer: Pegboy) seems to be the most dedicated and the most into it and Joe (drummer: Pegboy) quietly caught the most and biggest fish during the production. You could take these guys fishing most anywhere and they would hold their own. Larry says he's the best, though.

JC: If you could fish with any band past or present which would it be?
RT: I would probably want fish and film with someone who I know appreciates the sport. It would either be Eric Clapton or Rodger Waters because I know both are avid fly fishermen. I would probably lean more towards Waters only because Pink Floyd is probably my favorite band even though I'm a guitar player and it would be cool to pick Clapton's brain...still, I'd go with Waters.

JC: As a filmmaker, what was the most satisfying aspect of shooting "Reverb?"
RT: I think it's just doing something that's maybe a little different. I mean it's not ground breaking in a production sense...it's just not your typical story. I think the easy thing to do is find an outfitter and/or guide, tag along with them while they fish, then sit them down for an interview so they can tell you how hard and technical the fishing is on their home waters. It's been done a hundred times. In "Reverb" I'll guarantee you won't find out if they prefer a 4- or 5-weight rod, what their favorite hatch is or if they think dry fly fishing is more difficult than nymphing.

Thompson hopes to have "Reverb" DVDs ready for sale in January. That DVD will actually have two full features..."Reverb" for all you punks and another documentary just on the Driftless area. To see more of Thompson's work, check out his site, Thirdyearflyfisher.com.