By Howard Meyerson
One of my favorite annual winter events, the 2013 Fly Fishing Film Tour, is about to land in Grand Rapids at the Wealthy Theatre. The 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7 showing kicks off a six-stop Michigan tour that includes Ann Arbor on Feb. 22 at the historic Michigan Theater.
It wasn’t that many years ago that Grand Rapids was the only Michigan stop for this Boulder, Colo.-based film fest for fly fishers. But Doug Powell, co-owner of the festival, said the tour buzz has been growing. The footage keeps getting better and more diverse. The festival is playing in 150 venues nationwide this year, 40 more than last year.
“We do have more showings in Michigan this year,” said Powell in a phone interview from his Boulder office. “Fly fishing is really picking up in the Midwest, not just in Michigan.
“What I’ve noticed the last couple of years is we are seeing great films from the Midwest. Everyone used to send us films about western trout or bonefish and tarpon, but now we’re getting films about smallmouth bass in Wisconsin or fishing musky on a fly.
“It’s nice to see. It’s not just Belize and the Bahamas. People are making great films that are focused on Midwestern areas.”
No doubt. One of my favorites this year is “The Brothers Brown,” shot on the trophy waters of the AuSable River below Mio. The piece was crafted by the Chicago-based filmmaker Robert Thompson, whose film “Musky Country; Zero to Hero” broke new ground with wide acclaim in 2011, providing an in-depth look at two Wisconsin anglers who were obsessed with landing a big musky on the fly.
“The Brothers Brown” is an equally personal look at three Michigan brothers, Matt, Eric and Mark Grajewski. All three are streamer junkies who learned to fish those waters with their father. Their quests are for 26-to-30-inch brown trout.
“The Brothers Brown” is a well-told story, done with Thompson’s flair for creative camera work. It is one not to miss.
Another terrific film is “Urban Lines,” by TwoFisted Heart Production and Freestone Entertainment. It’s a tale of four anglers who pursue their piscine dreams in a very urban setting, fly fishing for striped bass, snakehead and shad on the tidal waters of the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., amid the traffic, airport landings and concrete.
“It’s like a largemouth on steroids,” one of them said about catching a snakehead. “The river is world-class, but people don’t know it,” another said.
Those are two of nine films in this year’s lineup on the eastern swing of the tour. Powell said his company received 50 submissions this year, far too many for a two-hour show, so the pot was split, with some showing only out west and some only shown in the east. Seventy percent of the films will show in both.
Powell’s company also launched an online theater this year. You can find it at flyfilmtour.com. It will present scheduled showings of entire films rather than the shortened versions made for the tour. Enthusiasts can sign up for email alerts announcing when each will be shown. Video trailers for this year’s tour also are available on the site.
“We recognize there are a lot of films that people need to see that we can’t get into the tours,” Powell said. “Otherwise, it would be three-and-half hours long. We created this theater so that people all across the country will be able to see the longer cut of the films.”
Chris Keig, Powell’s business partner, said adventure and diversity are the focus of the 2013 tour. The Midwest and East Coast lineup includes a fascinating film about the conservation of Atlantic salmon, called “Turning Tail.” It will be shown along with other excellent films — some from exotic locales.
Look to be knocked out by “Blackwater,” by Grant Wiswell, of Castaway Films, which features fly fishing for golden dorado on the Agua Negra River in the Bolivian Amazon.
“That one is really neat,” Powell said. “I have never seen anything like it. He shoots at 240 frames per second, catches some humongous fish and has this super-slow-motion footage that is really cool.”
“Magnetic North,” by Fly Out Media, will whet the appetites of those who hope to fish for Alaskan king salmon. The story is told through the voices of the guides and anglers at the Tordrillo Lodge there.
“Expedicion Alacranes,” by Beattie Outdoor Productions, is delicious and funny tale about fishing for tarpon, bonefish, billfish and triggerfish in the Gulf of Mexico.
That’s just some of what’s on tap at the tour. On a dark February night, when the wind is howling and cabin fever has set in, there isn’t a much better way for fly-fishing anglers to spend an evening.
Michigan Showings of the 2013 Fly Fishing Film Tour
February 7: Wealthy Theatre, Grand Rapids
February 9: Mountain Grand Lodge, Boyne Falls
February 22: Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor
March 2: The Inside Out Gallery, Traverse City
March 6: Oscar’s Restaurant and Entertainment, Midland
April 22: The Lyon Theater, South Lyon
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This column appears on MLive Outdoors.