According to What’s Up Yukon fishing columnist Dennis Zimmermann, fly fishing is no longer the “stuffy old pretentious sport” some people consider it.
“It’s become much more accessible. There’s lots of women getting into it, lots of children, lots of families.”
That’s one reason Zimmermann expects a good turnout from the local “community of fly anglers” for next week’s International Fly Fishing Film Festival (IF4) at the Beringia Centre.
“There are people that tie flies, and there are a lot of people that fly fish, but I don’t think there’s ever really been a venue where people have come together just about fly fishing,” he says.
Whitehorse joins the ranks of major southern-Canadian cities in hosting the IF4, which premiered in Calgary in January.
For Zimmermann, there is a natural affinity between fly fishing and film.
“People who fly fish have an appreciation for the grace of it, the poetry of fly fishing,” he says. “I think it lends itself more to the artsy side, that creative side, that juice you get from getting out there on the water.”
While Zimmermann sees the event largely as a celebration of the sport, he also expects a clear conservation message about “some of the very fragile ecosystems, and some of the watersheds that are a little more sensitive”, including areas of British Columbia known for their amazing steelhead fly fishing.
The man behind the appearance of IF4 in Whitehorse is Steve Hahn, who admits to having an ulterior motive.
“When I approached them, my clandestine reason for doing so was the H2O (Headwaters 2 Ocean Troutfitter) group opening a fly fishing shop at the end of April.”
Currently, H2O runs charter fly fishing trips as well as fly-tying and casting clinics.
Hahn has had a small, home-based shop for several years, but will soon expand to new quarters above the Burnt Toast Café on Second Avenue to take advantage of the tourist traffic.
“The Yukon and fly fishing go hand in hand,” Hahn says.
With ready access to prime, secluded fly-fishing locations, it’s less expensive than many people realize to get into the sport. Anywhere else, in order to garner the experience of fishing on your own, surrounded by wildlife, you need planes and money, Hahn says. Not so in the Yukon.
“The Yukon is pretty much what Alaska was 25 to 30 years ago. These days if you’re fishing in Alaska, generally you’ll be fishing side by side with other people.”
Hahn expects even people who aren’t avid anglers to enjoy the nearly three hours of entertainment at the IF4.
“It doesn’t just showcase the sport of fly fishing but the impacts on the environment from things like drilling for methane gas in the Skeena River in BC, and hydro electric dams,” he says.
“It’s a grassroots style of show that will showcase concerned citizens who’ve taken it upon themselves to make a change and not just extract from the resource.”
After attending the Calgary premiere during the Western Canada Fly Fishing Expo, Hahn says the fast pace and adventure style of the films should also appeal to fans of such genres as snowboarding or mountain biking videos.
“In no way are these the hokey, ‘Y’all let’s go fishing’ movies. This is A-1 cinematography.”
While experienced fly fishers will marvel at the exotic locations and species, such as the Nile perch from Egypt, small children may be wary of dipping their toes in the water after watching When Bull Trout Attack, Hahn suggests.
The evening’s 16 films also include a music video from Gunner & the Grizzly Boys entitled The Fly of My Dreams.
Hahn’s own favourite, Vignette, catches the essence of fly fishing as three lads with one rod try to teach themselves how to fish on an unnamed river.
As for Dennis Zimmermann – he looks forward to learning more about the art of Spey casting, the traditional two-handed Scottish form of fly fishing that involves a longer, heavier rod.
“I’d like to see some Spey fishing for steelhead – just watching some of these experts cast with incredible precision and grace and seeing that line kind of hit that water and get into some fish.”
He admits he has tried the technique, but isn’t very good at it yet.
“It’s a very tight motion, and to master the physics takes a little bit. I’ve put a few flies into the back of my head Spey fishing already.”
IF4 2011 is sponsored by Fly Fusion Magazine and Fly Nation TV, a weekly fishing show on the World Fishing Network.