by John Kovach
Those who pursue their recreation outdoors are subservient to the seasons. There are times it’s just too warm to ski. There are times it’s just too cold to fish (unless you’re an ice fisherman, but that’s another story).
Those really, really hardcore about their passion struggle through those off-seasons. Tinkering with gear is one way, but there comes a time when you just need to see a reminder of the way things were, and the way they will again be.
The seasons on the river, captured in their vibrant color, will come to life on the big screen when the Fly Fishing Film Tour makes its stop in Connecticut Friday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. at the Bow Tie Marquis 16 in Trumbull. Tickets are $25 each online (flyfilmtour.com) or $30 at the door, with all proceeds benefitting the conservation and education work of three local Trout Unlimited chapters here in Fairfield County.
Ridgefield’s Chris Keig took over the F3T, as it’s called, after working for Warren Miller, whose pioneering ski movies launched the genre that brings outdoor recreation inside when the weather just isn’t going to cooperate.
An outdoorsman who did some fly fishing around Connecticut, but lots of hiking and other activities, Keig moved to Colorado. He lives in Boulder, skiing in the winter, fishing, sometimes from his drift boat, in the summer.
Keig got his start in the mailroom, literally, for Warren Miller.
“When I was at Warren Miller Films I started in mailroom actually, just shipping out posters for their tour. I did that for a couple years and they ended up starting a films division, so I was their first employee of the new WM Films Division. We did television programming and such,” Keig said in an interview with Yankee Fisherman on the HAN Network, which can be found online, under shows, at han.network.
It was in his role with the new Warren Miller company that Keig’s passion for film blossomed.
“I had to learn to edit, I had to learn how to operate these systems, and QC and look at all sorts of film,” Keig said. “So that’s kind of how my passion started.”
Keig was among the skiers captivated by Miller’s pioneering films of skiers in an endless winter, visiting exotic locations.
About a dozen years ago, Keig said, the makers of the Trout Bum Diaries (AEG Media, now Motiv Fishing) traveled the country showing their work, and adding other movies to the lineup.
“They started doing this basically out of a hatchback,” Keig said.
By the second year, they didn’t want to tour.
Keig, who had been at Warren Miller Films 20 years, and co-worker Doug Powell, were both into fly fishing. They saw promising waters.
“We took our vast experience at Warren Miller and had a jump start on everybody else,” Keig said.
“We took that model and applied it to fly fishing,” he added. “The response has been great. There’s something there for a passionate audience; they’re not well serviced outside of the Internet.”
Since Keig and Powell took over 11 years ago, the Fly Fishing Film Tour has grown from 25 stops to almost 160 across the U.S.
“The filmmakers, they’ve kind of come along with us,” Keig said. “The first year, obviously, the film quality was lower. But we were starting and gaining momentum; what ended up happening was the filmmakers started one-upping themselves a bit as well. So at this point we have very high quality filmmakers who really cut their teeth and they also understand their audience. So now they’re creating these great films, but what they’re doing is they’re creating it for our audience.
“It really is kind of a two-pronged attack, with the filmmaking being so good but also understanding who they’re playing to,” Keig added. “This is a fun, experiential event. Our job, if we do it well, is to have the audience leave and want to go fishing. Which is why we like to do in this timeframe, the first part of the year, where it’s kind of cold out and people are getting a little cabin-feverish, that’s where the fervor is really at its highest, and you guys are right in the middle of it as well, where people are itching to get outside, getting to the point where, hey, I need my fix, and we kind of offer that outlet and that release to them.”
The concept of the Fly Fishing Film Tour being an event is crucial to Keig.
“When I was at Warren Miller Warren was still around and part of the company and it was really a pleasure and a privilege for me to work with him,” Keig said. “He started this whole idea of niche sports entertainment. And he wasn’t out there just showing a movie; he was creating an event.”
Seeking to create an experience for his audience, Miller, Keig recalled, set up in his warehouse with a cassette recording of music and a podium, and narrating his movies for an audience that had nowhere else to turn for their skiing fix. Keig is striving for a similar reach with the Fly Fishing Film Tour.
“We are serving a clientele that is really, really hungry for it,” he said.
Some films include graphic language and situations which may be inappropriate for younger viewers. Parents are advised to decide whether to bring their fishing-fanatic children to the event.
Trailers can be viewed at flyfilmtour.com.