Movie Review: Raising The Ghost (UPDATED)

movie-reel“The charm of fishing is that it’s the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable. A perpetual series of occasions for hope.” – Sir John Buchan

As independent film production has followed the promotional opportunities afforded on the internet, we’ve seen a plethora of films produced in the genre of fly fishing sport. Some are stories of the lives of anglers across the world, while others cover select anglers chasing fish with fly rods throughout the same. And we all know that environmental films abound.

What’s the deal?

logo_raising_the_ghostRaising The Ghost, the first film from Bozeman, Montana’s Fly Boys, can be summed up as follows:

  • If you are addicted to fish porn – adrenaline pumping fights with huge, angry fish on the end of thick, heavy line – you should check your local Blockbuster for the Jaws series.
  • If you spend your weekends at Greenpeace rallies, listening to conservation luminaries discuss the devastation industrialization, logging and dams have reeked on wild habitats, subscribe to the National Geographic and/or Discovery Channel on cable.

But, if you want all of the above, succinctly weaved into a story of hardcore anglers on a nearly impossible quest in the middle of nowhere, then go ahead and pick up Fly Boys’ Raising The Ghost.

Josh Brandner, Paul Tarantino and the rest of the RTG crew are chasing elusive, wild steelhead in the upper Skeena drainage, and the goal is to catch them rising to dries. Like any fishing trip, theirs is not without it’s trials – the gang is airlifted into the wilderness, only to wind up rafting/hiking miles outside of the original plan when days of fishing come up blank. They [believably] resort to traditional methods when the drakes don’t produce, seeking out new pools. And then finally, there’s a riser.

I’d like to say the highlight of the film was Mr. Tarantino’s 20+ pound catch, but I actually enjoyed the outtakes with the guides and conservationists and the quick tent chats with the gang just as much – the former was serious and enlightening, while the latter helped me understand the crew’s enthusiasm for fishing (and storytelling). I wound up feeling the entire cast was genuine, meaning they screw up while on the river just like the rest of us (but aren’t afraid to show it) – and that everyone involved with the film both loved to fish and cared deeply about what they were catching.

I’ve been steelheading once, a dozen-plus years ago. It was so damn cold my legs felt like stubs from the knee down, and I caught nothing. The experience hardly qualifies me as even a neophyte steelheader. But it is precisely 1,817 miles from Denver, CO to Smithers, BC., a trip that would take a couple of days at minimum. Scary I even thought of looking that up, but unsurprising once you’ve watched this movie.


As for the DVD itself, it was professionally produced and is well organized. In addition to the movie, which can be easily accessed via chapter, the DVD also includes bonus section interviews with both the film’s anglers as well as some steelhead/conservation legends. I’d previously viewed the trailer, but frankly it doesn’t do this fine piece of work justice.

I’m giving this movie a 9.5 out of 10, with a half point deduction because having watched it is going to wind up costing me dearly – in spey rods and Skagit lines, as well as thousands of dollars in gas and beer trying to pull this trip off myself someday.

Time for free stuff

Josh Brandner pinged me around a month ago, asking if I’d like to take a look at the film – I obliged, but with no guarantees. I figured that if it sucked, I’d simply send it back to him and make no mention of it (I see no reason to trash people’s artistic endeavors, particularly if they’re related to fly fishing). But if it was good I’d do a review, and give the movie away thereafter. The latter is what’s happening.

This time I’m going to do things a little different, since I’ve been told those little quizzes I’ve put together are a pain in the ass. Rather, post a link in the comments (or email me) with your finest trout or steelhead catch – big and/or beautiful are game. The rules are simple – you must have caught the salmonid with a flyrod (having the rod in the picture will obviously help in the judging), and I need your explicit permission to re-post the picture here (meaning it must be you in the picture too). If you’ve got a good story to go along with the pic, hand it over if you like. Two weeks from today, I’ll post all the pictures I receive along with some voting thingamabob, and leave the rest up to the readers. Voting will stay open for seven days. Highest number of votes gets a free video.

UPDATE: Two weeks past, and there were no takers. So the freebie has been set free.


The Film: Raising The Ghost
Directed by: Josh Brandner and Paul Tarantino
Produced by: Paul Tarantino, in association with Josh Brandner, Bob Carroll, and Ryan Stumpe
Edited by: Josh Brandner
The Anglers: Paul Tarantino, Jess Atkins, Bob Carroll, and Nick Watson
‘Mentor Anglers’: Bob Clay, Denise Maxwell, Lee Spencer, Bill Flick, Jerry Kustich, Keith Stonebraker, Russell Chatham, Tom Morgan, Rusty Vorous, and Steve Pettit
Voice Over: Barrett Golding
Everything Else: Thanks to the whole crew (i.e. the great folks I missed here because I ran out of room)!



Matt Dunn says:

I got the movie yesterday and already watched it. Very fine indeed. But what was up with the IPOD guy? And just watching them haul all that gear around made me long for ultralight. When they started getting into the “dead drift drakes” hand over fist it was pretty freaking awesome. You’re the man MG.

You earned it dude. That brown pic you sent me was the finest I’ve seen from a non-photojournalist in quite a while. Greatly appreciate you letting me use it.

As for that drake action…yea, it’s pretty sick as scenes go. Even with the damn iPod.

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