Sports

Fly fishing film festival grows along with local filmmaker

Kelowna filmmaker Travis Lowe floating the River Ngao with Karen Villagers on Bamboo Rafts. - Contributed
Kelowna filmmaker Travis Lowe floating the River Ngao with Karen Villagers on Bamboo Rafts.
— image credit: Contributed

Five years ago, Kelowna fishermen Travis Lowe and about seven of his fishing buddies gathered in Lowe's living room to check out some fishing movies.

The next year Lowe and about 50 others sat around a local restaurant to watch two fly-fishing films, one of which focussed on conservation efforts in Montana. It was then that Lowe decided he would take his passion for fishing and film and combine them to try and help the troubled Kettle River in the Christian Valley.

"We watched those movies and that was the light-bulb that went on," said Lowe. "Right after I played the film I said 'I'm starting Trout Unlimited Okanagan.' That's how it formed. I thought we had to do something to stop what was going on with the Kettle River."

Fast forward three years and Lowe and his group are bringing the fourth annual Fly Fishing Film Festival to Kelowna (March 16, Black Box Theatre). This year is a new company called F3T, the Fly Fishing Film Tour.

Lowe's group Trout Unlimited Okanagan has raised close to $45,000 in those years and the local fisher has also become a well-know fly-fishing film-maker himself, producing corporate fly-fishing films as well as two feature films, including his most ambitious effort that will play at the festival called Thai One On.

"This is without a question the best film I've made in terms of my career in fly-fishing filmmaking," said Lowe this week. "What I'm really proud of is it tells a really interesting story."

Thai One On finds Lowe traveling to Thailand in search of the endangered Golden Mahseer, a member of the carp family of fish and prized for its powerful fight. Lowe meets members of the Montana Fly Company in Thailand and travels deep into the mountains to explore the River of Reflection where local tribes use the Mahseer for food and, with the help of Montana Fly, are trying to conserve the species and create a fish tourism industry.

It's a complex story that has many aspects to it, unlike many films in the fly-fishing genre. The film attracted the attention of the Fly Fishing Film Tour, the biggest and most popular fly-fishing film festival known as F3T that will run in 150 different city's this year.

Lowe's film will run at every F3T event show across North America.

"I'm flattered to have my film as one of the F3T features," said Lowe. "This is the epitome of fly fishing films. I can't get any higher than this."

And the F3T will be different than what local anglers have come to see for the past three years at the Fly Fishing Film Festival in Kelowna. Most of the films that will be shown are shorter in length than in past years and the show will also feature many films that are specific to B.C. and Washington State.

"These are shorter films targetted specifically to the Pacific Northwest so the films we will see here are actually put together for us versus what someone will see in say Miami," explained Lowe. "I went to Seattle and watched the F3T already and the show is fantastic. These are the highest quality of films in the industry and you can't see them anywhere else."

The event will again act as a fundraiser for Trout Unlimited Okanagan and is expected to raise over $8,000 more for future conservation efforts on the Kettle River, once a prized trout stream that is being over-fished as well as having its water drained by big agriculture operators, according to Lowe.

"The Kettle River is one of the most endangered rivers in B.C. and has been for the past six years," said Lowe. "I think what's going on is a complete tragedy and I don't think anyone is standing up for the Kettle. The provincial government should have made the Kettle catch and release six years ago. Now with water withdrawals and Big White has made an application for water, the numbers of fish are falling and some people think there is nothing that can be done to save it."

During the film festival the provincial government will make a presentation on the Kettle River and Lowe said they may be announcing changes to the fishing regulations.

The 2013 Fly Fishing Film Tour is March 16 at 7 p.m. at the Black Box Theatre. Tickets are $15 and are available at Trout Waters Fly and Tackle Shop. It's a non profit event with all proceeds going to Trout Unlimited Okanagan.

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