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Land of Little Rivers A documentary about the obsession of Fly fishing

Land of Little Rivers Trailer

Nestled amongst the mountains and valleys of upstate New York lies the Delaware river system, a network of waterways prized by dry fly fishing enthusiasts for its challenges and remoteness. Catching the wild trout that call these waters home is no easy feat, making the fishermen who hunt them all the more passionate about their craft. Filmmaker Aaron Weisblatt’s documentary explores the annals of these angler’s obsession, from the art of casting the perfect line to the sport’s origins as a secretive art known to a select group of local fishing families. Contrary to dry fly fishing's clandestine beginnings, each man and woman who lines the banks of the Delaware’s watershed is eager to share their carefully honed skills with rookies and veterans alike. Along with its sweeping beauty, Land of Little Rivers provides a charming glimpse into a subculture where unique personalities are as likely to amass as the fish they relentlessly pursue. – Avery Davenport

Poster

Synopsis

Land of Little Rivers is a feature length documentary, filmed in glorious 4k, about the unique subculture and obsessive nature of fly fishing. The story takes place in what’s referred to as the “Charmed Circle” - the mecca of east coast fly fishing in the Catskills of Southeastern New York. The film offers the audience not a lesson in how to fish, but a window into this fascinating and complex sport and the beautiful, and unusual places where fisherman live and work. The characters in the film are all consumed with a burning passion, bordering on addiction, for the Lifestyle the sport offers.

The narrative centers on four key dry-fly anglers, some legendary, and others infamous. Dave Brandt is our Wise Sage, a living legend who’s seen it all and is known as an expert in tying the traditional Catskill Fly. He also teaches at the world famous Joan Wulff School of Fly Fishing. Robert Lewis is our Wildman, an infamous river guide, once described as “one pair of pants away from a caveman.” Rob is an expert guide and fly tyer who lives and breathes the sport. Ben Rinker is our Citizen Scientist, schooled in ecology and conservation, who runs a guide business and a B&B called East Branch Outfitters. He’s involved in protecting the health of the rivers he fishes. And then we have The Lady, Rachel Finn, a very well known female guide out of the Adirondacks who smokes cohibas, talks tough, spouts Yiddish phrases and enjoys a shot of whiskey. Or two.

The film includes other colorful characters like executive producer Bruce Concors, a raconteur, musician and retired businessman with a vast knowledge of fly fishing. Mike Canazon, a bamboo rod maker eloquently describes his obsession with the sport through an amazing story of the fish that got away. And Marty Yi, an Iraq veteran and wounded warrior, speaks to how the sport literally saved his life.

The film uses short, animated sequences to tell the history of dry-fly fishing, beginning with Theodore Gordon, the father of American dry-fly fishing. Historical characters important to the sport, come to life from animated photographs. The film explores the different river systems, their importance to the area and some of the difficulties fisherman experience. Environmental concerns, especially climate change, are addressed when a train derailment dumps 4000 gallons of diesel fuel into the Delaware river, nearly causing an environmental disaster.

Press

Walkill Valley Times – The Review

By Richard Phelps/Wallkill Valley Times/October 9, 2019

I can’t tell you what I really think, after all these are my friends. If I write all the good things about their movie, it will go straight to their heads. If I write anything else, it will go even deeper, straighter into their heads.

The movie “Land of Little Rivers” was made with great passion by two friends -- Bruce Concors, Executive Producer and narrator, and Aaron Weisblatt, director, whose NYU student film, SAM, a film about my father, was nominated for an Academy Award back in the ’80’s. “Land of Little Rivers” is an engaging chronicle of the characters, water features, and the fly fishing history and techniques, of the Catskill Mountains. Filmed over 28 days by helicopter, drone, land cameras, and drift boats, the movie takes the viewer inside a special region of North America where unique conditions make for some of the best cold water trout fishing in the world.

What are “flies”? Who invented “fly fishing”? What’s a dry fly, a wet fly? What’s important about a Blue Gordon? A Red Gordon? What’s a hackle? How to make a split bamboo fly rod. It’s all there. The story is told by the practitioners themselves, in their own words, in their own time, on their own sets.

The intersecting narration by Bruce channels some of the best writing style of Antony Bourdain. The text is informed by a lifetime on the rivers. His voice and diction are professional and controlled – attributes attributable to so many years singing dead-throat Dylan in dive bars. He is the glue, the angler with all the angles, the connections, the knowledge of, it seems, everyone in the sport, in the game. Late last summer I spent an afternoon on the river in his drift boat with Aaron on the camera. Bruce could recognize and name the fisherman in waders three quarters of a mile away just by his silhouette and casting style. This movie is his baby and fishing these cold waters is his life.

Yet, everyone featured in the film has a similar unique focus on the fly fishing world, or the areas of New York through which the waters run. There’s Rob, the self-proclaimed alcoholic hippie river guide, whose greatest joy is having his client case the river so well, observe the insect hatch so closely, and watch the action of the feeding fish so patiently, that the day’s fishing is a single cast for a single fish, BANG! -- 17 inch brown. Case closed.

It was mesmerizing to watch the expert Dave Brandt tie one of his signature flies at his work desk, at the fly-tying table clamp, under the bright lights of the camera lamp. Equally fun to watch, the one and only cigar-chomping Rachel Finn guide her female client to a big fish on the Ausable River and then come down south and explain the difference in Catskill stream fishing to Adirondack water. I wish we could have seen more of the bamboo rod production guy. His craft is fascinating and the work intense, right down to turning out of his own metal-ware for the rod. There’s just too much here for one film.

These little rivers depend on their water from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP oversees the city-owned reservoirs from which the waters of the rivers are released. There is a constant struggle between fish and human. Too little water from the reservoir releases and the river dries up, and with it, the economy of the sport fishing region. As long as there is plenty of rain, the dance between fisherman and city dweller is light and carefree. During droughts, tensions arise. In the end, we all know where the water will go. Water is life. Mni wiconi? Biblical dominion.

These cold waters are high in oxygen, a fact necessary for the successful reproduction of trout, and the chemistry of the soils, coupled with this oxygen, allows for extraordinary insect life in the stream beds and in the air over the running currents. These insects live in the water most of their lives, then come to the surface and hatch into the various flies they are, and, live a day or so, and die and return to the water, and are eaten by the trout by the millions and millions. Knowing these insects, learning their life-cycles, observing their place in the ecosystem, is the heart of fly fishing and the core knowledge associated with a successful attachment to the Land of Little Rivers’ universe.

Go see it. As I told Aaron during a moment of weakness, “A hundred years from now this is going to be an extremely popular film! A cult classic.”

Utah Film Festival - The Review

Sail along with the gurus of fly fishing in this awesome feature documentary Land Of Little Rivers Film by Aaron Weisblatt. It was an incredible experience watching this documentary. It taught me a lot about the history of fly fishing, techniques of angling, habitats of the fish, as well as, the wellness and conservation of rivers. Also, I was able to get to know many Anglers, fishermen, and women, of the fly fishing sport who live and breathe the sport 24/7. Indeed an amazing documentary, very informative with top-notch quality, this is even better than several National Geographic episodes I have seen. Cheers to these incredibly wonderful anglers and to this awesome documentary!

13 Industry Statistics

#1. If fishing was a corporation in the United States, it would be listed in the Fortune 500 because of its economic impact. Licensed anglers generated about $48 billion in retail sales annually. (American Sportfishing Association)

#2. The economic impact of recreational fishing in the United States is valued at $115 billion. More than 825,000 people are directly employment because of the activities of anglers each year. (American Sportfishing Association)

#3. There are about 3.8 million anglers in the United States who report that they go fly fishing on a regular basis. 85% of those who participate in fly fishing activities are men. (Field and Stream)

#4. 64% of fly fishing activities occur at freshwater locations. The most common place to go fly fishing is in the Rocky Mountains, where 31.5% of the industry is located. (Field and Stream)

#5. Physical retail locations are responsible for a majority of the sales generated by the fly fishing industry. In 2012, 83% of all sales occurred at a fly fishing shop. Another 13% were e-commerce sales. The remainder of the industry revenues are generated by mail-order catalogs. (Field and Stream)

#6. July thru September is the most popular time to go fly fishing in the United States. About 36% of fishing activities occur during these months. In comparison, just 15% of fishing activities happen in January thru March. (Field and Stream)

#7. Total sales that are generated by small- to medium-sized businesses in the fly fishing industry generated about $750 million in revenues annually. The national average for a fly fishing retail location is $315,000 in revenues. (American Fly Fishing Trade Association)

#8. 15.8% of the U.S. population reports that they participate in fishing activities at least once per year. The average person goes fishing about 19 times each year. That means more than 890 million fishing trips are taken annually. (The Outdoor Foundation)

#9. About 44% of youth that are interested in fishing are girls and children are more likely than adolescents to be interested in fly fishing activities. (The Outdoor Foundation)

#10. 32% of anglers who participate in fishing activities are a college graduate or have a post-graduate degree. (The Outdoor Foundation)

#11. About 60% of anglers in the United States earn at least $50,000 per year in household income. 25% of anglers have a household income greater than $100,000 per year. (The Outdoor Foundation)

#12. About 39% of anglers that are active are above the age of 45. Another 29% are in the 25-44 age demographic. (The Outdoor Foundation)

#13. The ethnic breakdown of anglers in the United States is somewhat similar to the overall population demographics. Asian and Pacific Islander households are over-represented by almost 100%, while Hispanic households are under-represented by more than 50%. (The Outdoor Foundation)

(from https://brandongaille.com/23-fly-fishing-industry-statistics-and-trends/)

A recent article (10/14/19) in the New York Times - "Fly Fishing is the New Bird-Watching" speaks to the growing popularity of the sport, especially with millennials:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/14/style/fly-fishing-returns.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share

Directors Statement

Making Land of Little Rivers was a year-long effort with 22 days of filming mainly on the rivers that make up the "Charmed Circle" of the Catskills. The Delaware, Neversink, Esopus, Beverkill and Willowemoc. It was a glorious adventure, floating down these waterways with unique characters, watching as they try to catch big fish. Some days we came away empty handed, other days we were in the right place at the right time. It was easy having patience to get the shots we needed, being on the river, in beautiful locations with interesting people. My crew was very disappointed when the filming was completed!

The People behind the documentary

Aaron Weisblatt produced and directed the film. His earlier documentary SAM was nominated for an Academy Award.

Bruce Concors is the executive producer and his company Spinnerfall financed the film.

Robert Featherstone is the Director of Photography and his latest work, Gilda recently premiered on CNN and nominated for an Emmy Award.

Coll Anderson is the supervising sound editor/mixer best known for his work on The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, American Experience and The Florida Project.

Ian Hatton is the music composer best known for his work with rock groups Bonham and Paul Rodgers.

Billy Richards is the helicopter pilot for the aerial sequences and is best known for his aerial photography work on Clint Eastwood's last 15 films.

Land of Little Rivers was filmed in 4k, utilizing beautiful drone and helicopter sequences and will be available for viewing in June 2019.

Land of Little Rivers is currently looking for representation in sales, distribution and marketing.

For more information contact: Aaron Weisblatt at Cinetrope Entertainment at (845) 750-5244

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Aaron Weisblatt