Fly fishermen looking for a way to battle a bad case of cabin fever may want to put a big circle around Sunday, Feb. 17.
On that day, fishermen can spend a few hours getting tuned up for the upcoming season watching first-class fly-fishing adventure films that will take them from Alaska’s barren Kuskokwim River drainage all the way south to the lush jungles of South America, with a side trip to Mongolia.
And after the credits roll at the 2019 annual International Fly Fishing Film Festival at the Pharaohplex Theater in Corvallis, they can make the short drive to Hamilton’s Bitter Root Brewing to drink some good beer and share some stories with people who share a love for the Bitterroot River drainage.
Both events are fundraisers for the Bitter Root Water Forum.
“We think it’s a really good opportunity to get folks out and talking about the important water resources we have right here in the valley,” said Katie Vennie, the forum’s program coordinator.
This is the fourth year for the film festival, which Vennie said is different from the fly-fishing film tour that was recently in Missoula. The doors for the film festival open at 10:30 a.m. with the screening getting underway at 11 a.m.
“It definitely fires folks up to get ready for the fly fishing season,” she said. “It’s a great way to get a break from cabin fever that sets in about this time of year and get excited for the fishing that’s to come.”
Over the course of one hour and 36 minutes, film goers will have the chance to travel to the wilds of Mongolia, where Fly Fisherman Magazine editor Ross Purnell journeyed by camel and horse in search of the giant taimen on a 100-mile, two-week float trip.
Other films will take folks to a secluded Rocky Mountain stream filled with feisty cutthroat and large bull trout lurking in deep pools hidden behind logjams.
The Hog Leg Fly Fishing crews will share their adventure to an undeveloped corner of South America where a thriving population of mammoth-sized brown trout reside.
Large, heavy-shouldered leopard trout are one of the fish caught on yet another adventure on a 95-mile tributary of Alaska’s Kuskokwim River.
Stevensville outfitter Eddie Olwell has been hosting the fly fishing film festival since its beginning.
“I think it’s really fun to see all these great locations and the cinematography is really good in all these films,” Olwell said. “It’s just a great way to raise awareness and provide some funding for the Bitter Root Water Forum.”
All the proceeds from the festival go toward the forum. A portion of the beer sales at Bitter Root Brewery is also donated.
Olwell served as president of the forum until January when he termed out.
“The water forum is a great organization that recognizes that the Bitterroot watershed is the lifeblood of this valley,” Olwell said. “Our economy and culture revolves around it. Without it, we wouldn’t have agriculture or the recreation industry or a place that attracts new people who want to live here.”
People interested in spending a day on the river with Olwell this spring or summer can purchase raffle tickets at the forum office at 178 S. 2nd St. in Hamilton or Freestone Fly Shop at 701 S. 1st St. The cost is $5 for one or four for $20.
Tickets for the film festival can be picked up at the same locations for $13 or purchased at the door for $15. The festival tickets will save folks $1 on their first beer at the Reels and Brews event at Bitter Root Brewing, which runs from 1 to 7 p.m. There will be a silent auction at the brewery between 2 and 6 p.m.
“I have a lot of good swag to give away at the film festival as door prizes,” Olwell said. “The Montana Fly Company has donated 20 dozen flies. I will donate a few things too. We really hope people will join us.”