A new year is upon us which means it’s time for a fresh selection of films for the F3T, and we are pumped for this stellar line up. Once again, we will be sitting down with the filmmakers selected in this year’s Fly Fishing Film Tour – to go behind the scenes on how these films were made. To kick off this year’s tour, “A Journey Upstream” from our very own Andrew Braker and his brother Eric. We had the chance to sit down with the Braker Brothers to discuss the tale of two seemingly unrelated fish species that help us understand the connectivity within our environment and the importance of a healthy Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Flylords: Tell us a little about yourselves?
Andrew: We’re brothers, native Marylanders, and fly fishing fanatics who have always dreamt of creating a film about our home watershed, the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Personally, I’m a student of environmental sustainability, as well as a conservation writer for Flylords. I have a passion for learning about the natural world around me, and I’ve come to enjoy expressing that passion through creative writing. Oh yeah… and when I’m not doing that, I’m usually splitting my time casting for striper on the Bay, or trout in the mountains.
Eric: For as long as I can remember, the outdoors and filmmaking have been two things at the center of my life. Any free time Andrew and I had when we were growing up was spent building forts in the woods or catching creatures in our local stream. As I got a bit older I started to experiment with video cameras. From making stop motion animation with LEGOs at the age of 8, to launching my own video marketing agency in 2019, my passion for storytelling through video has only grown stronger. During this time, my passion for the outdoors has also grown stronger. Merging my love for nature and my passion for storytelling has proved to be effortless with the creation of A Journey Upstream.
Flylords: Tell us about how the idea for the film came about?
Eric: It was kind of a product of COVID-19. Obviously the pandemic is an awful thing that the whole world’s been dealing with, but for us, in this very specific way, it was almost a blessing in disguise because it forced us into the house at the same time— freeing up more time than we’ve ever had. The two of us were actually walking our dog together when the idea came up…
Andrew: First we were spitballing about making a film centered on one of the native Maryland fish species. The conversation immediately went to striped bass since it’s Maryland’s most well-known fishery. Then the conversation shifted to brook trout, which is arguably our personal favorite fishery. Then it hit us… what if we could make a film about both? And, not only that… What if we could make a film that shows the connection between both?
Flylords: What does the “Lefty Kreh F3T Youth Film Category” mean to you guys?
Andrew: We are so incredibly proud that our film was chosen for this category. We never met Lefty in person, but we’ve heard enough stories to know that the man was a complete legend. Part of his legacy includes educating and inspiring the next generation of anglers, so it’s only fitting that “A Journey Upstream” is a film created by two young fly anglers, with the hopes of inspiring other young fly anglers.
Eric: It’s also worth noting that Lefty was also a native Marylander. He actually spent a lot of his time fishing the exact rivers and streams that Andrew and I grew up fishing. Even though we never met Lefty, we feel a powerful connection to him because of the fact that we’ve both fished these waterways.
Flylords: Describe the roles of everyone involved in the creation of this film?
Eric: This project was a product of our cooperative effort. We both co-directed the film together, so the whole process was done hand in hand. With that being said, Andrew sat more on the writing and communications side of things, while I focused on the videography and editing side. We also had an incredible group of people that helped us along the way.
Andrew: The stakeholders in the film include some pretty remarkable individuals: John Neely is the Chair of the Maryland Sportfisheries Advisory Commission, and a key member of the Chesapeake Conservancy’s board; Dylan Taillie is an Environmental Communicator for the University of Maryland and is also a super fishy dude; and Shawn Kimbro is an author and local legend here on the Chesapeake Bay. We also recruited the help of some of our closest friends: Kirk Marks acted as secondary videographer and primary photographer, and Jonathan Bland was our captain/guide through it all.
Flylords: How did you go about location scouting and determining which locations would fit this film best?
Eric: One of the most beautiful things about this film is the fact that we’re Maryland natives. So honestly, there really wasn’t much scouting. We’ve been scouting out these spots over the course of our lifetimes. With the topic of our film, it happened very organically that way.
Andrew: One of the main goals of the film is to highlight the contrast between two very different fisheries. When we were choosing the places to film, we specifically chose areas that really revealed that contrast. For example, when fishing for striper, we wanted to capture the vastness and power that comes from the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay. Then, when it was time to target brook trout, we turned our attention to the quaint forested areas, with moss covered rocks, and tiny streams. The spots we chose were guided by the question “how can we draw the biggest contrast possible?”
Flylords: We really like how this film highlighted the conservation side of the great outdoors. What does the Chesapeake watershed mean to you guys?
Andrew: We love it so much… I think having a conservation message is integral because our physical ability to continue fly fishing depends on having healthy natural resources for years to come. If I want to be able to take my grandkids out on the Bay and teach them how to fly fish for striped bass some day, we need to change the way we manage the species, and the environments that they live in. We need a long term approach if we’re serious about wanting these fish to stick around.
Eric: We have a really strong connection to the Chesapeake Bay and its surrounding watershed. We grew up here, learned about the Watershed in science class, and experienced it firsthand as we developed our fishing skills over the years. Beyond that, fishing the Chesapeake is important to us because it’s in our blood… Our grandfather was an avid Chesapeake angler, but unfortunately he died before we really got a chance to fish with him and learn about the fishery through his eyes. Luckily, both of our parents instilled a love for nature into us at a young age, and our father passed the skill of spin fishing down to us. Since then we’ve taken that love for nature, and the skill of fishing, and brought it to the next level— pursuing a connection to our heritage and living out our grandfather’s legacy.
Flylords: With the new catch and release brook trout designation for the state of Maryland, how do you think this will impact the brook trout fishery? Do you think more states will adopt this policy?
Andrew: The native population of brook trout throughout the Appalachian Range has dwindled to a small fraction of what it once was. If you know a thing or two about brook trout, you know that they are incredibly fickle. Slight adjustments in temperature, chemical levels, nutrient levels, etc. can cause entire stream populations to get wiped out. These fish have so much going against them, so the best thing we can do for them as anglers is to limit the amount of fish that we take out of the water. This is the first step towards sustaining brook trout populations for years and decades to come. Hopefully other states will see the value in this.
Flylords: What impact do you think this film will have on the younger fly fishing generation?
Eric: We’re really hoping that this film inspires the next generation of anglers. It was such a big deal for us to try to incorporate that message into the film. We wanted to highlight the idea that it’s the younger generation’s responsibility to use their passion and their skills to make a difference in the world around them. We hope to see more young fly anglers starting to fish, getting passionate about conservation issues, and possibly making films!
Flylords: The film highlighted the reach of the Chesapeake with two key species, Stripers and Brook Trout. Which species do you guys prefer to fish for more often?
Andrew: I love striper, but I think it’s safe to say that brook trout are my favorite species “period.” Since brook trout require the highest degree of water quality and habitat health, it’s no coincidence that when you’re brook trout fishing, you’re also putting yourself in some of the most intact stream habitats that exist on Earth. Those are the places I daydream about. Also, just look at brook trout… I mean c’mon.
Eric: I think our love for brook trout fishing goes back to our childhood. One of our favorite things to do growing up was to go “creeking”— exploring local creeks, looking for minnows, picking up crayfish, and doing stupid stuff in the woods. For us, fishing small brookie streams is just “adult creeking.”
Flylords: What did you guys learn in the making of this film?
Eric: I think it is incredible how willing people are to help when you’re able to communicate what you’re trying to do. I was baffled by the amount of support we were able to gather during this project. Reaching out to get brands involved and connecting with industry professionals can be pretty daunting. You think that it’s going to be super hard and you are going to have to reach out to hundreds of people and only a few will say yes. But in reality, if it’s something you’re passionate about, and something where you know there is a group of other people who share that passon, it is absolutely amazing to see how willing everybody is to help. The brands that we worked with including The Chesapeake Conservancy, Cheeky Fly Fishing, and Douglas Outdoors were all so willing to help right off the bat. We felt the same way with our stakeholders in the film: John Neely, Shawn Kimbro, and Dylan Taillie. So, don’t let those limiting beliefs keep you from starting a project, because in reality, people may be more willing to help than you expect.
Andrew: This film helped me reaffirm the idea of how much the fly fishing community “cares.” When you spend as much time as we do fishing for different species, and spending time in the unique environments that they live in, you start to really care for those natural resources. At some point in your fly fishing journey, your care for those resources develops into something that goes far beyond merely catching fish… It becomes more about conserving those resources for the future. Partnering with other anglers with a similar understanding can lead to some amazing results. “A Journey Upstream” is one of them.
Thank you Andrew and Eric Braker for your time and for discussing this incredible project with us. Make sure to go follow @a_journey_upstream on Instagram, as well as, their production company @motion_digital.
Also, follow along with the film tour @flyfishingfilmtour to see where they will be next!