In the most recent installment of F3T Behind the Lens, we had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Jessica Haydahl Richardson, the filmmaker behind “Dropped in the Pacific”. Throughout her film, Jessica portrays “women doing their thing and just fishing”, nothing more, nothing less. As the first female filmmaker to be featured in the Fly Fishing Film Tour, she is the voice of the future of female involvement in the film in the fishing industry. Check out our full interview with her below.
Flylords: Who is Jessica Haydahl Richardson? What defines you as a person?
Jessica: I am a professional photographer and I shoot in the commercial sports fishing industry, primarily in the conventional side of the industry. I shoot everything from commercial work to editorial pieces for magazines. I’m outdoorsy and I love to fish. I’m a pretty creative person, that’s why I’m a photographer.
Flylords: What was your original vision for Dropped in the Pacific? How did it change and evolve during your trip, filming, editing, etc.?
Jessica: I actually was hoping to make the film more of a vlog style where I’m really documenting start to finish the whole trip. Honestly, it was just me filming and editing the entire thing, so it ended up being a lot of work for one person. It definitely would have been great if I could have had another shooter there. At the same time, I was also multitasking and having to photograph still images for a couple of different magazine publications.
I took on a lot and then had to downsize in my mind from where I thought the film could be. It’s just showing a group of women just getting it done and fishing, which I don’t think happens very often in the industry with just women. In the film tours, we see a lot of groups of guys and bros and a lot of slow-motion and high fives, which has its place, and we all like it and it’s visually appealing. Why not try to do that for a group of females, just out there doing their thing? I would say it evolved into…it just couldn’t be as detail-oriented as I was hoping because it was a lot for one person to take on alone.
Flylords: How did you choose the women that you traveled with? Had anyone fished together before?
Jessica: I didn’t really choose anybody. I tie flies in the winter with a group of women, anywhere from the ages of 35, me, to almost 70. Where we live in Montana we have very long winters, and so on Thursday nights, we tie flies. It was back in 2018, originally, when the idea kind of came up, and we decided we should all go on a trip. There were three ladies, plus myself, from my area that decided this is something we wanted to do.
We started putting out ideas of where we should go. Christmas Island kind of came up as a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list trip. One of the main women who organized it, Peg Miskin, grabbed a couple other people she knew, and next thing you know we had seven women, and then myself as a filmmaker, the eighth. They came anywhere from Wisconsin to Colorado, to Wyoming to Montana. All of us have either worked or been a part of the Casting for Recovery organization.
They knew my intentions of shooting a film. As a professional photographer in this industry, I don’t have the luxury of just going on a trip to go fishing. That’s not something that I can just go and do, because I have to work.
I’m always having to look at it from a financial standpoint, and shooting with film was something that I wanted to do. I wanted to put it out there and say, “This is something I’m going to do, I’m going to get it done.” And we did it. I’m really proud of having done all of that and multitasked it, but I also in the end see definitely the value in having multiple people on a film shoot.
Flylords: What was the dynamic of the group? How did everyone get along, and how did this affect the fishing?
Jessica: I feel like we’re at the place in our lives where we’re mature enough to all get along and figure out everybody’s needs. It was a wonderful group of women, really dear to my heart, these girls. We had a really great time. When you’re fishing at Christmas Island there are four of you on a boat and there’s just two anglers at a time out there. So you’re not together all day, but it was awesome. We’d get back in the evenings and everybody sits around, there’s a scene where the ladies are lighting up cigars and just doing stuff that is maybe out of the normal daily habits they have.
And they’re competitive. These ladies love to fish and are good fishermen, too. And so that experience in itself was really cool to see. One lady in particular, Jen Lofgren, is so dialed in and it was just really impressive to watch her fish saltwater.
The women I went with were very well-versed in the saltwater environment, and they’ve traveled all over the world to fish destination places, that is something to note.
Actually, Jenny West, who has that triggerfish in the end, had only gone saltwater fly fishing once. That said, she is a guide and outfitter here in Montana, she’s owned her outfitting business for 20 years.
We had one day that was just a rockstar day. That triggerfish at the end was something that had eluded her the whole trip, and that was on the last cast of the last day. It was perfect timing. We couldn’t have asked for a better fish to line up to catch. I did my best to try to portray that in the film with her and I shouting at each other just in elation.
Last cast, the boat’s coming to pick us up, she has one opportunity for it, and it happens. It was a pretty special moment. You work so hard and you just know that that last moment captures the trip for you.
Flylords: What was the most challenging part of the trip?
Jessica: Definitely the changing weather conditions. We actually had pretty brutal conditions, anywhere between 25 to 35 mile an hour winds. We were getting hounded by storm after storm. In the morning we would get out there and a storm would come through and pour with rain. Then the wind would pick up, it never let off. From talking with locals, they said that that season in particular was one of the windiest seasons they had dealt with. And then as a photographer and trying to make the film, my biggest challenge was moisture, humidity and water.
Flylords: Do you have any plans to travel anywhere else with this particular group of women? If so, would you like to make another film?
Jessica: Yeah, I would love to travel with these girls, but to be honest, I don’t know what this world will be like. I think it’s going to take a couple of years for things to truly get back for international travel. We just have to remember that this group of ladies from the ages of 35, to almost 70, are unfortunately the most vulnerable in our society right now for COVID.
I have a film in the works that is going to be based on the Guide Relief Program, which is being spearheaded by KynsLee Scott and Sweetwater Fly Shop here in Montana. The Guide Relief Program had come into play because of COVID, and a lot of guides found themselves unprotected and out of work, like a lot of people in the United States at this time. I think it’s a program that was needed for a long time, and this is a really cool concept they have. Why shouldn’t guides and fishermen who do this professionally be just as protected as the person who goes and works at a corporation? They should have that accessibility. That’s only fair.
The piece will be more about community and trying to show that there is so much benefit in community support. The Guide Relief Program will drive information to guides, like how do you get insured? How do you find information? That way if stuff hits the fan you can sign up for all these different small business aid programs through the COVID relief plan. There was so much information that came out so quickly. People need that paycheck tomorrow kind of thing.
Flylords: What advice would you give someone who’s interested in starting photography or film?
Jessica: I don’t know if you know this for the F3T, but this film that I made, we will be the very first all female cast in the tour, and I’m the very first all female filmmaker to have a film ever in the tour. So it’s kind of a big deal to break that glass ceiling, so to speak. I got to where I am because I’ve had some really strong females in my life push that narrative forward, and I’m hoping this thing can open the door for more females just to want to create content when they’re in the outdoor space fishing.
So advice for starting at square one is to create the content that you either want to be hired for, or you want to see. Start with the best camera that you have, and work forward from there.
Jessica: You need to source your own information. So for myself, YouTube has been this incredible resource. I did go to a photography school and it worked really well for me, personally. I don’t know if post-secondary education is always everybody’s cup of tea, but it was what compelled me forward in the industry with contacts. I shot everything from the NHL to commercial photography and real estate. Just start creating content. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Just get on it now. And once you start to create what you want to see, or what you want to be heard, or what you want to put out there in the public space, then you’re already on your way. That’s my biggest advice.
Just get out there. What’s your excuse, really? The destination stuff is definitely cool to do, but I would start with documenting your trips here at home. If you’re going out with a group of friends, look at that as an opportunity. If I’m going to go float the day and get to personally fly fish, then I try to get every single person to release my fish, because I can photograph that or film it and then sell that content to potential editorial pieces or companies. The more you create and the more you work at it and the more you practice, the better you’ll be. And as cliche as that sounds, it’s the only way. There’s no shortcut, unfortunately.
Thank you Jessica Haydahl Richardson for discussing this incredible project with us.
Also, follow along with the film tour @flyfishingfilmtour on Instagram.