In the latest installment of our F3T Behind the Lens series, we caught up with the team from Dorsal Outdoors to learn more about their newest film. The Dorsal Outdoors team is comprised of Ben Meadows and George Constantine who can most likely be found crunching numbers and pinching pennies while planning their next international DIY fly fishing adventure.
The latest production from Dorsal Outdoors, Dan’s Pain, takes us to Colombia in pursuit of roosters, tuna, and marlin, all while giving a lesson on humility at the cost of their dear friend Daniel Lantrip. This film is a great reminder not to take yourself, or fly fishing too seriously.
Flylords: In the film, Dan mentions that this trip is an annual pilgrimage and somewhat of a DIY venture. Was it difficult to find such a passionate group of people to embark on international trips?
Dorsal Outdoors: Funny enough the people part was easy. We’ve had a solid group of buddies that have made this trip a big priority for 14 years running now. Sure, the logistics can be complicated, but we’ve found that the friendships and adventures are all worth it. And it’s not all simple! We’ve had marriages, babies, lost jobs, terrible budgets, – and we’ve still be blessed to do this every year. We just all committed to one week a year, making it happen no matter what. It’s just a priority for us. And that commitment has allowed us to push further, and see some incredible places that we once thought would be impossible to visit.
Flylords: How did you set sights on Colombia?
Dorsal Outdoors: George was literally bored at work daydreaming on Google Earth for any spots on the planet that looked fishy. We all grew up thinking that Colombia was too sketchy to travel to, and would be off-limits. But, it’s impossible to look at that Pacific coastline and not get excited. The area has the right currents, underwater topography, and remoteness to be something special. Luck would have it that a few Facebook DMs linked us up with an excellent local captain from Bahia Solano (Nelson Tapias), who knew the waters really well but had never chartered Americans and had never worked with fly fishermen.
But what we found in Colombia is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Beautiful ecosystems. Wonderful, kind, caring, warm-hearts people. A vibrant food scene and culture. Amazing fishing. And coffee— good grief. Unbelievable coffee.
Flylords: Planning a trip to any foreign country can be riddled with unknowns. What makes the effort to travel to foreign countries so appealing when there’s a damn good chance of not catching a fish?
Dorsal Outdoors: For us, it’s always been about our “big 3” of travel— adventure, culture, fishing. Kind of a triangle of stretching your boundaries, meeting and treasuring new people, and then of course— fishing. But, over the years we’ve come to realize that the people, the places, and the experience normally outweigh the actual grand prize of catching that fish. Like with Colombia, the folks at the Mecana Eco-hotel treated us like family. We learned so much about the rainforest of the Choco, Colombian cuisine (especially coffee), and the beautiful and vibrant lives of everyone at Mecana. Luisa, Tati, and everyone there made the tuna and sailfish seem inconsequential! One night, another guest from town slammed down a Bluetooth speaker and announced there was going to be a dance party. Folks poured into the main floor of the hotel and bottles of Viche (a local liquor) started popping up. When you have experiences like that, how can fish be the best part?
Flylords: Any tips for other anglers who may be interested in international DIY fly fishing trips on a budget?
Dorsal Outdoors: We often hear “oh man, it’s gotta be nice to fly fish in unattainable locations across the globe,” which kind of implies we’re not budget-constrained. Which is funny because the majority of the guys are huge cheap-asses. Ben once booked our flights so we had to overnight in an airport to save $50 bucks. That’s really our vibe. When we start scoping out locations, we’re pounding the research on costs. We live and die by Scotts Cheap Flights. For example, we knew the budget for Colombia would only work if we keep the flight cost around $300. Which means you’re going to eat a lot of inconveniences. But, we find that means we can put more of our budget into the local economy we visit— captains, guides, hotels, etc. That matters to us. So while it’s a weird juxtaposition of ambitious trips and embarrassing budgets, we’re just a group of friends who’ve found ways to fly fish internationally on a shoestring budget.
Truly our advice is the same as a book we read in middle school by Barry and Cathy Beck. “You just have to do it.” Don’t give up on your dream to experience and fish the world because you think it’s impossible from a financial standpoint. Just because you can’t fish “that” location or “that” motherships with top-tier boats and gear, it does not mean that’s not worth traveling. Hell, we’ve caught tarpon in drainage ditches, bonefish on the side of a road, and tuna off a commercial fishing boat. Those fish and experiences are no less cool than had we spent a ton more money. “Roughing it” on a budget has allowed us to capture some unforgettable experiences. A little research and willingness to risk it has allowed us to see some amazing places and meet wonderful people.
And practically, our advice would be to find some ride-or-die friends. Bonus if you can find a Dan! (Someone who’s happy whether they catch fish… or get beat over the head by a fishing curse). Second, set a budget and stick to it. Then, hammer your flight costs— that’s going to limit your options. Be smart— some spots have really cheap flights in the “off-season” of tourism, not the fishing season! Then, link up with good guides and take good care of them. That’s going to open up doors even if you’re going to do 1/2 DIY 1/2 guiding. And then, once you’re there— soak it up. Be kind. Meet new people. Again, it’s amazing how unimportant “that” fish will become.
Flylords: This film is titled Dan’s Pain, when did your good friend Dan’s misfortune of being an unlucky fly angler become apparent? Is there any hope?
Dorsal Outdoors: We go back to 4th grade with Dan, and he really is the kindest, most-fun-loving, team player. But, put a fly rod in his hand and it’s all over. It’s a real curse. He’s a hell of a hunter and outdoorsman, putting in tons of time to his craft. But, his curse is wickedly apparent when he tries fooling fish with chicken feathers. Doesn’t matter— tuna, tarpon, bass, redfish. The curse is real.
Flylords: Is there anything you want viewers to take away from this film?
Dorsal Outdoors: We as fly anglers get a bad wrap of being elitist and unattainable. But, we all know that the sport is filled with wonderful scrappy people! Hell, George and Ben started fishing on loaner rods and then “upgraded” to used rods off of eBay rods as they learned the sport. Still to this day, Dan throws a kit rod when he’s fishing at home. So, we hope this film shows an authentic side of fly fishing. You don’t have to have a ton of money to find joy in fly fishing. You don’t have to stick a trophy fish, with an elite guiding operation, in the bottom of the 9th, with your life on the line just to have fun. You can find joy in fly fishing anywhere you chose. You can fish international bonefish flats, or a drainage ditch behind a Walmart (aka biggest bass on the fly we’ve ever caught). What’s actually important is the time you get to spend with close friends/family experiencing new places and meeting wonderful people from all cultures of the world. That’s what makes the journey worth it.
Flylords: What’s next for Dorsal Outdoors?
Dorsal Outdoors: We started this journey with a “make it happen, best foot forward” mentality. We are blessed to have worked with some awesome folks along the way that have opened up some exciting opportunities for us. From 10,000ft? We hope to continue telling authentic stories that inspire and excite anglers. On a more granular level, we’re excited to be launching a series soon, The Dorsal Chronicles, that centers around exactly what we talked about today— a passion for the outdoors, with good friends… on a budget.
You can catch Dan’s Pain at the Fly Fishing Film Tour stop nearest you. Be sure to follow the Dorsal Outdoors Crew on Instagram (@dorsaloutdoors, @_benmeadows, @the_constantine) to see what DIY trip they’re up to next.