So you want to film trout? Whether it be for posting on Instagram, showing family, or making a fly fishing film — capturing trout on film isn’t a walk in the park. That being said, I know that videography can be an intimidating endeavor, but as long as you follow these three tips for capturing trout on film, you should be one step closer to those epic, beautiful, and captivating shots.
1. Pick up a Camera, Know It, and Always be Recording.
You can’t catch a fish without bringing a fly rod and casting, capturing trout on film is the same — the best way to capture trout on film is to pick up a camera and start shooting. Becoming familiar with your camera and its settings and pushing yourself to always bring your camera with you on every outing will prime you for success. In those stressful moments when you are shaking because you see the most beautiful trout in existence, having a great understanding of your camera will ensure that you don’t mess anything up. Even more important, always be recording — the trout won’t wait for you to push the button at the perfect time.
2. Have the Proper Camera Settings.
Disclaimer: these settings are not the “best,” they are what I recommend and what I use myself. For those camera nerds out there, if you are interested in capturing those cinematic, smooth, slow-motion shots of trout sipping a bug or crushing a fly, these camera settings are a great starting point.
F-stop: Ideally you want to have a low f-stop (around 2.8) to get a nice depth of field to separate your rising fish from its surroundings.
Frame Rate/Shutter Speed: Lots of prosumer cameras these days have amazing slow motion frame rate capabilities. Anything from 60 frames per second (fps) to 120 fps to 240 fps will guarantee you see every moment of a fish rising. Just make sure you follow the rule that your shutter speed should be double your frame rate for the smoothest quality footage (i.e. if shooting in 120 fps your shutter speed should be at or around 1/240th).
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Your Butt Wet…
You heard me right. You have to force yourself to get to the level of the trout. Sure, trout live in beautiful places, but they also live in inconvenient places. Don’t always shoot from standing up because it’s easier. I’ve stood waist-deep in glacial lakes to get underwater footage of alpine trout, I’ve climbed trees to get a great downstream shot of fish rising and I’ve laid prone in tall grass on the bank for 30 mins waiting to capture just the right moment. If you want a special shot, sometimes you have to do special things. So, don’t be afraid to get down and dirty: get those knees in the mud, sacrifice comfort and let those thighs feel the burn from crouching for minutes on end.
At the end of the day, you get out what you put in. There are lots of nuances — long lenses, different settings, special techniques — but these are the three main guiding principles that have helped me capture trout on film. It doesn’t need to be complicated, just know your equipment, put yourself in the right place (no matter the discomfort), and always be recording. Leave the rest to the trout, and a little bit of luck.