For our latest video of the week, we had the chance to sit down with Brendan Wells of Mountain Mind Media to ask him a few questions about his epic film in conjunction with NRS.
Fly Lords: How did this trip originally come about?
Brendan: We went on a trip to explore the Bristol Bay region in early May, primarily to film bears for our adventure rafting/fishing film Koktuli Wild. We knew there was amazing fishing potential in the area, but it wasn’t until we started flying around and exploring the rivers that we realized the kayaking potential. Then, it was a no brainer that we could use our kayaks to get to places no one else can go.
Fly Lords: Are these rivers virtually untouched by fishermen?
Brendan: Bristol Bay is a famous watershed for fisherman, but the particular stretches of rivers that were of interest to us – the ones with the biggest waves and whitewater, are virtually untouched by fisherman.
Fly Lords: What was it like carrying camera gear in such a harsh environment?
Brendan: I used to enjoy the days of paddling a lightweight kayak with minimal gear, as it makes running difficult whitewater much easier. But these days we essentially bring as much camera gear as we can fit in our kayaks in order to capture our adventures on video and photos as best we can. I love the art and challenge of filmmaking, but it definitely adds a whole new level of stress and difficulty to actually running the rapids. On top of that, Alaska frequently dishes our brutal rain and wind storms, which makes getting any shots in the first place and keeping our gear safe and dry extra challenging.
Fly Lords: What was the highlight of the trip?
Brendan: For me, the highlight of the trip was catching huge fish both above and below one of the most quality whitewater rapids I have run in Alaska. I bring my rod and reel down almost every river I run in Alaska, but it’s rare that good fishing and good whitewater are found in the same place and at the same time.
Fly Lords: Do you anticipate the locals ever being able to guide on that stretch, or is it just too intense?
Brendan: If I lived in the area, I would probably kayak the whitewater on this section every day, but it has taken me many years to build the skills and confidence to run big whitewater like this. Locals would have to spend a lot of time learning to raft or kayak class IV-V whitewater before they could comfortably and safely run or guide this stretch of whitewater. There are so many other accessible world-class fisheries nearby that I don’t see it very likely that anyone will take the time or risk to take people here in the future.
Fly Lords: What’s next for Mountain Mind Media?
Brendan: We have been spending most of the summer exploring new rivers in Alaska in search of whitewater and fish. We are also going back out to Bristol Bay this September to run more whitewater and potentially some big waterfalls in order to access more stretches of water that have never been fished before. We’ll be creating another film this year documenting our search for whitewater, waterfalls and huge fish in the Bristol Bay region. Stay tuned on our social media pages and look for the film in future film festivals!
This interview was conducted by Fly Lords team member Conner Grimes (@doublehaulfishing).