Video of the Week: Union Jacks

For our latest video of the week, we had the chance to sit down with Ryan Griffin. Ryan is the producer of Union Jacks, a film about fishing for jack crevalle in the harbor of Charleston, SC. 

FlyLords: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Ryan: I’ve been living in the Charleston area for about 15 years. I kinda grew up fly fishing in ponds for bluegill and bass and then I moved out west after college. I lived out there for almost 3 years. I got completely immersed in trout fishing, and that’s where I actually met Paul Puckett of Flood Tide Co. We were good buddies out there, playing music together and such. Then I moved to Charleston in 2004. Previous to that I was a musician almost full time and put down the fly rod for a while. Then when I quit playing music I got totally immersed in fly fishing again. I didn’t really know much about saltwater fly fishing until about 2009. Around here there was a small little clique of people that were fly fishing and it has grown tremendously in the past 10 years. I started doing little homemade videos with GoPros and things like that and it just kinda grew from there and I got really serious with filming about three years ago.

FlyLords: What gave you guys the idea to make this film?

Ryan: Jacks are kind of thought of as a trash fish to some degree, but obviously a lot of fun on the fly, especially the big ones. They were here in pretty big numbers for a long time, until about a decade ago. When they built the Ravenel bridge the jacks seemed to disappear, but in the last four or five years they started to really show up again in numbers. There’s a few of us that kind of go a lot now, and a few of us went quite a bit last summer and got one or two to the boat, and had some really good shots but never really got anything on film, so we decided we wanted to do that this year.  We didn’t know what we were gonna do with it really. Everybody gets real sensitive of posting this kind of thing on social media, you know the hero shot of somebody holding a jack with the Ravenel bridge in the background tends to make people who know about the fishery pissed off. We kinda knew that going in, but at the same time, the people that were really chasing these fish around know what to do, or know who to ask. They’re not finding out about it from a video that Ryan Griffin puts on social media. Once we got the finished product done we thought that it was too good to kinda keep a secret so we wanted to put it out there and see what happens.

FlyLords: Walk us through the difficulty of catching these fish.

Ryan: Well they’re not around for very long in the season. They’re also in big water, not necessarily on flats like you would find in the keys or Mexico or something like that. There’s also tons of boat traffic going on so a lot of times they’re really hard to find, and when you do, they’re kind of daisy chaining or sitting on the surface and not aggressively eating so even if you’re fortunate enough to find them at the right time, they might not eat. You’re just kind of looking for that perfect day where the water is calm enough to find them, they’re busting the surface on bait, and charging flies. All those things kind of have to come together and it doesn’t happen a lot. We had a lot more shots last summer, this summer they weren’t really paying attention to the fly. Then when you hook one, you’re on a flats skiff in 40 or 50 feet of water, and these things shoot right to the bottom and fight like crazy. On that day we caught the one on film, we had calm water, low wind, and the right group of guys. It all just kind of came together. Typically its a 30 minute to an hour fight cause you’re trying to lift this fish off the bottom, and Alex was fishing with a 10wt that day, and really put some pressure on the fish to try and land him quickly, which he did. He landed him in like 15 minutes, but it totally just obliterated his rod as you could see in the video. So we had to hand line the fish the last 20 or so feet of fly line. But we got the fish in the boat and was able to release the fish alive.

FlyLords: What’s next for Ryan Griffin?

Ryan: I’ve got about 5 projects I’m working on. I don’t really do this for a living and I’ve got family and work and other things going on so it’s really hard to find time to do things like this. Most things are more personal projects like this one was. We had a really great trip in Mexico last year and we had several people get their first permit, so we did a bunch of follow up interviews with that and I’m hoping to have those done by the end of the year.

Be sure to keep up with Ryan on Vimeo to see his future projects! Doug Roland also helped film this project. You can check out his work with the Lowcountry Journal here.

This interview was conducted by FlyLords team member Conner Grimes (@doublehaulfishing).

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