- By: Will Rice
2013; Motiv Fishing
Running time: 1:42:00; $19.99
j Back in the early 2000s the Angler Exploration Group was all the rage. This was a time when video was just finding its place in fly-fishing and the Seattle-based boys at AEG were producing cult-classic titles, including The Trout Bum Diaries.
Then something happened and AEG was no more. Fortunately, some of the group re-banded and is now working on a project called Geofish, which allows them to fish across seven continents in seven years. Viewers who appreciated AEG’s hardcore “fish or die” attitude in The Trout Bum Diaries should find the new project equally entertaining.
Mexico Vol. 1 takes the Motiv Fishing team—Jay Johnson, Thad Robison, Chris Owens and Brian Jill—on an 8,000-mile trip through portions of the United States and deep into Mexico. To up the difficulty level, the team makes an early economic decision and purchases a high-mileage used truck—by used I mean highly pre-owned—and converts it from running on gasoline to vegetable oil. Hey, if you can cut costs and lessen your environmental footprint on a massive fly-fishing trip that is going to span the globe I’m all for it.
Unfortunately this truck becomes a major distraction. Instead of being a bit player that causes some humor-filled yet dramatic situations, the truck takes center stage, even surpassing the fishing. It doesn’t take long to realize that Mexico is more about the journey than the destination. I’m all for that, too, but I’ll offer a warning. It is not until minute 32 that Jill makes this pronouncement to viewers: “So this is our first big chance . . . to get a big fish on a fly, preferably a marlin. But we’ll take anything at this point. We haven’t really had a chance to fish at all yet.”
I feel ya, bro, I feel ya. But let’s go fishing . . . please.
Once in Mexico they fish in four fairly distinct locations: barrier islands off Baja for striped marlin; a lake in central Mexico for bass; Campeche for snook and baby tarpon; and then, farther south, off the Yucatan Peninsula for bonefish, snook and tarpon.
The fishing footage—for the most part—is really fun and exciting. The guys get into a massive sardine blitz and the striped marlin bite simply goes off. I could watch some of that underwater footage of bait balls being chased and marauded for hours. The bass fishing is a bit lackluster (although it benefits from a run-in with a giant marijuana field, and subsequent gunshots). A slog through a swamp and estuary somewhere in Ascension Bay verges on inspirational (I could feel the jungle, mangroves, sweat and heat in that scene). In addition, there are some great takes, missed fish and incredible runs, and no shortage of fish blasting topwater.
But, again, the film spends a lot of time trying to convey the trials and tribulations that go along with living-la-vida-fly-fishing-loco—explaining that we don’t always get calm wind, gin-clear water and those hero shots. Maybe these guys got a bigger taste of “ouch” than most, and in the process we get it, too.
Mexico does a good job telling this story. But, it’s hard not to wax nostalgic and compare the new Motiv story formula to the original AEG Trout Bum series. Does Mexico Vol. I tell a story in the same authentic way that the original Trout Bum movies did when they launched the genre back in 2005? No, it does not.
But the personalities in the film are likable. Jay Johnson has a pretty loud personality and keeps things off balance and unpredictable—in a good way. Chris Owens keeps a prison shiv strapped to his shin, so I’m certainly not going to say anything bad about him. It was a bummer we lost Thad Robinson halfway through the flick due to an inconveniently pregnant wife (is it me or do pregnant wives keep popping up in fishing films?). Brian Jill comes off like a well-used and handy Swiss Army knife—this guy is a road-trip warrior.
Did I mention that these guys are living the dream? Does watching this film motivate me to start planning some type of new fly-fishing trip to explore water that I’ve never seen? Hell yes, it does. And if this is the goal of the Geofish series, these guys are delivering the goods. And I’m looking forward to the six remaining installments.
Next up: Geofish Central America Vol. 2, where the crew makes it to Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. I hope that on the remaining legs they get their auto woes under control and we see less road drama and more on-the-water action. But I’m pretty sure the truck breaks down in Central America, too. w