After years of work, Jamie Howard’s latest film, Running the Coast, is now available. This extensive project covers numerous striped bass destinations and the personalities who are devoted to these fish. We are now pleased to share an interview about Running the Coast, with filmmaker, Jamie Howard:
From Andy Mill and tarpon in the Florida Keys to Charlie Smith and Andy Neymour in the Bahamas, your films have generally taken on a specific fish and its devotees as well some of the culture and history surrounding the pursuit of that fish. What attracted you to the Atlantic striper migration?
They are kind of IT. The epic All-American. When I was a kid and saw them drawing a crowd off the cliffs at Montauk I knew this was something special. Not many fish have stadium seating and crowds gathering. And they do what no other fish can do. They show up almost anywhere. I mean you don’t expect to chase redfish in New York City or a bluefish on the flats. Stripers grow big and they are intrepid, and inspiring to so many who may see their first by a backyard dock or in big waves years later. And then, when their numbers took a dive, I had no choice. It just got too big to ignore. And I committed to trying to share their magic, and the mystery, to try to get people to understand that their favorite fish needs their help.
The Atlantic Coast is known for having a range of fishing cultures. What were some of the striper communities that stood out to you?
Well, let’s start with the obvious: Montauk. The residents there rise every morning to see stripers off the point in Fall. Note: many of those residents call the parking lot home. They drive there from as far away as Ohio. Every region is manic, but it is pretty concentrated in the tri-state area – “Fugettabouddit…” These guys live for it and they are all talking in NJ, NYC and CT all night and day about the fish. (A good percentage of it is true. Ha.) Though, trust me. No region is more committed than another.
What makes anglers who fly fish the surf unique to the general fly fishing community?
If you fly fish for stripers you are in trouble, because you are an addict and there’s no going back. The fish make you work. And you are sort of in the minority so unlike, trout guys, you are working in smaller numbers. Also, the guys who fish in the surf need space and are outnumbered, but some days they catch them better than the conventional guys. The flats hunters won’t go home until they run out of money.
What differences stand out to you between saltwater anglers chasing stripers and flats anglers?
Can I call the surf guys dreamers and romantics? They need to have the patience and faith to find their spot and wait (but what a reward when it pays off!). There is often less predictability than on the flats you can move and hunt them. The lure of catching stripers on fly is that it is such a unique feat. Not a ton of people can say they have actually caught a decent striper while sight casting.
Was there anything the surprised you about what you encountered in making the film?
The main surprise was how vulnerable the striped bass are. I had known going in that here were concerns, but I had no idea it was in steady decline since 2005/6 until I met with the biologist and fisheries community. The fishing community reiterated it through word of mouth. There are still great days, but the bonanza after the moratorium was past and one had to be prepared and focused to find them on the migration now. Stripers are not a designated gamefish. They are consumed and killed in high numbers. They are good to eat, but perhaps not at the current rate, with party boats, charters, commercial boats and recreational anglers all on their tail. But we were blessed to get all the premium footage we had on our bucket list despite that. Unwritten Rule #1: No sleep allowed.
What challenges do you encounter when taking on such a big project?
The main challenge was time. I could film many of my movies in one season traditionally, but this took 5 years. I don’t think anyone has done a film like this before, and I can see why. You need to be a little crazy. There have been books, which I loved, but moving pictures and sound require a lot of things to come together. We often heard “you should have been here yesterday,” but we came back and waited!
Now that you are wrapping up, what are you most pleased with in Running the Coast?
We got it all. From Chesapeake to Maine. Lordy, that fish covers some miles and ends up in some tough to get to places. I think it’s the best thing I’ve done. But what’s gratifying is we could get this done for a fish that deserved it, and yes, kicked our butts chasing it. It’s dense with once in a lifetime images and stories I could not imagine trying to capture again. I really didn’t look up for a few years and it’s really is nice to share something so full of life that may not be replicated any time soon.
Sharing Running the Coast. After that, I am actually not sure yet. I am looking at a few projects. If anyone has a movie they want to see happen, I look forward to talking. Bring funding!
Running the Coast is now available to stream and is also available on DVD. To learn more about Running the Coast, please click here.