The Mission caught up with Chris Cooper and Leo Cinicolo of Chalkstream Fly as their debut film Chalk is released today on


What are your backgrounds?

Chris: We are old school mates, so have spent a lot of time together on the rivers over the years. We are both from commercial photography and filmmaking backgrounds so it felt like a natural progression to combine our passion for fishing with our day jobs.

Leo: Yes, it’s got to be the dream of any fly fisherman to find a way to combine their work with more days on the bank. They are such photogenic places too.

Is Chalk Stream Fly a full-time gig at this stage or do you still have your day jobs?

Chris: Chalkstream Fly is a full-time job at the minute, especially now we are editing Chalk the movie! We both still work freelance as well to fun our fishing tackle addictions…

Leo: It’s really kicked off! I think a new generation of fly fishermen are emerging who share their experiences and want to learn about the sport through video and social media etc and they are who we really serve.


Is there a resurgence in fly fishing chalkstreams in the UK? Did it never wane? What does the fly fishing demographic look like these days?  

Chris: Fly fishing in the UK has always had a large following, but in the last couple of years there definitely seems to be a movement from a younger generation, looking to share their experiences.

Leo: People have always and will always love the chalkstreams because of the history and how they are connected to the birth of the sport. There really is fishing for everyone. In Chalk The Movie we filmed on the ‘Wandle’ in South London. It’s largely free fishing and in the least likely urban locations. On the other hand we filmed famous beats of the River Test and Itchen which are quite exclusive. It’s very varied really.

Your favourite waters?

Chris: There’s a local river near us we love to go to as you have to cross a water meadow and get off the beaten track a bit to fish it. It’s all very tight and overgrown, so small split canes are great fun. The trout there are all small and wild, but there is the odd 2-3lbers lurking about. We have a lot of time for the river Usk in Wales too, it’s an amazing river.

Leo: Like Chris our local small rivers where we learnt to fish will always be special but we get huge kicks out of visiting new places and learning how to approach them best.


What do you guys tend to fish on chalk streams?

Chris: Mainly carbon, but love to throw a line with anything and everything. We’ve had great fun using split canes recently.

Leo: Yes typically carbon but also some cane rods in the lighter lines. They go between 6’ and 9’ and 3wt-5wt.


Do you guys fish exclusively on chalk streams or can we expect to see you elsewhere lobbing squirmy wormies at carp and brush flies at GTs?

Chris: We are happy fishing whatever the day dictates. We mainly fish the chalkstreams, but more than happy to haul streamers in spate rivers and fish huge flies for Pike. You can be pretty sure one of us will be on the water somewhere. We have had some great fishing at sea as well, nothing better than a BBQ on the beach with some freshly caught fish.

Leo: Yes we love the varied forms fly fishing takes now. We’re doing more and more fly fishing for pike with 9 and 10wt rods and that’s great. We like to try everything. However that being said browns caught on a dry are always hard to beat!

What were you aiming to do with Chalk the movie?

Chris: Chalk the movie was commissioned by fishing tv, however our aim is to excite people about the Chalkstreams, show them at their very best and the world class fishing they provide.

Leo: We want Chalk to be a proper record of the past, present and future of the chalkstreams. We hope people will enjoy the fish action but also appreciate the scientists and historians we’ve spoken to who shed light on why these unique rivers are so fantastic. Ultimately we want to showcase the community doing great work to maintain these places as well as get people super-charged to fish them and in turn preserve the nature!


How have you found the filming process so far?

Chris: It’s been great seeing how different people approach their fly fishing, especially when it comes to the UK chalk streams. The chalkstreams hold a tradition that people love to adhere to,

Leo: Yeah, meeting the people who fish, maintain or even own the river sections has been great. People are very proud of their waters and keen to show us how special they are both for angling and biologically.


Who are some of the characters and personalities we can expect to see?

Chris: Chris Clemes who you know, but also a whole host of fly fishing writers, guides, river keepers, land owners as well as just your average joe angler.

Leo: Yes it’s varied from school children to octogenarians and everyone in between. There are a few famous faces which fly fishers will be familiar with already as well as lots of new and upcoming ones.


South African Chris Clemes of Chris Clemes Fly Rods looking goofy on a chalk stream

Is it focused on the fabled, manicured streams like the Avon and the Test or does Chalk go a bit further afield to lesser-known, less-expensive waters?

Chris: Chalk is very much an exploration of as many chalkstreams as we could cover.

Leo: We show everything. We didn’t want to repeat ground which has been covered so well before. We spent lots of time on the Test, Itchen etc but we also visited a lot of amazing rivers which are much lesser known and which offer amazing fly fishing.


Chalk is available on