We’ve been following Simon (Si) Kay’s journey over the last few years and have watched as his filmmaking skills have developed. He left a corporate job as a Forex trader and had embarked on a trip around Southern Africa with his partner and child (the goal being to fly fish and film along the way), when Covid turned the world on its head. They moved to Germany and Si kept busy making short films, on various subjects, but in the background he was always looking for the right story to tell in fly fishing. Now, his debut fly fishing film Kristallklar has been accepted into the RISE Fly Fishing Film Festival. We’ve seen the full length film and it’s a cracker that tells the story of Kirill, a fly angler in Western Germany, and his love for an untouched river.
The full film should be available to South Africans in March. In the meantime, here’s the trailer:
SI’S JOURNEY I’ve been fishing since I was a kid. I always enjoyed fishing, but only truly fell in love with it not long after I picked up a fly rod for the first time in 2017. I clearly remember the two events that changed my life.
The first was my first trip to the Cape Streams in early May 2018 with a friend of mine Dylan Oelofse. I think I only fished a total of about 30 mins that day but enjoyed a full day out on the water. Being immersed in this natural beauty honestly brought back a love of nature I had not felt for over a decade. That was the mindset shift.
Simon Kay on the Cape streams at the very moment he decided, “fuck da man”.
The second was a follow on from that, checking out the F3T SA event at the labia at the end of May 2018. This is where a new world opened up to me. I have always been more visually stimulated with pictures and films hitting home the most. The films I saw on that screen made my eyeballs water with excitement. I knew a new addiction was formed that day. The people at the event and the energy of the fly fishing community there on the evening made me feel welcome and I remember thinking, I want to be a part of this. I got home with my first copy of The Mission and I think that same energy from the film fest just continued for me, I loved how the visual elements were as important as the words. The fun-excited-about-life-exploring-the-world vibe. It was very different from what my previous mental portrait of fly fishing was. I was in a very short space of time, thanks to visual media, completely and utterly sucked into this world.
“I think from that point on I knew I wanted to change my life and leave my Forex trading job at a bank.”
My love for nature had been re-ignited, I knew I wanted to spend more time outside. I felt I was missing out on life. I started fly fishing excessively and never touched any other form of fishing rod since then. By the end of 2019 I had fished more in those 1.5 years than I had my entire life. I just completely immersed myself in fly fishing and I knew this was something for life. By the end of 2019 I remember telling people. I am going to make a fly fishing film and I started messing around with phone cameras and really focused on learning the film making craft.
Kirill on his secret West German stream
HOW KRISTALLKLAR CAME ABOUT When Covid kakked on the world, I moved to Germany with my partner Susanne (German) and our little girl. I started making films for clients, I fished as much as possible with a few locals and also came across a fellow South African, living in Luxembourg, and fly fishing up a storm… Nicolaus Van Zweel. I fished for Grayling with him in Lux over a few days, he taught me euro-nyphing, he got me onto some awesome water and nice fish along with his friend, a local from Lux, Jeff Oster.
With all the fishing Nic was doing, local angler Kirill found him on Instagram and also went fishing with him. Then he took Nic to see the water he had just acquired. Nic had his mind blown and then he said to me, “Hey you said you wanted to make a fishing film… I have something exciting for you.” This was I think in May 2021 when he first mentioned it while I was visiting SA.
Nicolaus van Zweel, Kirill and Si Kay
Long story short, I got back to Germany in August 2021 with only one thing on my mind – making this film. I started chatting with Nic and Kirill over a few video calls and chats, and eventually I knew this was the film I was going to make. The pics I had seen, the fish I had seen, and most importantly the mindset of Kirill and his deep love of the river and his sense of duty to look after the river and restock it with native crayfish as a first step in his journey – it all spoke to me. That is how Kristallklar was born. We got filming in October this year for a 4-day stint of camping and fly fishing and it was undoubtedly one of the most insanely magical experiences of my life. It did not feel like Germany. It honestly is like another alternate perfect world in fly fishing paradise. I hope the film does justice in conveying even just small sense of that feeling, but I don’t think it’s possible with only video and sound but I tried.
Kirill and Nic are now thinking about taking a very select few clients that share a passion for nature on guided trips on this magical piece of water. It’s not about making money off the water for Kirill, he just wants to share the magic with people that appreciate it and basically the money they pay goes straight back into the river and surrounds. It’s about keeping this river crystal clear for how ever long it is possible. That’s the message. Let’s enjoy our passion of fly fishing and take pride in trying to maintain the beauty of the surroundings we love.
THE FILM NOW
I was extremely happy to hear the film has been selected for the 10th Anniversary edition of the RISE Fly Fishing Film Festival in the DACH region. I am super stoked that it is in fact the first film to make the official screening selection, an immense honour for me. After being selected there and hearing about it, the French Rise festival also reached out to me for a viewing and also decided they want to screen it and it is being subtitled.
I am actually still in a bit of shock. I put a lot of work into this film but I somehow still doubted myself. The thought of my film being in cinemas in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France is something I will cherish for the rest of my life and this moment in my fly fishing and film making career is undoubtedly one of my most proud moments in my life to date. I can’t wait to see this on the big screen!!
Something the director of the French Festival, Pierre Monatte, said to me in the selection email will stay with me for a long time:
“We just watched the film with the organizing team and despite being deficient in English language for some of us, we were impressed by the artistic quality of the film. We also liked to feel the atmosphere that we know on our rivers. The humility and the hope that come with the story are one more reason to select your film.”
It made me feel that my goal of conveying the love of nature, fly fishing and the feeling of being on the river did in some way come across and even managed to do so without the language of the film being understood. I could not have asked for more.
If everything goes as planned the festival should be on track for March 2022.
I will then decide what to do with the film after it premiers there.
My hope is that this film will give me something tangible to use as proof of work for future projects I have in mind and open the door to working with sponsors in future films to help me tell these stories. I have a couple of projects on the drawing board already, two in South Africa and one in Germany and am excited to get filming once the travel situation normalises a bit. I know I have found my passion and I intend to focus on outdoor and environmental impact films, so two of those films are Fly Fishing Films and the third is around the topic of Waste Management. All of these are still in the planning phase and look forward to sharing some details as things become more concrete!
Tudor is the editor of The Mission Fly Fishing Magazine. A former staffer on GQ, Best Life and Men's Health magazines, he writes for a wide range of magazines. He also works on books, from ghostwriting memoirs to writing and editing best-selling cookbooks.