Catch the premiere

Catch the premiere of Flybru’s Hugging the Bear in Cape Town on 16 Feb. Tickets here: https://www.xplorerflyfishing.co.za/product/flybru-hugging-the-bear-tickets/

Strap in, read on… Matt Gorlei and Nick van Rensburg are ‘back’ (well, actually they never left) but it’s been a while since they’ve graced us with a new Flybru film.

We caught up with the duo to explore the inspiration behind the title (Hugging the Bear), the essence of their fishing adventures and the unique experiences they encountered in the Drakensberg mountains. Can we call it a comeback, I think so.

Hugging the Bear – give us some context on that title.

(Matt): Seeing the bear, acknowledging it’s there. Hugging the bear, embracing it. It’s a symbolic title that relates to current affairs in our personal lives and the idea that scary things are huggable if you approach them right. Nick randomly started talking about hugging the bear in our filmed interview dialogue.
(Nick): Haha, yeah, I anticipated this question! It’s certainly a departure from the typical fly-fishing film titles. While recording voice-over interviews, I metaphorically likened the valley to a big, gnarly bear – initially imposing but welcoming and wholesome upon closer inspection. It reflects the intensity of our journey, revealing beautiful and unique experiences after navigating its challenges. Tudor from The Mission suggested the title after watching the film, and it stuck!

Flybru new film 'Hugging The Bear'.

So what can people expect from the film (is this in the old vibe of Flybru)?

(Matt): Something more structured than what has been put out in the past by Flybru, a film that encapsulates cinematic fly fishing and the FlyBru way of presenting it. The film is a mould of a Never Stop Xploring production by Xplorer and the way Flybru sees the world. We tried not to make this film to please anyone; it’s just a storyline that naturally happened, and we followed it. We collaborated with Xplorer as they like what we do; we are friends, and local brands like Xplorer give access to the sport to new faces. I truly believe the South African industry is unique, and we need to be proud of the brands that have come from it. (There weren’t any formal sponsorship deals or plans to advertise when making this film – just a collaboration)
(Nick): Absolutely! We’re sharing a story about an experience to inspire more people to explore and tell their tales. The South African fly-fishing community has grown significantly, and as longtime enthusiasts, we aim to foster its growth. In a way, it’s an echo of the old Flybru style. Approach it with an open mind; it’s about the experience, not just the location. Fly fishing transcends catching fish, and that essence is the heart of the film’s story.

Does this signal something of a comeback/return for Flybru?

(Matt): Definitely, we won’t stop now and won’t apologize for how long we take to do anything. We can’t force these things, but we chat about Flybru a lot, best mates who see each other weekly… in our minds, we didn’t really go anywhere.
(Nick): Definitely! We’ve been quiet on social media but busy fishing. It’s more than a hobby; it’s a lifestyle. After guiding days, we fished without cameras. We’re driven by the love of the game, not internet points. Supporting our upcoming lifestyle apparel and projects enables us to continue documenting missions and contributing to the growth of Flybru.

Firstly, talk to us a bit about blue-lining and exploration, there are still some untouched streams out there, right?

(Matt): Some places seem more pure, untouched, and unexplored – that’s a welcome illusion, but in the context of hugging the bear, yes – we felt like we were exploring an unknown valley, but in reality, it’s probably been explored by like-minded dudes – and that’s a good thing. The more like-minded people who become passionate about places like these, the more people there will be who want to protect it, right?
(Nick): Blue lining embodies fly-fishing’s essence. While there are many untouched waters, claiming discovery is absurd. The devil is in the details; exploring goes beyond physical capability. Respect, intention, and attention to detail ensure these places remain special. Exploration taps into the human spirit, providing experiences beyond the surface.

These kinds of missions exemplify what makes fishing special to all three of you.

(Matt): Fame or accolades have nothing to do with a reason to go fly fishing. A fly fishing journey has many reasons for doing it, sometimes you only figure that out once you’re there. I see fly fishing as a reason to embrace the most beautiful places on earth; the challenge of finding these places and experiencing fish in them is ultimately the motivation, but the balance of solitude and connection with like-minded people is the glue that brings it together. You generally fly fish to achieve something – catching fish, yes, but I feel if you fly fish enough it’s deeper than that and the goalpost moves.
(Nick): Absolutely. Fishing is a haven to make sense of life and recharge. Nature alone is uplifting, but add a fly rod and a best mate, and you dive into something profound. Fame and accolades were never the goals; it’s about sharing passion and exploring the wonders of the sport.

What makes the Berg so special?

(Matt): It’s as African as it gets, unique to have something that only we have a reference for. The only thing that is similar between the berg and other places on earth I’d like to explore is the fact that there are fish to catch. Ultimately, the berg has pure African energy, and the fish in them build that character in them.
(Nick): My first time in the Drakensberg was ethereal. It’s vast, and breathtakingly beautiful, and the colours are extraordinary. Describing the experience is a challenge; it’s a profoundly stimulating journey.

Flybru new film 'Hugging The Bear'.

The story emphasizes the importance of balancing work, family, and relationships to make time for such adventures. How do Matt and Shaun manage to prioritize these trips despite their busy lives and commitments?

(Matt): Haha, not well enough! The key is knowing the greater fly fishing journey is never over; don’t think about the finish line, just the next challenge, and you’ll naturally find a way to say yes to the next trip.

You got a scaly?! This was pretty unexpected, right?

(Matt): Unexpected but not surprising! The true African fish of the Berg, would love to get to know these fish a bit more – they have their own story.
(Nick): Indeed, wild! Yet, those rivers are their home. Finding one there was
refreshing; it’s where they belong.

Tell us a bit about the unique characteristics of the trout you encountered up there?

(Matt): Trout shouldn’t have even been there, right? Introduced, the history of that is blurry to most: We are just told rainbow trout were stocked in some rivers and browns in others. Some of the fish up there were interesting, different to others in the system and have more of a story to it – different strains of rainbow, evolution, lies….who knows….
(Nick): Look, I’m not going to claim anything for the sake of respect and reality. A pronounced jaw line, orange blotches on the belly and under the gills, with some serious teeth. For the stock standard rainbow, these okes were spicy.

Flybru new film 'Hugging The Bear'.

What is next for Flybru?

(Matt): Survival in daily life, more fishing, more sharing of our passion. We have plans to keep doing what we have done with a few added additions to what Flybru is.
(Nick): More. Flybru is an ongoing conversation, and we aim to elevate it into something unique, contributing to the community. Sharing stories through imagery and connecting with like-minded individuals fuels our passion.

Anything you boys would like to add?

(Matt): The film is probably going to be considered controversial in a few aspects. Just saying it’s a story, how you view it or the idea of it is up to you – we didn’t make this to expose a place, for social gain or money – we are putting visuals together as a form of art that we won’t apologize for.
(Nick): Support local fly fishing operations! We aspire to do more, and with growth comes more content, community, and stories. There’s a vision behind the scenes, and your support propels us forward. Get behind what we’re doing, and it’ll evolve into something truly exceptional.

Now you want to go watch it right? Get your tickets to the Durban and Cape Town screenings here and keep an eye out for issue 44 of The Mission which features Nick’s account of the Hugging the Bear journey.


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