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Exclusive Online Interview: Meet Hollywood Fish Wrangler, Kathy Ruddick
When production starts on a movie that involves flyfishing, Kathy Ruddick (above) gets a phone call. The Vancouver-area fishing instructor and guide is the on-the-set expert who makes the actors look convincing with a fly rod. Her most recent movie, Catch & Release, is out this month, and she recently chatted with F&S contributor (and research editor for In-Style magazine) Stephen Camelio
F&S: How are you usually credited?
KR: "Technical advisor: Flyfishing." The film industry hires wranglers--car wranglers, horse wranglers. I guess I'm a fish wrangler.
F&S: How did you get involved with movies?
KR: I'd been teaching fishing for a long time when I was hired for a TV series with Dawn Wells, Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island. I was the show's fishing consultant--I'd make sure all the right rods and reels were there, and that she was dressed appropriately--then I became a co-star. Now a couple of times a year I get a call to work on a film.
F&S: What are the differences between teaching actors and your regular clients?
KR: With my regular clientele, the object is to learn how to catch a fish with a fly rod. With an actor it's just about the proper form--so it's the art of fly casting as opposed to flyfishing. The priority is to make it look good. You have to keep the rod away from the actor's face so it doesn't block the camera. And the actor has to be positioned for the camera, even if that means standing on a big rock that he'd never be on to actually catch a fish.
F&S: What outfit do you use to teach them?
KR: I start them off with a trout outfit--an 8 1/2- or a 9-foot, 5- or 6-weight fly rod.
F&S: Any particular flies?
KR: I love the actors, but no way am I using a fly. Usually just a piece of yarn for wind resistance. If we have to use a fly, I'll snip the point off.
F&S: What did you do on Catch & Release?
KR: Mainly I worked with an actor named Sam Jaeger (above, right) because his character was supposed to be an exquisite angler. He was awesome. I can't imagine the pressure--he's trying to remember his lines and his marks and look like a proper flyfisherman, and there's so little time. There are lots of fishing doubles used in the industry, but that's him casting in the film.
F&S: Have you ever been a double?
KR: I've been a distance double, way in the background. But they're usually looking for men.
F&S: Any other projects at the moment?
KR: This spring, I taught two gals for a film called Almost Heaven. And I just worked with a stage play called "A Fly Fisher's Companion" about these two geezers who go fishing, so I had to teach them to handle the line and roll cast live on stage.
F&S: How do you feel about film and TV representations of flyfishing?
KR: There's something about the art of fly casting that the camera loves. When it's done well--and for the most part it is--it conveys tranquility.
F&S: And when it's not...
KR: It's just horrid. There have been some awful commercials. There's nothing worse than seeing someone flailing away--just put a spinning rod in his hand already. --Stephen Camelio
Watch the official trailer for Catch & Release below.