Interview With Filmmaker Gilbert Rowley

July 17, 2023 By: Spencer Durrant

Photo: Gilbert Rowley

Gilbert Rowley is a filmmaker and fly fisher from Utah. He’s produced a bevy of wonderful films like “Caddis Magic” and the “Modern Nymphing” series with Lance Egan and Devin Olsen.

Rowley’s latest project is the third season of his popular “Buffet” series. These videos are shorter, with their goal being to share the highlights of fly fishing, rather than telling an in-depth story. The third season of the “Buffet” series is currently debuting on YouTube, and the first two episodes are already out (you can watch them here).

I’ve had the pleasure to know and fish with Gilbert for a few years now, and he was kind enough to sit down for a short interview. We discuss this new “Buffet” season, and chat about the art of making fly fishing films.

Answers have been lightly edited for clarity.

Spencer Durrant: Where did the inspiration come from for the Buffet series? 

Gilbert Rowley: Basically, we wanted to share the highlights of fly fishing. Our entire goal with the Buffet series, and everything that we do, is to inspire people to get outside. That’s our purpose, that’s our goal, but it’s kind of hard because we do that by having people not be outside. We inspire them to get outside by watching films. So, instead of consuming so much of their time with long drawn-out content, the idea was to create some short films that people could consume in a few minute, that would inspire people. A lot of times, we wanted to just keep it kind of simple, highlighting the joys of fly fishing. 

SD: How do you get creative with shots of fish and keep things fresh?

GR: The number one tip I would say, to keep the creativity alive, is to put the rod down. Don’t be so consumed with the fishing itself that you forget the beauty around you. The grayling video is the perfect example. I had Ryan Kelly fish 80, 90% of the time up there, and I had no problems with it. I was loving it. I was trying to find backlit shots, front-lit shots, lilypad shots. You just need to get the rod out of your hands and see the beauty for what it is. You need to be content with the outcome of maybe not catching fish, but coming home with some fantastic shots. 

SD: What’s the process of putting together a series like the Buffet?

GR: With the Buffet series, we actually keep the pre-production really simple. We find a location, a species, and a time of year, then we let it develop on the river. That’s not the case with all of our films, but with these ones, since they’re short-form, we do. We just want to film the highlights. A lot of times, we don’t even film until the action is good, that way it’s true excitement. We want to show it the way the angler would experience it. We don’t storyboard, we don’t have a shot list. We just want to show the reality of having a good time out there.  

SD: What’s your favorite moment from this current season?

GR: Ep. 3, we call it fly fishing Narnia. The moment was the magic of the river and the snow and the lighting. We filmed in two different locations for that one, and I have a brand-new camera that’s phenomenal. We had these marshmallow-looking boulder-top piles of snow all around us as we were fishing. Snow was flying from being blown out of the trees. It was magical. That episode is just straight magic. But honestly, it’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever shot, and it wasn’t the fish that made it. The fish were fantastic, but it was the surrounding area and the lighting and everything that was happening. 

SD: If someone is interested in getting their own epic trout footage, what advice would you have for them? 

GR: I would say to focus on filming something that is predictable to you. Something that has a high chance of success. You’re gonna have more fun, it’s gonna yield better results, and it’ll keep you going out for more. If you know of a lake that’s hot, a river that’s great, filming that good fishing will keep you motivated. If you just pull out the camera and hope, that can be a long day. Fish until it becomes predictable, if you need to. Fill your memory cards when it’s happening, not when you expect it to happen.