Catching up with O'KEEFE
February 05, 2010
Brian O'Keefe may be known for popularizing photos of anglers and fish viewed through the "fish eye" lens, but his resume in the fly fishing world is far more extensive and impressive. An incredible caster, photographer and speaker; a successful guide and fly fishing tackle rep; and now with partner, Todd Moen, a web based multi-media magazine producer. Brian and Todd started Catch Magazine with the intention of explaining the why of fly fishing through photographs and video. Readers will not find "how to" material or fly fishing advice, but rather photographic essays and stunning video compositions recounting travels to exotic and pristine fishing destinations and portrayals of the guides and anglers that fish these waters.
About 15 years ago while I was attending graduate school, I had a part time job in a tiny, paneled hallway of a fly shop outside of Chicago. To this day, I recall reading one of the first issues of Fish and Fly magazine that featured a Brian O'Keefe cover shot and article. I read it word for word and when I set the magazine down, I was left with a heart thumping, Johnny Depp-like crush, and more importantly, an insatiable desire to travel and fish the world. This ultimately catapulted me into a "career" in fly fishing. It is amazing what a few photos and a story can inspire, and Brian and Todd's recent endeavor, Catch Magazine, does just that: inspire. I urge you to explore the online magazine at www.catchmagazine.net. Your eyes and soul will thank you for it.
A half dozen questions with Brian O'Keefe:
1). What is your most memorable catch?
My most memorable catch is a very big largemouth bass caught when I was in the 5th or 6th grade. I think it was a little over 8 pounds, and I caught it on a little popper. I might have been using either my grandmother's bamboo rod or my first fiberglass fly rod. It was an absolute whopper. I can recall a lot of significant fish in my life, but at the time, being young--a little whippersnapper really, a fish that big really blew my mind.
2). Favorite species to pursue?
I am going to go with a Golden Dorado and here's the reason why. They live in very interesting spots. I haven't been to Bolivia yet, but I really like Argentina for lots of reasons. There are some freestone streams in northwestern Argentina, where the fish are pretty big. There are giant boulders and the water is really clear even though it's 80 to 82 degrees. You sight fish for some and just fish good water for others, but, pound for pound, they hit as strong as any fish and their jumps are spectacular. They are really cool looking and their super aggressive behavior is really fun.
I've been on the Parana River, which is pretty darn big, but it braids and goes into lots of small channels. It's more like bass fishing on that river--a lot of lily pads, vegetation and not super clear water. There are some nice fish, but I haven't been to a place called La Zona, which is behind a big dam. 5o pounders and such. It doesn't look that pretty and the water's kind of murky, but I would do it. A chance to fish for some big fish would be really cool. I know the guys at Marriot's [fly shop] took trips down there and they would get really into the fly patterns and types of hooks they used, because normal everyday hooks just don't cut it. You need hooks bigger than tarpon hooks, but just as strong. They are such powerful fish. My favorite rivers would be some of the smaller mountain and foothill freestone rivers that are really clear with water falls, deep pools and rapids. It's really exciting. So, I'm kind of on a Golden Dorado kick right now.
3). Best DIY location?
For a hard-core do-it-yourself fishing adventure, the best trip I ever had was to Mayaguana where I stayed at a little hotel called Baycaner Beach Resort. There's a guy there named Shorty Brown who owns the place, and he is just a great guy. They've got some canoes in a big lagoon and are surrounded by hard flats. When I was there, there were plenty of fish. Now, I have heard that if you were to go there 6 times, you would have good fishing 2 times, OK fishing 3 times and, of course, one of the trips would be poor fishing. So, it is kind of hit and miss. The thing I liked about it was for DIY fishing, you have a chance to catch the biggest bonefish of your life, as opposed to normally going with a guide in Hawaii, to parts of Andros or in Florida. Normally, with DIY fishing you sacrifice numbers and size for the overall experience, but at Mayaguana you have a chance at 30" bonefish and bigger. Big fat fish and nice flats. It is really low key. That is my best DIY trip. It ranks up there with the DIY float trips in Alaska, but I'll stay with Mayaguana.
4). How about a photography tip?
Read the manual. That is an easy one. I always say that because it's very important to know the features of your camera and how to use them. It is easy to get lazy and shoot on automatic or flip on the macro, but there are a lot of settings that do things to provide either more focus or faster shutter speed. It is just a matter of turning the dial a little bit. Because it's digital, we all have that attitude of "oh, well'¦if it's no good, I'll throw it away", but sometimes in fishing and certain situations, you only get one chance to make a good picture, especially when there is a live fish involved. So, maybe 15 minutes of boring reading can help you create much better pictures for many years.
5). Impetus for Catch Magazine?
Basically, for all of my adult life I have always kind of wished there was a paper magazine that was like Catch Magazine-- primarily graphic, not as much writing because there are so many good magazines, books and blogs that have lots of good writing and articles. A place where photographers could show their work. When the technology came along and when I was in the position to phase out my career as a sales rep and my partner, Todd Moen had quit a job filming for outdoor shows on ESPN, we kind of combined forces and looked at ways to incorporate our different skill sets. We went through a few prototypes and hits and misses and ultimately decided on what Catch Magazine is today. That was 20 issues ago.
Some photographers are bonafide, total pros that actually don't need Catch Magazine unless they just want to do it for fun. We like to appeal to new, hobby photographers and old school pros that just love to see their work out there. We consider ourselves a gallery. We provide the walls and let people hang up their work. There are a lot of like-minded people around the globe (we are in148 countries) that enjoy and appreciate quality photography, interesting places and exciting stuff.
In our everyday world, whether we are taking a picture of a friend or family on our cell phone or an actual camera, photo sharing is a thing that people do almost on a daily basis. Catch Magazine is a very extreme version of photo sharing. We display some of the top fly fishing photography from all over the world and combine it with great video. So much of our fishing and media is very regional, so it's refreshing to have photographers from Japan or South Africa or Scotland sharing their photography with everybody in the world. We like to think of ourselves as kind of a cross between a film festival and a coffee table book rolled into one.
6). Taking photos or taking shots?
Fly fishing photography for me is a byproduct of fishing, so fishing comes first. If there's a hatch, feeding frenzy, great conditions or just beautiful, it's fishing first. Having said that, being a lifetime angler from 8 years old and up, I don't have to catch all the fish. I don't even have to catch a lot of fish, but I need to have some good challenging situations and get some of the action. Then, I will definitely start moving into the photos a little bit.