During the California Gold Rush in the Sierra Nevada (starting in 1849) forty-niners risked deadly peril for what they dreamed would be a huge reward. Some traveled 18,000 nautical miles and eight months around the tip of South America to reach San Francisco from the East Coast. Others traveled overland using the California Trail. Each route was dangerous, but after San Francisco newspaper publisher Samuel Brannan strode through the streets holding aloft a vial of precious metal and shouting "Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!" gold fever took hold of America, and the world.
Filmmaker Mikey Weir has gold fever of a different kind. He's after arm-length brown trout with buttery yellow flanks, and it seems he's also willing to do just about anything to catch them. In the opening scenes we seem him running Tunnel Chute rapids (Class V) on the Middle Fork of the American River with a fly rod in one hand and a whitewater helmet on his head.
"It's fairly violent. When you hit that bottom hole, if you're swimming, you go down to what we call the dream route," says Grady Garlough (Rise Up Outfitters) in describing the initial obstacle. "You go real deep. If something happens, it gets ugly really quick.
It's not a joke. You gotta weigh those options of what are you are willing to risk to get into places."
"That's what it takes to get to the good fishing these days," says Weir. "There's a little risk involved, but the payoff is catching these really beautiful, quality, healthy, wild fish that nobody else has caught."
At the bottom of the 15-mile run Weir and his friends face an even more frightening Ruck-A-Chucky Falls, but in between they find the treasure they are looking for—solitude and massive brown trout in the country's most populous state (and one of the driest).
Gold Fever catches the excitement and adventure of finding a gold mine of trout fishing in your backyard — and of having it all to yourself. If you're familiar with the legacy of Weir's other films like Trout Bum Diaries, Fish Eye, and Soulfish, you'll love this latest production. Weir has the edgy passion for our sport you rarely find elsewhere, and he matches it with a reverence for all the gifts of nature. For me, it was the highlight of the International Fly Fishing Film Festival.