The migration of striped bass is an epic journey that fly fishermen up and down the East Coast look forward to with great anticipation each year. There's books that follow this -- On The Run by David DiBenedetto comes to mind, as does Peter Kaminsky's more targeted The Moon Pulled Up an Acre of Bass -- but there has not been a feature documentary or film that follows stripers migration. In the GoPro age, that was a gap waiting to be filled. Thankfully Howard Films, the creators of such films as Location X and Chasing Silver, filled it before the guy in the boat next to you with a GoPro on his head, chest, and dashboard could. Their film Running the Coastis,according to their press statement, "the first documentary film series to follow the striped bass migration, and the anglers that follow in its wake.” The film does precisely this: over 2 hours and forty-four minutes it follows striped bass along the Eastern seaboard, and features some recognizable names in the sport.
The film is nicely shot, with lots of drone and underwater footage, as well as the obligatory shots breaking fish. Some of the footage you will have seen before; the film borrows from Popovics and Peter Laurelli, to name the two I recognized. But there’s some beautiful original footage in here too — some beautifully exposed shots that no amateur could capture. Beyond that, Howard does more in interviewing lots of people with plenty of experience. According to Howard, the movie took 5 years to make. This is a documentary in that it covers many aspects of the fishery, and gives attention and time to the decline of the species.
This investment of time and talent is where the price tag comes in; at $24 on Vimeo to watch, you might wonder, “Why don’t I just watch what’s free on YouTube?” That’s a fair question.
The movie does wander. The title suggests a linear progression up or down the coast (or perhaps both), but the film bounces around, from the Chesapeake to Maine and south again, and then north again. This bouncing around is confusing at times. So too are some of the claims for the need for catch and release, only to see fish being held by the gills, or sluggishly making their way back into the water after being out of the water for, it seems, too long.
While I think artists should be compensated for their work, is this movie worth $24.99 to buy? I wish there was a rental option, which would make recommending it easier. It does make you want to go fishing, that’s for sure. Here’s my suggestion: Get a few friends together, crack a few beers, split the cost, and talk about fishing — something that seems miles and miles away right now.