Hustle & Fish

The first normal job I ever took was with Tom Darling and the Avid Angler Fly Shop in north Seattle, shortly after I’d been canned by some wicked skipper on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska. He died on a treadmill three moths later and I didn’t shed a single tear.
At that time the Avid Angler was located on Meridian Way and I could sneak the backroads through Richmond Beach and Shoreline, past Sugars and the Echo Lake Tavern, without having to join the fracas on I-5. All in all it was a refreshing change from all those waves, wilderness and the madman.
The Avid Angler was the kind of hole-in-the-wall you saw before “The Movie” and the arrival of boutique fly-fishing stores. It was a place where you could go in, grab a free cup of Folgers, talk for an hour, buy nothing and leave without eyes burning holes in your back. Fisherman, not fisherman’s wives, frequented the Avid Angler, and they couldn’t have walked out with a single item that would have made their spouses smile.
“You bought my anniversary gift from the fly shop?” she might scream. “You think I need a cotton shirt with vents!”

Steve Apple’s Hustle & Fish is a dynamic addition to any angler’s DVD collection.

The shop must have been no more than 600 square feet and packed with all sorts of great brands—Sage, Simms, Abel, SA, and more. It harbored an excellent fly-tying selection and a messy, well used fly-tying station. It carried an impressive supply of books and a massive video collection, all pre-DVD, offered only in the massive VHS format.
I was rabid for information and Tom let me take home two or three videos a night—chironomid tactics; dry-fly steelhead; Atlantic salmon. It didn’t matter the subject, informative or just entertaining. I couldn’t tire of watching people catch fish.
Twenty years later I can barely stand to watch a fishing video. Can I describe the boredom I sense when watching people catch fish? The cable TV shows are mostly abysmal and, despite the recent rage in amateur and semi-pro fly-fishing video production and contests, I’m typically bored stiff by those portrayals of fly fishing.

There is an exception, however, and it comes out of Seattle, courtesy of Steve Apple; his DVD, Hustle & Fish (Rollcast Productions; $24.95), is a comedic portrayal of the common fishing video and it serves as a semi-documentary on Apple’s attempt to sell his first video, Fishizzle. I understand this better than most—he could have described the attempt to sell any product within the fly-fishing arena, meaning books or tools or a new brand of rods or reels.
And that’s exactly what Apple attempts to do; in Hustle & Fish he goes door to door pimping Fishizzle!, and the reactions of fly-shop employees he courts (played by real Seattle-area fly-shop employees) are worth the price of the product. In addition, Apple’s parents play lead roles in and they make awesome appearances, resurrecting those old feelings in all of us who had any fun growing up when our parents said, “What are you going to do with your life?”
Apple denies their wishes, quits his steady job, heads out with Fishizzle! in hand and hits a brick wall on the sales side. Without a job or much direction, Apple goes back to the ways of old, endless days with a rod in hand, rediscovering why he loves fly fishing in the first place. Some of the fishing scenes are solid—salmon sharks in Alaska; steelhead in Washington; wild trout in eastern Washington; and coho salmon, rainbow trout, and char on the Kanektok River. I’ll excuse Apple’s footage of catching some nasty stocked rainbows in a flooded gravel pit, only because the gal reeling them in is total eye candy.
The fishing though: If I have one complaint about Hustle & Fish it’s that some of the fishing scenes drag. That’s the risk of capturing too much good footage in Alaska and not being able to set it free at the editing table. Artists, don’t love your work so much you can’t make it better. Place the head on a block and release that guillotine. In the end, however, I’d rather have too much than too little and Apple certainly provides that.

The fact that I show Hustle & Fish to all my friends speaks most loudly about Apple and his product. Unfortunately, I at once feel and fear that Apple might be short-lived in the fly-fishing arena. He’s too talented and creative to stick it out. When he marries the girl, and he should marry the girl, he’ll have his own family to care for and his parents’ words will hold more clout. He’ll need a real job, money in his pocket. And, likely, he won’t find enough in fly fishing. On the bright side, we have Hustle & Fish, one funny and creative junket. And if that’s the last we see from Apple all I can say is thanks.

For more information and to order Hustle & Fish visit


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