For some people fishing is a weekend pastime, but for fly fishers like Don Freschi it is a way of life, and this year marks the 18th season the Trail native’s “Sport Fishing on the Fly” TV show (SFOTF) hits the airwaves.
Freschi began taping the show in 1995 with good friend and fellow curler Grant Fines. Don and his brother Dale grew up in Trail, spending countless hours prospecting local waters with an artificial fly, so with Fines’ interest in videography, a fly-fishing show seemed the next logical step.
“Grant was doing some volunteer work with Shaw Cable, so me and him both went out there started doing a little work on it and just put it out on Shaw, and everybody liked it so then we took it further,” said Freschi. “I always wanted to fish for free, so that was a good way to do it.”
Since it’s humble beginnings filming on local lakes and streams, it has developed and matured, and is now one of the longest-running syndicated broadcasts on television, airing on CHECK TV and the World Fishing Network (WFN).
“It’s a lot more fluid now – people are enjoying it. And you know, you get your following, it’s well established and it makes it easier for sponsorship.”
The show first emerged as a popular B.C. program and was soon picked up by the Outdoor Channel in the burgeoning U.S. market.
“At that time sponsorship was fairly easy, like Ford and all the big players had deep pockets,” he said.
Initially, the networks recruited the sponsors and paid the show’s creators, however, following the 2008 U.S. financial crisis, the model changed, networks introduced a barter system, and the onus was put on the show to attract sponsors.
“They (the networks) don’t pay you to put the show on, you actually have to generate the revenue from the commercial time,” said Freschi. “You know it’s changed quite a bit, but for a show like ours it’s perfect.”
Freschi has a well-established core of sponsors and despite a busy career at 5-N Plus, he manages to create 13 episodes per season. Most are devoted to local waters, but also include trips to remote northern locales and some with a tropical flavour.
A trip to Cuba last month with Castlegar’s Dwayne D’Andrea from Mountain Valley Sports Fishing and Tours, saw the men hook into some massive tarpon on the fly.
“The Cuba trip was excellent,” said Freschi. “It was a blast, you got an 80 pound fish on the end of your line going crazy – it’s a good time.”
Asked if he ever runs out of locations, Freschi replied, “Never, we could do 100 shows in a season, but there is only so much time.”
SFOTF is one of the most-watched fishing shows on TV, with knowledgeable hosts, excellent tips and fantastic fishing spots.
In year 16, Fines left Trail to pursue an opportunity south of the border, but Freschi has maintained the integrity of the show including such co-hosts as brother Dale, D’Andrea, and the ubiquitous Brian Chan of the Fresh Water Fisheries Society of B.C. Chan is a senior biologist, writer, and premier authority on still-water fly fishing, and his articles and images are staples in fly-fishing magazines across North America.
The show is also edited and marketed by another Trail product – Kale Stanchuck’s Ten 23 Media – and with many of the episodes devoted to Kootenay and B.C. locations, it remains true to its local heritage and goal of promoting the area.
SFOTF also has a pristine new website, where visitors can access shows, purchase DVD’s, learn new fly patterns from the always popular portion of “On the bench,” ask questions, and discover new places to throw string.
Check out SFOTF at www.sfotf.ca, or every Saturday at 2 p.m. on CHECK TV, or on the World Fishing Network.