We sat down with the legendary guide and filmmaker Jako Lucas to discuss his original breakout film Gangsters of the Flats and its inclusion in our Top 20 Most Influential Films of All Time in the new Screening Room. Become a member of the American Museum of Fly Fishing here for as little as $35 a year and get instant access over 200 titles, including Gangsters of the Flats, Running Down the Man, The Walkers Cay Chronicles, and so much more from the archives!

We love Gangsters of the Flats (both 1 and 2!) – so much so that we put it into the Top 20: Influential Fly Fishing Films from the Past 20 Years! How does it feel to be included among these other great titles?

In all honesty, you definitely have to try and stay humble. I’ve always been not only a fishing junkie, but also a fishing film junkie and watching some of the films that are in this collection is how the passion started for me. The one that put it all in motion for me was Running Down the Man. I first saw it when I was guiding on the Zambezi and a client brought a DVD–this is how long ago it was. Throughout the season we probably binge watched it 50 times or more to be conservative. It was the first film that was like “fly fishing is not only fun, it’s a super cool sport to do”. It’s an honor more so than anything else to even be mentioned between any of these names. I still look up to all of them.

An angler displays a giant trevally; a large black streamer fly is hooked in its jaw.

Can you share any behind the scenes moments that either made you laugh or presented an obstacle to the final result of this film?

I started filming some stuff on Farquhar Island and the thing that sparked it immediately was when we found those GTs feeding on the birds. Firstly, it took us a while to even understand what was going on. Crazy enough, at the time I had my camera ready and I was shooting that stuff but because I was guiding I usually had my wide angle lens on, so when I filmed those GTs it looked like they were miles away. I was fortunate to be filming that event first, but I couldn’t use any of that footage because you can’t really see what’s going on. I did get a call eventually from the BBC and they figured it out, but as a filmmaker I’m probably my biggest critic and there are a million things I would change. But I think what was cool about Gangsters of the Flats at the time was how rough around the edges it was. It seemed more real than staged.

A giant trevally comes partially out of the water in an attempt to catch a gliding sea bird.

What shot in the film are you most proud of?

It was a shot that happened by accident. It was the first time I’d ever owned a GoPro, and there was the specific shot where this giant GT came rooster-tailing up on the flats to eat a fly which you see in the movie, but if I show you the whole clip it took us less than 2 minutes to get completely smoked by that GT. As soon as we got the grab, I started running towards the boat so we could have a chance of landing it. It was like a minefield out there with coral bombies, and I didn’t reach the boat in time. The client just turned to me and said he didn’t have any line left. Just to see a GT of that size – a genuine 100+ pound GT– I’ll never ever forget that. That’s something that will stay with me forever.

A screenshot of a man fishing in saltwater; there is a large splash subsiding to his left.

How do you think Gangsters of the Flats changed the game for saltwater fly fishing?

Because we were guiding out there for such a long period of time, we knew we had one of the most insane fisheries in the world. A GT eat will blow you away every time, but I think we were kind of getting numb to the craziness. I first made a little rough cut which was in a South African film show, and then Tom [Bie, Drake Magazine] found it and emailed me while I was in Norway guiding for Atlantic salmon and then that was it. Every single hour I wasn’t guiding I was editing this video. When I sent it over to Tom, he had me tweak a few things and then I kind of forgot about it. He emailed me and said I got a [Drake] award for it and people were standing on tables going crazy. And then I knew that this was something pretty cool and it was nice to introduce the visual element of that fishery to the world. The idea was to create this cool element of fly fishing of “what’s possible”. Every film I’ve made since was created to show people that you can have this pinnacle, or something you can dream about in fly fishing. And if you can’t do it one day, then at least you get to see it.

Two clear glass fly fishing video awards from The Drake magazine: best new film, 2013, and best fishing, 2012.

What’s next for you? What are some of the great fly fishing stories that still remain untold?

So we just dropped the Jacks film, which is like a follow up to Gangsters of the Flats. Both R.A. [Beattie] and myself worked on it which was really fun. I worked on it for about two years, collecting old footage to tell the story about GTs and then also tell the story about how awesome jacks [crevalle] are and that they’re right on everyone’s doorstep. So we wanted to wrap it up like “cool you have this dream of GTs but don’t forget you’ve got something awesome right here that any American can go and do if they put their mind to it”. I’m super excited for people to see it. It’s going to be on the IF4, and you can watch the trailer here.