Perhaps he is too good a fishman.
Mike Kasic has been getting fan mail from across the globe ever since he and his wife, Kathy Kasic, collaborated for the documentary film “Fishman” for the British Broadcasting Corporation. The 10-minute film is one of 15 films that will be shown tonight in the Wild and Scenic Film Festival at Petro Theatre. It is an award-winning piece by the passionate and talented Kasics and every time it shows in Europe, fan mail floods in. So far, more than 6 million people have seen the film.
“This one woman wrote, ‘You must be such a spiritual man.’ But I wrote the script, with input from Mike, so she should be writing to me,’” joked Kathy, cinematographer and producer of “Fishman.”
The Kasics live and work out of Livingston and “Fishman” became a natural extension of their lives since they live a stone’s throw from the water. Mike loves to body surf the Yellowstone, which earned him the nickname and the title for the film.
“It feels like flying,” Mike said. “It’s two parts. One is letting the river take you and the other is being a wildlife watcher. Instead of a wolf watcher, I’d rather watch fish.”
The film, which was part of a three-hour series on Yellowstone Park by the BBC, is a nice blend of an environmental statement about the native cutthroat trout’s survival and a human interest story about the fishman.
Mike talks about the river in reverent tones, then backs up his verbal passion with spectacular forays into the water. In one scene with the whitewater roiling, Mike dives in, but cautions people to respect the river. Kathy said it was one of the most intense moments during filming even though the film also shows Mike swimming a few yards away from a herd of buffalo crossing the Yellowstone.
“The river is a dangerous, unforgiving place,” Mike said. “This year there have been a lot of people getting killed in rivers. I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve faced danger before. You need to pay attention.”
Most of “Fishman” was filmed in 2008 starting with the caddis fly hatch on Mother’s Day when Mike’s helmet and face are covered with the insects, to the nerve wracking high-water scene in June, to the buffalo crossing and osprey diving for cutthroat trout in the fall.
“It was nice being able to display how Mike and I feel about the river and the fish in there,” Kathy said. “We wanted to be able to show people what an underwater wilderness is. That’s something that people don’t get to see.”
In “Fishman,” Mike shows how the National Park Service is netting the invasive lake trout, which were introduced to Yellowstone Lake decades ago to improve fishing. Because 80 to 90 percent of a lake trout’s diet is cutthroat trout, they are a substantial threat.
“It’s hard watching so many fish die, but watching a species die would be harder,” Mike said in the film.
He describes the spawning of cutthroat trout as one of the world’s most spectacular natural events.
“I need this kind of wilderness to make my heart beat right,” Mike said. “Take it away and we lose our ability to understand the world.”