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For this F3T Behind the Lens profile, we venture across the Atlantic to Slovenia’s scenic Soca River. Rok Rozman, director and writer of Rods, Rolls & Reality on the So?a, spoke with Flylords to share the story behind the film. Fueled by local moonshine, this eclectic ensemble of paddlers-turned-anglers pursue hooksets and serenity on their beloved Soca River – all to shine light on the value of this unique Balkan fishery. Check out the full interview below.

Flylords: Tell us about yourself and your team.

Rok Rozman: My name is Rok, and I used to be an Olympic rower, but now I spend my time more wisely as a biologist, a whitewater kayaker, a fly fishing guide, and as the director of a river conservation NGO in Slovenia. I’m also a filmmaker/director. Film production is one of five fields of work we do with Leeway Collective, Institute for Promotion and Protection of Aquatic Ecosystems. All of our work is united in the mission to promote and protect our aquatic ecosystems. We started in 2014 as a small crew of whitewater kayakers and fly fishermen who wanted to share our adventures with broad audiences, but soon realized that the conventional ways of telling stories through the concept of a “hero” didn’t work for us. Instead, we decided to use an element of nature – most often a river – as the main character. 

Flylords: What inspired you to make this film?

Rok Rozman: We make films to either bring an important topic to the public or to provoke thought about topics we think are important. This time, we wanted to dissolve the myths that kayakers and anglers don’t get along, and that being a nature conservationist means belonging to a certain political party and/or having a PhD. In reality, it is the contrary – nature conservation was co-invented by hunters as they realized, as they spent more time outdoors, things were not right and (if they wanted to continue hunting and sustaining themselves and their families) something needed to be done. The same goes for fly fishermen and kayakers. Since I am both, I can tell you it’s the best combination out there: I know the spots, I can reach places no one else can, and I can learn about the fish from different perspectives. These experiences made me realize that these two communities don’t need to clash like they have historically here in Europe. There is enough space for both demographics as long as a tiny bit of mutual understanding can evolve into respect later. Also, since I am a fly fishing guide on my home river, the Soca, and am mostly guiding clients from far away countries, it felt right to take my kayaking friends out on the river and show them what goes on under the surface of this stunning river.


Flylords: Can you explain why the So?a River is important? 

Rok Rozman: The Soca River is a pearl amongst European rivers. It flows into the Adriatic Sea, similar to many Balkan rivers belonging to the Adriatic or Black Sea drainages, but what makes it special is its emerald color, the scenic landscape surrounding it, the famous endemic Marble Trout that reaches immense size here, and above all, its free-running and unchanged nature. The vast majority of Europe’s upper stretches of other iconic alpine rivers have been dammed or diverted in the last 60 years. Still, the Soca, due to successful resistance by locals, wars, and a ton of luck, retains its wild flow today. The river’s history, combined with its drop/pool character and gin-clear water, makes it world-famous for kayaking and fly fishing. 

In recent years, mass tourism and poor management practices have started taking their toll on the river and the valley. Luckily, there are still people standing up for the river and common sense to ensure this valley remains a paradise for good. The So?a River is an example of how threats to the river change over time and how what saved it (tourism) can become its demise if not regulated correctly. Above all, it proves that you can’t rely on governments, protected areas, etc., to provide protection, but solely on the determination of people with vision and spine.

Flylords: What stood out as the most memorable moment during the film’s production?

Rok Rozman: The luck we had with catching fish. When a camera is pointed at you, and you are expected to catch a fish, the fish usually don’t cooperate. But not this time; we had a great day fishing, and every crew member caught a fish, including the elusive Marble Trout. 

Flylords: What challenges did you encounter while creating this film?

Rok Rozman: Our production team specializes in making documentary films with loose plans or scripts; that’s why we like to go with the flow of things. Enriched with some locally distilled goods, the ideas were popping up at the right time, and the only challenge was picking out the best ones. The post-production phase was a different story, as it took a lot of office time and a technical approach. But in the end, that’s the combination required to deliver something meaningful.

Flylords: What message are you hoping to convey through this film? 

Rok Rozman: The simple message is that you will only understand something if you spend enough time exploring it. The same goes for a fellow human, a car engine, or a river. Once you understand it, you can form an opinion based on your experience. If the opinion is good, it might produce nice feelings, which can become ammo to defend what you’ve come to care about. In other words, the field of conservation should consist of people who understand the resource, spend time in it, and feel a part of it. Only then can we make decisions that make sense for both nature and humans. 

Flylords: Can you tell us more about the work of Leeway Collective and Balkan River Defence?

Rok Rozman: Leeway Collective manages Balkan River Defence as our most significant initiative; more or less, all of our other activities revolve around it. In 2015, we learned about plans to build 2,700 dams on the last wild European rivers in the Balkans, and we wanted to do something. In 2016, we organized what ended up being the biggest direct action for wild rivers in Europe called the Balkan Rivers Tour, which then evolved into Balkan River Defence, an initiative combining sports, science, partying, and common sense into a mixture that has been successful in keeping unnecessary dams away from pristine rivers. 

Balkan River Defence connects international conservation organizations with local groups, deters corrupt investments by bringing international media attention to hydro development and dam building, and invites people who understand rivers through experience (fly fishermen, kayakers, etc.) to join. You can learn more about the initiative in the video This is Balkan River Defence and more about the problem we are trying to solve in the documentary film The Undamaged


Flylords: As both a kayaker and a fly fisher, how would you describe your relationship with the river?

Rok Rozman: I started fishing when I was five and became a kayaker when I was 15. Since then, both ways of experiencing a river have become a regular part of my life. I can say that I understand the river better with each outing. It’s hard to imagine ever having to stop fishing or kayaking as they’re so interconnected. Every time I kayak, I look out for fish; every time I fish, I check possible lines for when I’m in a kayak. They complement and exclude each other; when the rivers are high and flooded and fly fishing is out of the question is when it’s prime kayaking, and vice versa. The combination of these passions has tied me to the river in all possible conditions, and while the water is my church, many others consider it their home. For these reasons, I will do just about anything to protect it. 

Flylords: The film is very playfully edited; where did your team draw inspiration? 

Rok Rozman: Mostly from the comic characters and local moonshine, but there are also some Wes Anderson frames in there, let’s be honest. 

Flylords: Is there anything else you’d like to include or anyone you’d like to acknowledge for their role in this project? 

Rok Rozman: As with most other things, this project results from many months of work. Even though it’s just a short and comical video, it includes some philosophies and experiences we acquired and developed through many years of fighting for these stunning rivers, shoulder to shoulder with many other organizations and initiatives, both big and small. So thanks to them, thanks to NRS for keeping us above the water, thanks to the Tolmin Fishing Club for cooperating with us and finding ways to protect the Marble Trout, and above all, big thanks to the old boys that saved the Soca River from being flooded with hydro dams in the 60s and 80s. If everything goes well, our next feature film will be about them!

Special thanks to Rok Rozman for taking the time for an interview. Be sure to follow along with Rok (@rok.flyfishing) and Balkan River Defence (@balkanriverdefence) on Instagram. Stay tuned for more iterations of the Fly Fishing Film Tour, F3T Behind the Lens series by clicking here.

Fly Fishing Slovenia: The Hidden Gem

2024 Behind the Lens: A Line in the Sand


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