FIVE Things I Wish I Knew - Filming for YouTube
Guest Post: By Mike Slepesky
Two years ago, I was convinced I could be the next YouTube fishing sensation. I watched channels like Backyard Angling, Allegheny Native, WildFlyProductions, Hardman Fishing Adventures, Fish Hawk, and Wooly Bugged for inpiration. Having watched almost all of their videos - seeing their general techniques filming, judging their approach to the water, witnessing how they interacted with their subscribers, and so forth - I decided to start down the path of creating my own channel, Tight Lining MD.
My first step was receiving a Christmas gift of a GoPro Hero 5 Black. I got right to work! Sadly to say, on my first trip to the Gunpowder, I produced a less than magical video. These days, I look back on that first film and think about all of the things I would do differently. If I could start over, or teach someone else how to do it better, what would I tell them? As a result of my efforts to learn over the last few years, I feel confident I can share with you FIVE things I wish I knew when I first started on YouTube.
Tip #1: Gear you NEED
Fishing is an obsession of mine, and I don’t use that word lightly. Trout on the fly have become an absolute passion, and chasing them down on the fly rod is near in dear to my heart. Standard gear I take on the water are a 10’ 3wt Syndicate Fly Rod, paired with a Lamson Liquid 4/5 reel. Couple that with Euro Line and my own special “Mono Rig”, that is hand tied to perfection, and you have my standard set up. However, the gear you need for YouTube is specific to filming. Here is what I would say are must have items for a successful day of filming:
1. GoPro Hero 5 (or a newer version) 2. 3 extra GoPro batteries (each has about 90 minutes of life) 3. 4 SD Cards in 32, 64, and 128 GB (you never want to run out of film space)
4. GoPro Head Mount (wear your hat backwards, so you don't block the sun) 5. GoPro adjustable tripod (to vary your shots from typical first-person) 6. GoPro battery charger (your batteries are critical to your success)
I also have a few other pieces of gear that I highly recommend, but they aren't needed.
1. CatchCamNet w/ additional GoPro Hero (netting and release shots) 2. Simms Waterproof Backpack (to protect your film gear, and house other items)
In total all this gear is about $1,000, not including the rod, reel, and fly gear.
Tip #2: Master your NICHE
When I first started fly fishing, I went fishless for about a half dozen trips. I bought a starter rod, assortment of starter flies, and I went to a top 100 trout stream thinking that success would come my way. I learned quickly that even blind squirrels don’t always find nuts. In order to be successful, I needed to learn. I watched a lot of YouTube videos, bought instructional DVD’s, and went on four guided trips. Subsequently, I went to fly conventions and held conference calls with other anglers. It was all part of my journey that lead me to my niche: I am a “Tight Liner". For those unfamiliar, this is where the fisherman will have constant contact with their flies at just about all times. The line remains tight and you guide your flies through the water.
Many years back, a friend of mine turned me into a successful angler by learning the Tight Line approach to fly fishing. He taught me how to read water, approach fish, get a “dead” drift, and make a Mono Rig leader - all things you can see and learn by checking out my channel. This technique is what has elevated my fishing success. I can go to just about any trout stream and pick off some, if not many, fish. I would be also be remiss if I didn’t mention Dom Swentosky. He is an epic writer, fisherman, advocate for the sport, and overall a genuinely good guy. I highly encourage reading his Mono Rig articles, and spending a day on the water with him, like I did. His website, Trout Bitten, is resource I suggest to anyone serious about the sport.
That brings me back to my niche. A person can benefit on YouTube by being unique. Not just as a person, but as a content creator. Be yourself, but feature something that others typically don’t. For example, there are many ways to fly fish: dry fly, wet fly, nymph, streamer, etc.; however, I decided to do a little of each, all using the same rod, reel, and tight-line leader system. So, an angler can come to my channel and learn to use a Mono Rig, thus teaching them how to do all the types of fishing mentioned above with one, simple set up. Most importantly, they can do this without ever having to buy all the different rods, reels, and leaders necessary to perform a certain task in the traditional fly fishing world. That is what makes me and my channel unique. That is how I have found my niche.
Tip #3: LEARNING YouTube
Did you know there are algorithms to becoming successful on YouTube? Neither did I, for at least a year. Once I figured out some of the tips and tricks on how to manipulate YouTube, that is when subscribers increased, and the overall “success” of my channel improved. The frequency to which you post is important. For example, it is suggested that a creator post two times a week. I have found that the majority of my videos are watched within a 3 to 4-day time span. Sure, a video can spike weeks, or months, after posting - like my Falling Springs Branch PA video - but it isn't very common. So, post, and post often, it helps!
Analytics can also be your best friend on YouTube. Your channel, as well as individual videos, all have quantifiable data points for a creator to see and learn from. Some of the most important things I have learned from this are audience retention, watch time, overall views, and impressions. Using YouTube's analytics page, I can search the lifetime of the channel and see tons of worthwhile data. I can see am I gaining or losing subscribers and if my videos average watch time and total views are improving or declining. As a creator, using these data points, you can really start to see the value in the time you invest in creating and uploading videos.
Lastly, I can also see exactly where in the video the viewers interest peaks, and flattens. I can use this data to evaluate where they are bored, and most engaged. Therefore, the next time I create a video, I can avoid doing the same type of thing where I lost them in the last film. Once a person learns how to use YouTube effectively, the success of their channel should only increase.
Tip #4: The “MAGIC Sauce”
I have come to find there are three very important - arguably magical - components to a video’s success, or even a channels success. The first is a video's thumbnail. After all, that is what drew you in, right? If you have an appealing image as your thumbnail, there is an increased chance a viewer might stop in to check out your content. Some of the best content creators consistently work to create powerful, eye catching, and intriguing thumbnails for their videos. I personally use Adobe Photoshop Express on my phone and the Paint 3D app on my computer to create thumbnails. I will look for picturesque settings while on the water: a shot of a great fish, a waterfall, you name it. All of these can create a connection with your viewer before they even watch the video.
The next ingredient in the “magic sauce” is an excellent first minute. Make certain your first minute is the best minute. Viewers decide within seconds, or at least the first minute, if they want to keep watching or move on to the next. Every time I create a video, I take the highlight of the trip - some “B-roll” - and include it along with smooth and unique transitions, into the first minute. This has not been a strategy I have always employed; however, in the last month I have really focused on bringing these elements together to improve the likelihood that someone will consider watching the rest of the video.
The third component to the magic sauce is a title that will show up in searches. Typically, I will search Fly Fishing, Trout Fishing, Tight Line, and Mono Rig in Google and YouTube, then look to see what the next keyword that auto-populates in the search bar is. This gives me an indication of what people are search and looking to watch. From there, I can tailor my videos, and titles of those videos, to meet the needs of my future viewers.
Tip #5: Connection In the last two years I have learned more about fishing, YouTube, and filmmaking by simply connecting with other creators and fisherman. It is amazing to see the camaraderie of the people who have invested their time into their channel, and this sport. Without the help of other people in this industry, I can say with certainty I would not have had success, on and off the stream. As a result of my connections with viewers, and creators alike, I have gotten to fish private water, be introduced to new public waters, and received flies right out of their own boxes. I have also been invited to participate in fly tying sessions, where I can learn new patterns and meet new people. One of my favorite opportunities arose from the chance to join Project Healing Waters, an organization that provides on-the-water therapy to veterans that have served this country. Staying engaged with the fly fishing community has been an amazing blessing!
I have made what I hope are lifelong friends, and fishing buddies, over the last few years. People that I can call for advice on a stream, fishing tactics, help with producing videos, fly tying, and more. These individuals have helped me grow as a person, fisherman, and creator. There are countless people I could thank here, but just know you are appreciated. Without the connection to people, none of this would be possible.
I never realized how much time is spent behind the scenes to create a user-friendly and appealing production on YouTube. I easily spend as much time off the water editing in Adobe Premier Pro as I did on the water when I shot the footage. In the end it is all worth it! The joy I get from seeing the final product, the positive comments, messages, emails, and so forth, have made this journey one of the most pleasurable experiences I have had while fly fishing. If you are considering creating a YouTube channel, go for it! I hope you consider these five things before you hit upload.
Mike Slepesky is the creator/producer of the YouTube channel Tight Lining MD. The goal of the channel is to teach people a unique way of fishing, and hopefully help a fishing enthusiast be productive when they hit the stream (unlike his first experience with fly fishing). He can be found on just about any small stream that holds wild/Class A trout fishing in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Follow his adventures @TightLiningMD on Instagram and YouTube.