For any outdoorsman, Kevin Costner's 165-acre ranch near Aspen, Colo., is idyllic. In the middle of the land that holds elk, deer, and bear, there's a large pond perfect for fishing. Captain Adam Paul and his guests, Charleston roots rockers Dangermuffin, are in awe of the mountains that tower around them.
The idyll is broken by the sound of an approaching storm. Thunder echoes round the mountains, appealing to lead singer Dan Lotti's ear for dramatic timbre. As the storm hits, Costner offers them shelter in one of his smaller houses and the hard-touring band revels in the strong sense of camaraderie that a fishing trip can create. Storm or no storm, this is a hell of a lot more fun than staying in a hotel room.
Fun comes first for charter boat captain Adam Paul. He's pursued his passion for years, hooking his friends and business partners with his infectious enthusiasm. He's the executive producer of the web-based video series Gillznfinz (gillznfinz.com), a combo fishing-and-music show that was recently picked up by the World Fishing Network and Versus. With Gillznfinz successfully on the internet and cable, Paul is planning spin-offs, like the hunting-oriented RackznWingz.
"I've been fishing my whole life," says Paul. He started as an 18-month-old minnow catching his first Big One on Aunt Bessie's Trout Farm. He hasn't stopped since; even when he rested his rod to get a degree in sculpture at the College of Charleston, he made stainless steel fish. By the time he was 24, he was a product and pro staff manager of Sufix, the world's largest fishing line company. There he saw what a big following the sport had, so he started a website to cater to people who shared his obsession.
"I wanted the Gillznfinz videos to be simple so that people could relate to them," says Paul, now 30 years old. "I love to fish, listen to music, eat, party, laugh. I put them together in the show."
The format can't be simpler: every other week Paul takes a musician or band out fishing, they share a few beers, get something to eat, and the adventure is interspliced with footage from a live show (often filmed at the Music Farm). His guests have included Snoop Dogg, Widespread Panic, Slightly Stoopid, Umphrey's McGee, Leslie, and Sol Driven Train.
"Every trip is different, with different musical genres," says Paul. "365 days a year the bands are performing and entertaining fans. This is my chance to entertain them and let them kick up their feet, have a cold beer. It's cool to see them relaxing off stage in an outdoors environment."
According to Paul, the show was popular enough to lure the World Fishing Network, who picked it up for national broadcast. "It's been in the prime-time spot eight times a week, with phenomenal feedback and a growing fanbase. It's not just the fishing clientele that like it. Women say 'Hey, thank you so much, finally there's a show I can watch and enjoy with my husband.'"
Paul admits that production-wise, "nobody's doing anything with artistic merit whatsoever" behind the camera. The camera-work is as raw as sushi, the sound quality is erratic, and the editing is as choppy as a storm-swept sea. But Paul's love of the sport and the live music hold the programs together.
Gillznfinz was inspired by the bloom of social networking sites a couple of years ago, and it succeeds by the same principle — finding a niche, encouraging user content, and sharing an interest with new viewers. In this way, Dan Lotti equates fishing to music. "It all has to do with a sense of community, as with any genuine experience," he says. "That's how you build a fanbase. You get to know people really well; they make an experience what it is. Musicians are outdoorsmen as well, everyone can appreciate that."
Paul will soon launch the second season of Gillznfinz, which he says will be available in 133 million households nationwide. Along with the hunting show, he's developing an animated series that he describes as "Family Guy meets SpongeBob." As long as it involves fish, Paul will be happy.