Watch: The Fish & the Flame

New film, The Fish & the Flame, highlights how the future of conservation depends on private lands

The 14-minute short film, which has already garnered several festival designations and awards, shows how Tim Haarmann, ranch manager at Banded Peak Ranch, and Jim White, a biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, collaborated to save one of the last remaining populations of nearly-extinct San Juan cutthroat trout, just as a wildfire threatens to decimate the fish.

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Fish and the flame film

When a supposedly extinct fish resurfaces in the path of oncoming wildfire, a Colorado biologist braves the flames on a daring rescue mission.

Not many people will hike into a wildfire to rescue fish, but for Jim White, it’s all in a day’s work. A self-described “fish squeezer” since the age of seven, Jim followed his passion for freshwater ichthyoids until he landed the role of aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Today, from a small hatchery in Durango, he manages fish populations across the San Juan River basin, both for conservation and for the legions of recreational anglers who spend their weekends wading through mountain streams in search of trout. Though not without challenges, Jim's work is, for the most part, predictable. But a few years ago, a nick-of-time discovery made him the protagonist of an unusual conservation story, alongside some unlikely partners. 

The Fish & The Flame plunges audiences into the wild and obscure waters of the San Juan Cutthroat, which flourished in the streams of Southern Colorado until mining pollution, fishing pressure, and non-native competitors drove it to extinction—allegedly. Thanks to genetic data from a 146-year old tissue sample at the Smithsonian, Jim’s team identified a few tiny holdout populations in 2018. But immediately after this discovery, the 416 Fire burned through the watershed, flushing toxic chemicals into the streams. 

This film documents Jim’s collaboration with a reclusive ranch manager, Tim Haarmann, to save an obscure fish from muddy asphyxiation and genetic roadblock (imagine the Habsburgs, but with gills). We answer such pressing questions as: how do you rescue fish from a burn area? Once rescued, what happens next? This is a story about a passionate biologist risking his neck for a species most people have never heard of. It’s also a light-hearted look at watersheds, and how both public agencies and private landowners can work together to protect landscapes from the cascading effects of development and climate change.

Find a Festival Showing

American Fisheries Society 2022 Aquatic Film and Photo FestivalSpokane, WA | August 2022

Wild & Scenic Film Festival | Nevada City, CA + Online | January 2022

Jackson Wild | National Tour + Online | 2022 

Santa Fe Film Festival | Santa Fe, NM | Feburary 2022

Durango Independent Film Festival | Durango, CO + Online | March 2022

Environmental Film Fest in our Nation's Capitol | Washington D.C. + Online | March 2022

Stories of our Watersheds | Portland, OR + Online | October 2021

NatureTrack Film Festival | Los Olivos, CA + Online | October 2021

International Festival of Social Environmental Cinema: Planet.Doc | Brazil + Online | Sept-Dec 2021

Media Mentions

“The Fish & the Flame” tells the story of rescuing cutthroat trout during the 416 Fire | Fox 31 KDVR Denver | January 2022

Documentary focuses on biologists’ effort to save San Juan cutthroat trout following 416 Fire |  The Durango Herald | January 9 2022

Fish and the Flame | Montrose Daily Press | January 8 2022

Film Documents Effort to Save San Juan Cutthroat During Wildfire | Pagosa Daily Post | January 7 2022

CPW's recovery of San Juan cutthroat trout during 416 Fire highlighted in new film 'The Fish & the Flame' | Colorado Parks and Wildlife | January 6 2022

Trout, Lost and Found | On Land Magazine | September 16 2021

Presented in partnership with


Produced by


Funding support provided by the New Mexico Habitat Conservation Initiative.

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