On a recent trip to Costco I purchased the DVD
version of A River Runs Through It at the
ridiculously low price of $10. If you've forgotten,
"River" is a film based on the novella by Norman
Maclean that was out about ten years ago, gave
Brad Pitt his start and dramatically increased
the general interest in fly fishing, much to the
chagrin of the fly fishing curmudgeons.
The curmudgeons, it seems, believed that only
anglers who have been fly fishing for at least
20 years should be allowed to enjoy the sport;
in other words, no one but themselves. The logic
here is similar to the reproductive strategy of
the Shakers, and we all know how successful that
was. Fortunately, the tackle companies had no
such compunctions; a surge in sales amplified
competition and the result was an increase in
the quality of fly fishing gear and a decrease
in price. (Somewhat, I should qualify. I recently
saw a review that referred to a $490 rod as
That the film had any impact on fly fishing is
surprising, given that fishing only provides a
subtext to the plot--the alienated family member
on a downward spiral who wants help but not
salvation, capturing beautifully what Edmund
Wilson referred to as 'universal irony.' We've
all been there, the brother or sister, nephew
or niece who stays just beyond our reach, yet
I don't recall ever seeing it articulated quite
so well in a work of art.
Perhaps most impressive about 'River,' the book,
is the author, Norman Maclean. A River Runs
Through It was his first published work of
fiction, written at the spry young age of 74-truly
inspirational to we procrastinators. The book and
the movie are complimentary, which is unusual.
The book provides many more anecdotes about fishing,
but the primary theme is more succinct in the movie.
Neither ruins the other and both are worthy of your
So the next time you're in the video store walk past
the new releases and pick up A River Runs Though It
(older movies are always in). Even non-fly fishers
will enjoy this film. And if it inspires them to
pick up a fly rod, all the better. ~ Dave
Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an
avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor.
He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet
newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats)
and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.