“The Movie” 20 Years Later

ARRTII watched “A River Runs Through It” the other night, for the first time since it came out in the theaters. The movie that brought so many to the sport of fly fishing at the time. Yes, it’s still a good flick, even discounting the fly fishing aspect. Family dynamics, life in the West of the early 1900’s, etc…. Great scenic shots of the Gallatin and Yellowstone Rivers (standing in for the Blackfoot). And yes, the fly fishing scenes. But what about the movie’s impact on the sport we love so much? Did it ruin fly fishing, as some would say? Is it to blame for today’s crowded rivers, for the entry into the sport of so many “newbies” who lacked an appreciation for fly fishing’s deep history? I think that’s going to far, giving a single movie too much “credit” for the effects of population growth, shifts in demographics, etc…. My beef? The movie’s overemphasis on the spiritual side of fly fishing. Yes, that’s in keeping with the tone of Norman MacLean’s original story (read it, if you haven’t!). But I think it resulted in a generation of fly anglers who took the sport too seriously, who sometimes forgot that fly fishing is supposed to be fun, first and foremost. Perhaps I too am giving The Movie too much credit. And perhaps the pendulum has now swung too far in the opposite direction, with today’s snowboarding-style fast-and-furious fly fishing documentaries. Is a balance possible, between the adventure and the revelatory? I hope so. After all, it’s just fishing. Find God (or Mother Nature) in the river. Pump your fist when you land a nice trout. There’s a place for all of that in our great sport.

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