As die-hard fly fishermen, we not only live out our passion on the water, but everything that has to do with fishing, flies and waters naturally also accompanies us through our everyday lives. Because our favourite hobby is so important to us, we sometimes overlook the fact that our leisure activities actually take place in a niche (fly fishing) of a niche (fishing). Even if some of our contemporaries may smile from time to time because about our hobby, angling and therefore fly fishing increasingly present throughout the society. This trend is important and supported by the angling industry's stakeholders. A good example is the public campaign organised by the German Angling Federation (DAFV). After all, the future of our hobby also depends on the acceptance of the rest of the population.
Two of the many motifs of the DAFV's #gehangeln campaign
THE BEST FILMS ABOUT FLY FISHING THAT HOLLYWOOD HAS TO OFFER - A SUBJECTIVE RATING
Every now and then, the topic of fly fishing finds its way onto the big screen. It should come as no surprise that Hollywood is leading the way here too, as angling and fly fishing in particular is much more widespread in the USA and, as a result, has a completely different and much higher social status than in our part of the world. Of course, we fly fishermen are not the primary target group of these film productions. Therefore, we shouldn’t let the some "blurriness" in the portrayal of our hobby spoil our cinema or film evening. Instead, we should be happy about every feature film that presents our passion to the public in a positive light. In this short blog article, we would therefore like to introduce you to what we think are the best films in which fly fishing plays a (main) role.
1. A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT
Despite the subjective nature of our list and even if your own taste is of course very individual, we certainly wouldn't be wrong if we said that this film is number one on almost every fly fisherman's list of personal favourites.
The film, which was released in cinemas in 1992, has had a lasting impact on the public perception of fly fishing. The theme is central throughout the film, which portrays a pastor’s family at the beginning of the 20th century and describes the growing up of the two unequal brothers Norman and Paul. The story is based on an autobiographical novel by the American writer Norman McLean.
The film adaptation of Norman McLean's autobiographical novel became a worldwide success with Brat Pitt in one of the leading roles and Robert Redford as director
The film was directed by Robert Redford, and with Brad Pitt in the role of the younger, more nature-loving and more adventurous brother Paul, all the prerequisites were in place for us fly fishermen to easily convince our wives to watch this film with us in the cinema or comfortably on the couch. The fishing scenes in the film are shot surprisingly authentically, so that you can simply overlook filmic liberties such as the shadow cast with a smile. The film was not only overwhelmingly appreciated by the fly-fishing community but was also highly praised by film critics across the board. It was not for nothing that the film was nominated in 3 Oscar categories in 1993 and won the award for Best Cinematography (Philippe Rousselot). The film was also nominated several times at other awards and film festivals and won further prizes.
This success triggered a real boom in fly fishing at the time, which - small spoiler - has not been repeated by any other film on the subject of fly fishing to date. Suddenly everyone was familiar with our hobby. The fishing tackle industry, or at least the fly-fishing industry, was delighted with the surge in sales, because suddenly many people wanted to be a fly fisherman like Brad Pitt.
2. MENDING THE LINE
Almost exactly 30 years later, another film, Mending the Line, hit the screens of film festivals and cinemas - at least in America - in autumn 2022, taking up the theme not only in the title but also in the film with quite a big presence.
Although this film is also set on the waters of the fly-fishing Eldorado of Montana, and although big names from the fly-fishing scene were involved as consultants, this film was unable to match the success of Robert Redford's film. It also failed to fulfil the hopes of the fishing tackle industry, which had hoped for a new hype in fly fishing and was present throughout the film with glaring product placement. In the film itself, fly fishing is presented as a sort of therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder that a young Afghanistan veteran is struggling with. At a rehabilitation centre where his physical and psychological wounds are being treated, he meets a veteran of the Vietnam War who not only shows him the beauty of fly fishing, but also gives him a perspective on what is worth living for.
Despite a solid cast and shooting on the wonderful rivers of Montana, the film was not as successful as hoped for
The national trauma of war veterans is far more present throughout the public in America than it is here. Despite a very solid cast and the almost obligatory love story, the film failed to inspire either the festival audience or the film critics. The film will therefore probably not be shown in our cinemas at home, not least because it is already available on various streaming platforms shortly after its premiere.
2.1. ONCE AGAIN: MENDING THE LINE
However, you can find not only this Hollywood film online under the search term Mending the Line, but also a documentary from 2014. The two films not only share the title, but also the theme of war and fly fishing.
The film tells the true story of Frank Moore, who as a 20-year-old lands in Normandy in 1944 as part of the Allied invasion.
In this documentary, Frank Moore recounts his experiences during the Normandy invasion and returns - now aged 90 - to fish in the French rivers
During his deployment in occupied France, he dreams of returning in peacetime and fishing in the idyllic French rivers. At the age of 90, Frank Moore finally fulfils this dream.
3. THE RIVER WHY
The independently produced film The River Why premiered back in 2010.
Here, too, the theme of fly-fishing runs like a red thread through the entire film. The plot may well be familiar to some fly fishermen: a young teenager who has just finished school is dissatisfied with his life. After a heated argument with his parents, he decides to move to a cabin by the river where he can pursue his passion, fly fishing, all day every day. But to his astonishment, he realises that this doesn't really make him any happier. He meets a young fly fisherwoman with whom he falls in love at first sight and a philosophy professor who helps him to understand his dissatisfaction and how to grasp the meaning of life.
For many fly fishermen it is incomprehensible that daily fly fishing alone doesn't make happy. Many will recognise the young Amber Heart only at second glance
Not promoted by one of the major film studios and already on the market before the big boom in streaming services, this film runs unfortunately under the radar for many fly fishermen. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray and is also available online in full length. Certainly not a Hollywood blockbuster, but with a very good cast, such as Amber Heart, who plays the young fly fisherwoman Eddy, William Hurt in the role of the father and Dallas Roberts as the philosophy professor.
4. SCHOOL OF LIFE
Also conceived as a family drama, the French production from 2017 School of Life inspires with fantastic images of nature and landscapes, making viewers sometimes wonder whether they are watching a feature film or a documentary after all.
Paul, an orphan, moves from his home to the countryside, which at first seems unfamiliar to him. There he soon meets the poacher Totoche, played by François Cluzet, who many people know from the film The Intouchables. After some initial scepticism, a special friendship soon develops between the boy and the poacher. From Totoche Paul not only learns an incredible amount about nature, but also about life.
No multi-layered and complex plot, but a simple, beautiful story and great pictures
Even though fly fishing may not be at the forefront of the story and the film's plot is simple and predictable in places, we can still recommend the film as an easily digestible film evening where you can let yourself be delighted with beautiful images.
5. SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN
The romantic comedy with the hopeful title Salmon Fishing in the Yemen uses the subject of fly fishing for salmon only as a framework for the film's bizarre plot.
A rich sheikh from the Yemen, who loves to stay at his castle in Scotland to fish for salmon, wants to settle them in his home country. Although it is always about salmon and fishing, fly fishermen should not expect too much from this film starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt.
A (bizarre) romantic comedy starring Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor. It's only marginally about fly fishing
Rather, watching the film together with your loved one is a good opportunity to score a few points so that you can get back to the water and go fly fishing yourself next weekend. In this respect, we can definitely recommend this film.