Fly-Fishing: ‘The River Why’ promises to be inspiring movie

“The River Why” is the movie version of the 1983 book by David James Duncan, the story of a young ma

For the record, I’m not one of the people who were inspired to take up fly-fishing by the 1992 movie, “A River Runs Through It.”

But that’s only because I was already addicted by the time the movie came out. I saw it the day it opened at my local theater — the only time in my life that has happened — and loved it. I’ve seen it many times since, and never tire of it. Robert Redford’s film really captured the beauty and excitement of fly-fishing. It’s no wonder that there was a run on fly shops when it came out.

And yes, if I hadn’t already been a fly-fisher, “A River Runs Through It” almost certainly would have turned me into one.

Now, there’s another “River” making the rounds of the film festivals.

“The River Why” is the movie version of the 1983 book by David James Duncan, the story of a young man named Gus Orviston who wants nothing from life except fishing for steelhead in Oregon, but ends up on a “quest for self-discovery” and, of course, falls in love.

Or so I hear. I’m sorry to say have never read “The River Why,” or “A River Runs Through It,” for that matter. I’ll have to trust producer Kristi Denton Cohen and director Matthew Leutwyler to get Duncan’s story right, as most people agree Redford did with Norman MacLean’s book.

But will this movie ignite interest in fly-fishing the same way the last one did?

“I know some in the fly-fishing industry hope it will be the next ‘River Runs Through It,’ ” Cohen e-mailed from the Dallas International Film Festival. “I’m hoping it will get people off their couches and into the outdoors. As those who have read the book know, it’s a beautiful story about a man who finds himself through love and the wilderness.”

“The River Why” doesn’t star Brad Pitt, who made it easy to convince wives and girlfriends to sit through “A River Runs Through It.” But it does have some well-known actors. Gus is played by Zach Gilford, who stars on the TV show “Friday Night Lights.” Kathleen Quinlan, who was in “American Graffiti” and “Apollo 13,” has a lead role. So does William Devane, who’s always seemed like a pretty cool guy (and was born in Albany), and William Hurt, who owns an Oscar, has been in a ton of movies and is an honest-to-goodness fly-fisherman himself.

Frankly, I doubt that the new “River” will cause an explosion of interest in fly-fishing the way the old one did. There’s a lot more fly-fishing on film available to us these days than there was in 1992 — not feature movies, but beautifully made documentaries, travelogues and how-to productions. Modern technology has made it possible to make a great video without truckloads of equipment, and suddenly we’re awash in excellent films like “Eastern Rises” and “Once in a Blue Moon.”

And then there’s all the amateur fishing video on YouTube. There’s no need to wait all week for “The American Sportsman” anymore.

Still, anytime a film-maker and real-life movie stars set out to capture on film a beloved novel with fly-fishing at its core, it’s a treat for us. “The River Why” has gotten some good reviews and sounds like a fine movie.

I’ll see it, and it will probably inspire me to start nagging my wife about a vacation in Oregon.


There’s still time to enter the Ausable River Two-Fly Challenge on the West Branch of the Ausable in Wilmington May 22. Day-of regist­ration will be at 6:30 a.m. at the Whiteface Mountain Regional Visitors Bureau. The contest itself takes place from 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on the river, between the ski jumps in Lake Placid and the Wilmington bridge.

Each angler chooses two barbless flies, fishes until they’re lost, ruined or the contest ends, and records the total number of trout over 12 inches long he or she has caught. The entry fee is adults, $75, children, $25. Proceeds will benefit the Wild Trout Fund, the Ausable River Association and the Tri-Lakes chapter of Trout Unlimited.

For more information, call 946-2255 or visit

Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at [email protected]

Categories: Sports

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