Shadow Casting

He called it shadow casting: Keeping his line above water long enough and low enough to make a rainbow rise. And I realized that in the time I was away my brother had become an artist.

In 1976, Norman Maclean’s novella, A River Runs Through It, introduced a generation of anglers to the lives, loves, and losses of a Montana family. Fifteen years later, Robert Redford’s silver screen adaptation introduced a whole new generation to Norman’s story.

In the summer of 1991, I was a college kid fresh off a degree in film study, and the production of River was both a well-timed professional opportunity and a personal journey that took me back to my roots as a fly fisher.

I caught my first trout not far from Storm Castle peak in Montana’s Gallatin River drainage. Nearly 20 years later I was back in essentially the same spot. This time, though, it was as a fly-fishing double, with a walkie-talkie—not a trout—in my creel.

Unlike my boyhood uniform of snap-button shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots, I was dressed in period wardrobe. My rod was painted as faux-bamboo and came with an aerodynamically challenged Bunyan Bug lashed to a rope of a tippet.

The script called for some shadowy trickery of trout, accomplished via angling incantations flowing from rod and line. Practically, the cast was stitched together from several existing techniques, with the process beginning months before and finishing with the call of “Action!”

In the film only a few seconds pass, but it’s enough to lift Norman’s brother, Paul, into his own realm. In that moment, pivoting there on that rock, it felt as if my angling journey had come full circle.

Sadly, I would never get the chance to ask Norman what he thought. I can only hope his reply would have been:

“It was beautiful.”


Syllables of Shadow

Shadow casting is more than a sum of its cinematic parts. Norman used it as way to convey his beloved brother’s prowess with a fly rod, and to illuminate him like candlelight in vapor, swirling above the river’s timeless flow.

The combination of Norman’s words and my own experiences lead me to write 17 syllables across 3 lines. Within them perhaps you will also find echoes of something that once was which cannot be forgotten.

under a big sky
shadows cast in a rhythm
perfect memories