A river does run through it

The Bitterroot River is, like the two other Missoula rivers, a hot spot for fly fishing.  The movie A River Runs Through It, based on the book by Norman Maclean, focuses partially on fly fishing on the Blackfoot River in Missoula.

Missoula – A River Runs Through It


Missoula – a river does indeed run through it.

In 1992, the Oscar-winning feature film A River Runs Through It brought notoriety to a town in the Pacific Northwest and the world was introduced to Missoula, MT.

Of course, a movie starring Brad Pitt and directed by Robert Redford isn’t exactly tough to draw attention to.  A hit at the time, and becoming somewhat of a classic since, A River Runs Through It continues to bring attention to Missoula and Western Montana.

To this day, when Missoulians are traveling and asked where they are from, a common response is, “Have you seen a A River Runs Through It?” After the inevitable affirmative response, it’s easy to explain that Missoula  – that fly fishing mecca in the heart of majestic beauty, and that very town featured in A River Runs Through It — is our home.

A River Runs Through It. Fly Fisherman. Photo by Nelson Kenter. Missoula, MT.

Photo by Nelson Kenter, Kenterphotography.com

Although most people are familiar with the story due to its box office success and subsequent Academy Award recognition, the film was actually based on A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by the late Norman Maclean.

Set in and around Missoula, the story follows two sons of a Presbyterian minister as they come of age during a time spanning roughly World War I to the early days of the Great Depression.

The film tells the story of two brothers growing up in the 1920s in Missoula, and chronicles their lives as they spend their mornings in school and on religious studies and their afternoons fly fishing in the nearby Blackfoot River.

While much of the film focuses on the brothers’ intertwining and conflicting lives in the shadow of their minister father, a great deal of it revolves around their shared love of fly fishing for trout in Montana’s rivers and their shared experiences through it while growing up.

Whether expressed through novel or film, it is not hard to see that fishing and the love of the outdoors is at the core of life for the story’s main characters. It’s also true for many residents and visitors today.

Every year many thousands of flies are cast into Western Montana rivers by people who thrive on the thrill of landing a trout while reveling in breathtaking scenery and fresh mountain air. For some, it’s a welcomed respite from their day to day lives elsewhere. For some of us, it’s simply another day on the river in a place we call home.

Missoula is a city rich in stories and history. And yes, a river – three, actually – does indeed run through it.

Like this story?  You might also like to read about the History of Missoula,  about fishing in Missoula and Western Montana, or about Missoula’s legendary “M” on Mount Sentinel. And be sure to browse our home page for navigation to blogs, articles, and all things Missoula, MT.