||Fly-fishing stands for life in this movie. If you can learn to do it correctly, to read the river and the fish and yourself, and to do what needs to be done without one wasted motion, you will have attained some of the grace and economy needed to live a good life. If you can do it and understand that the river, the fish and the whole world are God's gifts to use wisely, you will have gone the rest of the way...This memory of a Western childhood was first told in a book published some 20 years ago by Norman Maclean, after he retired as a professor of English at the University of Chicago. It was a story his father told him he should some day try to write. The book was published to little fanfare by the university press, and immediately found an audience. Many printings later it is one of the sacred books in the libraries of many people - one of the books that actually taught them something, like Walden or Huckleberry Finn...This must have been a very difficult movie to write. It is not really about the events that happen in it. They are only illustrations for underlying principles. Leave out the principles, and all you have left are some interesting people who are born, grow up, and take various directions in life...Redford and his writer, Richard Friedenberg, understand that most of the events in any life are accidential or arbitrary, especially the crucial ones, and we can exercise little conscious control over our destinies. Instead, they understand that the Reverend Maclean's lessons were about how to behave no matter what life brings; about how to wade into the unpredictable stream and deal with whatever happens with grace, courage and honesty. It is the film's best achievement that it communicates that message with such feeling.