What Does Fly Fishing Symbolize in a River Runs Through It?

Fly fishing is a type of sport fishing that dates back centuries, and it has long been associated with the outdoors and the challenge of catching a fish. In the 1992 movie “A River Runs Through It,” fly fishing is used as a metaphor for life.

The film follows two brothers, Norman and Paul, as they grow up in Montana in the 1920s and 30s under the tutelage of their father, a Presbyterian minister.

Throughout the movie, fly fishing is portrayed as a way to escape from reality, to find peace and inner strength. Norman’s father taught him how to fly fish as a way to bond with him and instill in him his own values, such as patience and respect for nature.

Fly fishing also provides a way for Norman and Paul to connect with each other; it’s something they can share even though they have different interests.

For Norman, fly fishing symbolizes an understanding of life. He learns that patience is necessary in order to be successful at fly fishing; he needs to wait for the right moment before casting his line.

This idea can be applied to life in general—we must be patient when tackling difficult tasks or waiting for success.

Fly fishing also serves as an escape from reality for both brothers; it gives them an opportunity to get away from their problems and connect with nature. When Norman is feeling overwhelmed by his own personal struggles or by society’s expectations of him, he takes solace in fly fishing, which brings him peace of mind.


In “A River Runs Through It,” fly fishing serves as a powerful metaphor for life—it symbolizes patience, connection, understanding, and peace. It shows us that even though life can sometimes be overwhelming or difficult, there are moments when we can find solace in nature if we take the time to appreciate it.

Photo of author

Emma Gibson