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Ronan's report

Sunday 22th, January 2012

Countless words must have been written about A River Runs Through It and in particular the film's impact on fly fishing. You'll be pleased to know that I only intend to add a single paragraph to that collection. (This one doesn't count, I mean the next one).

ARRTI was a lovely book and great film, the fishing scenes nicely captured the joy of being in beautiful surroundings. The aesthetics of fly casting were introduced to a world largely ignorant of such things, and lots of people decided to take up the sport after seeing Jason Borger and Jerry Siem do their stuff.

But I think another film better captures the essence of fishing.


Released in 1975 (blimey, that long ago) and directed by a young Steven Spielberg this was the celluloid version of the rather tacky best-selling book by Peter Benchley. The film is usually on telly once or twice a month on one of the minor TV channels. I watched it again last night.

Jaws is a fine study in mystery and suspense. You don't actually see the fish properly until the second half, and seeing the shark is by no means the scariest or most exciting bit. For the most part the film plays on the fact that we can't see below the water's surface: there is probably nothing there, but there might be a monster right beneath you and you would never know.

Initial contact with the fish is made second hand, and you just know that either Spielberg or the director of photography must have sat by a pond watching a bobber at some time in their youth. Two drunks chuck a side of beef off a jetty, the bait is supported by an inner-tube and tied to the jetty by a length of chain. It's thrilling when the inner-tube bobs and then steams away - exactly like watching a pike float take off.

Then there's the clicking of the big multiplier on Quint's boat. At first a couple of tentative pulls, like a trout nipping the tail of a streamer; then a screaming run that sounds like a bonefish taking all the line and then the backing.

And when contact is made, we know its strength by its pull. Jetties are dragged into the sea, barrels are submerged and boats are towed relentlessly.

And still no sign of what's beneath the wave.

As the film's viewers we are all become anglers. The whole reason for our being there, in front of the screen, is to see the fish. Nothing else matters. We know it's there somewhere, we get the odd glimpse, we feel its power, but ultimately we need to see it.

We need to see it whole, to encompass it; to stand up, stretch our arms wide, and say

"It was this big".


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