Robert Redford's lyrical direction sets the tone for this evocative adaptation of author Norman MacLean's memoir of his idyllic Montana youth. The MacLean family is presided over by the strict but encouraging Rev. MacLean (Tom Skerritt) and his loving wife (Brenda Blethyn).
Craig Sheffer stars as the young Norman, the older son in his family, who takes his school work and writing a bit too seriously for Paul (Brad Pitt), the impetuous younger son, to take much stock in. Paul would rather have a good time, drink and play cards than get involved with academic study.
Where Norman wants to be a college literature professor, Paul would prefer to stay in Montana all his life and wrangle some kind of job writing for a local newspaper. But, ironically, Paul is the better fly fisherman and in this way attains a sense of perfection.
The film also details the MacLean boys' involvement with a colorful group of town's people -- including a young Indian woman Paul decides to date and the defiant Jessie (Emily Lloyd), whom Norman later marries.