by Zach Urness | Statesman Journal

Fishing on the Rogue River. (Photo: Robyn Orr / Special to the Statesman Journal)

Fishing on the Rogue River.
(Photo: Robyn Orr / Special to the Statesman Journal)

Almost five years ago, I was fishing for steelhead on the Rogue River with my friend Josh White when our conversation turned to the classic story and movie “A River Runs Through It.”

“What most people don’t realize,” said White, owner of the Rogue Fly Shop in Grants Pass, “is that the story really isn’t about fly-fishing. It’s about the relationship between brothers.”

In that moment, White betrayed the secret of all great fishing stories: They are tales not principally about fishing.

The story might have bamboo cane poles, yellow stone flies and soot-covered grasshoppers for bait, but the fishing is merely a vehicle for the underlying point.

I love a good fishing story … even when it doesn’t have much to do with fishing. Here are my five favorites.

5. “On the Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien, from “The Things They Carried” (1990)

In one of the most celebrated novels of the past 50 years, this fishing story stands out among the pages of a book set almost entirely during the Vietnam War.

The story is told by a 21-year-old college graduate who’s been drafted to fight in Vietnam. The decision of whether to go to war or flee to Canada gnaws at the narrator throughout the story. Finally, he frantically drives north to International Falls, Minn., and stays with an old man named Elroy Berdahl at Tip Top Lodge. Read more…

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