Older Norman: [narrating] My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things - trout as well as eternal salvation - came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy.
Paul: Oh, I'll never leave Montana, brother.
Older Norman: [narrating] In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.
Norman: Truth is, I'm not sure I want to leave.
Jesse: Montana? Why? It'll always be here.
Norman: Not Montana.
Jesse: Then what? WHAT?
Norman: I'm not sure I want to leave you.
Norman: Dear Jesse, as the moon lingers a moment over the bitterroots, before its descent into the invisible, my mind is filled with song. I find I am humming softly; not to the music, but something else; some place else; a place remembered; a field of grass where no one seemed to have been; except a deer; and the memory is strengthened by the feeling of you, dancing in my awkward arms.
Older Norman: [narrating] Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise. Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.
Older Norman: [narrating] It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us.
Rev. Maclean: Each one of here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding.
Jesse: Why is it the people who need the most help... won't take it?
Rev. Maclean: [walking away from the river] The Lord has blessed us all today... It's just that he has been particularly good to me.
Older Norman: And I knew just as surely, just as clearly, that life is not a work of art, and that the moment could not last.
Norman: You're late, Neal.
Neal Burns: Yeah, yeah, I didn't get in until late.
Paul: Well, I didn't get in at all but I was here.
Norman: Neil, Paul. Paul, Neil.
Paul: Neal, in Montana there's three things we're never late for: church, work and fishing.
Paul: Couldn't you find him?
Norman: The hell with him.
Paul: Well, I thought we were supposed to help him.
Norman: How the hell do you help that son of a bitch?
Paul: By taking him fishing.
Norman: He doesn't like fishing. He doesn't like Montana and he sure as hell doesn't like me.
Paul: Well, maybe what he likes is somebody trying to help him.
Paul: Hello, Jess.
Jesse: Hey, Paul.
Paul: How's your brother?
Jesse: You both left him alone.
Paul: Well, I'm sorry about that. That was my fault.
Jesse: Well, you're not forgiven.
Paul: Was Norman forgiven?
Jesse: Norman's not funny.
Older Norman: [narrating] As time passed, my father struggled for more to hold on to, asking me again and again: had I told him everything. And finally I said to him, "maybe all I know about Paul is that he was a fine fisherman." "You know more than that," my father said; "he was beautiful." And that was the last time we spoke of my brother's death.
Older Norman: [narrating] They were Methodists, a denomination my father referred to as Baptists who could read.
Norman: My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night. But ah my foes, and oh my friends - it gives a lovely light.
Norman: [narrating] Long ago, when I was a young man, my father said to me, "Norman, you like to write stories." And I said "Yes, I do." Then he said, "Someday, when you're ready you might tell our family story. Only then will you understand what happened and why."
Older Norman: [narrating] I am haunted by waters.
Norman: The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana.
Older Norman: [narrating] That was the only time we fought. Perhaps we wondered after which one of us was tougher. But if boyhood questions aren't answered before a certain point, they can't be raised again. So we returned to being gracious to one another, as the church well suggested.
Mr. Sweeney: [delivering letter from Chicago, quotes old song] Chicken in the car. Car won't go. That's how you spell Chicago. Ha he he.