Mending the Line (2023) | Transcript

A Marine wounded in Afghanistan returns to a VA hospital in Montana where he meets a Vietnam vet who teaches him fly fishing as a means to coming to terms with his physical and emotional trauma.
Mending the Line (2023)

A Marine wounded in Afghanistan returns to a VA hospital in Montana where he meets a Vietnam vet who teaches him fly fishing as a means to coming to terms with his physical and emotional trauma.

* * *

(ominous martial drum music playing)

(helicopter whirring)

(indistinct chatter)

(“Winner” playing)


This is the beginning Of the new world, baby

Watching on the front line Shaking, boss crazy

Reaching for the stars We don’t stop until we get it

Get it

Super right here

Superman did it

Cashing up a king Feeling like a soldier

Meant for my dreams Now we taking over

Blood, sweat and tears Get you ripping in the sky

I believe I believe, Mr. Kennedy, I can fly…

Are you sure you want this IDTenTango at your wedding, brother?

Somebody’s gotta kick it since my best man can’t dance.

Not can’t. Won’t.

You know my mom won’t buy that bullshit, Colt.


All right, maybe I’ll make an exception for Mama B.

(Marine) At ease.

WARNO, sergeant.

It’s all on me From the cradle to the throne

Get it

And you can meet me in the sky…

Did you know about this?

Get your boy. We’ll brief at 0900.

I proceed to get it cracking


You can do the same thing…

(indistinct chatter)

This is bullshit, man.

(Colter) Hey.

Now, you saw the WARNO. We got one more trip out the wire.

We’re gonna do this right, then we’re all gonna go home tomorrow.

Fuck that. Tour’s over. Why the fuck would they order us on patrol on our last day?

We’re still Marines, Vacs.

Vacs has a point.

Seriously. We got a crop of fresh meat that just landed.

Command can’t send them?

(helicopters whirring)

Look, we’re going out because we’re fucking Charlie 23, warrior kings of the Rigestan Desert, and fucking Lord Vader loves us. And why is that?

‘Cause we’re swift, silent, deadly.



Get your shit in order. We DFL at 1300.

(tense, dramatic music playing)

(machine gun cocks)

You all right?

Come on, Blitz. I can hear your mind going a mile a minute.

(Blitz sighs)

We’ll go out here, go on this patrol…

I’ll get you back out and get you home.

Rainbows and cupcakes.

(Colter and Blitz laugh)

(dramatic, pensive music playing)

You reupped, didn’t you?

Come on, man.

What am I gonna do in civilian life?


Come on, man.

Come to my wedding, for instance.


That’s some shit I wouldn’t miss for the world.

I love you, man.

I love you, brother.

Even though you’re ugly.

Ah, I take after you.

Oh, wow!

(both laugh)

All right, ready-ready?

Condition 1, boys. Weapons tight. Let’s get it.

(tense, dramatic music playing)

(Colter over radio) Death Star, this is Charlie 23, requesting to depart friendly lines with four vics, 20 pacs, for mission 2399.

(Death Star) Death Star copies.

(music fades)

All right, uglies. You know what it is.

Another day at the office, all right? Keep your eyes and ears open.

(ominous music playing)

Death Star, this is Charlie 23. Excheck Motor City.

Death Star, this is Charlie 23. Excheck Motor City.

(Death Star) Death Star copies. Motor City. Out.

(Blitz) Vic3, what’s your dispersion?

Where’d everybody go?

(Blitz) This route is a fucking bubble.

(Kovacs) Warriors, come out to play.

(Colter) Vic2, are you seeing anything behind?

(Vic2 Leader) There’s fire on the second floor of building Alpha Two Bravo.


(Colter) Oh, shit.

Fuck! IED! IED!

(Humvee engine revs)

Move it, G!

(Colter) We’re stuck!

Fuck! Hey, status check! Is everybody okay?

(Ramirez) Yeah, man. I’m good.

(tense music playing)

(Vic3 Leader over radio) What the hell’s happening, Vic1?

Vic1 hit. IED.

We’re all okay, but we’re gonna need a tow.

Vic3, get Death Star on the radio, let them know what’s going on.

Once we get a rig and a tow, we’ll be Oscar Mike back to base.

(Vic3 Leader) Vic3 copies.

(Vic4 Leader) Roger that. Vic4 copies. Rigging for a tow.

(Blitz) Colt, do you want us in or out?

Everyone, cover security.

Vic4, get that tow over here now.

(Vic4 Leader) Vic4 copies. Oscar Mike.



Contact left, 9 o’clock!

The entire team. Alleyway!

(tense, dramatic music playing)

(Blitz) Where’s it coming from?

(machine gun firing)

(Colter) Contact! Contact!

(Blitz) Where’s it coming from?

(machine guns continue firing)

Death Star, this is Charlie 23, multiple enemy firing positions.

Machine guns. One vic down.

(Marine) RPG at 6 o’clock!

(Colter) Death Star, this is Charlie 23.

Contact. Time now. Stand by for SALTA. Over.

(Death Star) 23, this is Death Star. Send SALTA. Over.

Enemy fire team plus complex ambush at Detroit Rock City.

No casualties. Returning fire. Requesting immediate air support. Over!

Death Star copies. We’ll work it.

(Blitz) We need to move!

And we are launching QRF time now.

(Blitz yells)

No, stay put. Air support’s on its way.

That car will give us a better line of sight to those guys on the roof.

(machine guns continue firing)

(Ramirez) On your six!

(Colter) RPG! RPG at 11!

Blitz, no, no, no!

(haunting music playing)

(poignant music playing)


(whispers) Thank you.

(music turns ominous)

(dramatic, pensive music playing)

(poignant, pensive music playing)

(cell phone buzzing)

Uh, hello?

(woman) Hi. Lucy Collins?

Yes, this is Lucy. Can I ask who’s calling?

It’s Martha Bennett from the Livingston Enterprise.

Are you still there?

Uh, yes.

Oh, great. I’m reaching out because your photographs, they’re just stunning.

Your subjects, the framing… They’re really eye-catching.

Thank you.

So we’re looking for freelance photographers.

Not every shoot is gonna be artistic, but there’ll be some opportunities.

Uh, I can’t.


Yeah, I can’t. I don’t, um I don’t really do that anymore.

Well, this is a paid position.

I appreciate it. Thank you. I have to go.

(woman) Welcome to Livingston, Montana, and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

(poignant, pensive music continues)

We are a multicare facility: VA, medical, as well as the regional Wounded Warrior Transition Unit.

Which is significant because, as you will come to learn, the social aspect of your rehabilitation is just as important as the physical, maybe more so.

Which is why we offer a combination of both mental health and physical therapy services.

Now, just as each of your wounds are different, so too will your journeys be unique ’cause no one heals the same.

(loud crash)

And for almost all of you, this is a time of great uncertainty.

You don’t know what the military or, beyond that, the world, has in store for you.

It’s our job to prepare you for whatever path you take.

Now, every day that you are here and every day after you’ve left, you will be reminded of what happened and of the warriors you served with.

And that is a good thing.

Because you can honor them by finding a meaningful life path and by creating new, positive memories, which, while not replacing the old ones, will serve as a balance, which is what we are seeking in your recoveries.

Landstuhl, Walter Reed… You rehabbed there as well?

(Colter) Yeah. Yes, ma’am.

(music fades)

Arthroscopic shoulder, bonefracture repair, skin graft, surgical removal of foreign bodies from thigh and calf.

Nerverepair surgery on hand and wrist.

So still some pain?

I mean, a little, but it’s fine.

So good. Yeah. Your wounds have healed well, in terms of the skin repairing itself, and the rehab seems to have helped.

Um, you still have some decreased mobility of your hands and leg.

I think we should continue PT here during your transition, just to keep those muscles and fingers working. Understood?

Yup. Understood. And then… that should make me good to go, right?

Good to go how?

Back to active duty, ma’am.

Yeah, no. Um, I’m not the one that makes that decision.

Well, then who is?

They told me, “Heal up, Marine, and then everything’s gonna be fine.”

But they keep sending me places like this and the whole process restarts again.

It’s been three months. Look, I’m I’m good, okay?

I’m good to go and I– And I just wanna go back home.


The Marines, ma’am.

Listen, think of it like a court case.

You’re in your appeal, so to speak.

And I’ll be acting as your evaluation-board liaison officer.

So while you’re here, I’ll compile all the evidence from your physical and mental therapy evaluations, and then I provide that information to three evaluators, and they will determine whether you can return to active duty or whether you will be evaluated for disability and discharge.


So let me talk to them, you know, explain my situation, tell them something, you know?


I know this is

It’s not easy, what you’ve been through.

I get that. But the important thing now for you is to heal.

Fully heal.

Group therapy.

(clicks tongue) Come on, man.

You asked me what you needed to do.

This is a big part of it.

(gentle music playing)

(Lucy) Hi, Frank.

Ah! Lucy.

(Lucy) How’s the hip?

Ah, you know, gives me something to complain about.

(Lucy chuckles)

All right. Where were we?

“These are the figures who come to us as myths and legends.

Marcus Porcius Cato was one of these men.”

(Marty) So I was in the Army. I was an infantryman.

And back in 2007, uh, I was in Iraq, and we hit a pretty big IED.

And as a result, I became a bilateral amputee,

along with a flurry of other wounds.

But, uh, I also lost two buddies.

And losing my buddies…

by far was the worst, uh, because…

like, I’m here and they’re fucking not.

It should have been me. They should still be here.

And I think about that constantly, every day,

almost every hour of every day since then. And from that point on, man, it was

It was, uh It was an interesting journey just to try to figure out.

A lot of it was up here.

And there was times over the last few years

If this was three years ago, I

I wouldn’t be able to share this because I was a fucking mess.

I was a fucking mess.

So fastforward to now.

You know, therapy, being in a group and being around all y’all,

it helps me every single time.

Thank you, Marty.

John, since you’re new to the group, I’d love for you to share.


Share? Share what?

Maybe how you got here.


Uh, yeah, okay. Um…

My team and I were…

Were outside Garmsir.

That’s Iraq?


Right. Please.


We had 20 pacs.

(therapist) That’s Marines?

(Colter) Yeah.


Four vics.

(Marty) Vehicles, doc.



Where did you see combat?

I haven’t seen combat.

You haven’t seen combat?

Let me guess. You’re some fucking POG who was honorably discharged.

I never served. I’m a trauma therapist.

(Colter) Never served?

How you supposed to help us, if you never been across the wire?

Fuck this shit, man!

This isn’t the place.


A blackout while fishing alone, hm?

We talked about you going out by yourself, yes?

Okay. And I assume you weren’t…

No, no, no. I didn’t…

Okay. Well, that’s good. Um…

But here’s the thing, Ike.

Your abstention has not improved your condition.

Yeah, I know. Are we done?

No. No.

I’m concerned about the risks that you’re taking.

Oh. It’s fine, doc.

Okay. Hey, listen, I know you live in the valley.

I’d like you to stay another night for observation, okay?

(voice becomes muffled) We’ll keep you on the same protocol.

But there’s a couple new procedures that may alleviate some of these issues,

and they’re kind of invasive.

(fades in) So that would be something that you would have to decide.

Ike? Ike, do you understand?

Jesus! Yeah, I understand.

Just say it in English, for chrissake.

These procedures may or may not improve your daily symptoms.

But the truth is, we’ve come to the end of the road

in terms of your options.

Listen, are you sure there isn’t someone we could contact?

We find it helps

There’s no one.


Okay. Ike?


If you’re gonna fish, don’t do it alone.

Yeah, yeah. Okay.

(unsettling music playing)

(music turns hopeful)

(Colter groans)

(music turns poignant)


(groans softly)

(music fades)

(keyboard clicks)

(distorted, unsettling music playing)

(keyboard clacks intensely)

(clacks intensely)

(clacking intensely)

(tense music playing)

(softly) No, no, no.

(music intensifies)

Wait, wait. No.

Help me, Colt.

No, no! No, Blitz!



(haunting music playing)

(whimpering and groaning)


(music fades)

Hey, John. Hey.


Hey, listen.

Um, I’m sensing you’re not exactly a grouptherapy kind of guy.

So I have a question.

You ever been flyfishing?


You know, there’s been a lot of research

into the, uh, healing benefits of the sport,

both physically and mentally.

I think it could be good for you.

Go there. Tell him I sent you.


Hey. I’m turning 22 in three weeks and I’m having a little party.


You gonna be there?


I don’t know.


Come on, Lucy, I only turn 22 once,

and you get to see me break out my special moves.

What special moves?

Yeah. These ones.

You know the ones.

I don’t need that.

You know.

I don’t need that in my life.

You like my moves? This guy gets it.

Oh, my God.

Come on. You’ll be there.

(cell phone buzzing)

Hi, Mrs. Redcloud.

I knew it won’t work.

(Lucy) What are you trying to do?


You know… Why?

Stop. You just have to give it a second.

You can’t keep pressing it like that.


Oh, careful!

(Lucy) I’m not

The Bozeman game.

Yeah, now, that’s a classic.

Ryan, he ran wild that day.

Okay. Don’t force it. Stop, stop, stop.

Why don’t you just go sit down, okay? Just sit down, please.

Ryan always knew what to do with those things.

(DVD player whirs)

Where’s the remote?

(Mrs. Redcloud sighs)

(TV turns on)

(crowd cheering on TV)

(Mrs. Redcloud) Yeah.

(Lucy) Good?

Sit. Sit down, my dear.

I can’t. I have to go back to work. I was in the middle of my shift.

No. You can watch just a little bit. Oh, look! There he is.

There he is. Come. Come on.

Just sit down with me for a second.

(announcer speaking indistinctly on TV)


(Mrs. Redcloud chuckles softly)

Yeah, there he is.

There he is. There he is.

(crowd cheering on TV)

(Colter and Kovacs laughing)

He’s fucking running out buck naked through the FOB…

going, “Where’s my Sour Patch Kids?”

Oh, man.


Hey, you know, Blitz’s wedding would have been next weekend.

Stop thinking about it. (sniffles)

Blitz and Ram are dead.

(sniffles) Hell…

I wish I was dead too.

Anything better than this shit.

Vacs, come on, you don’t mean that.

Man, fuck you. You still got your legs.

Only thing I was good at in this world was swerving.

Now it’s like…

(clears throat)

(sniffles) Now it’s like, “Welcome to the freak show.”

What the hell this world gonna want from me now?

(haunting music playing)


No, Ram! Ram!

Slowest gimp in the West.

(Colter) No, Vacs!

(gasps, then groans)



(music fades)

(poignant, pensive music playing)

(knocking on door)

(Ike) Bear!

(Bear whining)

Settle down, Bear.

(music fades)


Ike Fletcher, right?

Dr. Burke sent me.

This is gonna be good.

Yeah, she said that you could teach me how to fish.

You know, flyfish, whatever.

You been drinking?


Fucking guy.

(truck engine turns off)

(wind rushing)

(door opens, then footsteps approaching)

(Harrison) Morning, grouch.


(Harrison) Hm. Doing some, uh, spring cleaning?

Get out of there!

Are you deaf? Do you hear me?

(Harrison sighs)

Who’s the kid?

Uh, some VA sob story.

Ah. Then you two should get along great, then. (chuckles)

Doc wants me to teach him to fish.

Oh, you should.

Pay it forward.

You sound like a greeting card.

You know, 25 years ago, from Iowa


(sighs) You couldn’t cast worth a damn.

And if it wasn’t for me and Bobby D.,

you’d still be fishing the Sacajawea Lagoon

with the firstgraders for stockies.

And doc doesn’t want you out alone, right?

I’m not a social worker, for chrissake.

And I don’t need you snitching to the doc about me.

I’ll fish you for it.


Boat rules.

You win, I’ll teach him.

I win, you do it.


You’re on. (laughs)




(tranquil music playing)

There’s the takeout. Looks like it’s gonna be a tie.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Ah! Hot damn! Oh, yeah.


(Harrison) Oh, yeah.

(Ike) Go on.

(Harrison) Yeah. Land that one for me, cowboy. Come on.

(Ike) Ah.

Hola, Señor Blanco.

(laughs) Whitefish. You know what that means.

Minus one. I win.


Son of a bitch.

Jump out. Pull us in.

(Harrison groans)

(grunts) Oh!

(bone cracks)

I can’t believe you did this to me.

Look, clearly, I’m an evil genius.


Poor Ike.

Everything’s about me.

You did this on purpose.

I think you’re dumber than you look.

Give this guy an enema. He’s full of crap.

(gentle, pensive music playing)

(Bear whining)



(barks, then whines)


Christ, don’t take it as a compliment.

(music fades)

He’s supposed to be a guard dog. Kept licking the goddamn prisoners.



the doc said in order to return back to active duty, I needed…

to pass a series of evaluations.

She said that fishing could help,

and I saw you the other day with your pole and

It’s not a pole. It’s a rod.

You didn’t call your rifle a gun, did you?

No. Fuck this. I knew this shit was stupid.

It ain’t easy. Takes practice.

Not like playing with your goddamn phone.

(pensive music playing)

Oh, Jesus.

Uh… tomorrow, 10 a.m.

Angler’s West fly shop. And do your recon.

My recon?


More great literature has been written about flyfishing than any other sport.

Start there.

Hey, I was hoping I could get a ride.

You got legs!

(music turns hopeful)

Those yours? (music fades)


Can I help you?

Yeah, no, um…

I’m looking for a book.

Oh, that’s a first.

Yeah, no, uh Um…

Right. Um, a fishing book.

Literature, I mean. Fishing literature, I’m looking for.

Okay. Did you look at our online catalog at all?

Did you know we have? I’m gonna I’ll show you where the fishing…



You wanna try…



This is The Sun Also Rises. It has fishing.

Plus, I think you might, um, respond to it.

You need a library card?


Yeah. Thanks.

All right. You can follow me.

What is your name?



John Colter.

And, uh, can I just see an ID?


Thank you.


(keyboard clacking)

Two weeks.

(Colter clears throat)


Lucy. Thank you.


Thank you for your help.


He’s cute. What’s his deal?

I don’t know. I, uh, saw him over at the VA.

What did he want?

Fishing literature, so I gave him, uh, Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises.

The one with the guy whose junk doesn’t work

because of a war injury?

Good call, Luce. Really good call.


(bell jingles)

Hey, kid.


Yeah, I’m here to see Ike Fletcher.

Uh, yeah, he’ll be out as soon as he gets the stick out of his ass.

(Ike) You’re late!

Quit bugging the customers.

He’s not a customer.

Well, if you two are done having an icecream social,

we got work to do. Let’s go.

(chuckles) He’s all yours.

Clean it up.

Wait, what? Look, I thought you were gonna teach me how to go fishing.

There’s tactical training and there’s boot camp,

and this is part of boot camp.


You were Recon.





What’s your rank?

(tense, pensive music playing)

You darkened my doorway.

If you wanna tap out, be my guest.



And lay off the booze. You reek.


(hopeful, pensive music playing)

(Ike) See you tomorrow!

We’re hitting the bars. You coming?


I’m good.


(hopeful, pensive music continues)

Hi. I’m looking for, uh, John Colter.

So this should help remodel the scar tissue.

(knocking on door)

He’s all yours.


(Colter sighs)

(Colter) You still there?




We met the other day at the li When you came into the library.

Yeah. Yeah, I think I remember that.

Yeah. Are you? Is everything okay?

Yeah, no. Um…

Just scar tissue has to be managed, so…



Yeah. So I just wanted to, um…

clarify that the book that I suggested, it

I wasn’t suggesting it…

like, because of what his situation is in the book.

I didn’t I wasn’t implying that, like, something is wrong down there.

Oh. Wow.



Oh, my God.

No, it’s okay. I I guess I missed that. Uh, no.


You know, everything is… Everything is fine in that department.


That’s great.

So you like what you’ve read so far in the book?

It’s okay.

I had a concussion, so reading still kind of gives me a headache.



I haven’t really gotten to the fishing part yet.

Yeah. Yeah, I reread it, and there’s There’s not much.

So I pulled some other books for you with, um…

more technical fishing stuff.



Well, then…



Yeah, I, um…

I’ve gotta be here for a bit, and, uh… You know, with my concussion…


Yeah. Uh…

I don’t know, would you mind…

reading to me?



Yeah. Okay.

(Colter) Thanks.

(gentle, pensive music playing)

“I guess sometimes surviving is your punishment.”

So you stand in the river, facing upstream with the water rushing down upon you,

as if it could somehow fill the hollow emptiness.

And somehow, it always does.

Open these and get them unpacked.

(Lucy) So it was one morning I stood there,

without even casting, and with no trout rising.

And as the water rushed past me,

I knew it was washing my burdens behind me,

swirling them downstream like the autumn leaves.

There’s a great deal about living the trout can teach us.

(inaudible dialogue)

They teach us how to keep swimming, even in a steady current.

Trout know that if they stop swimming,

they cease to be trout and begin to become debris,

floating without purpose, wherever the current may take them.

Trout know that if they keep swimming,

facing into the current, perhaps in the eddy of a rock,

all that they need to truly live will eventually come to them.

I learn a great deal from trout.

Flyfishing connects you to the trout’s world…

and in doing so, your own.

That was fast.

I just wanted to say thank you for all your help.

I have more coming, they’re not here yet.


Yeah, I was trying to figure out a way to repay you somehow.

I’m just doing my job.

How about dinner?

(tender music playing)

Yeah, as As a…

As a thank you.

Colter, I have, like, a very unique

Oh, my God, yes! Yes!

She’s saying yes.




(pensive music playing)

(door opens and bell jingles)

(music fades)

These boxes aren’t gonna unpack themselves.

Come on, man.

The whole point of this was for you to teach me how to go fishing,

not be your stock boy.

Was it? You don’t like it, there’s the door.

(Colter) This is stupid.

(rain pattering)

He’s a pain in the ass, yeah?


You know, Ike, uh…

he don’t cook…

can’t drink…

doesn’t watch TV, doesn’t watch movies,

hasn’t listened to music since Creedence broke up in ’72.

Hm. Can’t drag him to a vet reunion.



that’s all he’s got.

The fact that he is open to sharing it with you…

that’s an amazing thing.

But it’s not going to be easy.

He’s a big, old king salmon.


Yeah. Look it up. You’ll understand.

Ike, uh, listen, man, I’m really

Do you really wanna fish?

Yeah, I do.

What’s this?

Prince Nymph.

What’s it for?

Imitating a mayfly larva underwater.

And this?

Mayfly emerger.

When bugs are shucking their skins and coming to the surface.


Rusty spinner.

Looks like a fly after it’s mated and it falls to the water to die.

When do you fish it?

Late night, right after dark.

You know mayflies only live for one day?


No, I didn’t.

Life’s short.

Okay. Let’s go.

Wait, what? Why now?

You’ve just learned the most important part of flyfishing.


Fucking guy.

Wow, man.


Better be. I made it.

(Colter) Wait, Super Max?

‘Cause you got a jailhouse lover or something?


Like a prison.

Max is my son.

Shit, I’m sorry, man. I…

I didn’t know.

You use this one.

Let’s go.

(gentle music playing)

(poignant, dramatic music playing)

Okay, yeah?




Are we not going out?

Where you gonna cast to?

(Colter scoffs, then laughs)

(music fades)

The water.

You cast to where the fish are.

And how do you know where they are?

You watch.

All right.

(river susurrating)


So, what am I watch?


It’s just like recon.



You see where the fast water meets the slow?

Cast above them and let the fly float downstream alongside it.

You got it?

Let’s do it.

(Colter) Shit.

Cast the line. Fly’s just along for the ride.

Now, you see how the water takes the fly?

No selfrespecting trout’s gonna eat that.

So, what do I do?

Mend the line.

Mend the line?

After your cast, flick your wrist forward

to mend the line above the fly, so the fly will float true.


(pensive music playing)

Keep the rod low. Keep it low.

Keep it low.

Now lift! Got it!


Okay, easy, now. Easy.


Keep the tension on it.


(Ike) That’s it. Whoa.

(Colter chuckles)

Not bad for a first. (laughs)


There we go. Bring him in.

Nice and easy.

(gentle, poignant music playing)

Wet your hands.

And now we let him go.


We let him go.

Are you serious?


Thank you.

(gentle, poignant music continues)

Why don’t you keep the fish?

Isn’t that the point?

Is it?

Isn’t it?

Ah, there are lots of reasons:

Conservation, management.

But frankly, I decided a long time ago I was done killing.

(music turns pensive)

Does it ever get any easier?


Alcohol helps, for a time.

But this…

(music turns serene)

This is the place for me.

Here is where I come…

when all else fails.

If the river gods ever created a perfect spot, this is it.

I call it Bear’s Run.

Bear’s Run.

What do they call where I fished?

The kiddie pool.

(music fades)

(cell phone buzzing)

(buzzing continues)

Goddamn it.



Um, I can’t right now because I’m just leaving my house.

Come here, come here, come here. Gotta look at this.

I’m actually going somewhere right now.

What? Oh, wait. Here.

That stuff again.

Take this, all right?

I don’t want this.

You have to take this.

I don’t want this.

Here’s his science award.

Remember how smart you guys were?

I don’t wanna look. I don’t want it.

Look Look at this.

I said, I don’t want it!

I don’t want it.

You know, you’re not supposed to dance.

Not supposed to dance a year after…

and then they expect you to dance.


how is a person supposed to dance when part of them is buried in the ground?



I know.

So you You can look at it every day.

I don’t want to look.

It’ll help you to think.

I want you to stop pushing it on me, please.

I’m asking you.

Take it!

Stop pushing it on me.

(tense music playing)

It doesn’t help me, and it’s not helping you!

(sobbing) No, you can take this.


(music turns poignant)

Damn it.


(music fades)

I’m sorry, Colter…

(clears throat)

Colter, listen, I Okay.

Oh, shit.



Oh, sorry.

Sorry I’m late. I, um…


No, it’s all good.

I do I

It was worth the wait.

Plus, uh…

I caught a fish today.

You did?

Yeah. Yeah.

(both chuckle)

That’s awesome.

How big?

(tranquil music playing)

To your fish.


(Lucy chuckles)

You’ve taken to it pretty hard.



I mean, technically…

I’ve only been once, but… you know.

You like it.


Yeah. I like it.

It’s a bit of a thing around here.

I’ve noticed a few things around here.

Yeah, Montana’s a weird place to…

end up when you’re Where are you from?

We moved around a lot when I was a kid.


When I joined the Corps, my buddy Blitz convinced his family

to let me stay with them.

They’re from Great Falls, so…

I used their address.

When I got out, here I am.

Seems like a good guy.

He was.

Yeah, he was.

I’m sorry.

We don’t have to talk about it.

Oh, no. No.

Sorry. No. Yeah, no, it’s fine. It’s just…


I don’t know.

The Marines was the first time that I ever actually had a family.

(music turns pensive)

You know, brothers.


now they’re dead and…

I’m here. And…

I don’t know, I just…


I got a lot to make up for when I go back.

Back to war?

Yeah, doc says that flyfishing can help with all of that, so…

I’m flyfishing.

I don’t know. It’s funny…

When I was out there on that water…

when I was fishing…

I didn’t think about anything else.

And for the first time…

in a long time, it was quiet.


It’s stupid, huh?

It’s not stupid.

I know the feeling.

If I, um…

If I have a camera in my hands…

you know…

I guess it used to make every bad thing kind of go away.

(clears throat)


(music turns poignant)

And then I lost my fiancé.


And I just couldn’t stop thinking about it, obviously.


It’s just hard to escape that feeling.


I’m sorry, Lucy. I didn’t know.

It was, uh, two years ago now, but…

that feeling never leaves you.

Like, the sudden vacuum where they once were, I guess.


You know what?

You should go flyfishing.


Yes. Girl, what are you talking about?



Maybe I can take you.

(laughs) I don’t know.


Just say yes.

(music turns hopeful)


Maybe. Okay.


Maybe’s good.

I’ll take maybe.


(Colter) Maybe’s good.

(music fades)

(birds singing)

(Ike) Ah.


this is Lucy.

Girl I was telling you about.

Long time no read, Ike.

(Ike) Yeah.

I haven’t been hanging out at VA much.

Too many doctors.

You guys know each other?

Yeah, we do.

(Ike) Yeah.

I used to read to Ike when he would overnight.



Well, I’m, um… gonna teach Lucy how to fish.

Is that so?



Well, in case he doesn’t remember, this is the end where you hold it.

Got it.


(Colter) You wanna hold that, then…

(Lucy) Okay.

All right, and you just wanna pick it up.


All right?

Wait a little bit and then just…

lay it right down on the water.

Nah, that one wasn’t good.

All right, you wanna just, uh, pick it up again

and then give it a little bit more of an oomph right out there.

An oomph? Right out there?


Yeah, just…


Just a little oomph.

(Lucy) Just a little oomph.

(Colter) Yeah.

(enchanting music playing)

I can also rodeo a little bit and make a mean huckleberry pie.


You didn’t wanna say that before?



Now that’s done, let’s go fishing!


(dramatic, enchanting music playing)

Thank you, Mr. Trout.

(music fades)

Two days before we’d been fishing the Lamar up by…

Cache Creek.

I had seen two grizzlies.

I had unholstered my bear spray.


I might have been nipping at my flask during the hike.

Might have been?

(Lucy chuckles)


Anyway, I turn around and this one here’s choking.

I look down…

and, uh, my shorts are orange.

Covered in bear spray.

I think I’m okay.

But then, in ten seconds, my crotch is on fire.

I sprint to the creek, dropping my, you know, shorts as I go.

I sat there for an hour, naked from the waist down.

(Colter laughs)

Of course I couldn’t put my shorts on, so I hiked up,

letting it all hang out.

You know, there’s not many bad days on the water, but that was definitely one.

Well, today is one of the good days.

Happy birthday, old man.

Don’t look at me. It was the kid’s idea.

(Colter) Yeah.

What am I supposed to do with this?

I don’t know, put it on your wall or…

in your kitchen or something.

I mean, you said you had a kid, right? Well, give it to him.


(poignant, pensive music playing)

Okay. Uh…


Do you wanna come with me to something on Friday?


Yeah, I would.



Night. (grunts)

Good night.

(gentle music playing)

Good night.

See you.

(Dr. Burke) Yeah. These are looking good.

There’s a lot of improvement in there. So yeah.


Good. Okay.

And, uh, fishing’s going well?

I know all.

Yeah. Yeah. No, surprisingly, it’s going pretty well.

And Ike? How’s he doing?

He’s good.


Why wouldn’t he be?

No reason.

So, yeah, just keep it up.

Everything’s improving.


Yeah, so I’m good to go?

Well, still, it takes time.

Uh, I notice you haven’t filled out an assessment in a while,

so I’d like you to do that today.

Oh, doc, I don’t think…

I don’t think I need to do an assessment. I’m great. I’m good to go.

Good. But it’s protocol.


Yeah, okay.


(“Enough of You” playing)

(song continues over speakers)

Can’t help but stare When I look at you

My heart is beatin’ Got me nervous too

Oh, tell me Tell me what ya trying to do?

I can’t get you off my mind…

You wanna dance?

What’s that?

You wanna dance?

Uh, I think I’ll grab a beer first.

Okay. Well, I’ll see you out there.

See you out there.

(laughing and whooping)

You got me up You got me down

Got my head spinnin’ all around

I’m hooked, I’m hooked I can’t

You got me up You got me down

Got my head spinnin’ all around

I’m hooked, I’m hooked

I can’t get enough of you

I’m hooked, I’m hooked

I can’t get enough of you

(machine gun firing and radio chatter in Colter’s memory)

(Marine yelling indistinctly)

(Colter) Death Star, this is Charlie 23. Contact.

Time now. Stand by for SALTA. Over.

(Death Star) 23, this is Death Star. Send SALTA. Over.

(“Running Towards the Sun” playing)

I’m treading water out in the deep

Gotta keep my head up


Or I’m going down

I keep on fighting

And I won’t stop Until the battle’s won

Keep on fighting

‘Cause I can’t be the only


(haunting music playing)




(poignant music playing)


(knocking on door)

(music fades)


You wanted to see me?

So, John, there’s no easy way to say this.

What is it?

The board completed your review.

Okay, um, and?

There’s been a unanimous decision

that you will not be going back to fullduty status.

(poignant, pensive music playing)

Wait, what?

Due to your mentalhealth state and your prescribed

My mental My mentalhealth state?

And And your prescribed medication,

the board has determined you are unfit to handle firearms.

It cannot endorse any recommendations that would allow you to continue service

within the combat arms military occupational specialties.

What did you tell them?

I was honest with them,

and you need to be honest with yourself.

No. No. No.

No, you lied to me. “Do your PT.”

I didn’t lie, John.

You said, “Then go fishing.”

“Take your meds.”

I’m sorry, John.

You’re sorry?

You’re sorry? You get to still be a doctor.

Once a Marine, always a Marine.

They can’t take that away from you.

They just did!

John. John?

(music fades)

(poignant music playing)

Did you hide this?


Bet you did.


Who is this?

Billy Fletcher.

Well, this is Sergeant Isaac Fletcher,

United States Marine Corps, retired.

(chuckles) No, no, no. Not an Army man.

A Marine.

I’m also your…

Your Grandpa Fletcher.

How about that?

Well, you do have a Grandpa Fletcher.


Your dad told you that?

Well, wait. Um, wait.

Uh, Billy? Uh, Billy? Bi

(crowd cheering on TV)

(poignant, pensive music playing)

(ominous, pensive music playing)

(bottle shatters)



(music turns poignant)

(music fades)

(dramatic music playing)


(music fades)


(Bear panting)



(ominous music playing)


Come on, Ike.



(Ike groans)


I’m gonna lift you up, all right?


Let’s go.

(dramatic music playing)

(music fades)

(Colter) Hey. It’s okay.



It’s okay.



How did I…?

I found you at the river.



Uh, my rod?


Easy, old man. They’re safe.

Take care of them.

They’re yours now.

What? No. Ike

No, no.

Ike, um…

I went to your house.

I saw the Scotch.

Max’s phone number.

I called him.

Didn’t go as expected.

But that’s fishing, and that’s life.

For about 30 seconds, I felt like shit…

considered drinking the whole bottle.

But then…

it hit me.

I survived.

(Ike chuckles)

That’s a hell of a feeling.

And I thought, if I could survive that…

I can go fishing, doctor be damned.

So I dumped the whiskey…

and went for it.

Come on, Ike.

That’s delusional. You’re in no shape to do that.

Who does that sound like? Hm?

Me? Or you?

I mean, you wanted to use me as a fantasy to get back in.

And I was fine with that.

I mean, I’d been advised not to fish alone,

so we both got something out of it.

You didn’t wanna talk about it.

Hey, I get that.

(poignant, pensive music playing)

I respect that.

In conflict…

shit happens.

Horror happens.

I know that. You know that.



I lost friends.


Good close friends.

Lost them…

through my own stupid panic.

Ah (chuckles)

The corporal screwed up.

Who knew?

Who knew?

Instead of a courtmartial, they rewarded me.

Rewarded me with a bunch of fucking fruit salad.

Medal for this, medal for that.

I wasn’t punished…

so I punished myself.

I was unworthy.


Couldn’t shake it off.

Took it home with me.


Unworthy of my wife.

Unworthy of my kid.

My family.

My home.

Yeah. Forgive and forget?

Nah, nah, nah. Not me, not me.

I couldn’t forgive myself, nor could I ever, ever forget.

And so…

I left them.

Left them.

And in time…


they forgot all about me.

But listen, listen, listen.

It took me years, years to realize.

And maybe I can save you the trouble.


in the book of every soldier’s life…

the military is a chapter.

That’s it.

Some people think it’s the whole book.

No, it’s…

It’s part of you.

It never

It never leaves you.


it’s not…

Not the whole story.

(music turns hopeful)

(music fades)



Can we talk?


(clears throat)

I, um…

I really don’t know how to do this.

My men died because of me.

We were…

We were all set. We had our tickets and…

And I made the decision that we would go back on one last patrol.

I killed the only brothers that I’ve ever known.

I, um…

I wish that I was dead every single day.

They keep telling me that I’m okay, that I’m gonna be okay, that

That I’m one of the lucky ones.

But why the fuck am I lucky?

Why the fuck am I lucky, you know? And…

They haven’t seen the shit that I’ve seen.

They haven’t done the shit that I’ve done.

They don’t understand, you know? They just They just

They don’t understand.

I do.

I do.

You know what happens when your fiancé

drives his motorcycle through an intersection without a stop sign,

and there’s a semi coming the other way?

Time just stops, right?

You’re just stuck there, and the rest of the world moves on.

And some days, I’m so fucking pissed at him…

for dying and leaving me.

And other days, I just miss him so much.

I’m trying to get time to start again.

And, like, I’m trying so hard to move on.

The past just…

Just gets in the way, so…

I do understand.

I do get it.

And I don’t know.

I don’t know what…

You know, what this is, like, with us, or what it’s gonna be, but…

I do think I was just…

I just saw something in you that I wanted.

Um, you have a lot of courage.


You do.


I don’t.

You do. You came here with nothing, you didn’t know anyone.

You walked into that library clueless.

You weren’t afraid to look like an idiot.


You asked me for fishing literature.

Okay. Who says that?

I needed to read. I needed to read.

And even with the fishing, you asked for help, and I mean, you just

I I’ve gotten to watch you…

take the steps to move on.

I mean, you went to war and you survived.

Like, that That’s something that is inside of you.

And I’ve wanted to move on for a really long time.

A really long time.

I just haven’t known how. Like…

I needed you to show me how.

And I’ve realized that I can’t be here anymore.

I don’t wanna be here anymore.

I can’t I can’t be here.

So thank you.

In a weird way. Thanks. Thank you…

for helping me get there.

Where are you gonna go?

(cell phone buzzing)

The past keeps calling.


I hope that you find your path.

(poignant music playing)

And I hope that you figure out what you can and can’t leave behind.


How’s he doing?

He’s swimming upstream. He’s almost home.

That’s good, right? He’s going home.

You didn’t look up king salmon, did you?

What? No. Salmon? Harrison, how’s Ike?

King salmon is a fish that swims upstream to die.

They give everything, their energy, their eggs, their bodies, just so the next generation will live.

Now, when you joined the Marines, you showed you were willing to die for something bigger than you.

And now it’s time that… you figure out what it is that you’re willing to live for.

(music turns hopeful)

(knocking on door)



Is your dad home?


(poignant music playing)


Are you Ike Fletcher’s son?

(Lucy) And so I stand in the river, casting back and forth, trying to lose that feeling of being alone.

It is then that the rainbow rises and takes my offering.

I raise my rod, and all at once, I am no longer alone.

I am connected to his powerful runs, facing into the current.

I have come to see there is nothing that ends our spirit except for our own failure to keep it alive.

“Life happens like a river’s flow. Sometimes the river flows softly, the sound of riffles and falls and birdsong bringing calm to the morning sunrise. Sometimes the river floods… ripping trees from their anchors and washing jeweled fish from pool to pool. It matters not. They make a new home wherever the river takes them.”

(poignant music continues)

Hi, Mrs. Redcloud.


Yeah, I’m good. Thank you. How are you doing?

Okay, good.


I just wanna tell you real quick that I’m not gonna be around for–

For a little while.

No, I can’t.

I can’t tomorrow either. I can’t anymore, actually.

Okay. Um…

Yeah, I wanted you to have those.

Good. Thank you.


Okay. I also just wanna tell you that…

I love you.

All right. Okay, I’ll talk to you soon.

Okay. Bye.

(dramatic music playing)

(poignant music playing)

She’s gone.


I know.

You okay?


But most importantly, I know that she’s gonna be okay too.

I appreciate the gesture.

And I appreciate everything that you’ve done for me, but… that doesn’t belong to me, old man.


Good to see you.

(both chuckle)

And I went looking for something.

Some recon?


Some recon.

(music turns hopeful)

(music fades)

(gentle, pensive music playing)


(music turns poignant)

(Ike) Standing in the river, you become part of nature.

Most of us see ourselves as the powerful bear, the sleek trout, or the majestic elk.

But in reality, we are the mayfly, being carried along on the current.

The smallest piece, but a piece nonetheless of this grandness that surrounds you.

Yes, that means you face danger from above and below.

But it also means, for the brief time we’re here, we can choose to fly.

To live.

Fishing doesn’t solve your problems, it only brings them to the surface.

But I think you know that now, and can handle everything you’ve gone through.

I believe that because, as they say, there’s no better way to know a man’s character than to go fishing with him.

And that’s why I’m sure you will figure it out.

When you first came to see me, you were looking for something, the peace and serenity that people find on the water.

That’s great.

But the important thing is, and this is what took me so long to learn, is that it doesn’t mean anything if that tranquility leaves you when you leave the river.

You not only have to take it with you, but you also have to send it out into the world.

Tight lines.

(dramatic music playing)

(poignant music playing)


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