That Toast of Tinsel Town, The Datchett Razzler, was first brought to my attention in the following article by Garry Trudeau in The Wall Street Journal. Inspired by his Purplish Prose I proceeded to invent an appropriate pattern for this flashy fly. Then after actually catching a few fish with the darned thing it lay dormant gathering dust somewhere down in the nether reaches of my fly box until Hilary Thompson suggested the Mardi Gras Fly Swap. I immediately realized that this was the absolutely appropriate fly for my entry in the Swap. Having spent onwards of 12 years living in The Crescent City, "Nawlins", I knew that this swap called for the tawdriest, tackiest, most truly tasteless entry that I could concoct. There is no doubt in my mind that this is it. The following article "Casting Call" is by Garry Trudeau, the pattern and tying instructions are my own. I can't blame him for them, just for the inspiration, and Mardi Gras for the colors. "Trow' m' sumpin' mista!"
Indeed, it could be argued that casting the roles of the artificial flies for "River" required as much artistry as did any of the on-camera casting. From the onset, Redford insisted on using flies that mimicked natural food forms rather than those flies known as "attractors" -- crass, over dressed lures which basically annoy trout into striking them. Redford's position, leaked early to the trades (Ordinary Bob Nixes Fruit Flies for Fish Pic"), was part of the aura of integrity that had prevented his movie from being made for 14 years, but authenticity had its price. Indeed, the film was very nearly scuttled when a studio executive, Mark Canton, insisted that the Datchett Razzler, a hideous attractor he had picked up in Aspen, be prominently featured.
Redford held his ground. While the Razzler, with it's flashy plumage and sleek, elongated shank, would undoubtedly have had greater marquee value, Redford had promised Maclean on his deathbed that he would be true to the author's 62 year old memory of a Bunyan Bug No.2 Yellow Stone Fly, created by the Missoulan Norman Means. Although the pattern had remained in the Means estate, securing the rights from its executors proved uniquely arduous, in that they were represented by Sam "Can He Call You Back?" Cohen, who through a nasty coincidence was also representing the atrocious Datchett Razzler for Orvis.
That the Bunyan ever made it into Scene 10 of "River" at all was due to Redford's perseverance - with an assist from the weather. Wicked gusts whistling through the Bitterroots made the Razzler, with the lift and stability of a dead muskrat, a moot issue. The thwarted studio mogul, who had even brought along a stylist for his tufted wannabe, left in a snit, gunning his Range Rover over a half-dozen antique wicker creels in the process.
Redford's problems, however, did not disappear with the executive. The Bunyan itself, painstakingly tied on site to mimic that day's hatch of flies, was picked off mid-cast by a passing finch, who was then hurled unceremoniously into the drink by the actor Pitt, who was only slightly less startled than the trained Rainbow waiting to greet the Bunyan. The peeved Pitt then pitched his $19,000 stunt rod into the river and roared off in HIS Range Rover, leaving Redford to explain to a visiting reporter why the incident did not constitute cruelty to three separate species, not including the actor.
If Scene 10 was problematic, then 57 was downright disastrous. In this scene, Maclean's skunked hero finally resorts to an attractor, the Bobcat Special. But while it's one thing to cast this fulsome homage to high kitsch, it's quite another to get a Montana Brown to pay it the slightest mind. From day one, Redford had been getting plenty of attitude from the location trout, but when the Bobcat Special landed in the river like a watermelon, the fish all but left the state. Other stand-in attractors were then considered - The Mink Spuddler, the Carnhill Nobbler and the Green Butt Griddle Bug - but the actor had been checked out on none of them, so the scene was dropped from the film.
What a relief it must have been then, to move on to Scene 82-A, where Brad Pitt shadow-casts with an elegant Greenwell's Glory (a dressing dating from 1854, thus easily obtained for scale), or the rapturous Scene 108 where the brothers stand at river's edge in iridescent, misty splendor filling the air with silken lines and exquisitely back-lit chenille-wrapped Parmachene Belles.
It is at such moments that the film itself takes glorious flight.
- Garry Trudeau