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This is a film about a man who was the epitome of the word “sportsman.” Joe Brooks could have been a standout in multiple sports on a professional level. He was a great baseball player who played for a short time for the Baltimore Orioles. He was a bruising boxer, a scratch golfer and a hulking football player. Yet Joe, more than anything, was a legendary fly fisherman. Yes, he was a superb sportsman, but not just in the traditional sense of a man engaged in a particular sport, but rather as Webster’s dictionary’s secondary definition phrases it, “a person who is fair, generous,a good loser and a gracious winner.”
But Joe had not always been described that way. Those who knew him early in life were familiar with a much different man. One who was troubled and angry. He was a drunkard. He was a whoremonger. He was a violent soul who often ended his late night drinking binges locked in a jail cell for beating up some poor barfly who happened to agitate him. His family life was in shambles. A black sheep in a family that operated a very successful insurance business in Baltimore, Maryland, Joe was soon cast out for his dysfunctional and irresponsible behavior. His first two marriages, not surprisingly, ended in divorce and Joe soon found himself living far away in an isolated, run-down cabin in the backwoods of the Maryland countryside.
But Joe had one overpowering passion that kept him from losing all sanity. The water spoke to him and the days he spent along the coasts and riverbanks casting a fly to lure a bass or trout gave him solace from the nightmare he was living. He loved this sport more than anything else in his lonely life. But that was soon to change. A love more powerful than anything he had ever imagined would come to him and wash over him like a giant wave upon the shore. It would change the way he saw everything. It would change him and it would change a sport.
His newfound and truest love was Mary, a woman of beauty and character who became the driving force behind his miraculous transformation and his tremendous impact on the sport of fly fishing. Our film is not just a story about a great fly fisherman. It is a story of overcoming and redemption. It is one of triumph and achievement. At its heart is a romantic tale of passion, endurance, and a commitment to something greater than one’s self. But most of all it is a love story. The story of how the love of one woman changed a man who then was able to change a sport forever.
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The exceptional life of the little known icon of American fly fishing. In his 71 years Joe Brooks lived three lifetimes. From his privileged youth to a broken alcoholic to one of the most revered sportsmen of his time, Joe's life is as complex as it is inspirational. Few people manage to change themselves in any meaningful way. But Joe did and, in doing so, he changed the world of fly fishing.