“Fly fishing is a constantly repeating series of occasions for hope,” says retired Colonel Eric Hastings, a Vietnam combat Marine who founded the group Warriors and Quiet Waters.
Hastings, anxious to share what was his only solace coming home, plucks veterans from rehab and takes them to A River Runs Through It country to learn to catch and release river trout. The documentary Not Yet Begun to Fight yields little beauty, and there are no women or people of color among the five veterans it follows. Yet it stuns, and what’s missing doesn’t compare to what it shares. Its title comes from the tattoo of a burly wounded soldier whose brain damage has reduced his speech to guttural sounds. We witness ruin inflicted by wars that for a decade haven’t scratched the surface of daily life for most Americans.
We are privy to the early days of these men’s adjustments to life away from the military, with impaired bodies, beaten psyches, and lives to repair—or possibly just accept. Hastings provides a moral voice on the effects of war, and he’s desperate to reach each man’s very core. “One of the unfortunate things about combat in a very large measure is it taints your soul,” Hastings says. “You’re asked to do very violent things to other people.”
He cries more than once, yet emanates the strength of someone who preserves his agency as a human being despite an ordeal that could have surely extinguished it.