On the morning of the Nov. 9, I took my daughter fishing on the Gallatin. She’s only 5 years old, so we spent more time skipping rocks and looking for petrified wood than we did with our lines in the water. Despite our lack of angling-centric focus, we managed to trick a few whitefish and a few trout.
At the end of the day, the limestone cliffs near Storm Castle were lit in golden light nearly the same color as my daughter’s blond hair. I nearly forgot about the previous day’s election and was thankful for the moment—being able to enjoy a world-class river with my daughter. I said to her, “We’ve got it pretty good, you know?” She smiled back and skipped another rock into the water.
We give thanks for our friends, family, and the goodness we all enjoy. Before the bumrush of the holidays overtakes many of us, here’s a pause for reflection on the many things we should be thankful for here in our corner of angling heaven. And, yes, I write similar things each Thanksgiving, but think of this as a friendly reminder of just how good we have it.
Access to world-class fishing with Montana’s stream access law. We could not live the fishing-centric lifestyle many of us do without our stream access law. Created so the public could enjoy our rivers and streams, it is a law any angler and river user must be thankful exists.
We must also understand that with this law comes responsibility to protect and care for the resources we use. Remember to respect private property by not trespassing. Regardless of your personal feelings toward government and its role in our daily lives, we live in a state where public lands allow us to partake in the things we love to do: fish, ski, hike, bike, hunt and more. Our good fortune of access doesn’t stop with hunting and fishing—residents and visitors to our area have access to a park with ball fields, a playground for kids, and a community trail system.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Personal and political feelings aside, our state wildlife management agency deserves some gratitude. In August, much of the Yellowstone River was closed due to an invasive parasite. With the long-term health of the Yellowstone River in mind, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks made a potentially polarizing decision to close the river. When tens of thousands of native whitefish are dying, something is wrong. We should be thankful we have an organization with staff committed to the public’s ability to enjoy Montana’s resources for generations to come.
Protecting the places we love. Thank you to the many groups and organizations dedicated to protecting what we enjoy. Groups like the Gallatin River Task Force, Trout Unlimited, Montana Land Reliance, Gallatin Valley Land Trust, and many more ensure we have plenty of places to wet a line, take a hike, and leave things better than we found them.
Home to some of fly fishing’s best. Southwest Montana is home to some of the world’s best fly-fishing shops, guides and outfitters. Many of the sport’s top personalities call this area home. If you need help with the best 3-weight rod for PMDs on the Gallatin, you have a variety of excellent local fly shops; if you want to learn the habits of spring creek trout, you have access to them and the superb guides who can help you; if you want to explore a far-off destination, you could have coffee with someone who has been. Use the resources at your doorstep to spend more time on the water.
As we learned on Election Day, our country is as unique as our political process. As we give thanks for what we enjoy and set our sights on the holidays, be sure to not lose sight of the necessity to take action to ensure we still have reasons to give thanks—for yourself, and in my case, the life of my daughter. And remember that with giving thanks comes responsibility.
Pat Straub is the author of six books, including “The Frugal Fly Fisher,” “Montana on the Fly,” and “Everything you Always Wanted to know about Fly Fishing.” He and his wife own Gallatin River Guides, he is co-director of the Montana Fishing Guide School, and co-owns a guide service on the Missouri River.