Out of Bounds

Ten Years After

With this 'Out of Bounds' column it’s been a decade for me at the Flathead Beacon, writing about the outdoors and Montana

By Rob Breeding

Everyone aspires to change the world, in some way, big or small. It’s kind of the point of living, isn’t it?

With this “Out of Bounds” column it’s been 10 years for me at the Flathead Beacon, writing about the outdoors and Montana, the state I love more than any other. That’s true despite moving away twice since this column began in order to take a job doing what I do best: teaching college journalism. 

Fortunately, this allows me to return to Montana every summer. And if you only get one season in Montana, summer’s the easy choice. 

Pondering your personal decade just concluded, it’s usually those moments of change that stand out. But not always. 

For fun, I looked back at the first column I wrote in March of 2012. The subject was mousies, possibly the most effective ice fishing bait known to humanity. I can’t be sure, however, because I was no more likely to ice fish in 2012 than I am today. 

A mousie is a chimera for me. I’ve yet to fish with one of these grubs with long, fish-enticing tails — breathing tubes, actually — but I’m sure they’re dynamite.

Other than avoiding hard water, not much has stayed the same for me. My twin daughters were juniors at Glacier High School in 2012. They’re both out in the world now, graduated from college and already more successful than their dad. Some of my favorite columns focused on time we spent together, usually floating and fishing. Rogers Lake, the Thompson River and one fork of the Flathead or another were our most frequent destinations. 

It’s been a while since we’ve made one of those trips. We’re spread across three time zones now and rarely in Montana at the same time. 

I remember one evening fishing trip on the Thompson, when we ran out there on an impulse, after dinner, just to enjoy an hour of whatever evening hatch might emerge.

It will never be that easy again. The logistics of simultaneously placing the three of us on the same dot on the map are considerable. Making that dot be a spot somewhere on the Thompson River, on one of those spring evenings when the high water has run everyone off the Flathead, seems dang near impossible now.

All the better reason to make it so.

I’ll confess to being more pessimistic about some of the issues that have been most important to me since the first time I moved to the state in 1992.

Montana’s Stream Access Law may be under greater threat now than at any time since it was adopted in the 1980s. I’d always seen it as a third rail of Montana politics. Now, I’m not so sure. Divided government in Helena for 16 years prevented any serious assault on the law, but Helena’s no longer divided.

As a newcomer I remember how state residents seemed to take a certain pride in the law, whether they fished or not. It was a part of the Treasure State’s egalitarian charm. Sure, the state has always had its share of John Dutton types, but there was more of an equilibrium then between the Stetsoned masters of God’s Country and the fiercely independent riffraff.

So far, writing this column has been a great experience. My Beacon editors have allowed me to ruminate on the two topics not named Abbe or Zoe that are most dear to me: fishing and hunting. I even managed to get my name on a national award, taking first place for column writing in the Outdoor Writers Association of America contest in 2021. 

Hardware is always nice.

Most importantly, I too love to change the world, and in big or small ways, make it better. That’s what I try to do each week. 

It’s too important to leave it up to others.

Rob Breeding’s website is www.mthookandbullet.com.

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