I was 12 years old on a crisp October afternoon when a brilliantly spackled trout exploded through the slippery surface of the Kinnickinick River and sipped my crudely tied mahogany dun, committing to my manufactured meal with a spirited foolishness that left me in utter disbelief.
For two years prior, ever since my father bought me my first fly rod, I’d been casting in vain at spooky browns and phantom brookies near my Minnesota home, so accustomed to the slack lines and the disappointment of scribbling “skunked” in my journal that the sensation of this inaugural catch flooded me with astonishment.
My father was just out of earshot, fishing upstream around an oxbow bend, and he could neither see me nor hear my cries of triumph. Even though I released my prized trout to little fanfare, I was hooked.
Still, the years leading up to this awakening were in many ways more memorable than the catch itself. Through all the fishless days, through all the disappointment, I learned how to connect with my natural setting, and I learned the value of an outdoor education.
I learned to tie knots and fly patterns and how to imitate hatches. I learned the patience required to observe a hole or a riffle before thrashing it with an ill-conceived cast, and how to negotiate a tangled leader or a snagged nymph. I learned the basic entomology of midges and mayflies and the life patterns of bugs, and how to massage the shell off a hard-boiled egg using only a burnished river rock, enjoying a simple lunch surrounded by water and willows, seated only in waders, tapping the magical potential only a river can hold.
Through it all, I learned to fish, and through fishing I adopted an intimate, hyperconscious awareness of my environment that’s served as a guiding star ever since, leading to a deeper understanding of my immediate surroundings as well as an obsession with coaxing stories from its hidden hollows.
Nine years after that first catch, I moved to Missoula to study journalism, a craft I plied with a passion that nearly rivaled my obsession with the outdoors, and which taught me the value of storytelling and the influence it can hold over the natural world and its interconnected communities.
In the decade I’ve spent chronicling our communities for the Flathead Beacon and Flathead Living Magazine, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to lead our coverage of the Crown of the Continent and the unbroken current of stories coursing across its landscape. From this platform, our editorial team has leveraged its collective understanding of the communities we cover to grow awareness of the threats of development to pristine parcels tracking along the northern Rockies, from the Badger-Two Medicine to our transboundary watersheds, and we’ve earned equal trust among high-profile powerbrokers and hidden hands alike.
In this issue, we examine how an aging athlete unlocks a new identity and we meet young mountaineers committed to a stewardship ethic developed by their predecessors. We explore the evolution of visitation to Glacier National Park and meet the culinary wizards creating the culturally textured cuisine in our backyard bistros. We review books and spotlight the seasonal sights and sounds of a region prized for its beauty.
It’s a good life, reading and writing and plying the riffles of this wild corner of Montana. We hope you’ll find it as fascinating as we do.
Many thanks for reading.