It happened to me again—one of those magical days late fall days in southwest Montana. I awoke to
the soft morning sunlight on the peaks of the Gallatin Range, as my dog and daughter’s pattering feet
provided the subtle hint of “time to get going dad.” I spoke briefly to a friend who was headed out
hunting, then planned my days’ outing. My day consisted of a few obligations before I ventured to the
water: a grocery store run, a stop at the auto mechanic, and then the hardware store for some tools for
a job that I might get to and one my wife wants me to get finished.
Once I finished my short-list of to-dos, I headed into the canyon to find the last few fish still eating Blue
Winged Olives. The first spot I tried proved pointless as a down-stream wind blew any decent cast back
in my direction. The second spot was already occupied by a friend and local angler, so I left note on his
truck: “Hope you got ‘em today. Meet for a beer at 5?” The third, and final spot I tried, yielded no fish
eating dry flies on the surface, but in an hour or so I was able to nymph-up a handful of good-sized trout
and a few whitefish. A Pat’s Rubberlegs and a Lightning Bug were the best flies.
We’ve got it pretty good here in southwest Montana. Here are some things, and folks, to be thankful
for this Thanksgiving season.
Clean air, water, and open spaces. Thanks to the many groups and organizations dedicated to
protecting what we love and enjoy daily. Groups like the Blue Water Task Force; Trout Unlimited;
Gallatin Valley Land Trust; and many more ensure we have plenty of places to wet-a-line, take in a hike,
and leave things better than we found them.
Big Sky’s community parks and events. For a small mountain town, the residents and visitors to our
area have access to a great park with ball fields, a kid playground and more. We also have our arts
programs, the performing arts center, and many more community-centric events. Many people have
played vital roles in making these things a reality.
Public lands. We live in a state where public lands, both federal and state, allow us to par-take in the
things we love to do: fish, ski, hike, bike, hunt, and more. The lands we used are managed by a variety of
agencies. Despite your personal feelings towards government and their role in our daily lives, we’ve got
it pretty good here in southwest Montana with the amount of public land we use on a regular basis.
Local knowledge and professionals.
Within a hundred mile radius of Big Sky, hundreds of outdoor
recreation professionals live and work. These professionals operate stores, run clinics, and are our
neighbors. People travel thousands of miles to spend time with the fishing outfitters and guides, ski
instructors, horse-wranglers, and other professionals in our area. Be thankful we have this amount of
expertise so close to home.
Sharing with friends and family. The best memories are often created with friends and family. This
one’s pretty simple: try to find time to spend outdoors with the important people in your life.
This Thanksgiving after the feast, work-off the extra helpings and hit the water or the trail. After your
first fish or first few switch-backs, take a moment to be thankful for our good fortune.
Pat Straub is the author of six books, including The Frugal Fly Fisher, Montana On The Fly, and the
forthcoming Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing. He and his wife own Gallatin
River Guides in Big Sky.