Weekend festival raises river awareness, money for Blue Water Task Force

By Joseph T. O’Connor Explore Big Sky Senior Editor

BIG SKY – Under sunny skies and warm temps, fly fishing fans big and small gathered at Big Sky Town Center Park on Aug. 4 for an afternoon of angling-centric activities and to pay homage to the Gallatin River.

It was part of Blue Water Task Force’s Big Sky Fly Fishing Festival, which returned after a year hiatus with a full weekend of events, including the 2013 FT3 Fly Fishing Film Tour Saturday night, Aug. 3, and events and vendors on Aug. 4.

Along the festival perimeter BWTF, along with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, American Rivers, Yellowstone Park Foundation and the Big Sky Noxious Weeds Committee, had educational booths set up to inform people about trout and river conservation.

Following Sunday’s festivities, Buck’s T-4 Lodge hosted a fundraising dinner and live and silent auctions, as well as guest speaker Bruce Farling, executive director of Montana Trout Unlimited.

“We just wanted to get involved with users on the river,” said Kristin Gardner, BWTF’s executive director. “But I can’t take all the credit.”

A festival committee helped plan this year’s event, she said, and included representatives from BWTF, Gallatin River Guides, East Slope Outfitters, Grizzly Outfitters and Lone Mountain Ranch.

BWTF raised $10,000 in all, according to Gardner, through film and dinner ticket sales, and through the auctions.

“We were really pleased with the turnout at all of the events and we met the goals, which were to develop more awareness of BWTF and what we do. We’re already scheming lots of ways to improve upon this year’s event,” Gardner said in a later email.

The Aug. 4 activities included casting clinics and competitions, fly-tying demonstrations, kids’ games and vendors. Simms, Gallatin River Guides and Grizzly Outfitters were also on hand giving product demonstrations to festival revelers from around the globe.

Chad Vitito was visiting Big Sky from the Twin Cities in Minnesota. He was practicing his cast with fly-fishing guide and Montana Living – Big Sky Real Estate Associate Ennion Williams, who helped organize the festival.

“It’s been an awesome five days of rafting and mountain biking,” said Vitito, who added that he’ll be teaching his kids to fly fish as soon as they’re old enough.

Others were at the event supporting BWTF and enjoying the local vibe and sunshine.

“We’re having a great time,” said Benjamin Bross, who was visiting Big Sky with his family from Mexico City. Each year the Brosses vacation to a different U.S. national park. This year, they’re touring Yellowstone.

“We are from one of the most populated cities in the world,” Bross said. “We promised the kids that we’d show them there are places like this. The people are friendly and happy in Big Sky.”