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The New West: ‘My Father’s Son’



CREDIT: David J Swift

By Todd Wilkinson EBS Environmental Columnist

As many readers here know, I am also the founder and managing editor of Mountain Journal, a nonprofit, public-interest journalism site focused on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. MoJo, as we are called, is proud to have a professional alliance with Explore Big Sky, and one of our focal areas is bringing young people into the fold.

One of our bright young writers is Liam Diekmann, a soon-to-graduate senior at Bozeman High School. His column is titled “My Father’s Son” and is dedicated to his late father, Alex Diekmann, a professional conservationist with The Trust for Public Land and after whom a peak in the Madison Range was just formally named.

I wanted to share part of a recent conversation I had with Liam. I hope you enjoy it.

Todd Wilkinson: There aren’t many outdoors columnists your age out there. What do you enjoy most in writing about fly fishing?
Liam Diekmann: The No. 1 thing I enjoy writing about fishing is being able to tell stories. Ever since I was little I have always been able to tell stories better in writing, rather than physically speaking them.

T.W.: You’ve no doubt dealt with the eternal angler’s lament. What is the biggest fish you ever hooked that got away and how did it happen?
L.D.: One of the biggest fish I lost was on the Granger Ranches in the Madison Valley while in the company of my father Alex, brother Logan, and Jeff Laszlo, owner of the Granger. It was along a bend in the creek that remains one of my favorites.

Liam Diekmann at O’Dell Creek in the Madison Valley. PHOTO COURTESY OF LIAM DIEKMANN

T.W.: If you had to do it all over again, would you play the fish differently?
L.D.: Yes, I most definitely would. I was using a large size 6 grasshopper pattern and a monster of a fish smashed it, but I was young and did not have the experience to know how to let the fish run and play with it. So the tension was tight and the line snapped. If I could do it over again, I would be more patient and respect the fish more, let it run as far as it wanted to go and kind of tack him in.

T.W.: What do you think is most important in getting environmental issues to ripple with millennial-aged young people?
L.D.: First it’s getting them outside the way I did with my dad. And then helping them understand why it’s important that they get involved with trying to protect rivers so that future generations can experience them the same as they are [now]. And then they need to help spread the word, why having a healthy environment matters.

T.W.: Your mom and dad both worked in conservation—your dad at The Trust for Public Land and your Mom as the first executive director of the Yellowstone Park Foundation, today Yellowstone Forever. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from them?
L.D.: There is one that will live with me for the rest of my life. It was some of the last words my dad said to me. They were, “Be kind to everyone no matter their race, their culture, their ethnicity. Just be kind.” I try my hardest to follow his words, and when I do, it is always the right thing, because I have a feeling of warmth within me. It makes me believe each of us can make the world better.

Todd Wilkinson, founder of Mountain Journal (, is author of “Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek” about famous Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear 399 featuring 150 photographs by Tom Mangelsen, available only at His feature on the delisting of Greater Yellowstone grizzlies appears in the winter 2018 issue of Mountain Outlaw and is now on newsstands.

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