Holy Waters – a Great Winter Read

Holy Waters – a good winter read, especially if you need a fishing fix.

It’s February. We now know whether the groundhog saw its shadow last Friday, and whether we’ll have six more weeks of winter or have an early spring—keeping in mind that in Montana, an early spring and six more weeks of winter amount to about the same thing.

The Super Bowl is over. As a longtime fan of the Minnesota Vikings, I don’t know whether I’m sad because the Vikes didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, or relieved that they didn’t make it and break their tie with the Buffalo Bills for Super Bowl futility. Cheer up; the next football season is just seven months away.

February can be a difficult month. The hunting seasons are mostly over, but it’s early for fly-fishing.

There is hope. Every day, we have about three more minutes of daylight than the day before. A week ago, we hit a milestone of sorts, when we had nine hours and 38 minutes of daylight, or one hour more than at the winter solstice back in December.

February can be a time for planning, and if taking a float trip on the Smith River is on your wish list, the deadline for applying for a Smith River permit is February 15. Taking a trip on the Smith River is, of course, one of Montana’s premier outdoor experiences. The only way to experience the Smith River is to apply for a permit, or get invited to join a launch by someone who got lucky and drew a permit. Of course, you could also book a trip with one of the outfitters that operate on the stream.

February is a time to read about the outdoors. A new book I’d recommend is Holy WaterFly-fishing Reveries & Remembrances, by my friend, Jerry Kustich. Jerry is a bamboo rod builder, and with Glenn Brackett, helped start Sweetgrass Rods, which this past year moved from Twin Bridges to Butte. Jerry has written three previous books about fishing, and the co-author, with his brother, Rick, of a book on fishing for Great Lakes steelhead.

Jerry Kustich, bamboo rod artist, author and, happily, a good friend.

Several years ago, when Jerry was retiring as an active partner with Sweetgrass, I stopped in at the shop in Twin Bridges, after a morning of chasing ducks, and I asked if, in retirement, he planned to write more books. He wasn’t sure, at the time, whether he had more to say, but he certainly does.

I had the opportunity to review the manuscript before the book went to press, and wrote a back cover blurb for the book, so I’m prejudiced, but I think this is his best work. As I wrote for the blurb, “This is honest and heartfelt writing in the tradition of Norman Maclean.”

Like Maclean, Jerry writes about fishing, and make no mistake, he knows a lot about the topic, but like Maclean, he writes about life and those precious and all too-fleeting relationships. As Maclean concluded A River Runs Through It, “I am haunted by waters,” Jerry writes about the nature of rivers, “One leads to another and then another. They flow on forever and forever connected, they enrich our souls and touch our spirits with mysteries that none of us can fully comprehend.”

Finally, news from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

RMEF announced that their CEO, David Allen, is leaving from his post as of January 31, 2018. Nancy Holland, a member of the Board of Directors will step in as an interim CEO.

Allen served as Chief Executive Officer for nearly 11 years, and in a press release from RMEF, he points to 9 years of membership growth, conservation and preservation work on 1.8 million acres of wildlife habitat, and opened or improved public access to nearly 600,000 acres of public land.

On the other hand, under Allen’s tenure, the organization drew criticism from other conservation groups for RMEF’s stance favoring aggressive steps to control wolves, with Allen once telling the Idaho Statesman newspaper that states should “shoot wolves from the air and gas their dens.”

That’s not exactly conservation talk, and RMEF took a lot of flak for that.

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