"When they saw me, wet and covered with blood, they became excusably excited and wanted to know what was the matter. I told them that I had been killing a grizzly. ‘But what did you kill him with?’ they said. ‘Your gun is here in camp.’ ‘Well,’ I answered, ‘as you fellows did not come when I yelled for help, I had to kill him with my pocketknife.’"

That was William H. Wright, writing in his 1909 book, The Grizzly Bear: The Narrative of a Hunter-Naturalist, of a little trouble he ran into in 1891 along the banks of Idaho’s Clearwater River.

Montana Wind

"Does the wind blow this way here all the time? asked the eastern visitor. 'No mister,' replied the cowboy. 'It'll maybe blow this way for a week or ten days, and then it'll change and blow like hell for a while.'"
-K. Ross Toole, The Uncommon Land

Montana lies beneath a giant weather war zone where cold winds from the north slam against warmer winds from the west. High above these air masses, the jet stream swings back and forth, adding to the unstable, unpredictable weather patterns.

The John at the Bottom

Anglers have dredged up the mysteries of the depths of western streams for decades with the use of flies graced with the occasional lead split shot. The weight aids the fly in probing deep into watery holes, beyond where our feeble land-based eyes can see, to the world of large trout with lazy, gaping maws.

Season Opener: Our Eclectic Community

For as long as most people can remember, Bozeman has suffered from an identity crisis. Cow town, college town, ski town, tourist town, "New West" yuppie town — just what is this place, anyway? The answer, of course, is that Bozeman is all these things. It’s a town of rich history and broad diversity, where all manner of people coexist in one community. Bozeman is the kind of place where you can spend a Saturday night watching world-class thespians perform at a local theatre, head downtown afterward to catch a hip-hop band, and on the way home see a dead elk strapped to someone’s pickup.

Missouri River Safari

"Rivers are highways that move on," observed Blaise Pascal, "and bear us whither we wish to go." If you wish to float back in time this summer, to a place little changed from the days of Lewis and Clark, where the watery landscape resonates with the histories of American Indians, fur trappers, and explorers — then grab a canoe or driftboat and make for the headwaters. Just outside the town of Three Forks, the "Mighty Mo" comes to life in a braided network of stream channels created by the confluence of the Madison, the Jefferson, and the Gallatin rivers.

Backcountry First Aid

It’s happened a countless number of times. Two guys will head past the north boundary of Bridger Bowl to Hardscrabble, anxious to do some backcountry skiing. Wanting to ski light, they leave everything but a beacon and a shovel behind, thinking those items cover the basics. One guy falls and fractures a leg, leaving the other one helpless in the wilderness with a crippled partner.

A Little Bit of Everything

Eastern Montana has its lengthy cold spells, Livingston its winds, Great Falls its temperate weather-but the Gallatin area has a little bit of everything. Part of a semiarid weather zone that experiences the greatest variety of climates in the state, the Gallatin region can be subject to sudden artic air masses, large nightly temperature drops, thunder during spring snow storms, and periodic Chinook winds from the west.

Remembering Hans Saari

I don’t remember when we first met, but it was sometime in the early ‘90s, after Hans graduated from Yale and returned to Bozeman. We first crossed paths at a friend’s house and eventually wound up working the night shift together at Dana Design. This was the ultimate place to work—ski all day, inspect backpacks for four hours, then hit the Haufbrau.

Love on the Rocks

Easing over a small roof, I mantle up onto an ice cream sandwich-sized ledge, some 300 feet above the Gallatin River. It's our fourth pitch, and I stand quickly, hips tight to the rock, and grasp for a small egg-sized pebble protruding from the rotten cliff face. I beg, plead with it to hold, to stay attached as it has for millennia prior. It doesn't. I accelerate, the wind whistles past my ears and I try to tell my belayer that I'm falling.

A Fly Fisherman's Infatuation

I am not a fly fisherman. Lacking a true affinity for political correctness, I am not a fly fisherwoman either. But I do like to fly-fish. It is therapy and yet it is madness, like an addiction.

The lure of the river runs through all the seasons. Winter does most to suspend the sport, but as spring thaws nature's throat, the river calls the angler until there is no option but to return to her. These bodies of water, even more than the fish within them, provoke my admiration.


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