Short casts: Bud Lilly, when private land goes public and show season

Photo by Walter Hinick, the Ravalli Republic

When I first moved to eastern Idaho as a journalist almost 20 years ago, I was assigned a story about the priority the National Park Service was placing on protecting native cutthroat trout. New to the area, I started doing some basic research on the topic. The obvious place to start was with the Park Service, but as a journalist, I also wanted that “real people” perspective, so I started looking for fishing contacts in West Yellowstone. The first listing to pop up was Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop. So, I got on the phone.

“Hi, is Bud there?” I asked when an fly shop employee answered the phone. The guy laughed. Turned out, Bud had been long retired, even 20 years ago, and was enjoying the autumn of his life at his home in Three Forks. The shop, under independent ownership since the early 80s, wisely kept the fly fishing legend’s name on the shingle, and has ever since. Bud died last week at 91. His heart, the one that was so big that he shared it with the fly fishing world for generations, finally gave out. Bud was a legend, a tireless advocate for conservation (he is credited for making catch-and-release fly fishing mainstream) and an unwavering ambassador for the craft of fly fishing. He will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, my friend.

Bud, of course, made his name fishing for the wild trout he loved so much in the publicly accessible rivers in and around Yellowstone. The public lands debate, of late, has spurred some rare unified passion among sportsmen here in the West, and that’s a good thing. Today, I stumbled on a piece in Hatch Magazine from my good friend (and Candlewood Valley Trout Unlimited volunteer) Steve Zakur, who offered up a unique perspective from his howe waters in New England. What happens, he asks, when a private (but accessible) stretch of trout stream goes public? It’s a worth a read.

Video of the day

And, finally, it’s officially “show season.” The Denver version of the Fly Fishing Show wrapped up this weekend, and the traveling circus (and it is a circus, trust me), now heads east to Marlborough, Mass., and Somerset, N.J. The annual circuit gives fly fishers (and new fly fishers) the chance to scratch that itch a bit before spring hits in a couple of months, although, with two feet of accumulated snow on the front lawn here in Idaho Falls, spring feels a long ways off.

If you have a chance, and can handle the migraine-inducing trade-show lighting at exhibition halls all around the country, spend a day at a show near you. You’ll get a chance to rub elbows with fly fishing legends, enjoy casting new rods, and put your hands on new gear. And, of course, the show is famous for its door prizes.

Until next time…

— Chris Hunt

By Chris Hunt.