“I grew up blue collar. I knew I couldn’t have everything. I used to date this girl back in Pennsylvania. I’d came home from a date and see the fly fishing book on the coffee table and knew that I’d rather have that than her.”
Ken Stull grew up outside of Wilkes-Barre, PA and came to Montana years ago. “There’s a tradeoff to living in Montana, low wages. But how do you put a price on this view?” We were standing outside the Blackfoot Angler, a general store and fly-fishing boutique that sits next to The Stray Bullet Cafe in the tiny town of Ovando. Kathy Schoendoerfer, the self-described Ovando Organizer of Frivolous Affairs, owns the Blackfoot Angler though it seems to operate on good will more than hard cash. Ken keeps an eye on the store, and drifts over to the cafe when a coffee urge comes over him.
Fly-fishing is pure enjoyment of man and creature. “A fly fisherman has the option to release the fish unharmed; the flies almost never dig too deep to harm the fish. Trout swim in crystal clear waters, which often have lots of food sources. They become selective about what they like, which we call the ‘hatch’. Flies try to ‘match the hatch’ so we trick the trout into jumping after what they crave.”
“My parents got sick and I went back to Pennsylvania to care for them. It near killed me to leave Montana, but it turned out to be a good thing. After they passed, I sold the farm, and now I am more independent. I have my dog, she’s my family.”
“I wish we could get people to life in big towers and leave the land untouched. But private property rights govern and everyone wants their piece. Look at Paradise Valley down near Livingston. It is the most beautiful valley on earth, filling up with five acre ranchettes.”
“For many fishermen, the key is to get the fish to jump for the fly; they don’t even care if they snag it. I also like the feel of reeling it in.”
“Henry’s Fork in Idaho, that’s where you go to get your PhD. in fly fishing. The stream is clear, the hatch abundant, and the trout selective. I’ve never tried it but I heard guys got so frustrated by the fish they threw expensive rods away in disgust. Sure enough, one day a guy came in here and told me he did just that.”
Ken took out a laminated trout book and showed me various types. “Brook trout are the only indigenous species in the East. White men introduced brook trout out here, and rainbow trout back there. Then they brought brown trout from England, which are bigger and take over. The golden trout; that’s the prince. He is difficult to catch but so gorgeous to look at.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“This place will get developed, but not in my lifetime. People need to live places, and eventually they’ll come here.”