MONTANA’S LAST BEST RIVER: The Big Hole and Its People. By Pat Munday. 157 pp. Illustrated. Published by The Lyons Press, Dept. FS, P.O. Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437. Hardcover, $40.
If you were to step out onto the bleached cobbles of the Big Hole River in August, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Just how many words and photographs can a river you can spit across warrant?
In Montana’s Last Best River, author Pat Munday explores two themes: the rich history of what was once America’s finest trout stream, and its potential to yet reclaim the honor. All proceeds benefit the Big Hole River Foundation, a cooperative of anglers, ranchers, and conservationists that aims to “understand, preserve, and enhance the free-flowing character of the Big Hole River.”
The foundation has been instrumental in improving headwater flows to protect the threatened fluvial graylingÂ¿Â¿Â¿a bonus for anglers pursuing chunky rainbow and brown trout. If I have any criticism of the book, and I do, it’s that the pretty pictures and gushing prose paint a target on a river that is already loved too much by too many, and that relatively short shrift is given to the problems of dewatering in the prime trout water from Divide to Twin Bridges.
Munday tries not to tread on the toes of the agricultural community that the foundation works with, but when the state fish and wildlife department has to close large stretches of its best trout stream nearly every recent summer due to low flows and resulting high water temperatures, not just weather should shoulder the blame. That aside, this is a coffee-table book in the very best sense of the term, giving you a vivid glimpse of a part of Montana history that is really not so distant, and bringing you close to a river that is just a few hundred cubic feet per second shy of being a dream come true.
Since the book costs $40, you might not be faulted for asking if it will help you bring a trout to net in the Big Hole. It won’t. For that, you’re better off calling a local fly shop and hiring a guide. I recommend Watershed Fly Fishing Adventures (www.watershedadventures.com; 800-753-6660) in Dillon.