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Cross-Country Connections

This is not a blog about fly fishing. It’s not a blog about techniques or strategies, not a blog about where to go and how to fish it when you get there. No mention of products or merchandise. It’s a blog about community and connection, long road trips and going it alone, and taking care of ourselves.

In April, things changed. I’ve written about how those changes impacted guided trips and retail sales. We had entered something that we had never experienced before. And it took community and relationships, vision and clarity, to navigate those changes. My hat’s off to co-owners, David and Becky Leinweber, to General Manager Rachel Leinweber, and to Director of Services, Jon Easdon, for a job well done during unprecedented times.

When summer arrived, health experts confirmed what we sort of already knew: being outdoors is healthy. Even in the pandemic. Or maybe, especially in the pandemic. And with that confirmation, people flocked to the outdoors.

My wife and I headed to Almont, Colorado and the fine folks at Willowfly Anglers. Gunnison had been hit hard in March with the Coronavirus. And it showed: lodging and restaurants were serious about masking up and social distancing. Their community, all of Gunnison County, had felt the effects sooner, deeper, and more extensively than other parts of the state. And they were not fooling around in protecting their service employees and their customers.

We floated the Gunnison with Eric Grand from Willowfly as our guide. Once we got to the river, we agreed that we would not wear our masks. Too nonchalant? I dunno. What was great about the float was the conversation, the laughter, the connection to nature and to each other. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful place.

Toward the end of the summer, I had a strange opportunity to drive a tent to a guy in Bozeman, Montana. It was an impulsive, not particularly well-thought-out, decision. The kind of decision my mother used to warn me about making. The dang thing didn’t even fit in my truck.

But, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Am I right?

While I wanted to make a beeline to Bozeman, I did decide to take a break, stretch my legs, and walk for a bit when I reached the Little Bighorn Battlefield.

The visitor center was closed, people were masked up, so the only thing to do, maybe the most important thing to do, was journey through the national monument.

This time-out from driving was so worth it to look out over this expanse of physical space and historical significance.

I dropped off the tent, spent the night in Bozeman, and the next morning visited Montana Angler, the local Orvis shop, after breakfast at The NoVA Cafe. Before hitting the road, I headed over to the Museum of the Rockies.

This isn’t a blog about fly fishing, but I did head to Fort Smith and spent the next day floating the Bighorn in gusts up to 50 mph. I did catch some fish.

This isn’t a blog about fly fishing.

It’s about the idea that our country is so vast with expansive grasslands and prairies and high mountain valleys. Maybe we feel how vast it is more in the western states. I drove north for hours to cross Wyoming. Then more hours west to cross Montana. Through farm land and ranch land, flat lands and the highway as I-90 drops down into Bozeman. I drove through public lands, private lands, and the Crow Reservation.

And rivers run through it all.

We have the chance to travel it solo and to travel it with loved ones. To wind our way down rivers in a drift boat or to wade it one step at a time.

This is a blog to say that we all are connected. We are all connected by a fist bump across a boat or a thank you across a counter.

We are connected by a thin black thread of highway, a dusty cloud on a dirt road, a winding path through a historic battlefield, and the braided river running through native lands.

We are all connected.

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