OVANDO - It was 25-years ago this week the captivating short story "A River Runs Through It" debuted on the big screen, with director Robert Redford lovingly translating the Maclean family's story to film. Although it wasn't filmed in Missoula, the movie helped to complete the local legacy the novella had introduced.
And for Norman Maclean's grandson, this year marks not only the anniversary of a personal tale of Western Montana life but a reminder of the value of the Blackfoot Stewardship Act.
A few weeks ago, before the summer fire smoke choked the Blackfoot Valley, The Montana Wilderness Association invited supporters of the Blackfoot Stewardship Act to see how protections on the headwaters are so critical for the legendary river. Setting off from Corrick's River Bend, MTN News floated past the canyon where Norman Maclean, his brother Paul and father shared that remarkable last fishing trip.
It's a place where Montana seems more poetic, more thoughtful, in a state that encourages deep thinking. But Maclean's grandson, along for the float, says for him it's a place where memories, and the technic of Norman's "four-count rhythm", mingle with his own experience.
"I think my goal is when I'm out here is to get to a point where I'm clean of thoughts and just experiencing the moment. But there's never a time when my grandfather's spirits not near my heart when I'm fishing," said Noah Snyder, Norman Maclean's grandson.
"He had all sorts of rules about how to do it and many of them I obey. Not all of them. But he informs everything I do out here. Most of what I know," Snyder added. About the foundations of my understanding of wild places and rivers and fishing knots and rods. He planted most of those seeds and my parents with him. So it all connects together into one thing. It's my history, and his history and this place. It all becomes one thing."
The interesting thing about experiencing the Blackfoot or any of those other special places in Western Montana is how that experience becomes your own. While you can build upon the legacy of someone like Norman Maclean, it's all about finding your own way. And your own depiction of these special places.
Snyder sees his 9-year old son and his nephew discovering the Blackfoot for themselves…
"They're having the same experience my brother and I had. And my grandfather and his brother had. And there is a continuity. There's a shared experience. There's a truth in it," Snyder said.
It's that unique ecosystem supporters say the Act would enhance. Preserving not only these lower reaches of holes and riffles but the upper headwaters…
"They're cold, clear mountain streams that are great fisheries habitat. And a lot of these fluvial westslope cutthroat and bull trout will migrate up through the river systems into those smaller tributaries to reproduce," said Alec Underwood with the Montana Wildlife Federation.
And it's not just fishing and floating. Snyder notes the Act would protect the "shoulder areas" up against the western Bob Marshall.
"This would protect those areas. The areas that would get visited the most. It would mean that those same places I went on a hike with my grandfather and my parents, they'll be there for my son and hopefully, his children and," Snyder said. "Iit's on us to save these places. If we don't they won't be there. Nobody will be able to experience it again."