Regular readers will naturally expect tenkara to be the topic of most of my contributions to this magazine. In this case, I will ask for your indulgence as I offer a tribute to a dear friend and colleague who died recently.
Most readers will not have heard of Alex Diekmann, and that is not a surprise. Alex did not seek the spotlight or recognition; he let his work speak for him. But if you fish in Montana, tenkara or otherwise, you have seen or benefited from his work.
Alex and I worked together at the Trust for Public Land (TPL); he was a project manager, and I was a lobbyist. He found the places to protect, and I helped find the resources to try and protect them.
When I accepted the job at TPL, Alex called me. We had never met, and he was already getting me involved in his work.
"Hey, do you know where Three Dollar Bridge is on Madison?" Alex asked.
"I wouldn't be much of a fly fisherman if I didn't," was my reply.
"So I have a chance to put an easement on the ranch where it is and create a trail connecting Three Dollar to Raynolds (Raynolds Pass Bridge). I need to generate some support for it, do you think your fly-fishing buddies would care?"
"Alex, you pull that off, and they will write songs about you."
If you have fished at Three Dollar Bridge, you know that trail exists. And now you know to thank Alex Diekmann for getting it done.
He was infectious in his love of the land, gifted in finding unique places and tenacious in their protection. He was an artful dealmaker, at finding the right measure of charm, passion and incentive to keep people at the table and make a deal work. A testimony to Alex's skill is how many friends he made while putting these deals together.
Alex’s friend Jeff Lazlo had started restoring the wetlands on the Lazlo family's ranch. Alex was there to help, and O'Dell Creek is now a haven and breeding ground for native cutthroats in the Madison River. And yes, O'Dell is where Craig Matthews, Yvon Chouinard and Mauro Mazzo famously practice the gentle art of tenkara as noted in their book, Simple Fly Fishing.
A little further down the Madison Valley, before you get to Three Dollar Bridge, look to the east and see the Sun Ranch. Along with its Madison River frontage, it includes mountain creeks providing critical nursery habitat for native cutthroat. That was Alex's handiwork.
Alex took me to the Taylor Fork during one of our trips together showing me a secret garden of prime elk and grizzly bear habitat in the Gallatin National Forest. Whenever I fish there, I think of Alex and how that magical fishing spot would not be what is today but for his tireless efforts.
Alex's work is a gift to fisherman, and all who love the outdoors.
On February 1, 2016, nine days short of his 53rd birthday, Alex Boris Diekmann, died peacefully at his home in Bozeman, Montana. He leaves behind his wife Lisa, his sons Logan and Liam, family, friends and colleagues who will sing his song for years to come.