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Alex Diekmann Peak

Gravestones cheer the living, dear, they’re no use to the dead
Steam rises from the Madison River in Montana (photo: NPS / Jacob W. Frank).

The quote from the song "By for Me the Rain" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band evokes a sad reference to how our memorials to the departed are tangible reminders to the living of the deeds of those no longer among us.

The song came to mind when I heard Donald Trump had signed the Alex Diekmann Peak Designation Act into law (Public Law 115-122) on Jan. 31, two years after Alex’s untimely death on Feb. 1, 2016. This new law designates an unnamed peak in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness in Montana as the "Alex Diekmann Peak."

A question of beauty

Where does the beauty in a fly lie?
Tying a not-so-classic pattern by headlamp at night (photo: T.J. Orton).

For a couple seasons now, one of my fly shop co-workers, Bucky McCormick, has gone retrograde with his flies. He’s been tying and fishing classic patterns. By classic I mean older flies with some degree of historical significance, like the Quill Gordon, Brown Bivisible and Black-Nose Dace. Patterns that practically nobody fishes these days—if they’ve even heard of them at all—especially out here in Montana. (Last time I used one myself was in the early 1980s, gulper fishing on Hebgen Lake.

Y'all want fried bread with that?

Fly fishers are a small and transient band
Photo: Matt Reilly | Illustration: Andrea Larko

Fly fishing, as I have come to know it, is a sport defined by local flavor and knowledge; its micro-cultures and idiosyncrasies strongly tied to elements of place. The fly fishing community as a whole, sortof likewise, is a small and transient band.

Photo: L.L. Bean

I tie flies at my dining room table. Or with my vice precariously balanced on the plastic storage shelves in my basement, a section of which houses the bulky cardboard box where my vice—and a respectable smattering of tying supplies—lives for around 363 days of each year. Among my many shameful inadequacies as an angler, predominant above all is my lack of dedication to tying.

Burning down the house

It's on fire, better grab a bucket
Photo: U.S. DOI

Back when I was working as a fly fishing guide in Montana and Idaho, I spent every spare moment fishing. While that may seem like an odd choice to some folks, it made perfect sense to me. Guiding and fishing are two very different things, and while I enjoyed my guiding, I’ve always loved my fishing more.