Fishing for Home

Fishing for Home

  • By: Laura Munson
Fishing for Home

When i moved to northwest Montana, I was obsessed with books about place. As a city person and writer it was my way to make friends with this wild country I was trying to call home. Harrison, Duncan, Bass, Hugo—writers who allowed the land to get under their skin. Who felt a mystic pull to lessons of the natural world. I wanted those lessons. That pull. So I asked a friend to take me into it. Way into it. She sized me up and agreed. I felt chosen.

The next day I was in a meadow in Glacier National Park, pursuing rainbow trout, wearing polypropylene waders, with a box of flies and a rod in my hand, a can of bear spray strapped to my pack.

“Do you know what to do if you see a griz?” she asked.

“Pray?” I said.

“Pretty much,” she said. But she showed me how to use the bear spray, how to curl up in a ball if necessary. She told me about a bluff charge and said, “Whatever you do, don’t run.”

If I was scared, it was a good scared. I felt so alive. This could be a scene in a Harrison novel. Maybe we’d bring home some rainbows and cook them in a huckleberry demi-glace and pair it with a nice Sancerre. I excused myself the romance. Romance seemed part of receiving Montana.

My friend demonstrated, “Ten to two,” adding, “Let the rod do the work, not your arm.” It was like a form of Thai Chi, so graceful, cutting Ss into the sapphire skies.

I tried to copy her, but got my hook stuck in the high grass.

“It takes a while,” she said, moving down the lake as if to give me space, until she was far enough away that I felt like it was just the lake, the fish, my rod and me.

I couldn’t believe it: I was really there, in a meadow in Montana, way back in grizzly bear country, on the food chain, puny and human. Prey. If I caught a fish, it would be gravy. Maybe we’d cut it up raw and eat it like sushi. That would be a good story to tell my city friends. If I ever met Harrison, I’d have bragging rights. I could feel it—I was finding home here.

I took a deep breath and as I flung out my line, the sun on my face, the possibility of what might meet my fly from the depths of this meadow lake . . . the ground swallowed me, my pride and my future as a Harrison heroine—all in one muddy gulp.

I was up to my armpits, my waders filling fast with primordial goo. I couldn’t move. Bear spray couldn’t save me. And no running. Just screaming.

I tried to find the edge of the meadow, but there was only viscous mud. And finally, helping arms. I learned, for the first time, what it was to surrender to the power of nature. Which is to say . . . that was the day Montana got under my skin.

Laura Munson is the author of The New York Times bestselling memoir This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A season of unlikely happiness. She lives in northwest Montana. See more of her work at www.lauramunson.com