Mend Your Line

river cleanup

A stewardship reminder.

If you’re reading this, chances are you care about the health of Montana’s rivers. You know that a clean, undisturbed river will produce the best fishing experience. But let’s face it—no matter how diligent we are about mitigating our impacts, fishing will always affect the natural state of a stream. Whether it’s damage to sensitive riparian vegetation, or disturbing spawning fish and egg stashes, our mere presence alone can have adverse effects on a waterway. Finding harmony with the complex ecosystems of our rivers is becoming ever more important, as fly fishing continues to grow in popularity.

How can you, as an individual, help reduce the environmental impacts of fishing? First and foremost, acknowledge that it’s about more than just catching fish. Yes, we’re all after the feeling of a long fight and landing a lunker. But we’re also fishing among the most beautiful places on Earth. You’re here for more than just the biggest and feistiest of trout—you’re here for the views of majestic mountains, the avian and mammalian wildlife that grace our riverbanks, and the serenading sounds of the stream. Protecting rivers is bigger than protecting fish.

With this in mind, recognize that you’re not alone in appreciating the river’s natural beauty. In addition to fellow anglers, many others appreciate the natural state of our rivers, such as wildlife watchers (and the wildlife itself, for that matter), recreational floaters, riparian ecologists, and private landowners. If you encounter any of these parties, lend a wide berth, and adjust your fishing plan if necessary. Make sure you’re mindful of land ownership, and avoid shortcuts through private land, even if there’s already a trail blazed through the brush.

To take it a step further, FAS cleanup are a great way to make a positive impact on our streams, and they also offer an opportunity to mingle with like-minded anglers who care about our waters. Yes, in an ideal world, trash at access sites wouldn’t be an issue; but these events are about more than just picking up other people’s trash. You might help out with maintaining a boat ramp, or fixing up the public facilities. A variety of conservation organizations and local businesses host these events, so you’re sure to find one on your favorite river. These gatherings are usually capped off by a complimentary riverside cookout—all the more reason to get involved. To find an upcoming FAS cleanup, head to