By Rae Tyson for Daily Climate


Bozeman, Mont., is the Mecca for fly fishing in the United States, and Dave Kumlien knows the waters in and around Bozeman as well as anyone.

A Montana fly-fishing guide since the early 1970s, he opened the first fly-fishing store in town in 1978 with wife, Karyn. It helped build an industry that today brings $300 million annually to the state.

In the late 1990s, he sold the store, now called Montana Troutfitters, but he still guides. Kumlien also heads Trout Unlimited's aquatic invasive species program.  

Daily Climate: In nearly 40 years of fishing, you have seen a lot of changes. The population around Bozeman has nearly tripled. Describe the differences between then and now.

Dave Kumlien: I am not one to decry the growth and lament and pine for the  good old days. It still is a great place to live and to fish.

But surely all those people impact your favorite fishing holes?

If you want to go to the Madison River at nine o'clock during the salmon fly hatch, you're going to see a lot of people. (But) by getting started a little earlier than the guides and the "normal" folks, I have the rivers to myself. This is why the Lord made coffee and alarm clocks.

What about physical changes? Data suggests that Montana has experienced some climate change over time.

I'm not a nonbeliever, but I have a hard time finding impacts on the stuff I like to do. I don't think there's any question the winters have gotten milder. I am one who likes to see the data. Anecdotes are cool, but they're human nature and they're short-term.

What about that amazing spring runoff this year? You couldn't fish the Yellowstone River until early August.

Oh, I am sure we'll see those conditions again. It was probably the latest start I've seen on the Yellowstone during my time here, but the river wasn't as high as it was in the back-to-back 100-year-floods in 1996 and 1997 when the Yellowstone blew up its channel and re-organized and obliterated DePuy's and Armstrong spring creeks.  

There's increasing evidence climate change will lead to more extreme weather, like last winter's huge snowpack.

If that becomes the norm, there's clearly going to be some huge changes in the dynamics of the season. That shortened the season way, way up for the fishing tackle business.

What'd it do to the fish?

You leave your house in the morning, you walk through your living room to get out your front door, right? Now imagine if you came home and your living room was in your attic. You'd be outta there. That's what those high-volume incidents do: They rearrange stuff. The fish just disappear.

Any impact from the July rupture of the Exxon pipeline buried five feet below the Yellowstone?

We were lucky. There was so much water in the river it blew the oil to North Dakota. And they want it anyway. But if this is the future, they need to put those pipelines deeper down. I'll pay an extra five cents for gasoline. The power of these rivers at those levels is mindboggling.

Favorite place to fish?

Boy, I have so many favorites. If I was limited to one river, I'd take the Yellowstone.

What is your favorite way to prepare a fresh-caught fish?

Pretty hard to beat pan-fried in butter.  

You have accompanied thousands of anglers on trips to some beautiful waterways. Any oddball requests stand out?  

What jumps into my head is the fellow who booked me and my drift boat to float the upper Yellowstone for a whitewater, I-want-to-get-wet trip. Guy didn't want to fish, just wanted to float.

This story originally appeared in Daily Climate and is reprinted with permission here. Climate Query is a semi-weekly feature offered by Daily Climate, presenting short Q&A's with players large and small in the climate arena. Read others in the series.

A Montana fisherman takes stock of spills, growth and 2011's big runoff
Dave Kumlien has fished and guided some of the most famous fly fishing holes in the U.S. for 40 years. In that time some Montana rivers have seen three '100-yea