BIG SKY – Since 2000, the Gallatin River Task Force has had one goal: protect and preserve the Gallatin River.

Seventeen years later, the organization is still going strong, wrapping up its Sixth Annual Gallatin River Fly Fishing Festival in Big Sky.

Hundreds came out to support the cause and Task Force Development Director Andrea Saari said this year was unlike any other.

“It’s our biggest year yet. When you look around we have folks mingling, we’ve got lots of great representatives from all aspects of conservation. We’ve got all sorts of people representing the river,” said Saari.

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The festival is a crucial part of the organization’s mission because it allows them to fund a lot of upcoming projects.

Some of these projects include:

  • Improving the condition and safety of river access sites on the mainstem Gallatin
  • Improve water quality
  • Develop plans for wastewater
  • Pinpoint areas subject to sudden and potentially dangerous events

While the main goal of the festival is to raise money to fund these projects, the other focus is to begin to teach the youth of Montana the importance of conservation.

Without the educational aspect, Saari believes their mission will not carry over into the next generation.

“If you teach children at a young age to be stewards of the river, when they’re 14 years old they’re going to be jazzed about protecting the river. When they’re 20 years old they’re going to be jazzed about protecting the river, so it really comes full circle. We have to have the children component of it to make it successful in the future,” said Saari.

So far that mission has been a success. A perfect example is Finn McRae, a 10-year-old who has been fishing for three years. McRae has attended the fly fishing festival in the past, but this year he is working with the Task Force by tying and selling flies.

“If there wasn’t this festival, then I don’t think the Gallatin or any of these rivers would be as pretty as they are,” said McRae.

Last year the task force raised $23,000. But this year the Gallatin River Task force projects they will raise between $35,000-$40,000. All in hopes to keep fly fishing around for McRae and future generations.