Writer and longtime guide Hilary Hutcheson grew up on Montana’s Middle Fork of the Flathead. She’s fished and guided on the river for years, so when she hit the water with a couple friends for a quick winter float, she had no idea what was in store. “Despite the knee-deep snow and single-digit cold,” she writes, “I thought we could pound a couple of whitefish pools, pound a couple of beers and be out before dark.” Instead, Mother Nature had other plans.

Words: Hilary Hutcheson.

Huddled and shivering in our layers, we were silent as the oars cut through the last two miles in darkness. In the quiet, remembering that this was where I became a fisherman, a boatman and a conservationist, the strangest sense set in. We couldn’t see. But rowing, it was as though I could feel the depth of the water, the bends in the banks, the pebbles rolling below us…

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