Our recent family vacation in Montana began with a fly fishing experience on the Story family ranch and their private lakes in the heart of Paradise Valley. (We know a guy – or should I say, we know a guide!) And, you all know how much I like a good story, so it was very fitting to start my summer vacation on a lake named Story.
The storied Story family history starts with Nelson, who bought a thousand Texas cattle with money from mining gold in Montana. With the crew he hired, Nelson Story made the most famous and longest cattle drive in history. From Texas to Montana, through thousands of miles of plains and mountains, he arrived in Montana in 1866. And, for five generations the Story family continues to operate Montana’s oldest cattle ranch.
Story family members have included cowboys, marksmen and ropers, a State Senator, the largest Montana sheep rancher, and adventurers. The Story’s are rumored to be the family that the Kevin Costner television series Yellowstone is based upon. I suppose it is possible although the series creator denies it is based on a real family. Regardless, the Story family is an integral part of Montana’s story.
Our Story Lake story had a purpose. It would be a quiet, calm, and remote spot for learning how to fly fish. Several of us had never tried to fly fish before so James wanted to start on a lake, not a river with strong currents. Our family had exclusive use of both the Upper and the Lower Lakes that day, and it truly was a spiritual and inspirational experience. While I did not catch any fish, I learned the art of the roll cast, and that I should always watch my bobber. I got a ton of bites, but I was constantly looking at the scenery or Jim fishing on the water’s edge, and missed a few times when my bobber was clearly underwater with a fish on. Patience is a virtue that I do not possess, so I had to really focus on watching and waiting.
Story Lake is an incredibly beautiful, hard-to-get-to mountain lake seemingly untouched by time or humans. Our visit there is one I will not soon forget. Under a bright blue, big sky, with cattle grazing in and along the lower lake, I was able to start the process of decompressing from a complicated year. I left the lake without catching a fish, but instead, catching a deep sense of peace that came from the knowledge that I did my best last year, and that I never backed down from any challenges or obstacles in the way of a successful academic year at Kent School.
The day after Story Lake, I took the girls to the spa at The Sage Lodge, while the boys fished the Gardiner in Yellowstone National Park. I told my family that after the first two days of our trip, I felt the most relaxed I had felt in a year and a half. I realized then just how long I had been holding my breath.
Once I could exhale, I perfected my set on James’ drift boat early one morning as Jenna and I fished the Yellowstone River. James was more excited than I was when I caught my first fish on a fly. I also learned to mend and point. James is a gentle teacher, but he definitely yelled at me a few times to set, or to quickly sit to navigate high water!
While our days were fun-filled and action-packed, living in a gorgeous, secluded log cabin on the bank of the Yellowstone River was especially relaxing and restful. The home was named Paradise River’s Edge – and it truly was. Loud family dinners cooked on the grill, Trivia, creatively crafted by Kelsy, card games, and late night conversations by the fire pit, warmed my heart and soul. I am so grateful for the love of family and the healing power of the great outdoors.
Good bye for now Montana, we will return.