Years of Salmon

The ghost fish of MontanaRick Bass

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There were salmon here once, in Montana, before a deep change occurred. There is still the alchemy of leaping, gleaming wild trout in Montana, but I believe there used to be salmon—oceangoing salmon. It’s a little-known fact, yet one that anyone who’s interested in exploring the history of the garden could discover.

There are texts that predate ours.

In certain forests, far up in the mountains, where the little creeks rush wild as they emerge from their dramatic headwaters, there are a few boulders that bear the etchings of the first humans who were here, perhaps back before the ice closed in and collapsed over the rivers in temporary dams. The petroglyphs show men in the river netting enormous fish—salmon—in the midst of wild rivers where salmon were never known to exist. As if back then a secret passage to the sea existed.

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