Editor’s Note: Ducks Unlimited Canada was saddened to learn about the tragic passing of former Alberta premier and former federal environment minister Jim Prentice on October 14, 2016. Mr. Prentice was a strong conservation supporter and an avid outdoorsman. The following is an article from the Conservator archives written by DUC’s former director of government relations, Barry Turner. Turner recounts the special fishing trip he enjoyed with Mr. Prentice: one where good friends and great tales were shared along the mighty Missouri. Originally published in fall, 2010.
It has often been said that conservation without action is simply conversation. Though, rarely- if ever- does an opportunity present itself where the conversation is all about conservation of our wetlands and the action is happening while standing waist deep in Montana’s mighty Missouri River fly-casting for hungry trout with Canada’s environment minister while under the watchful eye and tutelage of the son of an American literary giant.
But that is exactly what happened to a small group of us earlier this summer.
It all started back in February, when Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) President Jack Hole and I met with the Hon. Jim Prentice, MP Calgary Centre-North since 2004 and Canada’s environment minister since 2008, to discuss Canada’s urgent need for wetland and waterfowl conservation. As our busy meeting wrapped up in the Minister’s Ottawa office, we talked about our shared passions for the outdoors and how we all prefer to spend our leisure time.
Ardent waterfowlers, Jack and I both remarked that we hoped lots of fishing would come before our hunting seasons.A pheasant hunter back in his home province of Alberta who readily admitted he would like to get out more often, Minister Prentice was also an avid fly fisherman, and when it came to authors, a huge Ernest Hemingway fan.
The look exchanged between Jack Hole and me was immediate. I’d fished last October in Montana with the legendary writer’s son, Patrick, a friendship that began 40 years ago in Tanzania where I was a game warden and he an instructor at the College of African Wildlife Management.
Now 82 years “young,” Patrick Hemingway invited the Minister, Jack Hole and me as well as longtime pal Bob Jamieson to his summer home in Craig, Montana to experience world class fly fishing on the Missouri River=Smartly situated on the banks of the Missouri River, Patrick’s summer retreat is about 200 kilometres downriver from the headwaters of the longest river in America.
After we arrived, Pat escorted us to the river to get our road-weary muscles loosened up and some of our fly fishing rust dusted off. We were geared up and strung along the bank like a chorus line of flyfishers as our host sat back like a director on a movie set coaching us as we imagined only a Hemingway could do on the finer points of fly-fishing.
But it was more than a lesson. As we cast and practised our timing, Pat shared stories of the rich fishing history of the Missouri and the stellar reputation it has justly earned. Our readiness for the next day began to pulse from our chest waders to our fingertips. We were primed and ready to roll.
Although the surroundings, fine camaraderie, light banter and anticipation of spectacular trout fishing all made the day special, the evening alongside Pat Hemingway and his gracious wife Carol was clearly the highlight for all of us. Joined by our fishing guide Pete Cardinal and his wife Sandee, Pat regaled us over cocktails and dinner with his encyclopedic memory of boyhood stories. These stories ranged from some of his father’s exploits in Spain where bull fighting so enthralled him to fishing tales in Cuba and Florida. Of course, there were also East African adventures with many of the professional pioneers of big game hunting.
We took to the shallows of the mighty Missouri the next day with gusto. We caught fish after fish, all safely put back in the water to provide spectacular fishing and replenish stocks for another day. We had we shared some great times with our host. And we also enjoyed our time with Minister Prentice talking about Canada’s environmental agenda and the initiatives that the Minister has been such a major force in delivering. Understandably, our conversations centered on wetland conservation and the vital role that wetland play in maintaining healthy landscapes – including safeguarding the health and productivity of the mighty Missouri River. We also presented Minister Prentice with a report on DUC’s accomplishments under Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program and highlighted the critically important role that this program has played in accelerating the permanent protection of over 105,000 acres of important waterfowl habitat across southern Canada over the last three years. The Government of Canada has provided over $18 million in funding, which DUC and its partners have matched 2.7 times, to make this public/private partnership an outstanding success.
As we departed together, we all felt special. Indeed we had truly shared a very special fishing safari that highlighted the passion for conservation that runs through all of us and motivated us to do more.
First published in fall 2010