Skip to main content Skip to main content

Bud Lilly

© Walter Hinick, Montana Standard

A pioneer of the Catch - and - Release movement has died.  Bud Lilly, 91, passed away peacefully on January 4th in Bozeman, MT.  Lilly was renowned as a guide, business owner and advocate whose conservation work helped preserve Montana's stream resources and shaped the culture of modern fly fishing.

As reported in the Montana Standard, "While he grew famous in the sport, he guided the rich and famous, including media stars like Dan Rather, Curt Gowdy, and Charles Kuralt, and as the owner of a legendary West Yellowstone fly shop where Jimmy Carter once visited him, he will be remembered most for everything he gave back to the sport."

Lilly was a visionary and a founding member of Trout Unlimited in Montana, recognizing early in his career that catch-and-release fishing would need to become standard if the sport were to be able to grow within the confines of limited resources. "We had a fairly simple idea of waste." Lilly wrote in the Standard "If we gave the fish to someone, or ate them ourselves, they weren't wasted.  It took a long time for most of us to figure out that there is more than one way to waste a fish."


The idea of releasing fish was radical at the time, but gradually was adopted. "Back when that happened, people were up in arms," said John Bailey, of Dan Bailey's Fly Shop in Livingston.  "And nowadays ... I hardly ever see anyone keep a fish."


Lilly was also a strong voice in legislation, and was a frequent visitor to the state capitol of Helena, making public testimony whenever issues of conservation and associated policy were up for votes.  Lilly is credited as being instrumental in petitioning the state fish and wildlife in modifying practices in regards to stocking of hatchery fish, and encouraging wild trout populations to grow to natural limits, a policy that set a standard with fisheries management across the West.  Instead of having monies being allocated for the raising and distribution of nonnative hatchery fish such as rainbows, funds were redirected to habitat improvement and law enforcement on certain rivers, which resulted in higher numbers of larger sized wild fish than were produced via stocking, with cost savings in the bargain.  Leftover funds could then be redirected to more necessary hatchery support efforts in restoring threatened populations of native species such as Cutthroats.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock issued a statement mourning Lilly on Thursday afternoon, saying that Montana "lost a true outdoorsman, a stalwart of conservation and a leading voice in Montana's fishing community. He was, and will always be remembered as, "a trout's best friend."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lR8wNpG2XOc

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Popular Videos

Tying the Kamikaze Sculpin Fly

Tying the Kamikaze Sculpin Fly

Charlie Craven is at the fly tiers bench to show how to tie the Kamikaze Sculpin Fly in a step-by-step video guide.

Benefits of Using a Kayak for Fishing

Benefits of Using a Kayak for Fishing

This video will give you a brief overview of the additional fishing opportunities and benefits of owning a kayak.

Tying Gerbec

Tying Gerbec's Resting Caddis Fly

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to tie Gerbec's Resting Caddis fly and the materials you'll need.

See All Videos

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Fly Fisherman App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Fly Fisherman stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Fly Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now