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

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Scientific Anglers Amplitude Infinity

Scientific Anglers Amplitude Infinity

Scientific Anglers Amplitude Infinity

SIMMS Flyweight Wader

SIMMS Flyweight Wader

A Hex Grid chest panel allows users to affix other components such as pack vest, nest holster, bottle holster, or bear spray.

Tying the Double Barrel Popper

Tying the Double Barrel Popper

All these tricks can be put to use on poppers or sliders for anything with fins, from panfish to billfish.

Thomas & Thomas Paradigm

Thomas & Thomas Paradigm

Thomas & Thomas Paradigm

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

You can be a successful freshwater fly fisher with just the nine knots shown here.9 Best Fly Fishing Knots You Should Know Beginners

9 Best Fly Fishing Knots You Should Know

Fly Fisherman Staff | Illustrations by Joe Mahler

You can be a successful freshwater fly fisher with just the nine knots shown here.

George Daniels offers his advice on which types of fly-fishing leaders are best for the most common applications you'll encounter on the water.Picking the Perfect Fly-Fishing Leader Beginners

Picking the Perfect Fly-Fishing Leader

George Daniel

George Daniels offers his advice on which types of fly-fishing leaders are best for the most...

You don't always catch large trout in these alpine lakes and streams, but even the small ones are brightly colored treasures.Alpine Lakes for Remote Monsters Trout

Alpine Lakes for Remote Monsters

Landon Mayer - April 18, 2018

You don't always catch large trout in these alpine lakes and streams, but even the small ones...

See More Trending Articles

More Industry

He left a lasting legacy on the sport of fly fishing.Ed Shenk Influenced Us All Industry

Ed Shenk Influenced Us All

Ross Purnell - April 15, 2020

He left a lasting legacy on the sport of fly fishing.

The fly fishing communities in the U.S. and Belize are mourning after twin slayings that occurred on what appeared to be a routine guide trip on Sunday, June 23, 2019 in a shallow lagoon near San Pedro, Brazil.Fly Fishing Community Stunned by Twin Slayings on Belize Saltwater Flat Industry

Fly Fishing Community Stunned by Twin Slayings on Belize Saltwater Flat

Fly Fisherman Online Staff - June 27, 2019

The fly fishing communities in the U.S. and Belize are mourning after twin slayings that...

American Rivers today released its annual list of America's Most Endangered Rivers.America's Most Endangered Rivers of 2020 Industry

America's Most Endangered Rivers of 2020

Fly Fisherman - April 14, 2020

American Rivers today released its annual list of America's Most Endangered Rivers.

See More Industry

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

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

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