Chatham began to paint and began to fish as a little boy in California. While one could argue that his writing — and his cooking — were of equal caliber, the painting and fishing were how most people knew him best.
All four disciplines require precision, and Chatham, despite the physique of a dancing bear, had precision in large quantities. Even so, the long laundry list of accomplishments doesn’t get to who Russell was.
His humor was as broad and bawdy as his life. I will always remember him laughing loudly. Anyone who knew him heard that laugh frequently — heard it and saw it, his big wide grin giving in to the full-on guffaw. I will remember him, too, sitting in a child’s sand-box, completely entranced in the world of his then-four-year-old son Paul; painting in his hideaway studio in Livingston that looked like a machine shop from the outside; eating, and eating, and drinking, and drinking more. (“My girlfriend tells me I drink too much,” he told me one night in my living room, sitting next to several very empty French bottles that had very recently held very good red wine. “But I reject that. Because after long research, I have discovered that I drink just enough.”)
But most of all I will remember him walking the banks of a little creek in the back country of central Montana, eyes glued to the water’s surface, a tiny fly rod in his huge right hand.