Bob Thomas: Trout-fishing season’s arrival brings fond memories |

Bob Thomas: Trout-fishing season’s arrival brings fond memories

Bob Thomas

Ahh, fishing season.

As vacation time approaches, my mind is drifting in the direction of trout fishing. I’ve fished many times in the Idaho and Montana areas. I originally did so with my parents in 1950, the year I graduated from UCLA. Mom and Dad bought a 28-foot travel trailer and a 12-foot Wizard fiberglass boat with an outboard engine, and were determined to fish every trout lake from Idaho to Michigan. Me? I needed a change, having just completed two years in the Air Corps and five years of college.

Travel trailers in those days were extremely heavy, and we were pulling ours with a six-cylinder, 90-horsepower 1946 Oldsmobile, with the boat mounted on the roof. That car was never designed to haul the load we had through endless mountains, but it came through like a champ.

We began fishing in Island Park, Idaho, a large lake punctuated by several small islands. It was sparsely populated. We were flying blind and had zero advance information on fishing conditions. The altitude was about 7,000 feet. It being early in June, we pretty much had the area to ourselves. Dad and Mom did some bass fishing years before, but I was a tenderfoot.

Before leaving home we visited sporting-goods stores and bought the obvious stuff for such a trip, but we were ignorant about trout trolling lures. We wouldn’t be using bait or flies. Rainbow trout, being game fish, are territorial. Trolling lures make them angry enough to strike. There were dozens from which to choose. The little Wizard boat performed beautifully and had a wide beam. Taking turns, one person trolled on each side while the third person operated the boat.

We got skunked the first morning — not even a strike. I had tried everything in my tackle box except one raunchy old wood Flatfish with chipped paint that a buddy gave me. It no sooner hit the water than whammo! Within two hours we caught our limits of 3- to 8-pounders all with that old Flatfish, releasing most. Being natives, not stockers, they fought like hell.

Now we had to find some Flatfish for Mom and Dad. Driving back to Great Falls, we located a precious few. Following 10 great days in Island Park, we moved on to Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone. Here was a trailer park with restrooms and showers in the center. Yellowstone lake trout were all cutthroat, similar to Nevada’s Pyramid Lake species. Thanks to Flatfish, we were the champs that year.

Being a professional trumpet player while in college, I never went anywhere without my horn. I practiced every day to keep my lip in shape. Coincidently, at a lodge one mile from Fishing Bridge there was a pretty good 12-piece college dance band playing every night for public dancing. They were shy one trumpet player, so I ended up playing with them almost every night, always followed by fun parties with cool college girls …

One night, returning to our trailer, I locked my horn in our car and made a pit stop in the restrooms. There was no moon and it was pitch-black. Our trailer was about 50 yards from the restrooms. As I rounded the corner of our trailer, I bumped into a bear that, having heard me coming, was up on its hind legs. Now, I vaguely remember hearing claws digging into the gravel as I took off. God witnessed me setting the unofficial world’s 50-yard dash record getting back to the restrooms, where I remained till daylight. My feet never touched the ground.

It was a super fishing trip. We ended up crossing Wisconsin and Minnesota, also fishing for Pike. Little did I realize that while future fishing trips to Idaho and Montana would be excellent, none would quite equal that first one. Happy fishing!

Bob Thomas is a retired high-tech industrialist who served on the Carson City School Board, the Nevada Welfare Board and the Carson City Airport Authority and as a three-term Assemblyman, and is an author. His book website is