The early years

| September 30, 2020 7:45 AM

Mentioning the NFIA Fourth of July fish fry got me thinking about my own early years on the North Fork. My folks purchased Kintla Guest Ranch in 1947 when I was 10 years old. In those days there was no TV, very little radio, and my Schwinn bicycle was too hard to pedal on any of the roads. Despite the lack of modern technology those early years were the foundation of my lifelong love affair with this special place. First major activity was fishing. In those days Kintla Ranch guests were steady year-afteryear guests who were there to fish and knew all the best spots on the river. Best of all, they were willing to share their knowledge and let me tag along if they were staying close to the ranch. Among my favorites were Carl Wedum, Al Lucke and Charlie Boyer, longtime friends who came to Kintla Ranch for the same two weeks every July and, before they left, reserved “their” cabin for the next July. Carl and Charlie mainly fished for bull trout which they salted and put in crocks in the root cellar and then spent the last two days of their vacation smoking them to take home. Al was a fly fisherman who fished for eating-fish which he shared mostly for breakfast.

Mostly I fished for bull

trout. No spinning rods in those days so I was equipped with a four foot bait casting rod and reel with 50 pound test line and a steel leader. Lure was either a wooden plug (yellow Wilson wobblers and Heddon Vamps were my favorites or a metal spoon-- usually a red and white daredevil). It took more skill than you might imagine to actually catch a fish.

First of all you have to control the speed of the line leaving the reel with the proper pressure of your thumb. Too little pressure you have a snarled up reel. Too much the lure doesn’t travel as far or as accurate as you need it to.

Maybe most important is reading the water and putting the plug in the right place. Then you have to learn how fast to reel it in. Of course, with a steel leader and 50-pound-test line, once a fish is on you can just turn around and walk home. The fish is sure to follow.

I spent quite a few hours casting before I caught my first bull but after that first one I was seldom skunked. My dad always said you had to hold your face right to catch fish. Maybe he was right. Anyway I always pass his advice on to novice fishermen.

Cutthroat were called by two names. Bluebacks were the smaller cuts

and from eight to ten inches the best eating. Nothing beats a blueback rolled in pancake flour with a little salt and pepper and skillet fried in bacon grease. Larger cuts were called red-bellies and were also good eating. We used to catch enough bluebacks in thirty minutes for a meal.

No more. Thanks to fur, fins and feathers and Mysis shrimp , bull trout and cutthroat are catch and release only. Only lake trout and whitefish can be caught for a meal.

A dirty shame I think. What do you think?

Larry Wilson's North Fork Views appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.