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Grip on Sports: Father’s Day is a perfect day to catch up on fishing stories

Dezmund Vanek, fishing with his grandfather, Steve Vanek, gets to touch his first trout. (Rich Landers)
Dezmund Vanek, fishing with his grandfather, Steve Vanek, gets to touch his first trout. (Rich Landers)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It's Father's Day. For all you fathers out there, have a good one. Maybe take your kids fishing. If that's your preference. It certainly was for the dads profiled below. Read on.


• We asked and you answered. Thank you. You shared your memories of fishing with your dad for Father's Day as I shared mine earlier.

The stories that follow are better. Mainly because they have happy endings. And we're all suckers for happy endings, right?


• My dad was an avid fisherman. 

We grew up learning to fish from our little trolling boat at West Medical (Lake) and all the other surrounding lakes. 

At some point we would stop, anchor and be wowed by my father's fly-fishing abilities. 

As my younger brother Doug and I grew older, my dad taught us to fly fish in our neighbor's back lot. From there fishing symbolized a right of passage. 

When we became teenagers, he took us camping and fly fishing on the St. Joe. 

When we turned 18 we each had our fly-fishing trip to Montana, flying in to some remote landing strip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

These rights of passage and great memories have been passed on to our sons too in the same manner.

And our dad, now Grandpa, has been a part of those too. 

Thanks Dad!

– Bill and Doug Plucker (sons), father Bill Plucker 

(I currently reside in Walla Walla, and Doug in Snohomish. Dad still resides with my mother in Spokane. He is 82.)


• My dad loved fishing, still does.

I called him the other night to catch up and, no surprise, he and my mom had their camper parked next to a stream somewhere, his phone in one hand and his fishing pole in the other.

He carefully hung a sign up in his den that says, “A fisherman lives here with the catch of his life.”

That’s why I’ll always be amazed that he took his kids fishing.

See, we’re an Irish Catholic family of 11; five boys, four girls, my mom, and my dad.

We would follow him up a mountain somewhere in Idaho looking for a little teacup of a lake where he swore the fish would jump out of the water to take our lures.

The reality was we would complain all the way up the mountain until we finally got to the lake.

One of us would have broken our pole during the hike, but my dad always brought an extra. He would tie lures on nine lines and watch with pride as those of us who knew how to cast would throw our line in the water. The rest of us would wait for him to cast for us.

He would spend the afternoon running up and down the waterfront untangling lines, freeing snagged lures and, every once in a while, help one of his kids land a fish.

Never, not once, did I see him rig up his own pole and fish. That’s not what those trips were about.

All nine of us inherited a love for the outdoors and now my son has caught the fishing bug.

Now that we’re all grown and have families of our own, my dad fishes for himself – unless he’s with one of his grandkids.

Then he passes his pole into their little hands and smiles like he always used to.

– Tom Fitzgerald


• In 1958 I was 12-years-old.

Dad and I had been fishing for "Silvers" (Kokanee in today's terms) for a few years at Lake Pend Oreille.

We fished almost every weekend in September and October. Rented a boat at Hudson Bay Marina in Bayview and headed over to the "Slide" area and trolled down to the "Cement Plant" and back.

These were the best of times for me as I really got to know my father.

The only thing he liked better than fishing "Bluebacks" was eating them.

 We heard of the big Kamloops trout in Pend Oreille and even saw a mounted one at a resort near Whiskey Rock. WOW! 

Dad did some investigating and was told the best place to go was Garfield Bay up the lake. He bought some Mac Squid plugs and we headed up in early November.

We trolled all day on a Saturday, from early light to almost dark. Not a bite to be had.

It was windy, snow was on the ground and I was miserable. We tried the following Saturday as well. It was worse. Cold, windy and a driving rain persisted all day. Still no luck.

 Dad asked if I wanted to go the following Saturday. He said we had to pay our dues to catch these monsters. I didn't want to go. I was very reluctant but I didn't want to let him down. So we headed out again.

Our rental boat was a 14-foot wooden version. It had a covered bow that came back about three feet. (It was a) place I could go when things got bad.

This day was better with only a slight chop and low overcast.

We let our lines out as we exited the bay.

An hour went by, then two, then three.

I reeled in and crawled up in the space under the bow. Dad said "you can't catch anything up there" and I responded I really didn't care.

I had almost dosed off when I heard dad's reel start screaming. I came out of my hole like a shot.

In the distance there was this huge fish making jump after jump. After 15 or 20 minutes, dad brought the big Rainbow to the boat.

He asked me to get the net. I was terrified that I might make a mistake and do something that might cause the fish to throw the hook, but everything went well and I slid the net perfectly beneath the monster.

Turns out it weighed 16 pounds. Dad was beaming, happiest I ever saw him. I was dejected and wanted to return to my hole.

 He talked me into letting my line back out. Actually, I learned a life-long lesson right then and there. Never give up, just never give up.

Dad started making these large turns (I think that's what changed our luck) and about a half hour went by. This time my reel started to sing.

The fish I had on was also dancing in the distance. I'd reel in some line and he would run. Reel in and then another run, then another. I heard dad advising me what to do. Keep the rod tip up, not too tight on the drag, eye on the line. But I was worried about one thing, losing a once-in-a-lifetime catch.

 Soon the fish was near the boat but circling and not wanting anything to do with that net. Around and around he went and seemed to be as big as the boat itself.

He finally got close enough and dad scooped him up in one huge motion. We both sat there staring at this gigantic fish and laughing with joy.

Dad was as proud of me as a father possibly could be. We headed in to the resort. The guy that ran the place asked if we caught anything and of course we made sure he saw what we did. After weighing dad's fish at 16 pounds, he measured mine at 37 inches long and just over 25 pounds.

He said that must be a record for a 12 year old and talked us into letting him fill out paperwork to send to Field & Stream magazine.

 As November, December and January went by, we forgot about the entry. Then one day, in the mail, I received a copy of the writeup in the magazine ("12-year-old catches 25-pound Rainbow"), a certificate acknowledging the catch and pertinent information and lastly a bronze pin with the form of a fish and inscribed with Field & Stream Medal of Honor. 

I still have the certificate and pin to this day.

What a dream!

Most of all I got to know my dad (and) learned from him life's lessons. We spent many days together fishing.

– Merv Wagner


Hi there, writing this in regards to your Father's Day column.

My story doesn't start out much different than yours.

Years ago my father would take me to local ponds for sunfish to attract my attention.

Years passed, we didn't fish much. I recall him doing it often. He'd come home with a proud haul of trout and cook them.

My immature taste buds proclaimed "they taste like river mud."

More years passed. I never fished – I'm in the process of becoming a doctor. You can normally find me with my nose pressed in studies, and I work full time in my region's hospital. 

One day, something clicked.

As my dad was cleaning his catch for the day in the kitchen, I thought to myself "I want to be like him. I want to learn this skill, and I want to have fun with it the rest of my life and spread knowledge of it to whoever I can along the way."

Most of all, I wanted the quality time with my dad back I had missed over the years. 

My dad obliged and took me to a local dam.

We had a banner day and we limited on brown trout. Hooting and hollering for hours, we must have caught more than 12 trout each.

Each one more fun than the last to haul up over the dam wall.

You could imagine, we lost quite a few jumpers in the process and laughed quite a bit. 

This day was a far cry from the earlier days of trout fishing when I carried a terrible pre-teen attitude along with my salmon eggs and oversized waders.

Looking back, I could see the disappointment in my dad's eyes when all he wanted to do was teach me a hobby and spend time with me, and I wasn't picking up on it. 

As years have passed, I am now in my 20s, and I love to fly fish on my home streams and smoke trout for my neighbors and coworkers.

More importantly, I love the time I get with my dad and will be forever grateful that we get go fish together now. It's never too late. 

– Christopher Shadis 


• That's it for this year. I'll have to come up with an idea for Mother's Day next May. Maybe it will have to do with running or golf or something. Now on to today's links …


WSU: A former Washington State walk-on is living his dream. … The Pac-12's lone representative at the college baseball World Series fell behind early. But the Oregon State Beavers rallied and with two pitchers with strong connections to this column holding the line, rallied past Cal State Fullerton 6-5 to advance in the winner's bracket. … How should Oregon State handle the issue that came up this week?

EWU: Is it alumni week at Eastern? For the second consecutive day, Jim Allen has a feature on a former Eastern Washington basketball player. Today it is Austin McBroom.

Indians: It only took two days for Spokane to pick up its first Northwest League victory. The Indians topped Boise 3-2 on Star Wars Night at Avista. We have two stories, one from Whitney Ogden and the other from Johnathan Curley. … Around the NWL, Eugene picked up its first win while Everett lost.

Shadow: Spokane was shut out by Kitsap SC yesterday.

Golf: It was 1973 the last time someone shot a 63 on a U.S. Open course. The only time, actually. Until yesterday. Justin Thomas matched Johnny Miller's feat and yet doesn't lead the tournament. We are in store for a great Father's Day finish. … By the way, Miller's 63 ticked off the USGA so much, the next year at Winged Foot, the winning score was 7-over. It was a massacre.

Mariners: The M's were just as good or better than the Rangers in seven innings yesterday. But those other two, oh boy. Dave Nichols has his Mariners Log on the 10-4 defeat in Texas, and we added links.

Seahawks: If injuries hit the safety position as they did last season, Seattle is prepared. … The turbulent offseason can be either good or bad for the Hawks.

Sounders: The weather was awful. So were the field conditions. And the officiating. It added up to a 2-1 loss to New York. … Portland lost as well.


• You may have wondered how Jake Mullholland and Drew Rasmussen, the two Oregon State relief pitchers yesterday, have connections here. Rasmussen is easy, he pitched at Mt. Spokane and we've covered his career in these posts since. Mullholland? His grandmother is one of my sister's best friends, dating all the way back to Monrovia High in the early 1960s. Small world. Until later …