As I mentioned in previous articles, doing what I do for a job, has given me excellent opportunities to spend time with some of the true legends in the outdoors, those I’ve written about in our Legends in the Outdoors columns as well as others.
I’ve spent time on the water, at seminars, conferences and at various national fishing equipment shows with some of the best known anglers; Al Lindner, Gary Roach, Babe Winkelman, John Peterson, Gary Parson, Keith Kavajecz and Ted Takasaki just to name a few.
However, I would be making a grave error if I didn’t mention another who has been a great influence on my life, whose not only a great angler, a great writer, with his 44-years of outdoor writing garnered him thousands of fans with his columns appearing in numerous national and regional publications.
“Larry Myhre” Sioux City, Iowa is not only an excellent writer, angler, and all around outdoorsmen; he is my mentor, my best friend, one who helped make me a better writer and angler.
Myhre received numerous conservation and state and regional writing awards, so many that it would be hard for me to cover all of them in this column.
Larry has guided, fished tournaments and recently inducted into a National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.
So not to miss anything, I asked Larry to tell me the story of his lifelong pursuit of fishing. Here’s what he said:
“I’ve always loved to fish, ever since I was a little boy. The first photograph taken of me fishing was when I was five years old. I was fishing a cane pole in the Big Sioux River in a Sioux Falls, S.D., park. Ironically, the woman I would later marry would live just up the street only a block or two.
“My dad and mother loved to fish, too, but living on the farm in the late 1940s and 50s was very labor intensive, and we only got to go a few times a year. My grandfather lived on the farm with us and he fished a lot. He’d be gone three or four days and return with cream cans full of fish.
“When I was a junior in high school, I got my first boat. Dad said I could either have a boat or a senior class ring, we couldn’t afford both. I chose the boat. Dad and I built a trailer from parts on the farm and dad bought a seven-and-a-half-horse Scott-Atwater motor. With that and my 1952 Dodge I was set to go. Dad was good enough to give me weekends off from farm work in the summers so I could go fishing.
“Our nearest lake was Lake Alvin about five miles away and I spent a lot of time there fishing for bass, walleyes and crappies. Swan Lake was about 20 miles away and was loaded with bullheads. Those were day trips but when I ventured to Lake Madison, Brandt and Herman I would stay overnight, sleep in the car and let the red-winged blackbirds wake me up each morning. Lake Poinsett was farther away but my wooden boat and I fished there a few times as well.
“That was in high school. I went to college at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion and majored in journalism. I built a simple wooden boat in a wood shop there and kept it on a Missouri River backwater south of the airport. There I caught largemouth bass, crappies, northern pike and catfish. Those backwaters were wonderful fish magnets, but, sadly, they are all gone now.
“When I moved to Sioux City in 1966 to work at the Sioux City Journal, I went back to get my wooden boat at the backwater. I found someone had cut the chain and had stolen the boat. My original boat had decayed beyond repair while I was in college.
“So, I was without a boat for the first time in a long time. I soon located a used boat in the want ads that I could afford. It was a 14-foot Crestliner with a broken keel sitting on a trailer with rotted tires. I made an offer on both and soon owned another boat and trailer. I bought a 9 1/2-horse Evinrude, repainted the trailer, fixed the boat and was back in business.
“It was also at that time that I discovered farm ponds. The Little Sioux Watershed had just been completed and conservation measures included contour farming, terraces, grassed waterways and farm ponds, hundreds of them stocked with bass, bluegills and catfish. I fished ponds as often as five times a week during the spring and fall.
“It was at that time I became the fishing companion of a man who would influence my fishing education more than anyone or anything. That man was Erwin Sias, a career journalist and outdoor writer who was editor of the Journal and had hired me. I’ve never met anyone who enjoyed fishing more than he did. He took me under his wing and introduced me to jig fishing. He also introduced me to other highly skilled anglers, all jig fishermen, who also influenced me greatly. It must be remembered that at that time, late 1960s, jig fishing was exploding in popularity.
“Sias and his lifelong friend, Lacey Gee, fished all across the upper Midwest and as far west as Idaho. Lacey had originated the Wapsi Fly Company in Independence Iowa. At the time it was the third largest fly tying supply company behind Universal Vise and Herter’s. Lacey’s fly tyers, mostly women in Independence, were turning out 5,000 flies a week for sale. Lacey offered a complete line of hand tied jigs he designed for everything from bluegills to walleyes. I still use them today. Lacey and Sias wrote a book in the 1950s entitled Practical Flies and Their Construction. It was distributed in fly tying kits offered by Wapsi and two or three other companies. Thousands and thousands of them were distributed. They also wrote another book “How to Fish with Jigs.” It remains only one of three books ever written about jig fishing.
“Jim Stone lived in a waterfront home on West Lake Okoboji. He got me started making bamboo rods and taught me how to make jig molds out of aluminum blocks. He was an excellent fisherman and I got to fish with him a lot. It was on West Lake that I also met Cap Kennedy, a fishing legend in his own time. He was a former tackle shop owner there, but had retired when I met him and was selling his own line of jigs called “Rock-A-Roos.” They were deadly. We also fished together, and he taught me how to tie his jigs.
“In those days West Lake Okoboji was a perch fishing paradise in the fall. One year we fished every weekend from Labor Day to Memorial Day switching to ice fishing equipment when the lakes froze over.
“Sias also took me to the Alexandria, Minn., lakes region where we opened the bass season for many years. There I met Bob Brown, sports editor of the Fort Dodge Messenger and an outdoor writer. After Sias retired to Idaho in 1978 and Lacey retired to Florida, Brown and I would make annual trips into Manitoba hosted by the Tourism Department. We fished some of the best lakes in the province and also worked in a trip to Selkirk for giant channel Catfish on the Red River. We were told we were the first writers from the United States to write about that fabulous area and started a migration of stateside anglers, which continues to this day. Brown and I loved Manitoba fishing, and each qualified for more than 100 Master Angler awards on fish ranging from walleye to rainbow trout. I caught 27 Master Angler grayling on one trip.
“Brown also had a trailer in the Brainard area of Minnesota. I would spend a week up there with him fishing as many as five lakes a day. The lakes we fished were small and off the beaten path but were loaded with largemouth bass and big crappies, some also had good walleye fishing. Brown would let my wife Fran and me use the trailer and his boat for a week each year also. Over the years Fran has been a frequent fishing companion, and has always been a strong supporter of my efforts in the outdoors.
“Through the 1970’s Fran and I and the kids would spend a week on Lake Vermilion in northeast Minnesota. There we caught smallmouth and big crappies. There were also lots of walleyes, but I couldn’t resist going after my favorite fish, smallmouth. All three of the kids had landed a three pound smallmouth by the time they were six. Of all the lakes I’ve fished, it remains my favorite. If I should die and go to heaven, I’d like to spend an eternity on a lake just like that.
“Brown retired in the early 1990s and by that time Gary Howey and I were fishing and hunting together. Once he began his television show, “Outdoorsmen Adventures” we really started spending time together. Some years we would make over 20 trips a year getting tape for his shows.
“Gary and I fished a lot of different waters, but our favorites were the Missouri River reservoirs and the northeast South Dakota Glacial Lakes. For 23 years we fished to gather material for his television show and our outdoor columns. Now since the show has been sold and I have retired from outdoor writing, our time afield has diminished somewhat but we will continue to fish as often as possible.
“Writing about fishing and the outdoors has been a passion of mine since the 1960s. For 44 years I wrote a weekly outdoor column for the Sioux City Journal. I edited an outdoors tabloid for the Journal for over 12 years. I’ve had nearly 150 magazine stories published. I long ago lost count of the fishing seminars, presentations and classes I have given in an effort to help others negotiate this sport. I loved spending my journalism career at the Sioux City Journal, and retired in 2007 after 18 years as editor-in-chief.
“I’ve often been asked, “What has prompted a farm kid like you to become so passionate about fishing?” I’ve given a lot of thought to that, but more often than not it comes down to this. It was the catch of a pumpkinseed sunfish in the creek near my home. I can recall grasping the little fellow in a child’s hands calloused by work and play and marveled at his beauty. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that fish would send me on a life’s mission which continues even today. How could something so beautiful and precious live in an environment of which I knew nothing? I think it was that single thing that sent me upon a lifetime of seeking answers concealed in an underwater world.
“While I will never fish as often or as hard as I once did, I continue to enjoy it as much as ever. Now much of my spare time is spent building bamboo fly rods, a hobby for over 20 years, and tying flies and jigs. At the age of 76, I guess even a lifelong fisherman has to slow down a little bit. But, fishing or thoughts of fishing continue to dominate my activities each day. And I don’t think that will ever change.”
Those of us who know Larry, that if somewhere the fish are biting, he’ll be there and be among those who are catching fish as an angler who has fished the biggest part of his life, he has more knowledge when it comes to fishing than most other anglers.
No matter what species of fish or what body of water, it won’t take Larry long to figure out the depth, the presentation and the bait, some of which may be, one of his secret baits, one of a kind and begin to start putting fish in the boat.
Gary Howey, a 1968 Watertown graduate, now residing in Hartington, Neb. is a former tournament angler, fishing & hunting guide, an award winning writer, producer, photographer and broadcaster, a recent inductee into the “National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame” in 2017. Howey is also the Producer-Co-Host of the Outdoorsmen Adventures television series and Outdoor Adventures radio. If you are looking for more outdoor information, check out garyhoweysoutdoors.com, outdoorsmenadventures.com and like Gary Howey’s Facebook or watch his shows on www.MyOutdoorTV.com.