Last week I drove to Sandpoint, Idaho to attend the 44th annual conference of the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association.
The group is made up of outdoor media people and supporting industry members from Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Alaska, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Alberta, and Montana.
I’ve been a member since l986, but this was only my second conference. I serve on the Board of Directors.
I’d spent quite a bit of time in Sandpoint in the late l960s while attending the University of Idaho, learned to ski at Schweitzer, and trolled for kokanee in Lake Pend Oreille.
The conference featured a nice blend of how to improve writing skills, modern boating concerns, and threats to public lands.
On Friday, attendees could choose between shooting Glock pistols — provided by Lone Wolf Distributers, Inc, makers of Glock components — or a fishing contest on Round Lake.
No surprise I picked fishing, but the weather had been so nasty I waited until that morning to purchase an Idaho fishing license and AIS sticker.
The watercraft inspection station between Bonners Ferry and Sandpoint had been closed when I drove by Wednesday evening.
A clerk at Big 5 Sports in Sandpoint told me they could sell me a fishing license but they didn’t have AIS stickers, which would be available at Alpine Sports.
A few minutes later I found Alpine Sports closed due to façade construction.
Undaunted, I called the Idaho Fish and Game Department office in Coeur d’Alene and was told they “didn’t do AIS stickers.” I should call “Parks.” Which didn’t answer. Twice.
With less than an hour before the contest was to start, I reached “Parks” and a nice lady told me I could get a license and sticker at Alpine Sports, Bonner Soil and Water, or the Visitor Center at Round Lake State Park.
Except after paying $5 to enter the park (additional $10 penalty if receipt not on vehicle dash), the Visitor Center was closed and locked.
I cinched up my shoulder harness, put on my Jeff Gordon face, and drove like I was qualifying back to Big 5 in Sandpoint.
At a stop light I called “Bonner Soil and Water” (which I thought was a pet food and garden store), and a very nice lady answered, “Bonner County Soil and Water Department.”
“Do you sell AIS stickers?” I asked.
Then she proceeded to give me the city version of “turn left at the brown cow” directions.
“Any chance I might not even need to have an AIS sticker?” I asked in desperation, the starting time rapidly approaching.
“Not if your inflatable boat is less than 10 feet long!” she replied.
Back to Big 5 for a fishing license with my 8-foot Buck’s Bag.
Friday afternoon was a hoot, dragging a Doc Spratley fly around Round Lake.
I caught only one fish, a crappie which finished in second place in the Warmwater Fly Fishing Category.
After all that running around, my 7-inch crappie got beat by one millimeter!
Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.