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Fishing derby unites, delights young anglers

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Creekside grasses were high, but so were the spirits of small anglers tucked along Spring Creek Friday morning for the 5th annual Fishing Derby, sponsored by the Ronan VFW. 

Conrad Todd brought 10 youths from the Boys and Girls Club of the Flathead Reservation and Lake County, and spent much of his time helping the kids untangle lines and disconnect from tall weeds engulfing most of the shoreline.

“I’m trying to teach them to put in in the middle (of the creek),” he said, head swaying side to side in slight frustration. “I want them catch at least one each.”

Nearby, Dan Webber of Sherwood, Oreg., helped untangle two boys’ lines after snagging each other’s lures. The visiting dad didn’t mind; he’d done this plenty of times before. For 40 summers in a row, Webber and his family have traveled to Ronan to enjoy relatives and Pioneer Days events.

“Dad was born and raised here,” he said. “We come back every year.”

Soft clouds and weeping willows offered shade in the morning hours.

Parents huddled by their little ones on the water’s edge, hoping for the best. Grandparents helped hold poles and offered encouragement.

Six-year-old Sheadon Kain cast her line seven times until it plunked right where she wanted it, dead center in the babbling water.

“She’s been fishing since she was a baby-baby,” cousin Brooke Doty said.

The creek was stocked with 400 rainbow trout, and 100 more sat lethargic near the bottom of two stock tanks, occasionally deciding to take a bite and thrill surprised children.

Manny Barber, 4, snagged one but refused to get near the slimy, flopping fish for a photograph, knotting his small hands into tight fists and grimacing.

“It scared me,” Manny said.

Although the Jaycees sponsored the derby in years past, the Ronan VFW has taken the helm with the help of the women’s auxiliary.

This year, nearly 130 children signed up and participated. Coffee, hot chocolate and 10 dozen doughnuts were available free of charge, but most of the children were too busy concentrating on their red and white bobbers and the worms on the end of their hooks. “They have a ball,” said Dale Morgan, quartermaster for Ronan VFW Post 5652. 

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