Fishing with Uncle Bud
A new book introduces you to Lake Pend Oreille through the eyes of a confirmed fisherman
Dress him in a fuzzy beard and he is Santa.
Aside for that Ultra-light rod that he clutches while wistfully eyeing the mountains, streams and lakes nestled there, he is a good mark.
Bud Larsen, though, isn’t the magic elf. He is a former Army sergeant major who for almost 15 years has dipped lures and lines in North Idaho’s streams and rivers looking for fish.
He does, however, have an eye on the holidays, hoping the book he recently published will be wrapped in pretty paper and nestled under a lot of Christmas trees. That is why “Fishing With Uncle Bud” was released six weeks before Christmas.
Not so dumb for a bait fisherman, says the 73-year-old author of the self-published book that recounts his years fishing the Panhandle.
Larsen, who grew up in the Tri-Cities and moved with his wife Marianne to Bonners Ferry in 1996, is a combat veteran of Korea who did two tours in Vietnam. Fishing hooked him when he was a first sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. It healed him in a sense.
“I had an ulcer,” Larsen said. “It was so bad that I had to go to the hospital.”
The doctor said he would release him on one condition.
“What you need to do is go fishing,” the doctor said.
Larsen was enrolled in the Army’s engineer school and told the doc that he was too busy to fish.
“I’m not going to release you until you agree to go fishing,” the doctor insisted and assigned Larsen to a fishing guide in the Lake of the Ozarks.
“The first day out I caught a 6-pound bass and that was it,” he said. “The next day I was down at the credit union to get a bass boat.”
That was 35 years ago and although he has tried what some allege is a more noble pastime—fly casting—for Larsen, fishing means hunting spiny rays such as bass, panfish and the toothy pike.
His preferred method: an ultralight spincast rig with line that eventually reaches out to a worm on a hook.
“I’m a dyed-in-the-wool bait caster,” said Larsen, a big man who blames the flutter in his hand and the limp that he braces with a cane on his many years in the rain and wet as a field soldier.
“I’d rather go cross-eyed watching a bobber,” he said.
He tried fly fishing, but the elegance of the 11 to 1 cast and the loop swirling out tightly wasn’t something his blue-collar demeanor subscribed to.
“I used to practice like crazy,” he said. “But, I never could get it right. Any sport that makes me so darn mad, I’m just not going to do it.”
As a kid on the Columbia and Snake rivers, he chased everything from carp to salmon, he said. But, as any young man with a lot of time on his hands, fishing was taken for granted an eventually abandoned for other pursuits like chasing girls. Larsen first saw North Idaho in the late 1940s when, for three consecutive years his swim team made the finals and competed in a big meet in Coeur d’Alene. After the meet, the coach cut he and his teammates loose. They traded the pocket money they had earned working the Washington, Oregon and Idaho wheat fields for a trip to Bonners Ferry to hunt and fish the Kootenai River Valley and tomcat after Bonners Ferry cheerleaders.
“I fell in love with the place,” he said.
The experience remained fixed in his mind throughout his years in the Army. When he retired, he started and sold a computer business, and a fish smoking venture on the Washington peninsula. He and Marianne took the earnings and traveled by RV to North Idaho to see how time had marked the land.
“Not much had changed in 45 years,” he said.
They didn’t deliberate long, and decided to stay.
Larsen befriended Ralph Anglen who wrote a fishing column for the local newspaper called “Anglin’ with Anglen.”
When Anglen got too old to write the column and quit, Larsen implored him to continue. Instead the fishing author handed Larsen the reigns. For five years he wrote an on-line column called “Fishing with Uncle Bud.”
The column was popular among North Idaho readers.
“It took off like a damn rocket,” Larsen said.
The book of the same name is a compilation of columns that appeared online, covering fishing holes, and fishers from southern Kootenai County, Shoshone and Benewah to Bonner and Boundary County.
Mostly though, it is about people, Larsen said.
Ask him his favorite passage and he’ll give a number.
“Page 104. The Boys of Summer,” he said.
The story recounts a time when he worked as an Idaho Fish and Game volunteer taking water temperatures at lakes across the Panhandle. He was at Spirit Lake when a passel of boys on bicycles slid down the gravel in a trail of dust to the lake’s public dock and began fishing off the pier.
He spent several hours with them and remembers one of the scabbed-kneed youngsters telling him that he was playing hooky from Bible School.
“Don’t tell anyone,” the boy said.
Larsen didn’t hesitate when he replied, “The Lord is gonna forgive you, son.”
To Larsen fishing is akin to a Sunday sermon, it’s just that good of a thing.
“We are truly blessed here,” he said. “With this book, I finally did something good in my life, and I hope it’s around for a while.”
“Fishing with Uncle Bud” is available locally at Bonners Books (208-267-2622) and Far North Outfitters (208-267-5547) in Bonners Ferry,