The Northwest fishing community lost an icon this week when Stan Fagerstrom, a long-time Daily News employee and internationally known “master caster” bass fisherman, died peacefully in his home in Sun Lakes, Arizona. He was 96.
“His whole life was about fishing or writing about fishing,” said his son Scott Fagerstrom. “He was writing about fishing up until age 94. … He has a following of two or three generations of thousands of fishing enthusiasts.”
Fagerstrom launched his outdoor writing career while he was working at The Daily News, his son said. His first outdoor column, “Nibbles and Bites,” published in TDN for almost four decades. It was a fan favorite of readers.
“When any research was done at our newspaper on the editorial side, two columns came up at the top of the list for popularity … One was Stan Fagerstrom’s fishing report and outdoor column,” said Harold Luhn, a former TDN advertising manager who worked under Fagerstrom for more than a decade.
Fagerstrom started at TDN as the Kelso branch office manager in 1946 shortly after his discharge from the army, but he “rose through the ranks” at the paper, ultimately landing a position as advertising director, his son said.
Luhn said Fagerstrom was a “mentor and an inspiration” for him while they worked together. Fagerstrom was a punctual and disciplined boss who handled conflict mediation well, Luhn said.
“He could find that middle road between you and the account, and find a way out of a (tense) situation,” Luhn said. “He was never an angry man. … He was very congenial. He seemed to get along with everyone.”
That shone through in his writing, as he regularly included “local names” in his column, Luhn said. Sometimes Fagerstrom referenced subscribers who dropped by the news office to show off their latest catch, Luhn said.
“People used to come in with a fish in their car, and Stan would always go out and take a picture. It didn’t matter the size of the fish,” he said.
Fagerstrom continued to write for TDN after retiring in 1982, though he also contributed to other national outdoor magazines beloved among fishermen. He was one of the first Northwestern writers to specialize in bass fishing, said Bruce Holt, a long-time employee and contributing writer for the G. Loomis fishing store in Woodland.
“Everything came from the south, but Stan was out there doing it all the time, and he had an avenue with The Daily News to share that with people. … He was a (bridge) to all the guys in the bass world from the West, and specifically the Northwest, to the promotional side of bass fishing and the professional world (of the sport),” Holt said.
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Fagerstrom’s writing style set him apart from others with its “heart and emotion” and “little colloquialisms,” Holt said. While some outdoor columnists have great knowledge of fishing, few have “the feeling for it like Stan did.”
“There will be a big hole in the writer’s world,” said Holt, who credits his spot in the Outdoor Writers Association of America to Fagerstrom’s mentorship. “We spent a lot of time on the water together. … He treated me like a son. Our relationship was one of those that was very special. He was always really good to me, and he taught me a bunch about writing.”
When he wasn’t writing about fishing, Fagerstrom was likely out on the water honing his skills.
“He just felt most at home and closest to God when he was on a boat on a quiet lake with that lure in the water,” his son said. “He fell in love with bass fishing and Silver Lake, until eventually we moved there in 1969 from Longview.”
Through years of practice fishing, Fagerstrom became a “master caster” who performed demonstrations at events across the world. He was known internationally for his trick casts, like landing his fly in cup set 50 feet away.
“He could do things most of us couldn’t. We are pretty good fishermen, but we couldn’t even hold a candle to what Stan could do,” said Bob Loomis, sales and marketing director at Mack’s Lure in Wenatchee, Wash. (Fagerstrom wrote for Mack’s Lure until about 2018).
“It was an art. He was the Tiger Woods of casting, so to speak,” said Loomis, who built custom poles for Fagerstrom while working at G. Loomis in Woodland.
“There is a lot of different companies that are making stuff that was better than they were doing (before) because Stan needed it to do his job better,” Loomis said. “Being a master caster, he held all of us to a much higher degree of excellence.”
Fagerstrom continued to gain recognition from fellow fishermen even after he stopped trick casting, his son said. Just a year ago, a clerk at a phone store recognized his father, asking whether he was really “the” Stan Fagerstrom.
“(The clerk) was a total stranger, but the kid was a fisherman, and he had pictures of dad all over his phone,” Scott Fagerstrom said. “That’s the level of affection people around the country had for him.”