WARM LAKE, Idaho — Clayne Bakers has had a fly rod in his hand since he was five-years-old.
As an angler, few Idahoans can match Clayne for his dedication and contributions to the art of angling in Idaho. An expert fly tyer and instructor Clayne founded the youth fly fishing group, the Wolley Buggers and set a generation of Idaho anglers down stream on their way from fishing for everything from cutthroat to crappie to carp.
But of all of his fishing exploits over a angling cares spanned more than a dozen decades one fall morning more than two decades ago stands out as a shining and somewhat sad moment in an angling life full of surprises.
He and his fishing buddy Skip Wingfield had been fishing together for 12 years when they headed north from Boise on Highway 55 to Warm Lake east of Cascade for a late October in 1994 for a weekend of float tube fishing.
Every October, Skip and Clayne and his wife Yvonne would head to Warm Lake for a weekend of float tube fishing. Skip’s birthday and the Baker’s wedding anniversary were close enough on the calendar to allow the fast friends to celebrate the weekend together.
The trip was also around the time of the year when the nights were getting colder turning over the water and the rising cooler water would bring larger fish up toward the surface. Gliding gently across the water in their float tubes, they would catch brook trout and rainbow trout of a little longer length.
It was a typical overcast and dreary October Saturday morning with the hardwoods along the shore shedding their leaves and the anglers donned their cold weather gear for a day on the chilling lake.
They had been fishing for an hour or so near the dam the lake that spilled into Warm Lake on the southeast end of the lake,” Wingfield said, “and Clayne was using a white rabbit fur zonker that he had tied. He only fished with flies that he tied.” Wingfield said.
They were 4-weight rods and Clayne’s fly was about 4-inches long and about as big big around as a hammered thumb-an unusual combination for sure.
It was the kind of day that was perfect to recharge the battery and relax after a long work week, and the anglers were gently trolling in float tubes when Clayne hooked the fish.
“We were both using light tackle with small tippets and we weren’t prepared for what happened next,” Wingfield said. “When Clayne hooked the fish he knew he was in for a rodeo ride, but it wasn’t his first.
The fish took Clayne toward the shore as he tried to keep the behemoth under control, the big fish moved out toward deeper water, while Clayne, all the while tenderly adjusting his drag and raising and lowering his rod as he felt the tension on the line to the middle of his soul.
“It was one of those things you had to feel more than think about,” he said. “I also had to pray for luck.”
All they had were standard trout nets and when they tried to net the fish they could only get its nose in the net. Finally, Wingfield pulled Clayne in his tube over toward shore and they beached the 25-inch, 20-pound lake trout.
Unfortunately for the fish, when it took the fly had taken it aggressively and it went into and out of his mouth through one of his gills. The fly was actually out of the fish and dangling through its gills behind it’s head. It was obvious that the fish was not going to make it Clayne compounded by the fact that Clayne had the fish on for about a half hour before he was able to landed it.
Clayne would never have killed that fish if he had any choice whatsoever.