Tom Gruenwald, with our TGO/Kalispell Sweepstakes winners Nancy Suthers and Jim Fenton.

What a day!
Mike Howe of Howe’s Fishing/A-Able Charters and I have just returned from scouting portions of the Rocky Mountains surrounding Kalispell, Montana–thanks to two pilots using helicopters to transport us into remote areas featuring lakes all but inaccessible in winter by any other practical means. We’ve been successful.
With a safe, productive lake chosen and cutthroat trout located, the next step is to confirm our guests—Nancy Suthers and James Fenton, have arrived in Kalispell. They are the lucky winners of our special sweepstakes package, featuring a trip to Kalispell, Montana that includes round trip airfare, three nights lodging at the Red Lion Hotel, meals, a tour of Kalispell—and of course, a one-of-a-kind trip comprising a helicopter ride to a high altitude cirque lake where we’ll be jigging for cutthroat trout and filming an episode of TGO!
We’re hoping they’ve made it safely as we return to the airport after our day of scouting, so the first thing I do after we land and unload is call Nancy’s cell. I’m thankful to hear her pick up and report their trip was smooth–in fact, they had arrived early! I confirm our planned meeting time for supper, then, feeling better, head back to begin preparing our gear for the next day.
After plugging in our auger and sonar batteries, Mike and I spool and rig some extra combos, organize tackle, prep a cooler to store pack lunches and bottled water before heading over to the Red Lion Hotel to meet with Jim, Nancy, and Diane Medler from the Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau—the kind folks who helped make this adventure possible in the first place.


Let the adventure begin!

Following introductions, we walk a couple blocks to Hopp’s Downtown Grill, where we’re treated to a top-notch meal and conversation to match. A check of the weather proves favorable, so we review our itinerary for the next day, being sure to let our guests know our plans, when and where we’ll pick them up in the morning, what we feel they should bring, and other such last minute details–along with plenty of additional banter in-between. As the evening winds down, everyone is tired from all the excitement, yet I have a feeling there won’t be much sleep for any of us tonight.
We meet in the morning, arriving at the airport early so we can begin shooting the show opener, load our gear and climb aboard. I was concerned Jim and Nancy might be a bit apprehensive about flying, but watching as they climb aboard and fasten their seat belts, I sense no signs of worry.
Helicopter engines fire, and the now familiar whir of the rotors begins. I notice a warning light on the dash illuminate, indicating low rotor rotation, then watch it click off as the rotation speed increases. It won’t be long now.
Like the day before, I stare down through the glass floor as we lift off. I find it fun watching as we begin floating gently upward, defying gravity. After a gradual ascent, our pilot, Vern, guides us over the airport, then, picking up speed, banks toward a distant range, where we soon pass over the foothills and rise into the mountains beyond. I look off to one side, watching our partner bird flown by Jordan White hovering alongside us in formation. This is an experience beyond words.


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Tom Gruenwald

Tom Gruenwald

Tom Gruenwald is truly passionate about the outdoors and is recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the sport of ice fishing. Throughout the years, his expertise has been sought for in-depth ice fishing presentations, seminars and advanced contributions to various outdoor periodicals throughout the world. He’s appeared as a guest on numerous radio and TV shows, authored four ice fishing books and now hosts his own TV show, “Tom Gruenwald Outdoors,”. TGO is the first program of its kind dedicated solely to ice fishing. 

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