Let’s Look Back – Part 36

Abe Schiller, just about as well known as "Mister Las Vegas," is shown in this 1952 picture of some of the fish he'd taken from Lake Mead.  At the time Lake Mead was producing some of the best bass and crappie angling in the entire country. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Abe Schiller, just about as well known as “Mister Las Vegas,” is shown in this 1952 picture of some of the fish he’d taken from Lake Mead. At the time Lake Mead was producing some of the best bass and crappie angling in the entire country. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I gave the first casting demonstration that amounted to anything at the old Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles way back in 1952.

Now let’s fast forward to a demonstration I did about 10 years ago at an International Sportsmen’s Exposition in Denver. I didn’t have any of the white whiskers at that early Los Angeles show that I do now. And when I’d been on my feet all day and had given three or four formal presentations, as I had that day in Denver, I was ready to order a cold beer and then head for the barn.

I had just given my final day’s demonstration at that Denver show and wound up, as usual, by offering to answer any questions members of my audience might have.

A little guy who, I’d guess was about eight years old, was the first to respond to my offer. “Mister,” he said, “you’re the best caster I ever saw. I’ve never seen anybody do the stuff you can? When did you start casting?”

Thinking how my old body was feeling and in an attempt to answer the boy’s question in a fashion that might bring a smile, I said “Son, I’ve been doing it for a long, long time. Do you remember what you learned in Sunday School about how they found the Baby Moses?”

The little guy nodded an affirmative and said, “Yes, sir, I remember he was found back in some reeds in a river someplace.”

“Well, Son,” I said, “on the day they found Baby Moses I was right around the corner trying to catch bass by casting a spinnerbait.”

Remember now, I was trying to be funny. It backfired. It only took a couple of heartbeats for me to realize that what I saw in that little guy’s eyes told me he wasn’t at all sure there for a little while that I wasn’t telling the truth.

Now I’ve probably been around about as long as anybody who is still wrapping their mitt around a casting rod, but when it comes to age Moses still has me beat. But I don’t care how long you’ve been around, doggone few old timers have been blessed more often or in as many different ways as yours truly.

This rare good fortune has usually come about because of my relationship with other people. Most of it has dealt the fishing, the casting demonstrations and the writing I’ve done about both.

As I’ve mentioned before, I got hooked on fishing while still a toddler out there in the North Dakota wheat country. It happened when a little bullhead catfish gobbled the grasshopper I had on the bent safety pin hook my dad had fashioned for me. I was hooked on fishing much deeper and more securely than that little bullhead.

Bass were always my primary interest. That’s why it didn’t take long to realize that one of the few things I could actually control in my search for bass was to improve my casting accuracy. I started practicing at every opportunity. The desired accuracy in my casting wasn’t long in coming and with it came unexpected invitations to do some local casting demonstrations at a few area outdoor gatherings, fairs, etc.

Here's the late Abe Schiller with another stringer full of Lake Mead bass.  Early on Abe was an executive with the Flamingo Hotel, the first of the many hotel/casinos that would eventually appear on the fabled Las Vegas Strip. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Here’s the late Abe Schiller with another stringer full of Lake Mead bass. Early on Abe was an executive with the Flamingo Hotel, the first of the many hotel/casinos that would eventually appear on the fabled Las Vegas Strip. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Then came the day in 1951 when the Garcia Corporation introduced their new Ambassadeur 5000 casting reels here in the USA. And along with it came a chance to meet Nate Buell, the company’s rep for the Western United States.

Nate is one of those I’ll always remember when it comes to my looking back to find the good guys. Nate offered to give me a couple of those wondrous new Ambassadeur 5000s and a pair of rods to go with them if I’d come to demonstrate them at the big outdoor show in April of the following year at the old Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles.

That was the first time Nate Buell helped. He also made me known to the top dogs of the Garcia Corporation here in the United States. One of those Garcia officials, I can’t remember specifically who it was, had a suggestion for me when the show was over and I was preparing to make my return trip from Los Angeles to the State of Washington where I lived at the time.

“Stan,” he said, “If I were you I’d drive home by way of Las Vegas. There’s a guy out there that’s a good friend of ours. Any time when he’s not running around the world somewhere or working at his big hotel on the Las Vegas strip he’s out on Lake Mead fishing for bass or crappies. I think you guys would get along just great.”

I thought maybe that guy from Garcia was just blowing smoke. I’ll be forever thankful I finally decided there was no reason not to find out. I did go home by way of Las Vegas. And I did get to meet the man the Garcia official had told me about.

Again—the time was the spring of 1952. The hotel where the man I was supposed to meet was the Flamingo. At the time that beautiful hotel/casino was the first and only one on the now fabled Las Vegas Strip.

The guy I was asked to I meet there was Abe Schiller, a man often called “Mr. Las Vegas” at the varied events around the world that he attended. There was then and as far as I’m concerned there still is a good bit of mystery where this man who came to be my much loved friend is concerned.

Watch for my next Let’s Look Back column. I’ll share details on some of the wondrous events I had opportunity to experience all due to the kindness of the late Abe Schiller. Much of it deals with my experiences on Lake Mead, at the time one of the best bass and crappie fishing spots in the world.

That column starts right here June 1.