This is the week I’ve been waiting for when an idea that was hatched almost two years ago to the day makes its television premiere across the U.S. and Canada. I am talking about the next two episodes of “Tom Gruenwald Outdoors,” airing on The Sportsman Channel, Wild TV and Midco Sports.
Tom and I first tossed around the idea of a backcountry episode in 2013 while discussing Northwest Montana as a great place to ice fish.
The idea of filming some of our more widely available lakes intrigued Tom, but filming high up in the mountains? That got Tom’s attention. We knew it would have to be something that no one had ever done and it would take some planning. During Tom’s trip later that season, we threw the idea at Rob Brisendine and Diane Medler from the Kalispell Convention and Visitor Bureau about a national contest involving the bureau, “Tom Gruenwald Outdoors,” ice fishing and helicopters.
Helicopter tours of our area are extremely popular in the summer, so if we were going to host the winners of an all-inclusive ice fishing vacation to Kalispell and produce two TV episodes, we would have to show off our area in a manner befitting its grandeur … from the air!
Over the next 10 months, dozens of phone calls, emails and teleconferences transpired. Just organizing a national contest that included online entry, airfare, lodging, meals, equipment etc. was daunting enough, but the rest of it?
Trust me when I say it took massive planning. So many things had to go right for this all to happen, and only one or two to go wrong for it all to come unraveled. One day of bad weather and an entire year of planning would be ruined. Yes, sleep was lost.
The first episode of “Attaining All New Heights” airing this week documents our first day of filming the project, first to a high-elevation lake that had so much snow we never got to, let alone through, the ice.
Then Plan B, a lower-altitude lake where perhaps the scenery wasn’t as breathtaking but safe ice and unpressured fish waited. Along the way, our spectacular valley gets highlighted and some beautiful trout get caught and released.
The second episode (airing the week of Nov. 16) features the winner of the “Discover Kalispell” contest and our guests for the day, Jim Fenton and Nancy Suthers from Wisconsin. Another bright sunny day awaited and again, spectacular scenery is highlighted. Once on the lake, it doesn’t take long before everyone is catching fish and having more fun together, including our pilots, Jordan and Vern. When the day was done and our adventure was complete, all that was left, for me anyway, was to wait for the episodes to air in about 10 months.
(While the episodes from 2014’s filming were great, I am afraid they will pale in comparison to the ones that will be broadcast this winter. The third trip we filmed last year includes a very in-depth look at the grayling of Rogers Lake, but that’s a story for another time.)
While I have seen a quick clip of episode one, the documentation of the 15 months of planning and now months of waiting is now days away, condensed into two 22-minute high-definition videos of this adventure. I hope you enjoy watching as much as we all did bringing it to you.
(Due to network schedules, as you read this, the first show already aired Wednesday, but will be broadcast again this Sunday morning at 8:30 on the Sportsman Channel.) I’ll see you on the small screen!
The 2015 episodes of “Tom Gruenwald Outdoors” featuring Northwest Montana will be broadcast on the Sportsman Channel on Nov. 18 and Dec. 23 at 11:30 a.m. Mountain Standard Time.
Each episode will be rebroadcast on the subsequent Sunday at 8:30 a.m. and then the next Monday at 1:30 a.m. Visit www.thesportsmanchannel.com/get for a channel finder.
Howe runs Howes Fishing/A Able Charters. Contact him at www.howesfishing.com or 257-5214 or by emailing Mike@aablefishing.com.