The recent death of my friend Edward S. Parsons in Reno evokes memories I would like to share.

    Sometime in the late 1970s, I wondered what emergency required my phone to ring at 6 a.m. on a Saturday in November. It was my college fraternity brother and fishing partner Ed Parsons.

    “It's a perfect day for Pyramid,” Ed stated excitedly. I peeped through the blinds half asleep and said, “Give me 30 minutes.”

    An inveterate fisherman, Ed grew up in a house on California Avenue above the Truckee River. When the fish and game department planted trout, passersby on Riverside Drive might have seen the dust kicked up by a kid joyfully scrambling down the embankment with rod and reel held high. Ed's enthusiasm in all endeavors was a trademark attribute.

    There was no need for me to grab anything but my fishing tackle, because Ed always planned everything in advance, including enough sandwiches for a convention. I learned early on whether it was a fishing, camping or hunting trip that it was easier to have Ed buy all the supplies, of which he courteously asked what you wanted to include, and break out his notebook to let each participant know what their share came to.


    On the way out, we bemoaned the fact that we had been skunked on our last two trips, and that we needed to come up with a new game plan. The mystique of Pyramid Lake offers plenty of opportunity for superstitious fishermen to employ lucky charms in fishing for cutthroat trout. Jokingly, we came to the conclusion that we should cover our bets by honoring the spirit of the lake, which we decided to call the Great Pelican.

    The 16-footer had a hefty outboard that got us to a landmark called the Block House in no time. Ed cut the engine and, before starting the kicker engine to troll, we remembered to call upon the Great Pelican to bring us luck, and cast our bread upon the waters in the form of some pocket change as we had a good laugh at our newly formed ritual.


    The weather was crisp, and without a breath of wind, the surface of the lake was a sheet of glass. With about 100 feet of line out, and Torpedoes attached, we caught and released a couple of “shakers” until the slight surge of the boat and murmur of the engine between troughs enticed me to stretch out on the port bench seat for a nap. I told Ed to wake me if I got one on, and succumbed to the soft lullaby of motion and sound as Ed piloted us along the shelf.

    I was abruptly awakened by the engine being cut and by Parsons shaking me.

    “Wake up! I've hooked a big one!” I sat up and noticed we were near Popcorn Rock. Ed's rod was bent over nearly to the water, and wasn't moving.

    “You're snagged,” I complained, sore at my snooze being interrupted. Just then, the line took off with water flying, and with such force that it turned the bow.

    Fully awake and on my feet, I began to shout battle commands — “Set the hook! Loosen the drag! Keep your tip up!”

    Ed fought this giant for half an hour, and every time he recaptured enough line for us to barely get a glimpse of the fish, the thing saw us, too, and found a second wind to strip off another half a spool of 8 lb. test line.

    Finally, it was hard to tell who won; it was like watching two combatants in the ring leaning on each other in the 14th round, exhausted. Ed put his back into an almost dead weight, and horsed the monster into view. It was the biggest red male cutthroat I had ever seen in 10 years on the lake. I was over the gunwale with the net extended into the water as far as I could reach, and needed another foot to make a pass.

    The fish was four times in length the diameter of the net! It stared at me for a moment with an eye the size of a pocket watch, and with massive jaws scarred from other lures that had taken up temporary residence, slowly rolled away exposing a white belly as long as my forearm from elbow to fingertips — and threw the hook. With a dismissive flick of his huge tail, the king was gone.

    The release of tension on the line sent Ed flying into the other side of the boat, and he was left in a stunned pile on the deck. We packed up without a word, and headed for port, although it was only mid-afternoon. It wasn't until we were nearly home that Ed, almost thinking out loud, said, “You know, somehow I'm glad he got away.”

    There was nothing to add in the unspoken understanding that Ed was already compiling a new list for our return trip to Pyramid Lake, and this time, we wouldn't mock the Great Pelican.

    The legendary fish known as “Big Red,” thought to be the fish Parsons hooked, was eventually caught in the 1980s and is on display at Pyramid Lake.

     Denver Dickerson moved to Carson City with his family in 1954, when his father, Harvey Dickerson, was elected attorney general. Denver began his career in real estate in Carson City in 1965. His grandfather, Gov. Denver S. Dickerson, was the first to live in the Governor's Mansion, in 1909.

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