Imagine someone loading a mountain lion into a station wagon and taking it to a trade show, such as the Fred Hall Fishing Tackle Show.
It would never happen today, of course, and not just because there are no more station wagons around.
But that’s what Blake Jones did in the 1950s. The Bishop resident and ambassador for the Eastern Sierra gave folks a close-up encounter with a domesticated mountain lion.
Then again, who didn’t?
Blake Jones, a.k.a. Mr. Inyo-Mono, was an icon in the Eastern Sierra. He worked with the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce to promote the area. He was a fishing and hunting guide for 20 years. He taught everyone he could how to fish.
And many might not know this, but it was Jones who was the first to develop a dough bait that evolved into Zeke’s floating bait, the precursor to Power Bait.
Extremely nice. Friendly. Popular. A gentleman. An outdoorsman. This was Blake Jones and this is why the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce named a trout derby after him.
Blake had trouble breathing because of smog, so in 1944 the couple moved to Bishop where they fished, hunted and shared their successful fishing techniques.
In the mid-to-late ’50s, Blake and Peggy taught twins Don and Ron Barrett how to fish.
“They made us both avid fishermen from then on,” said Don, who used to live at Lake Mary near Mammoth Lakes. He now owns Barrett’s Outfitters in Bishop and Lake Mary Marina. “They were oriented toward kids. They were always helping kids to fish. Lake Mary, they loved it. That was their hotspot.”
That is where Don learned a technique from Blake that he calls “the best there is” for catching trout. He used a bubble that held water, attached a three-foot leader with a tiny treble hook and bait, and cast it out as far as he could. The water-filled bubble sank slowly and naturally.
He let it sink for a minute or two then work it in three or four inches, pause, and reel it in another three of four inches and kept doing that.
“It was a marvelous concept and nobody had ever thought of it,” Don said. “They were very savvy.”
The bait they used was unique, too. It was a homemade cheese bait called B&B Best Bait that didn’t get hard in the water like Velveeta, an old standby. They sold the bait in area tackle shops.
“Blake would walk into a possible store he would sell to, reach into a jar of his bait and take a finger full and pop it into his cheek and gum and start eating it,” Don said. “He said, ‘Mmmm, that’s so good. It won’t hurt you and the fish love it.’”
Peggy was as good at fishing as Blake, but it didn’t bother him. His heart was golden, Don said.
“They were the sweetest people you could meet,” he added.
The late Marvin Jones once encapsulated his father’s life when he said, “My father was a serious fisherman and he always wanted to help someone. He was a good public relations man. He always wanted to be sure the other person always caught a fish. He went to a lot of work to fish.”
“He was a true outdoorsman,” Ivey said, echoing the thought of those who knew him. “Everyone in town appreciated Blake Jones.”