Wednesday, March 2, 2016

On a Sheet of Ice

     We haven’t talked much about ice fishing here at 3EM, so that’s where I’m going today. Ice fishing is different than bank or boat fishing. Before walking out there, there needs to be some mental preparation. The sounds out on the ice are unique and there’s often a fear of falling through. However, the right spot presents itself, fears are overcome and the perfect combination is found – whether jig or dead stick. After that is taken care of, it’s smooth sailing. On ice.
Lesson 1 – Be brave. Be safe. But get out there.
     Ice fishing provides several opportunities that one doesn’t get fishing from a bank or a boat. Sitting in a hut, watching fish under your feet is pretty dang cool. I went fishing with my buddy, Daniel, and I watched a nice rainbow toying with my bait for quite some time. Daniel kept telling me to set the hook, but I was used to bank fishing and waited too long for the familiar tug before setting the hook. Lesson learned. The fish of the day went to Daniel because, apparently, if one fisherman doesn’t set the hook in a timely fashion, the fish gets bored and wanders over to his buddy’s bait.
Lesson 2 – Set the hook if you see a fish playing with the bait, even if you don’t feel a tug on the other end of the line. Or your friend will catch your fish.  
     Ice fishing without a hut is equally exciting, though, maybe not in -40 degree weather. The point of going without a hut is being out in the open air - enjoying a (hopefully) non-windy day. Living where I live, I prefer a hut because it cuts down on the wind. Late January to mid-February weather in Wyoming can be unforgiving frozen tundra. If it wasn’t for extra layers and a good pal on the days where I didn’t take a hut, I may have frozen to the lake. Good thing my compadre, Chad, (and no, I’m not talking about myself) was there to carve me out of the ice if I needed it.
Lesson 3 – Take a friend. First of all, it’s more fun. Plus, if conditions get nasty, it’s good to have back-up. 
     There is the potential to catch monster fish if you find the right spot. A couple weeks ago, my Dad and I caught wind of one of those spots. It took a little while to get there and by the time we did, the lake was loaded with huts and people. And the wind was blowing 35+ mph. I grabbed the sled and high-tailed it to a spot I was CERTAIN would produce large fish. We then proceeded to sit there for the next 5 hours and not have a single bite. Wind. People. Not. A. Single. Bite.
Lesson 4 – People lie about spots.
     There was common lesson in each of these experiences, though. In each situation, we laughed, traded stories and had great conversations. Each time, with each person, a stronger bond was formed as we grew to know each other a little bit better. Was I bummed when I didn’t catch MY fish? A little. Did I get freaking cold? Sure did. Was I discouraged at not catching ANY fish? You betcha. Would I trade ANY of those days? No way in heck. Oftentimes, I find myself wondering why so many people go out and brave the elements to ice fish in Wyoming. Maybe it’s the hope of catching the new state record. Maybe it’s getting outdoors to recharge those batteries. Maybe it’s the company that comes along. Whatever causes you to get out there, just do it. Make those memories. You won’t regret it.

-Long Rifle

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