Ice fishing gymnastics

Paul Smith
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It’s raining, it’s raining. Yes, indeed, once again the snows covering the Avalon Peninsula have been washed away by torrents of rain. People’s basements were flooded and storm drains overflowed.

Two rainstorms in a week obliterated the fleeting brush with winter that many of us were enjoying. My snowshoes are hanging on the shed rafters till another storm tracks the correct bearing east or west for us to get another good sprinkling of the white stuff. Snowmobiles are idle as outdoors people wait for the return of winter.

On the other hand, central Newfoundland, the west coast and northern regions seem to be enjoying fantastic winter recreation. Labrador, as usual, is blessed with lots of snow and cold, crisp weather. I’m jealous. 

That mild spurt really put a damper on ice fishing, as well. Some friends of mine were catching some nice trout though the ice on a regular basis before the monsoon hit. Now it’s pretty risky to venture out on a pond. All that running water has opened up channels that will require many nights of frost to refreeze.

I suppose we will return to winter, but these mild winters have become more and more commonplace in recent years. We will see what happens as February wears on.

I haven’t done much ice fishing in recent years, but this winter I was planning to make a bit of a comeback. Goldie and I just received our first grandchild. Megan, my oldest daughter, delivered a healthy, bouncing baby girl of 8 lbs, 14 ozs. Her name’s Rory and she’s the spitting image of her mother. Although she has her father’s ears and my hands — fly tying hands, I’m thinking. And if she’s anything like Megan, she will certainly enjoy fishing; winter ice fishing being no exception.

I need to get practised up on drilling holes in the right spots to catch those chunky pink mud trout. I’m figuring two years from now she’ll be on the pond, running from hole to hole with her stocking cap pulled down over her ears and mittens caked with frozen snow. No doubt she’ll have too much clothes on and I’ll have to pick her up when she falls down. That’s the way it all played out with her mother, so I expect no different.

Trout or no trout, I’m sure we’ll all have fun.

I don’t take ice fishing too seriously as an angling sport, but it sure is a simple, down-to-earth way to enjoy a splendid day of winter. It doesn’t demand much in the way of equipment or gear, and ice trouting sure doesn’t require much skill, besides knowing where the fish are.

It’s a fantastic family activity, especially when combined with a cook up and tea; hot chocolate for the kids. When the children were small, I’d often pack up the whole family for a day on the pond. I remember fondly their red cheeks being tucked into bed after warm bathes soothed their tingling toes. They would claim that Jack Frost had nipped their toes, but with the way Goldie bundled them up I have my doubts. I’m thinking it was all a bit of drama, maybe a play for a longer bedtime story.

When Megan got older, she got pretty serious about fishing, so serious that she wanted no little sister tagging along to interfere with her fishing. She would often ride along on the ATVs with Rob and me for some serious trout quests.

One trip for certain I will never forget. My back hasn’t been quite the same since. She was about eight years old and we were fishing on a gully in back of Tilton, up over Spider Pond. I had fashioned pop-up sticks that would signal with a red flag when a trout was biting. The wind was bitter cold, so cold that we were having a big problem boiling the kettle on the Coleman stove. The heat was blown away faster than it could transfer to the water. Now that’s bloody cold. 

Rob and I built a rousing fire. Finally, we made tea. Megan was sipping her milky tea when her eyes lit up.

“Daddy, you got a trout on. Quick, quick, he’ll get away.”

Off I ran towards the jiggling red flag. There was a thin skim of snow covering the slick smooth ice. You know what happened. My feet went straight out in front of me and I lay suspended parallel to the ice about three feet in the air, still moving towards the flag. I landed on my back, with a dull thud, right next to the flag. Heroically, I grabbed the line and yanked it out of the water — still on my back, mind you. But the trout was gone.

Robert and Megan roared with laughter. I writhed on the ice in pain, trying not to swear too loudly. Those red flag tip-ups are in permanent storage.  

Nowadays, I’m sticking to one line at a time. I’ll be more careful when I take Rory fishing.  I think I might be getting a little older.


Geographic location: Newfoundland

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