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Paul Smith: Fly fishing or ice Trouting — no contest

What a day for fishing.
What a day for fishing.

Boy oh boy, this winter is really hanging tough. Is it just my perception, or is spring having more difficulty beating winter into submission?

That seems to be the trend over the past few years. I should know because it is sea trout fishing season, and angling our saltwater estuaries for browns can certainly harmonize one with temperature and weather.

It has been very cold for late March; record-setting temperatures and wind chills. Where we would normally cast long floating lines with fast graphite rods remains frozen solid.

That being said, some tidal waters are open, and I have certainly taken full advantage. Last week I drove over to Trinity Bay on a lovely sunny afternoon, before the most recent cold snap. At New Harbour there were folks fishing, some with spinning rods rigged with casting plugs and dangling flies. This is a popular method on the Trinity Bay south shore. It was sunny so the action was not surprisingly, quite slow. But I could see the odd nice trout breaking the dark tranquil slick surface.

The guy in the boat looks pretty serious.

One guy angled from a lovely wooden row boat with a fly rod. I figured by his retrieve, that he fished a nymph, maybe with an impaled sea louse.

Before rod assembly, and waders, I covered my lens with a Polaroid filter and fired off a few frames. I like snow, sunshine, blue-sky and water, even if the trout prefer fog, wind, and rain.

And that’s how I typically remember this time of year, damp cold, with wind off the ocean, and rain, or wet snow.

Last night the wind chill was almighty wicked. I know first hand, taking a five-mile walk to burn some calories and test a new pair of Outdoor Research mountaineering gloves. I might have to wear them fishing this week.

One-hombre-power ice sled.

Maybe the gods are favouring the ice-fishing crowd over us springtime fly fishers. Those pop-up ice-fishing shelters have legitimized going out on the pond in the windiest and coldest weather.

Goldie likes ice fishing much more that I do. I’ve sucked it up and taken her out a few times.

I should explain. It’s not so much that I dislike trouting through the ice. I just like it much less than angling with a long rod and fly.

There’s not enough fiddling for me, standing over a hole and dangling a worm.

Fly fishing offers so many variables to toy around with, retrieve speed, pattern, presentation, and much more.

Goldie isn’t a winter person but loves ice fishing. It makes no sense.

But ice fishing is peaceful, and I don’t mind a cup of tea, lunch, an aromatic pipe, and good conversation on the pond. A shelter enhances the experience light years on all but the most tranquil winter days

Getting to the particulars of my-ice fishing shelter for a few moments, I have a funny story to tell.

Goldie and I sledded the fabric hut and other gear out on the pond for an inaugural outing. It was windy and nippy cold. With too many irons in the fire as always, I had not set the shelter up in my yard first, nor had I read the instructions, or watched a setup video.

What the hell? How hard can it be? So, on the pond, I looked at the supplied paperwork for the very first time. The print was small and I fumbled for my reading glasses. I’m older but not much wiser. Please read this manual in its entirety before attempting to use. Very well.

I read Step 1. Place shelter on the ice with the grey surface up. Goldie is not very happy at this point. I normally berate folks for not reading instructions.

Oh well. Do as I say, not as I do.

Goldie holds one tent corner and I the other, the paper instructions nipped under my arm and flapping precariously in the gusty wind. You can easily guess what happened. A particularly energetic gust blew the shelter flapping like a flag into the air. I grabbed nimbly to save the day, and the instructions have never been seen again.

Goldie is now even less happy.

See, she looks pretty happy.

To the folks at Clam who manufactured and designed this shelter (, you guys got her done good.

The ice tent, shelter, whatever you choose to name it, was up and operational, with no instructions, in under a minute.

Unbelievable, and then it took me just a couple of minutes to screw holding pegs into the ice on each corner. We were very impressed with the construction quality, design, setup speed, and simplicity. They even insulated the fabric to reduce condensation and hold heat inside. And you really don’t need to read the instructions.

I drilled two fishing holes inside, along with a few outside, within peeping range of our windows. I opened the vents and lit my Pocket Rocket for tea and lunch.

Goldie got happier, and I lit my pipe. I joked about difficulty getting the shelter down and packed away. I took some flak again, with hints about searching for the instructions on the far shore tree line.

I did not. Sure it’s all online, along with videos. I could have watched a video on my phone. But the tent came down in a jiffy.

We had a grand afternoon. The sun hung low and the wind abated a few knots. Our shelter dropped to the ice as the sun dipped below the spruce.

But I’d still rather be fly fishing.


Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at  or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock  

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