WOSTER: Wintertime stroll with spouse sure beats sitting on a bucketI’ve never understood the whole ice-fishing thing, anyway. It’s a cold, boring wait in a tiny shed on a frozen body of water, peering into a little hole in the ice, hoping some fish will be gullible enough to bite at a minnow that shouldn’t be there in the first place.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
We walked down by the river bridges last weekend, Nancy and I, alone on the walking path except for a pesky breeze that made our eyes water and our noses run.
The combination of temperature and breeze made the outing a bit of a test, and we didn’t have much company in that city park by the river shore. A lone eagle left his high perch in a flood-marked cottonwood as we approached. A mess of noisy geese hunkered in the sand of a small island off the shore.
And under the railroad bridge, far off toward the west bank, a single fishing boat rose and fell on waves that tried but failed to break over the bow. Two anglers — men or women, one couldn’t be sure because of the bundle of winter clothing they wore — huddled at opposite sides of the boat, attention riveted on the fishing lines they played in the choppy water.
Nancy, who doesn’t at all mind walking in frigid weather if she is dressed for the cold, questioned the mental condition of the anglers out in the open on the river that cold afternoon.
“Those folks,” she said, “couldn’t possibly think they’ll catch fish, could they?”
“Well,” I said, pausing on the path to study the boat and its occupants more carefully (and quite coincidentally catching my breath and giving the legs a rest), “I suppose they must think there are fish out there in a mood to bite on something. It doesn’t seem like they’d just be out there enjoying the afternoon, although I guess it isn’t so much different from duck hunting in a slough. For that matter, it isn’t much different from ice fishing except that the water doesn’t freeze often on this stretch of the river right below the dam.”
Nancy paused beside me, although when we walk, she’s usually in favor of a steady, brisk pace and not many stops.
(I’ve tried to tell her that putting purpose into the outing ruins a perfectly good walk, but she thinks the purpose is to get the heart rate up and the lungs filling with fresh air or something crazy like that. For my money, the best part of a long walk on a weekend is, well, obviously the company of Nancy, sure, but also — very secondarily, you understand — the opportunity to spend a couple of perfectly good hours away from a house where all manner of chores lie in wait. Primarily, it’s the company, I repeat. Come to think of it, exercise is secondary. The hours away from the chores is really only third, maybe less than that.)
Anyway, she paused, thought a moment and said, “Yeah, well, I’ve never understood the whole ice-fishing thing, anyway. It’s a cold, boring wait in a tiny shed on a frozen body of water, peering into a little hole in the ice, hoping some fish will be gullible enough to bite at a minnow that shouldn’t be there in the first place.”
I had to admit to myself she had just produced about the most realistic description of ice fishing I’d ever heard. Being a guy, though, I couldn’t admit that. I had to stick up for the outdoor guys of the world, loony as they may be.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “I remember some really good times ice fishing with my friend and his dad out along the west bank of the river across from Chamberlain when I was a kid. We didn’t even have a shack, just some big, old pails to sit on, a length of hand-held line with a hook and bobber, a hatchet to chop through the ice and a little cup on a handle to scoop the hole clear when it started to freeze over. It was great fun.”
Was it? Heck, no, Wally, as Beaver Cleaver would say. It was pure misery after about the first two minutes. It was too dark to read and too cold to relax. And wherever we chopped, we wound up in a fish-free zone and went home empty-handed.
Walking into the wind has ice-fishing beat every which way.