I haven’t been ice fishing for years, but if I ever get the urge to go again, I think I want to fish with Matthew McConaughey.
He’s that movie star, the guy from “A Time to Kill’’ and “Dallas Buyers Club’’ and “We Are Marshall’’ and “The Lincoln Lawyer,’’ among many others. He’s one of those cool dudes, a guy who probably would qualify for celebrity status in this social-media world even if he weren’t a good actor. And maybe he isn’t. I’m no judge of acting ability. I just like most of his movies, the ones I’ve seen.
But besides being a successful actor, McConaughey is the featured guy in a series of television commercials for a luxury car company. Sometimes he just drives around in this tricked-out vehicle that looks like an upgraded version of an Oldsmobile station wagon from around 1960. Sometimes he speeds through the desert night looking cool at the steering wheel. In the most recent spot I’ve seen, he takes a luxury sports utility vehicle and goes ice fishing.
Maybe you’ve seen the commercial. The guy pulls up to a frozen lake that looks like it may be somewhere in the far reaches of the Northwest Territories of Canada. He backs up near the shore of the lake, pops the hatch on the back end of the sleek, black SUV and takes his fishing gear out onto the ice. He hand-drills a fishing hole, drops in the hook and line, sets the flag and trudges back to the shore. Wearing a pair of pretty nice winter boots and a parka that looks like it came from an exclusive shop on Rodeo Drive (but maybe Army-Navy Surplus, I don’t judge), he settles into the open hatch of the SUV, takes off his gloves and blows on his bare hands. Then, like ice fishing people the world over, he waits for the signal that he has a fish on the line.
The commercial fascinates me. There’s no accounting for what interests a person, I guess. I just like how cool the guy is as he does the same thing Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau did (with a lot less cool) in that movie “Grumpy Old Men.’’ Matthew McConaughey ice fishing is a lot like James Dean hunkered down behind some duck decoys in a cattail-rimmed slough or Jerry Lee Lewis shivering away in a goose pit. It seems far-fetched, but I buy in, willingly suspending my disbelief, as the Romantic poet said.
Don’t get me wrong. I won’t be going down to the dealership and buying a new SUV like the one McConaughey uses for a fishing shack. There was never a time in my life when I’d have had either the cash or the inclination to do that. The time or two that I was ice fishing, either we sat in the open on overturned milking pails and stared at a hole in the ice while we slowly froze solid, or we had a home-made shack with thin, plywood walls, a canvas roof and a couple of T-shaped stools like the one I used to use to milk our old cow back on the farm. That’s far from glamorous, but a lot of people seem to get a kick out of it.
I grew up knowing people who ice fished, seeing small fishing-shack villages dotting the coves along the river in the dead of winter and ringing the small lakes and over-sized stock dams of the western prairie. Ice fishing is as much a part of winter in this part of the country as are blizzard warnings and northwest breezes.
I didn’t think it was particularly unusual until a guy I worked with for the wire service in Pierre got assigned to do a national story on ice fishing. The guy grew up in Las Vegas – the one in New Mexico. He’d never seen ice, much less ice fishing, before he hit South Dakota. He went out with a couple of fanatics and got a highly entertaining story, with photographs.
Maybe I should ask to do a story with Matthew McConaughey. I like his style on the ice.