Tuesday September 02, 2014

Camaraderie in the crazy cold

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Welcome to Week XCIV of 'Fishing Parkland Shorelines'. Like most of us I am a novice fisherman, loving to fish, but far from an expert. In the following weeks I'll attempt to give those anglers who love to fish but just don't have access to a boat, a look at some of the options in the Yorkton area where you can fish from shore, and hopefully catch some fish.

When you pre-pay to attend an event you usually do it to save a few bucks.

But with the decision to spend your dollars early comes a sort of obligation to attend the given event, after all you lose not only savings, but whatever you have paid out.

As a fisherman I was glad to buy an early bird entry to this year's Lake of the Prairies Ice Fishing Derby since any dollar saved can be a dollar spent later on some new fangled lure.

That said when morning dawned Feb. 22, the temperatures were somewhere south of chilly, residing right on the edge of frigid, a situation made worse by a brisk breeze. In other words it was a rather typical day for this unseasonably cold winter we are enduring.

But I had the derby ticket in hand and a goal to avenge being skunked at the 2013 event.

As was the case last year my son Adam was on side for the excursion, with the little party adding a couple of new buds this time around; Graham and Rob, both of whom readers may recall from past mentions in this space.

As I flicked on the olé laptop that morning and looked at the day's forecast I must say climbing back under the warm bed covers did seem like a much better option.

But there were four men going on this trip, and there was no way I was going to be the one blinking in the face of old man winter and suggesting we stay home. There is a thing among buds called bravado which was clearly clouding very reasonable judgement and so instead of succumbing to the common sense of retreating to dreamland, I started layering on clothes; shirt, sweater, windbreaker, bunny hug, winter coat, balaclava, two pair of socks, snowmobile boots, long underwear etc, etc. I was frankly wearing a well-stocked Woolworth's store of clothing.

As we four brave, or was that foolhardy, men gathered, there was considerable grumbling about the weather and the general insanity of the winter, but we still headed out.

We weren't the only ones braving the cold. In fact the parking lot was packed with fishermen's vehicles. The lake, a gridded playing field for fishing. All of it a testament to just how easily we Canucks brave the winter elements in pursuit of recreational passions.

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We seek out four holes, each taking the corner of what was a fishing square. The holes were dug the day before, but had to be chipped open, the cold quickly freezing the top water.

It was something we had to repeat often throughout the day, skimming off the ice, a process made easy with a brand new ice skimmer purchased for the trip.

Well at least that was the case until Adam in the genius exhibited only by the still young, decided to toss the skimmer back to me.

I was seated, cold, stiff, my right hand holding my fishing rod. I made an attempt to catch the skimmer, an admirable back-handed effort reminiscent of Robby Alomar when he played second base for the Toronto Blue Jays, but even Alomar missed a few.

The skimmer slipped off my mitted-hand and ... yes, you guessed it, went down my fishing hole slicker than a DeMar DeRozan dunk (for those unfamiliar he's a star with the surprising Toronto Raptors this season).

I can just see somebody trolling along this summer and hooking the lost skimmer, laughing their heads off once it is landed realizing just how it probably ended up at the bottom of the lake.

Now you might think because I mention the 'Great Skimmer Debacle of 2014' first that it was the highlight of the trip.

Not exactly.

It was my son's shining moment, but I would be amiss if I did not mention my buds.

Rob had packed like he was taking up housekeeping on the open ice. A propane heater, one that mustered a 30-second flame about the heat value of a good cigarette lighter before the heat succumbed to the cold propane never to regain life that day.

There was a small cooking plate Rob had expected to fire with propane in order to heat water for tea. The fishing gods apparently are not tea drinkers because the burner never burned, the water never boiled, the tea remained unsteeped.

It was a woeful effort from a man. After all taming fire is supposed to be in our genes.

That said I might be able to sell a critique of Rob's efforts to Brent Butt, who grew up in the same hometown as I (Tisdale), for his stand up routine.

Now here I must credit Graham. He too had packed along a heater to help fend off the cold. It actually lit. Really it did. In fact if you put your gloves directly on the element, they would actually get warm, well for about an hour until he ran out of fuel.

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By this point you might be noticing this story lacks the general element of a fishing column — FISH!

Well I can tell you there were fish.

For a time a 55-centimetre Pike was the big fish of the day.

A 60-plus centimetre Walleye would later ascend to the top of the leader board, only to be toppled by a 77-centimetre Pike.

Now Pike are long-bodied brutes which typically take such derby crowns, and that appeared to be the case this year as well.

Late in the derby, typical was thrown by the way-side as a true monster emerged from the ice cold waters of Lake of the Prairies.

Someone, no not one of the 'Four Amigos', hooked an 80.5 centimetre carp. A carp that long would have been as thick a five-gallon pail, well maybe not, but it would be a thick-shouldered beastie. I can only imagine how much fight would be in a carp that big.

As for our little square of ice, well the results were on par with last year, meaning zero fish, zero bites, but lots of fun, albeit more tinged with ice this time around.

So what does this all mean?

In the grand scheme of things nothing.

It was after all, just a fishing trip and fishing is less about catching and more about camaraderie anyways.

Or, at least that's what four guys who get skunked say about such a day.

Oh, and we are already planning 2015. We want more clothes, bigger fires, to recruit another bud or two to the tiny cabal and yes we want to try catching. They say it's actually fun to drag a fish through the ice at the derby. Stay with me for another year and maybe I will be able to confirm that rumour.



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