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How lucky are we, at all?

By Darrin McGrath  |  The Shoreline  |  Vol. 31 No. 47 (February 6 2019)

Ice-fishing opened on Friday February 1st. On Monday February 4th, Stephen Chafe and I decided to head west on the TCH and fish a gully we knew of. It was mid-morning when we hopped in the truck, stopped for a java and headed out.

As we drove along we talked about some trips we had made in the past. We sipped our coffees and soon saw the road sign that marked the path to the gully. We were hopeful as we got our gear out of the truck and prepared for the short walk. With the scarcity of snow there was no need for snowshoes.
The ice was as smooth and shiny as a mirror. It would have been perfect for skating, Steve remarked. I was glad that I had visited Outdoor Pros and purchased a pair of cleats to fit on over my heavy rubber boats and provide better traction.

I had a little trouble cutting with my auger on opening day, and sadly on this outing the auger was cutting very poorly. I was mad at myself for not getting new blades, since the auger was not used at all last year, and its dull edge in 2017 had slipped my mind.

I did try to sharpen the twin blades with a small flat file on my multi-tool, but couldn’t get them honed. But in any case after a little sweat and taking turns with the auger we had three holes cut. We decided to fish these holes and take a break from the frustration caused by drilling with dull auger blades. Of course, neither of us had brought an axe, or we could have cut the holes the old-fashioned way. There was lots of ice despite some of the mild days and rain that had appeared during January.

One item we did bring was folding chairs. Pretty soon we were each sat off like we owned the gully. The wind was blowing from the south, but it was warmer than the previous few days. We seated ourselves with the wind at our back. We were using red beads and gold bait spinners with worms. Within fifteen or twenty minutes I pulled up a nice chunky mud trout. It was little we thought that this was the beginning of more or less non-stop action for the next couple of hours.

The trout would strike in and we’d get bites and land some and then for ten or fifteen minutes the action would slow to the odd bite. Sometimes it was like the trout weren’t biting really good but just playing with the bait. Once in a while one of would check the third line to see if there was any action.
Steve lost a couple of nice trout that seemed to just be barely hooked and flipped over at the edge of the ice and darted back into the water. We both also caught a couple of small trout which we did our best to gingerly unhook and release. Of course, the worst thing about fishing with barbed bait hooks is the fact that trout, even small ones, may be hooked badly making an easy release impossible.

We were only sitting about fifteen feet apart and it was almost 2pm before the action really started to slow down so we decided to boil up.
We got in the woods at the edge of the pond and began searching for small dead twigs and sticks. Soon the aroma of woodsmoke filled the winter air and before long the kettle was boiling. We had hot coffee and then heated up beans and wieners in an old saucepan. It was some good.

While we were sitting around the camp fire we chatted about how fortunate we were to be out in the country on such a fine winter day. Getting a few trout was gravy. After our lunch we returned to our lines and each of us quickly pulled up a nice trout. But the fishing just kept getting slower and slower, and the bites were farther and farther apart. By about 3:30 in the afternoon we had a quick chat and decided to fish until 4 p.m. and then call it a day.

By this time we had seventeen trout between us. And, we had each lost a couple of nice ones, and put back a couple of small ones. So with a bit more luck we could have had our limit of a dozen apiece. But as it was, Steve had eight trout, while I had nine, which was enough for both of us to have a good panfry at home. We were grateful to have caught so many trout.

How lucky we are in this province to be able to find some good trouting relatively close to home. Getting out on a pond, drowning worms and having a boil-up with an old buddy really makes you feel good. Ice fishing is good for the body, mind and soul. Ice fishing brings the angler close to nature when the weather is at its worst. Bitter winds, snow squalls, not to mention ice so shiny that you can hardly walk on it, combine to make ice fishing as much a test of endurance as anything. Cold hands and feet and wind burnt cheeks are all a part of ice fishing in early February.

When you’re staring down into the frigid water through a six-inch hole in the ice, and you see the line begin to move, the adrenalin gets pumping.
Ice fishing is a great way to enjoy winter.

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