As a rule, I never trust a forecast over three days out. That being said, I love long range forecasts for the hope they provide. It always seems that in a real cold stretch, the last four days of a two-week run on a number of weather models trend significantly upward. I think the people that control the government weather machines do this just to keep our spirits aloft by suggesting that better conditions are coming.
So when the midweek models came out showing -45 degree windchills and -10 degree highs for the area of Lakes Country where we were all set to fish (especially after the long range forecast the week before showed highs in the 20s), I got on the horn with my fishing buddies. Upon the report that our permanent shack – which would double as a warming house and home base – was a no-show, and we were down to four people and three portables, we decided to postpone the get-together in favor of late ice.
A younger me would not have thought twice about it. I can recall days in the double digits below, fishing in an old school tarp-and-plywood shack, watching lazy three-foot-long pike roll in through the gin-clear waters of eastern North Dakota’s Spiritwood Lake, long before the spearers got their turn at them. After a few minutes, it appeared the snot clinging to my facemask wasn’t the only thing frozen, as the fish with a case of lockjaw would just as lazily turn away from what my buddy and I had to offer.
As I substituted house projects, perusing the new Cabela’s and Bass Pro catalogs that arrived, fly tying and other indoor activities, interspersed with a few well-spaced walks with the dogs around the block over the weekend, I kept thinking: “I could’ve handled this.” After all, three layers of clothes, surrounded by an ice suit and thermal tarp with a propane heater roaring should have been enough to keep me warm. With new jigs and micro-thin monofilament ready to unroll off my ice reels and down the hole, I certainly could have turned the heads of any bluegills or crappies that decided to remain active – or even neutral – after the punishing cold front had swept through the region.
The voices in my head battled through the Riggs-and-Murtaugh exchange from Lethal Weapon, and I determined that indeed, I was not too old for this…kind of thing, and I vowed that the so-called “extreme” cold would not stop me again from a weekend of fishing, no matter how rough it might be. While making that determination and pouring the last of the coffee from the pot into my mug, I looked out the window toward the old brushpile in the back yard.
Puffed up against the north winds, now gusting to 25 miles per hour, was the resident cottontail, which had spent much of the prior week running between the neighbor’s lot and ours in the sultry twenty-degree highs. He appeared to be the size of a basketball as he settled in near the kitchen window and gnawed on a selected stick from a nearby shrub. The twig looked like a cigar, and the expression on the rabbit’s face gave off a frustrated and wistful vibe of longing for warmer weather and better, greener dining options. After whittling his fibrous lunch down to nothing, the cottontail bounded off along the north edge of the house, presumably to the relative shelter of the deck.
The combined steam from my mug and a deep sigh met the gusting wind on the pane of glass in front of me, forming a small circle of fog which crystallized instantly into a half-dollar sized frost. Maybe an inside weekend wasn’t a bad choice after all; especially since the latest long range forecast and model runs showed a nice warm-up coming nine or ten days down the road…in our outdoors.