On a frigidly cold Saturday morning in late February, I got out of bed at 4:30am, dressed myself in several layers of warm clothing, pulled on slush pants and an oversized winter jacket, donned my hat and gloves and stepped outside. What was I doing? This was the weekend… time to sleep in and linger over that first cup of tea, sit on the deck in balmy Campbell River,.. but no, I was in Kamloops, and I was going ice fishing.
I wasn’t going by myself – I was invited by my son, who did this practically every weekend in the winter. This would be my first time and I was willing to try it, although I found out later that he had his doubts that I would. Apparently a friend told him that his mother would never have gone unless forced. “I’ll try anything,” I told him, “if you make me.” Which sounds like the same thing, but what it really means is that if he organizes everything and does the grunt work, then I’m in. He also assured me that I wasn’t likely to feel the cold.
We arrived at Heffley Lake just as the sky was brightening and it really was quite beautiful. So this in itself made me feel that this wasn’t so bad afterall, until he told me that we had to cross the lake to get to our fishing spot. “What?” I said, “I have to walk that far?” That lake looked tremendously vast from where I stood on the shore – several kilometres across I was sure. I told him to go on ahead, as it was going to take me quite some to catch up, and as I slugged through the snow trying to walk in his footsteps, I envied the supplies that were getting a ride on his toboggan.
By the time I got to our spot, he already had the ice fishing hut (really, a tent) up and the propane
heater on, and all the supplies inside. I stood and watched (I’m good at this) as he bored two holes in the ice. Then all I had to do was step inside. To my surprise, there was even a canvas chair to sit on. (He had told me previously that I was going to be sitting on a block of ice). He handed me a rod – a short one it seemed to me, that was already baited with a worm and instructed me in how to attract the fish beneath the ice. It was really pretty comfy, though dark. I had the impression it would have been brighter in there.
We had brought some snacks, but what was missing for me was a thermos filled with hot tea. “You don’t own a thermos?” I had asked with some astonishment the night before. “No,” my son told me, “but all the old guys I go fishing with always bring one.” I guess me and the ‘old guys’ shared a thing or two in common, because to my mind, nothing eases the pain of cold like a hot beverage, especially when a person is outdoors. However, dressed as I was in clothing reminiscent of childhood – ie, the snowsuit that it was impossible to move in, I was actually okay. I realized that I probably should have worn an extra pair of socks and that my hat was more of a fashion statement that winter apparel, but I didn’t suffer from frostbite or lose any toes or ears.
Another thing I probably share with the ‘old guys’ is a frequent need to use the outdoor ‘facilities’. There weren’t any, but I found a tree just a few steps away from the hut that provided adequate shelter from elements and prying eyes. I honestly wasn’t worried that anyone would see me, that is until the second trip out when I was on my way to my tree, and two new people arrived who thought it was a good time to wave ‘hello’. Like a true outdoorsperson who must share the camaraderie of being the only humans out on this barren wasteland of ice, I waved back, and proceeded on my way. There was no point in hiding the obvious and for me, when Nature calls, I am compelled to respond.
I had been fishing with my son many times before, although never in winter. This was the only thing that made this excursion different since as always, I didn’t catch anything, but he did. Four nice sized beautiful trout. Despite my ill luck, I was pleased that we had dinner. And it was also a time for quiet and for conversation, because when you are waiting and watching for the fish through that hole in the ice for five hours, there is little to do except talk, or be quiet as the case may be.
We ended our day at Sun Peaks Resort which was surprisingly busy, and there I had my cup of tea. When we arrived back at his place and the warmth engulfed us, I was good and ready for a nap (another thing I probably share with the old guys) and dropped easily into a deep sleep. We had the fish for dinner the next night and it was excellent! Would I go ice fishing again? Probably, but not without my thermos of tea, an extra pair of wool socks, a warm hat, a little music…