February 3, 2005

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

My wife has often questioned my intelligence level as I put on my third layer of clothes, grabbed the coffee thermos and headed out into the below-freezing conditions to go sit on the ice to fish. Until Sunday I always just figured she was jealous.

But then I was sitting there on some of the worst ice Iíve ever ventured out on. As I was jumping up and down next to the hole I just drilled, listening to the ice crack and break, it struck me that there might be a smarter way to determine whether the ice was safe enough to fish on. Thatís sort of like sticking your finger in the outlet to see if the electricity is on.

This was just the tip of the iceberg on my Sunday IQ test.

As I pull into the drive to pick up my fishing partner, that little orange light finally catches my eye- you know the one that says LOW FUEL. Iím not sure why I didnít notice the warning seven or eight miles earlier before I passed the last gas station within walking distance.

So after we unloaded my truck and crammed all three of us into the lone vehicle with fuel, I chalk it up to dumb luck and turn my attention to the fishing to come.

We make it to our first destination and bail out like the clowns exiting the miniature car at the circus, except that I smashed my knee on the door and had to limp out onto the ice.

My limp soon transitioned into tippy toes as the rotten ice thinned to the point of concern. The cracking caused me to stop in my tracks. Iím not sure what part of my brain believed that by shifting my weight onto my two big toes, that I could now safely traverse the melting pond surface? Thatís like when the batteries are dead in the remote control and you try to push the buttons harder to change the channel.

After I made the mad dash out to the center of the pond (you see, ice rots around the edges first Ė Iíve even seen people use a board to step over open water to get to the ice island in the center of the water) I sat up shop next to my partners. Of course they immediately started hauling in fish. Even though I was just some 20 feet away, my hole quickly went dry after just three keepers. Yet another lesson why one should not brag about oneís fishing abilities until after the day is over.

Finally I buried my pride and moved a little closer to the honey hole. A little closer ended up within armís length of the two other anglers. The move worked. In less than an hour weíd landed 50 or 60 fish. It was so frantic that I uttered the strangest comment.

I suggested that the fishing was too good, and we should try another spot. I never realized there was such a way to describe fishing Ė too good? My mental illness must have been effecting my pals as they agreed and we switched ponds.

Our second stop wasnít nearly as productive. That was an understatement. They each caught one anorexic bass. I was fishless. That might have had something to do with my Vexilar quitting. I was smart enough to charge up my cell phone battery before I went out. Thatís more important than having power for the fish finder, right?

Our third stop proved even less compelling. The ice looked bad, yet we still ventured forth. We soon learned that it wouldnít have mattered if we had fallen through, as we all could have touched bottom on the shallow impoundment. Again with the rationalizing of the ignorance of stepping onto the unsafe surface.

Finally we made one last stop. They caught a handful more to top off the bucket while I sat on my bucket, hunched over my hole trying to remember what it was like before I had all that technology and the luxury of my tent, which I dared not drag out on the ice. (Itís okay if I fall in but I donít want to lose my tent and all my gear.)

I finally was smart enough to call it quits. But then after I helped clean all those fish they caught, I forgot to take my bag of fillets home. Next time Iíll remember my brain.

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