Burgers, beers, and hot fishing on a local reservoir.
The ice-fishing day started as most do: late and hungover. My roommate and I were sitting on the couch nursing coffee and watching English Premier League soccer as the rare bluebird winter day slipped away, hour by hour. We have to do something, we agreed.
Neither of us had Bridger passes, and a few inches of fresh snow meant the groomed Nordic trails were out of commission, too. How about ice fishing up Hyalite? It was settled. At the crack of noon, we loaded up Remy’s toboggan with ice auger, rods, tackle boxes, grill, burger fixins, and bait. Then we made the obligatory grocery store stop to snag a couple sixers—if nothing else, at least we would catch a buzz.
When the rainbow trout finally came through the hole, he wasn’t half as big as I’d thought he would be. It almost made me wish he’d come off in the hole, so I could tell people I had lost a lunker.
The road to Hyalite was in sloppy condition, unsurprisingly. But after some fun slip-and-slide action (it’s always better as a passenger), we arrived at our top-secret fishing hole: the Hyalite dam parking lot. Much to our dismay, it was apparently also about 20 other people’s secret fishing hole. Red and blue shelters dotted the lake, most within a quarter mile of the boat ramp. But hey, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
We dragged the sled out to just beyond the last shelter, trudging through grueling slush, near-arctic winds, and blindingly bright snow. But it was fully worth the strife, for we were now in virgin waters, free of the crowds by nearly a hundred feet.
Remy popped a couple holes with his ice auger while I fired up the grill. After a big morning, I was getting hungry. I threw on two huge elk-burger patties, realizing that I had left all of our toppings, save ketchup and buns, at home. We were really roughing it.
With the burgers sizzling away, I could turn to more pressing matters, like out-fishing my roommate. With the sun already threatening to dip behind the horizon, there was no time to waste. I rigged up a small tungsten jig and tipped it with a moldy mealworm from a container Remy had extracted from the deep recesses of our fridge.
We sat in the last few minutes of sunshine, munching our colossal elk burgers, sipping beer, and telling fish stories.
The action was instantaneous. My jig had barely sunk below the ice when a fish inhaled it. I loosened my drag to protect my 2-pound monofilament line, and fought the hungry beast for what must’ve been 30 seconds. No denying it, this was a nice fish. But when the rainbow trout finally came through the hole, he wasn’t half as big as I’d thought he would be. It almost made me wish he’d come off in the hole, so I could tell people I had lost a lunker. But I suppose I could tell people that anyways.
We enjoyed the hot action for half an hour, until our hands were caked with frozen fish slime and our bait supply exhausted. The food was ready, too. We sat in the last few minutes of sunshine, munching our colossal elk burgers, sipping beer, and telling fish stories. You should’ve seen the one I lost on Canyon Ferry last week, Remy told me. But as a seasoned ice-fisherman now, I was much too wise to fall hook-line-and-sinker for his antics. Anyways, I’d caught more fish than him and the score was settled. So really what else mattered?
After a successful afternoon, we packed up and hit the road back to town. If my arm wasn’t so sore from fighting fish, I probably would’ve done it again the next day.