Nevermind the ice.
Montana acquires a white cloak in winter. Depending on the season’s precipitation, the mountains hunker down in their quiet majesty under several feet of cold smoke, and the lower-elevation water bodies harden, crack, and groan within several feet of ice. During these long winter months the brave of heart, or ridiculously minded, or stir-crazy, venture on the ice of reservoirs such as Canyon Ferry to catch ten-inch perch, larger walleye, and the occasional pot-roast-sized rainbow through a slushy hole.
I considered doing this once, after all of the hunting seasons ended, I’d tied all my flies, and the snow at Bridger was the consistency of Formica. I asked the local guru if I could take an axe and chop a hole through the ice. His response was a prolonged “Ummm,” followed by a sentence that included words like “cast-iron” and “boilerplate.” He told me about augers. I asked if I could rent one. “Ummm,” he intoned again.
So, if I get an auger, I asked, I should just take my son’s snoopy pole up there and drop a worm in, right? “Ummm.”
He explained that I needed one of those specialized little ice fishing rods. I also needed tip-ups, live minnows, nightcrawlers, frozen maggots and a way to unfreeze them (my MOUTH!?), a bucket to sit on and carry everything in, and preferably a way to get across the ice (DRIVE on it!?). I was told I also needed a skimmer, an ice chisel, a spud bar, a dip net, lures, and jigs. If I was really adventurous and got into it, I could build a shanty, but I’d need to make sure I removed it from the ice before it fell through and became walleye habitat in the spring.
“Ummm,” I said. With thousands of dollars of fly fishing and fly tying gear in the closet already, I decided to return to my desk and my steaming coffee mug to tie flies, and await a 30-degree day to run nymphs through riffles.