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Five Unexpected Life Lessons Learned From Ice Fishing

I am no fisherman.  I do like downtime, some solitude and being out in nature. But, for some reason, fishing has never been of interest to me.  When our good friends, Linford and Rhonda, recently invited Christa and I to go ice fishing with them and their extended family on Canada’s Family Day public holiday, we were both curious for the adventure-prospects yet cautious because of the weather implications.

Here are five unexpected lessons I learned from our ice fishing day trip.

#1 The early bird does have some advantages

Being that the Family Day holiday was on the Monday, we were seriously tempted to sleep in and pass on the ice fishing offer.  Our friends were targeting being at the fishing destination, 140km south of Calgary, by 8am.  At that time we were still in bed politely texting our friends and preparing them for the fact that we were likely to succumb to the warmth of our bed rather than endure the 90 minute drive to get there then brave the -20°C outdoor conditions.  Curiosity, coupled with a twinge of guilt for leaving our friends out in the cold, got us mobilized. 

We found ourselves packed with our winter gear and on the road to Chain Lakes Provincial Park by 10h30.  The snow-capped foothills of the nearby Rocky Mountains formed a majestic backdrop to the frozen rolling ranch lands that passed us by as we headed south.  Arriving at our destination by midday we were met with abnormally wind-still conditions.

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Snow-capped Rocky Mountain foothills en route to Chain Lakes Provincial Park
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Arriving at Chain Lakes Provincial Park off Highway 22

As Rhonda drove us across the frozen lake to ferry us to their make-shift ice camp, we learnt that they had spotted seven different moose and numerous deer during their sunrise drive from Calgary.  Only moments before we arrived had a moose nonchalantly sauntered across the frozen lake between the numerous other fishing parties that were shacked up there.  A pair of bald eagles had been spotted flying overhead and swooping across the surface of the lake to forage for any fish remnants.  Christa and I had missed out on all of this on account of our slothful morning start.

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At least we managed to get one sighting of the Bald Eagles during our afternoon
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Bald Eagle pair scavenging for food around the fishing camps

🎣 Life Lesson #1: sometimes being the early bird does pay dividends.

#2 Sometimes the weather forecast can be trusted

As things turned out, what could’ve been frigid conditions out on the frozen lake turned out to be near-perfect.  After a bitterly cold preceding weekend, coupled with some significant snow dumps, the sentiment was that Monday was going to be best spent at home, indoors.  Environment Canada was calling for decent weather, but at remote destinations the forecast doesn’t always prove reliable.  On this occasion, they nailed it!  And we were the beneficiaries of a wind-still day on the lake.

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A spectacular and calm winters day on the frozen Chain Lakes

🎣 Life lesson #2: the weatherman can be trusted … but common sense is invaluable too.

#3 Stick with the boy who has the toys

Linford is a gadget man of note.  That’s one of the many reasons I love hanging out with him.  He’s the friendliest giant you’ve ever met.  And he also loves toys and accessories.  So, going ice fishing with him, even in hostile wintery conditions, is an education and a treat.  From the auger to drill holes in the ice, to the multitude of rods, triggers, bait, shelters, heaters, underwater camera, cooking kit and food, nothing was a chore for him to arrange, set up and maintain for the party of 17 family and friends that had tagged along for this little outing.  All we needed to do was arrive.  And we’re sure glad we did.  It took all the guess-work out of the day and made it all about connecting and enjoying one another’s company.

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The auger and heated fishing shack
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Fishing rod fitted with bell(s) (& whistles) and some of the caught sucker fish
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The underwater camera monitor inside the shack
www.IAmCalgary.ca I Am Calgary Ice Fishing Weiner roasting and food
Hot dogs and snacks

🎣 Life Lesson #3: a big-hearted gadget-man is a friend you would do well to treat with appreciation and respect.

#4 Sight isn’t always helpful

Christa managed to land her first ice fishing fish during our adventure on the ice.  Granted, it wasn’t a fish worth keeping, eating or reporting on, but it was her first none the less.  Sadly, I wasn’t around to witness the event.  I’d gone on an exploratory walk with my camera.  But not before learning another life lesson.

Prior to my photographic excursion, Christa had been trying to lure a fish that we’d glimpsed on the underwater camera monitor lurking around her bait.  In her excitement at having seen the fish nibble on her bait in full view of the camera, she’d yanked on the line a little prematurely without hooking it, losing the fish.  At almost exactly the same time, another friend in the same fishing shack had hooked a fish based purely on the feel of the fish nibbling on her line.

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Christa kisses her first successful ice fishing catch
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Derek out on a photographic walk

🎣 Life Lesson #4: seeing something – versus feeling it – sometimes causes us to respond in haste.

#5 It’s more fun seeing others succeed for the first time

The old adage, “it’s better to give than to receive” is anything but OLD.  It’s true.  During our few hours of ice fishing, I was reminded again of the value of letting other succeed for the first time.  Each of the young kids was given an opportunity to haul a fish out of an ice hole even if they hadn’t been manning a rod.  The sheer delight of feeling that they’d reeled something in – even if Linford or their parents had put in the time to lure and snag the unsuspecting fish – was of immeasurable value to the little ones and of equally immeasurable delight to the parents.

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Letting one of the youngsters reel in a fish

🎣 Life Lesson #5: find opportunity to build courage and confidence by seeing others succeed and giving them the credit.

Doesn’t this just want to make you find friends like Linford and Rhonda to get you to enjoy new adventures with?

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