I love fishing, and I love being outdoors, especially in the company of family and friends. It is exciting every time there is a bite and a fish is hooked. Be it big or little, there is immense satisfaction being able to fool that fish, get it to bite, and bring it to shore. I fish because many of the landscapes that fish call home are beautiful. I fish because fish are honest. A fish reacts to what is presented, regardless of who is doing the presenting, be it a 4-year-old girl out of dad’s tin boat or a seasoned angler in a Lund Pro V. The fish do not care, and there is something reassuring about that.
Fishing is fun for all ages.
I still love to catch fish, and I suspect I always will, but something that gives me more satisfaction is having the honour of taking other people out fishing. I teach them what I know, I explain to them why we are fishing a certain spot, be it on the river, or in a lake. Sometimes the explanation is as simple as, "My friends caught fish here yesterday". It is a, "don’t ask questions," approach. Just get to the honey hole and be thankful for the good fishing that follows. Other times the explanation is much more involved, "We are fishing on the upper edge of this sandy drop off because trout like to push minnows into this shallow area and trap them here. So when a trout is doing this, they are active and ready to bite."
My friends caught them here yesterday!
I explain why we lightly hook a worm, so that it wiggles a lot and is more appealing to an interested fish. I show how I hook a minnow, so that it hangs horizontally, and this makes the presentation to the fish more natural causing more fish to bite. I let them know that thin line catches more fish than thicker line, and this is especially true through the ice, when fishing for whitefish, perch, and trout. When it comes to pike, though, these fish do not seem to care about line thickness nearly as much.
How you hook your bait makes a difference.
I explain the seasonality of fishing; how we find many pike in the shallows in May and early June, but because they are cold blooded these same pike head to the deeper water during summer, returning to the shallows in late September, early October, when the lakes cool down again. Similarly, I show them the seasonality of fish in the rivers, like how goldeye populate the Edmonton area of the North Saskatchewan River throughout the summer, and when September rolls around, they leave. At the same time though, monster mega walleye begin populating this stretch of river come fall, so that is a pretty good trade.
Goldeye populate the river in summer.
I teach how to tie knots, and how a Trilene knot tied to a small fly or wireworm, with its double wrap on the hook eye, allows me to twist the knot so that the fly or wireworm hangs horizontally. This little trick has been responsible for too many fish to count, but I strongly believe that number is in the thousands. I explain how we can gauge the activity level of a fish and adjust our presentation accordingly. We start by using an active presentation, like running a spinning quickly through the likely water, and if the fish do not respond, we switch to flies, jigs, or baits, to slow things down, which often triggers a fish to bite.
This is the passing of knowledge from one to another. It is a reservoir of tips and tricks that may be taken for granted, but are yet to be learned by eager anglers of all abilities. The sharing of knowledge goes both ways. I have had 12 year olds show me a thing or three about how to catch a fish.
Of all the times of the year to take a person fishing, the ice fishing is my favourite. Very little specialized equipment is required, save for an auger to cut a hole in the ice, to go ice fishing. People can bring out their favourite fishing rods of the summer head out to the lake.
Ice fishing is fun, and requires little gear.
When we ice fish, there is almost always a community of us. Some of us are old hands, others are completely new. The people that know the score, the area we are fishing, and how to set up the hooks and such get to work immediately. Somebody is drilling holes, somebody is tying hooks and baiting them up and someone is cleaning holes. We explain why we chose the location we did and what we think the fish are doing and how we expect to fool them.
Ice fishing is community.
One of my favourite ‘go to’ spots on a nearby trout lake is literally three to five feet deep over lush weeds. It does not look like much, unless you’re a trout. In those weeds, trout find snails, dragonfly nymphs, caddis larva, and all sorts of small-bodied fish and of all things, diving beetles. It is a smorgasbord of food items, which is why the trout are on this particular weed bed year after year, and it is why you find my friends and I fishing it year after year.
People that are new to fishing often like to jig a rod, so we tie on a jig and let them at it. They do catch fish, but most often the lines that are left alone catch more. We bring a bunch of rods, because in Alberta, anglers can use two lines each when ice fishing. That gives us double the coverage, and double the chances of catching a fish.
At some point, a fishing rod will dive to the hole. A fish is on. Someone will race to the rod, grab it, and the fight will be on. We have the drag on the reel set so if it is a big fish, it can run. We encourage, cheer, and gather. There is excitement in the air. Fish and angler battle back and forth and the outcome is never certain. In time, the fish is close and we all catch glimpses. Someone kneels beside the hole to help with the landing. Soon a head appears, and the person gently slides a hand down to get a hold of the fish and lift. Celebrations and heartfelt laughter echo on the cool air. Everyone is happy, and the fisherman or fisherwoman that reeled in their catch, they are especially proud. They caught a fish and just as surely has that fish was hooked and landed, so too are they. Add one more friend, one more person who now shares a love of the outdoors, of our outdoor places and the bounty they can provide. And in my way of thinking, we are all the better for it.