March 29, 2007 at 8:44 a.m.
I'd be the first to admit that this fact doesn't make a lot of sense from a fish catching point of view. After all, late February and the front end of March is a great time of year to yank a ton of panfish through the ice. Plus, the weather can be downright balmy and allow you to fish out in the open under sunny skies. You see, that's the rub and is precisely what is slowly becoming an issue for me. Because February and March weather is oftentimes so nice, it puts me in the mood to take up a fly rod and chase trout instead of sitting on a pickle bucket on a frozen sheet of ice. There's no threat that I'll give up ice fishing any time soon. I love ice fishing. It's just that when March rolls around each year, it seems that by that time I've experienced an undesirable abundance of winter. There's a little voice in my head that tells me to stow the ice fishing gear and load up the truck with fly fishing gear. With springtime looming, I no longer wish to be cold and stare down an eight-inch hole through the ice. Maybe it's a middle-age deal. Maybe by the time I hit 60, my wife and I will live in a tacky retirement community down in Florida. Maybe I'll wear dark socks and Bermuda shorts and be a force to reckon with on the senior shuffleboard circuit. Who knows where my developing weather wimpiness will take me?
A perfect case in point of the dilemma I face was a recent day trip my son and I took last weekend down to the Kinnickinnic River, near River Falls, WI. Lake ice surely wasn't safe last Saturday, so it's not like we had to make a choice between ice fishing and fly fishing. I'm glad the ice was crummy and we chased trout that day, because standing in the river with Anders and admiring him as he gracefully looped his casts through the air and witnessing him catch a dozen colorful brown trout evoked feelings in me that ice fishing simply cannot. As we walked back upstream along a well-worn footpath that paralleled the river, Anders slipped his hand into mine and commented, "This was a great day of fishing. I love going on these trips with you."
So I guess I don't mind admitting that the idea of shorter winters is an appealing thought. Of course we can't really shorten the seasons, and the Vernal Equinox did in fact occur five days prior to our fly fishing trip. However, on a warm February or early March day, I sometimes prefer to stay off the frozen lakes, grab a fly rod and engage in springtime activity when mild winter weather allows.
Dan Brown's weekly outdoor column is brought to you by Frankie's Bait and Marine, in Chisago City, and St. Croix Outdoors, in St. Croix Falls, Wis.