I like the cold stillness, alone on the lake, with little to do but contemplate life.
The hole was easy. We’ve been coming to approximately this spot for years, leaving this shelter here after the first solid freeze, and retrieving it before the real thaw. Of course, there’s a trick to predicting the real thaw well enough. But I’m not telling. Thaw is a long time off in any case. Today it is cold, and the ice is thick.
And since the days are short, it is getting to be time to pack the gear and head back to shore while I can still see well enough to navigate. The cooler has nearly reached my quota in any case.
The small breaks in the ice and the handful of fish we take all winter have a very small effect on the lake. The lake is very big, after all. And I’m feeding just me and my family a treat.
From below, the fish see the surface as like a mirror. Then they see a saw poke through, and a well appear with access to air and sky. Fish don’t care much about sky. Air would be a lot more important if there weren’t a river running through the lake, well aerated by falls about a mile upstream. It’s rarely cold enough to freeze the falls, so the lake can breathe all year round.
Tempting treats appear though the hole, and eventually a fish takes the bait and gets to find out what lies on the far side of the half-year mirror.
Which would be my frying pan, of course.
But those of us hardy enough to come out here and fish are careful. We don’t take too many. We drop our ice plugs back in the hole. We don’t drop trash into the lake. And we don’t lead the ravening hoards out onto the ice.
In return, we get these moments of quiet contemplation, while fishing as close as we ever get to our prey.