This seems to be the winter that never was. At least, that’s what it seems like to me.
I hear from folks who head south for the winter and hear their tales of how they can’t stand the cold and snow in their bones anymore. It makes their bones ache and their bodies feel old.
They call themselves “snow birds” and they usually take flight (or hit the interstate highways) and migrate to Arizona or somewhere where it is warm by this time.
I’m here to tell you that I’m a real “Montana snow bird.” I love the snow and cold. And yet I haven’t even had a single good reason to use the new snowblower I bought a month ago. (Actually I did use it a couple of weeks ago when we had two inches of fresh snow. Then my 14 year old boy, after seeing the driveway and sidewalk cleaned, said in amazement, “Did you really use the snowblower last night.”)
Hey, a man has got to do what a man has to do. Why use a broom for a fluff of snow when you can crank up raw power! Bring on the snowblower.
Despite the single fling with the snowblower, I have to admit I’ve had a hard time thinking about doing anything wintry this year – like skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating or ice fishing because of the El Nino weather.
If you look outside almost anywhere in Western Montana, it has looked more like spring than winter.
Thank goodness for Wayne Knudson.
I got a call from him last Friday and my good friend, who’s nicknamed Walleye Wayne, asked me if I’d be interested in coming up to Seeley Lake and going ice fishing with him. It was just the boot in a wintry direction that I needed.
Knudson has a cabin on the Clearwater River and he thought it would be a good idea to do our Montana Outdoor Radio Show last Saturday morning from his place and then do some ice fishing.
It was just what Doc Winter ordered for a January weekend. No, the fishing was not red hot. In fact, it left a lot to be desired in terms of catching, but just getting out and enjoying the day on the ice was worth it.
I got to organize my ice fishing tackle and also got to see if my ice auger still ran after a year in storage. I drove home Saturday night with a sense of accomplishment that I needed to get my motor running again.
On Sunday afternoon, I received a call from my old friend Don Beardsley. Beardsley, known by many for his work at Sportsman Surplus for 37 years. Last June, Beardsley and his wife Nancy moved to Portland to run a restaurant for their daughter and son-in-law.
They were back in Missoula for sort of a mini-vacation and Don wanted to know if I wanted to go ice fishing Monday at Georgetown Lake with him and a few of his buddies.
Fueled by my trip to Seeley Lake, I jumped at the chance to go with these guys. In fact, I thought Knudson would like to go, too, because we could learn a lesson or two about how to fish this popular lake from some anglers who have had many a good day fishing it in the past.
The orders were to rendevous at the Sunshine Station in Philipsburg. From there, we would head to the lake somewhere around Comers Point. If you recall, the roads last Monday were a little bit icy around 6 a.m. so it made for some careful driving until we got to Philipsburg.
Then, when we started up the highway from Philipsburg to Georgetown Lake, it started snowing. Now keep in mind, I’m a snow-starved Montana snow bird. I have not seen much snow this winter, so this was a treat.
The snow kept came down most of the morning, filling the air with flakes off and on as we fished Georgetown.
It was just wonderful sitting there with a fishing rod in hand and jigging over an ice hole waiting for a trout to take my glo hook tipped with a maggot. I got to meet people I had never met before and, of course, trade some lies with Beardsley. We even caught a couple of fish.
It was a good day and a great extended weekend – a springboard to getting out and enjoying this winter no matter how mild the weather has been.
Montana, as we all know but sometimes need to be reminded, has a lot to offer in all seasons including winter. Sometimes, a phone call from a good friend is all we need to get us started in the right direction – into the winter outdoors.