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Fishing on the ice with the ‘old’ guy
Fishing column: Special friends making this trip a time to remember
Doug Newhoff - correspondent
Jan. 19, 2023 3:57 pm
ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — It's always fun to catch up with a couple of special old friends for two or three days of ice fishing.
These are guys who have passed their 70th birthdays. They play the AARP card at motels and ask for senior citizen discounts at restaurants, then laugh when they tell the server to give the check to the "old" guy.
Between the two of them, they have three artificial knees, one reconstructed shoulder and one rebuilt elbow. Breakfast includes a side order of ibuprofen.
These definitely aren't the guys I'm used to fishing with. They don't drive in snowstorms to get to a good bite. They don't hit the gas trying to crash through snow drifts on a wind-swept lake. They don't drag 100 pounds of gear three-quarters of a mile because there are big bluegills to be caught.
They don't fish three lakes in a day, and they don't get on the ice an hour before sunrise and stay until after sunset.
They still have a profound respect and gratitude for Mother Nature and all she represents. They curse at their flashers when fish show up and refuse to bite, then cackle like roosters when they ice a 12-inch crappie.
They bask in the glow of the winter sunrise when that orange ball of fire inches above the horizon and brings a lake to life. They marvel at the beauty of each sunset that lowers the curtain on another great adventure.
They just do it differently.
These guys have customized their flipover ice tents with everything from more comfortable seats to rod storage tubes and overhead lights controlled by a toggle switch. They get up earlier because it takes longer to get ready for the day and get suited up.
They don't drill 100 holes in a day, and they don't fish two hours, pack up and move in hopes of finding a better bite.
For years, these guys have tried to figure out how to take a nap in their tents when nothing is biting. They've solved that problem by packing up their gear and returning to the motel for lunch and a couple hours of rest.
If they drop a minnow, they leave it on the ice rather than grunt and groan trying to retrieve it. They have multiple rods they've pre-rigged in the comfort of warmth and good lighting so if they break off a jig, they don't have to immediately re-tie.
Not so long ago, one of them would lose track of his glasses.
"Lost my glasses," he'd grumble.
"They're on top of your head," one of us would answer.
Now they keep several pairs of glasses handy, including one on a lanyard around their neck.
They are reluctant to fart. Enough said about that.
Sometimes, it's challenging to communicate. Although we're usually within shouting distance on the ice, you can ask if they're catching anything or send them a text, and it's crickets. They apparently figure it's acceptable at their age to claim they didn't hear you or haven't looked at their phones.
In the event they return a text, it probably won't make any sense.
"We voted out here about 10:30."
"What did you vote on?"
"I mean we got out here at 10:30."
The following morning ...
"Got a whooper flat crappie at surmise."
Translation ... "Got a whopper float crappie at sunrise."
Eventually, every great day on the ice must come to an end. We've been fortunate enough to catch a few fish. Later, we'll brag a little about our angling prowess and how we figured things out.
My phone dings with a text.
"Ready to perk up and call it a dad?"
I think that means we're done for this day.
My back aches, I can't find my glasses and I need another nap, but I'm content.
Father Time has us in his sights, but Mother Nature still is holding him off.