Sometimes, it takes all day to get there.

Winter Lake Trout Ice Fishing in Minnesota

4:12 A.M. he asks, “Can I go first”? I told him “brother, you have at it”.   The only instructions I offered to my client in the cab of his truck, “follow the openness between the trees, just stay on the white until you hit the lake, and don’t hurry, the lake isn’t going anywhere”. He nods.

6:20 A.M. It’s 17 below zero and we’re less than  a mile from his  Destination, a lake trout lake backed up against the Canadian border well inside the boundary waters canoe area in what he called “the north, in Minnesota” .  

He was hard to figure, but I think all that mattered to him was Ely Minnesota became somewhere south, and were about as far north as I can get him. He’s caught fish before, just not what will be frozen fish, this far north. I don’t know the guy, and I probably never will, but I know I like what the guy was after. He wanted less. He didn’t ask once how big the Lakers get or are you sure will catch them or how many would we catch. I think he would have gone, fish, or no fish.

In his pickup truck with personalized Texas license plates it was 74 degrees above zero with any climate control setting you can imagine. I hit a button; all that electrified leather warmed my backside. The truck is so new and high tech I know I’ve lost touch with anything that relates to the auto industry. If you’re sitting in the back seat of this super vehicle there is a fold down TV. The screen is the size of a slice of toast. For a guy like me that snowshoes, a one foot in front of the other kind of guy, this truck is off the charts. And the guy ahead of me, who can afford almost anything, wants to be off the charts, he wants way off the beaten path.

He stops and what he’s looking at or listening too, I can’t tell. He’s catching his breath from the upslope hike like me.  He’s looking. But I don’t ask for what, and then he starts to move again. Then he stops. He looks back at me over his Duluth pack; he says “this is cool”. I honestly didn’t know if he meant the air temp or the hike.

7:15 A.M.  We get to the lake. Behind us, the up and down snow covered portages. In front, is the day and a lake that for now at least, is all ours.  With a four inch hand auger, he wants to cut the holes. I graciously let him.

With every grinding turn he lifts the little ice chips. Ladling out slush we drop our airplane jigs tipped with raw bacon. I’m left of him, fishing forty yards away and he’s right of someplace I think he likes. 8:30 A.M. I toss him an apple. He doesn’t ask anything. We shuffle around little black spots that keep glazing over until, 9:10 A. M. a Lake trout then 10:40 A.M. a lake trout then 12:20 P.M. it’s four above zero and the brilliance of the sun tracks across the day with out a sound.

He pointed, without saying a word at a raven far above floating so black, in a blue sky. For lunch we had some permafrosted sandwiches. He asked me, “Can you come in here often”?  I said, “I try to come a lot, but not just to this lake”. I wondered to myself if that’s the answer he wanted or was he asking himself the question out loud. 1:06 P.M. lake trout, we shuffled, he asks “how deep is this lake”? I told him in spots it’s over a hundred feet to the bottom.  2:40 P.M. lake trout, we shuffled some more. 3:22 P.M. 7 above zero one lone whiskey jack works his way along the north shore flitting from branch to branch.

4:45 P.M. My body is shrouded in clothes and I’m still surprisingly warm. Back in the snow shoes we have a serious hike ahead of us.  6:22 P.M. the young man in the  trail ahead plods along and I can see him clearly as the daylight fades. He’s only two snowshoe lengths away and I can’t hear his footfalls.

I stop him mid stride and I ask, “Can you hear that”? He says “hear what”?  I said “listen, what do you hear”? He said, “I can’t hear anything”.  I said, “That’s my point, you’re off the beaten path” He shook my hand; he thanked me for the day. In his own words and very sincere, thanked me, like I gave him, a day, and for the first time all day, I understood that guy.

The Trout Whisperer
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