Zero degrees to usher in the new year made it tough to think warm thoughts on a cold day. Memories of frigid adventures outdoors were the only visions the theater of the mind could conjure.
The coldest morning I ever fished was 5 degrees. It was January and word was out that black bass were hammering crawdad-colored crank baits at Beaver Lake, as bass do most winters.
One of our local anglers who was catching big largemouths agreed to let me tag along with him one morning to do a fishing story for the newspaper. When our morning arrived, the thermometer read 5 degrees.
I figured no way would my friend want to be on the lake. I gave him a call.
"Heck yeah, let's go. The colder it is, the better the fishing," he piped.
Great. Just great. At 5 degrees I hoped to spend the day indoors somewhere with heat, not freezing out in a boat. I bundled up and we met at the Rocky Branch park boat ramp.
Mercifully, we started fishing right at the ramp. My host didn't motor 60 mph down the lake for miles in the deep freeze.
Sure enough, three casts into the trip he swung a dandy largemouth bass into his boat. By the time we called it a day around noon, he'd caught several bass including a 4-pound largemouth. The day had warmed to a balmy 25 degrees. He caught and released a bunch of bass and I got a good story.
That day made a crank bait convert out of me, and my friend showed me a tip to stay warm while fishing in the cold. He keeps 10 pair of cheap gloves in his boat. When one pair gets wet, he swaps them for a dry pair.
The freakiest duck hunt that could ever be also happened on a bone-cold day ten years ago. Alan Bland, a park ranger at Beaver Lake, and I were hunting on a little island where we like to toss out some decoys and hope for some mallards to drop out of the sky.
Buck brush on the island made a fine natural blind. We hunkered in the bushes and solved all the world's problems while we waited on the ducks.
The temperature was 20 degrees with a steady north wind at our backs. I got up to walk along the shore for a leg stretch. All of a sudden the ground under my feet shattered and and I dropped waist deep into thick glop I can only describe as quicksand. Bland was highly amused, until he came over to help and fell up to his naval in the same quicksand quagmire.
Luckily, we were able to pull ourselves out of the sandy muck. The grainy glop quickly froze to our chest waders, like we were sandpaper with legs. There was no harm done so we finished our hunt.
I'd never seen anything like that in decades of duck hunting on Beaver Lake and haven't encountered it since. Neither has Bland. I can only figure it had something to do with the ground freezing and thawing over and over right there by the water.
Oh the joys of hunting and fishing in the dog days of winter.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at email@example.com or Twitter @NWAFlip
Sports on 01/09/2018
Print Headline: Braving the chill makes cold-weather stories