Outside the window of my icehouse, Steve and Rigby sat side by side in a haze of wind-blown snow. It had been about an hour and neither of us had caught any fish. As it was our first day of ice fishing this season, we were all quite happy to be just outside with each other.
Rigby had run ahead of us, plowing through the snow with his muzzle. He always seems to be looking for something to collect and bring us back. The dry snow sparkled powder around him, and I remembered other mornings we had made this trip and saw lynx tracks or heard coyotes howl before being silenced by the howl of ‘a wolf.
The ice on the lake was about 6 inches thick and we pulled our sleds to where later in the year most people drive their vehicles. Ours were the only trails in recent snow, and it felt good to breathe in the cool, cold air with no one else on the lake.
Perhaps one of the best things about ice fishing is that it’s not an activity that you take yourself too seriously. The equipment can be as simple as a hand auger to drill the hole, a bucket to sit on, an ice scoop, a short rod, and a decoy. And, in my case, a pop-up cabin.
While there are derbies and ice fishing competitions, in general, the people I know who ice fish do so for the simple joy of winning a few fish for dinner. A good dog by your side is a bonus, and Rigby, who doesn’t venture far from his people, is a shrewd ice fishing dog.
Steve brought a blanket so he could sit down, but Rigby preferred to take a nap next to Steve on the ice. Sometimes Rigby would visit me in my cabin, where I reached out through the removable Velcro window to scratch his ears, and he was disappointed to find that I didn’t have a treat to hand out.
The longer I sat without catching any fish, the more time I had to think about how nice it was to be there.
Smiling to myself, I thought it was quite fun to feel perfectly warm on a 10 degree day outside, as I often feel like I ‘freeze’ in the room. interior of an office building at 60 degrees at work.
In both cases, I am mostly sedentary. On the ice, instead of a keyboard, I have a rod. And my point of view has changed.
[Surviving in the Alaska cold takes good gear, and good sense to know when and how to use it]
Like many offices, the one where I work has a heating problem. During my first winter on the job, a coworker told me that squirrels had stolen the building’s insulation to build nests. I suspect that may not be the whole story, although I can attest that squirrels have entered and left the building in the spring and summer.
As I progressed in my career, I was made to understand that the thermometer on the office wall was a decoy. It doesn’t actually control the temperature as originally intended, but was still left in place. Perhaps this oversight was due to budget constraints or fiscal responsibility. Admittedly, it was not for sentimental reasons.
Sometimes I’m cold and I make the social mistake of saying out loud that it’s cold. Office temperature wars have led otherwise rational and productive people to consult a dictionary to determine the definition of cold, only to discover that it can also mean a lack of affection.
In a time before the alleged squirrel insulation breakage of the 1990s and the existence of remote-controlled temperature monitoring systems, an employee could boldly and without skills or the help of an algorithm to decide the point of optimal setpoint, affect the temperature of a work-sharing environment.
Although they worked in the ruins left by the ancestors of insulation-stealing squirrels in a building with fake thermostats, I doubt the employees would ever be uniformly happy thanks to a temperature-controlled environment.
Still, I was warm and happy the moment I sat down in my camp chair on the lake. I stayed that way for hours, like a day at the beach.
Maybe the office chill factor was worse than the wind chill.
On the ice, I can’t control Mother Nature, but I was ready to enjoy the sunrise over our fishing spot.
I felt a tug on my line and yelled at Steve and Rigby. I got to see a good sized rainbow trout in the greenish water at the bottom of my hole and lined it up to cross the ice. Looking out the window, Rigby charged towards me.
I took my fish on the sled to pack it in the snow just as Steve caught his first fish – the bite was on!
The only thing we hadn’t thought of was that Rigby has a propensity to steal food, so he also went fishing. Before I knew it, he was at the door of my hut with one of our frozen fish.
Steve and I jumped to our feet and watched Rigby rush between us with the stolen fish, plow the snow and run like dogs do when they’re really having fun.
We were laughing and falling in the snow trying to retrieve the fish, and I’m grateful that I can say he made it through the day unscathed.
As we walked over to our fish, I realized that my deep thoughts on controlling the temperature had been interrupted. And this is one of the best remedies for bothersome thoughts, besides living in the moment, spending time outdoors with a good dog, being grateful for what is going well, and achieve what you can and cannot control.