Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Rain, cold ... and the clicker

By Chris Hunt

You can only be expected to handle this for so long. Four straight days of slate-gray skies and icy rain (and even the occasional snow squall) will wear on the tattered soul of anybody who’s ventured north to chase big pike in a remote Manitoba lake.

Sure, you expect a day or two of this. And you packed rain gear for a reason. But four days? What evil karmic payback is this?

Thankfully, even through the worst of it, the guides have been putting everybody on fish, even us snooty fly fishers. Sure, the pike are resting in deeper water, waiting, just like us, for a hopeful ray of sunshine. We’re chucking and ducking massive flies weighted with split shot and catching pike on the smaller end of the size scale, but we’re catching fish. We’re just not very comfortable doing it.

And everybody’s mood is a little dark, even the walleye guys who report to dinner each night with glowing fishing reports from the dreary day. One guy here at the lodge keeps a little click-counter attached to his rain jacket. “We caught 99 fish today,” he declares, but even he says it through a grimace that reveals his disdain for this weather, too.

Ninety-nine fish. Ninety-nine clicks. I’m not sure I could be on that boat in gloomy weather like this, for fear I’d do something irrational.

“You click that damn thing one more time, and I’m gonna rip it off your jacket and shove it down your throat!” I’d be tempted to scream. “The next clicks that thing makes will be counting your swallows, you son of a motherless goat.”

Or I might just step off the edge of the boat and drown myself. Call it seasonal affective disorder—when the thermometer doesn’t rise above 40 and it rains and snows for four straight days, rational behavior becomes harder to apply, even to the most minor annoyances.

So today just might be a lodge day. A mental health day, if you will. Rather than futz with a weighted streamer and cast with numb hands, it might just be a day to sit on the sofa in front of a fire that keeps the chill away, and catch up with the part of my life that doesn’t involve fishing. Or fish. Or that damn clicker.

Emails. Catching up with family and friends. Maybe a nap or a book. Later, when it’s socially appropriate, a glass of brown liquor (or three) over ice.

But I know myself. It might stop raining long enough to start thinking about the fish that are holed up in deeper water just waiting for a bright yellow streamer to swim by. Then I’ll start thinking about shore lunch—walleye and Idaho potatoes fried to a golden brown and served with a can of beans and a hot mug of coffee to beat back the chill. I’ll have that internal battle between common sense and the visceral need to feel wild pike tugging at the business end of my 7-weight.

This isn’t my first tussle with crappy weather. I know how this battle ends, The rain gear is dry. The lodge has provided a sturdy pair of gloves. It’s not really that cold out there, I tell myself. The constant drumbeat of rain on the lodge’s tin roof just makes it sound worse than it is, right? Who needs a glass of whisky when the fish are waiting? Who needs a deck of cards? A game of darts? I could be fishing.

I wonder where I can get one of those damn clickers?

Chris Hunt is the national digital director for Trout Media. He lives and works in Idaho Falls.

By Chris Hunt.