Maine-based Rhon Bell of Backwoods Plaid, takes Filson on a record-setting ice fishing trip.
Fishing is my ultimate connection to nature, so it’s without hesitation that I agreed to a two-day ice fishing trip with long-time friend and Registered Maine Guide, Steve. Within an hour I booked a rustic cabin conveniently wedged between two remote lakes. One lake offering traditional targets of trout, salmon and white perch. The other, pickerel and bass. Most would choose to fish only waters with prized trout or salmon, but there is something to be said for fishing waters promising greater activity; we’re told the bass are hungry. With fishing plans in the books – we anxiously await arrival to the countryside.
Staring into the glow of his iPhone, Steve raised his voice slightly above the AC/DC blaring on the classic rock station to inform me, “The snow forecast for day two is 8-10 inches”. Approaching the camp road, I feared that tomorrow might be our only good day of fishing. It’s my experience that fish feed heavily going into a winter storm. “We’ll be fine”, I muttered and turned off the truck.
Day one offered a beautifully sunny afternoon. Other than an Easterly wind, conditions were enjoyable. We brought three White Perch to the hard-water surface. Each ranging between 11-14 inches. Beginning with a few traps set near bottom we hoped of luring a fat brown trout from a ledge. Others were strategically placed just under the thick ice in case a good-looking salmon were to pass by. Seven hours on the ice were well spent and as grey clouds rolled in, we called it a day. Proving to be amateur meteorologists, a heavy wet snow began falling by the time we arrived back to the cabin. Tomorrow would be the real test.
Quarter to five, I rose and began percolating the Folgers. Peering from behind the cold kitchen window revealed a few inches of fresh powder. Perhaps today wouldn’t be as bad as anticipated. By the time we reached the second lake, snow began to really accumulate. We setup the portable ice shack to provide a refuge from mother nature. The lab we brought along chose to avoid the shack like a plague – there is evidently nothing to explore within the four nylon walls.
We hadn’t setup our fifth tip-up when a blaze orange flag rose. The line spun furiously from the reel as we lifted the trap from the depths of the ice water. Whatever fish was on the end liked to fight. We slowly peeled line onto the ice and watched the line dart back and forth in the depths of the hole. Within moments we surfaced one of the largest bass I’ve ever caught. Weighing in near 7lbs, we quickly snapped a photo and returned him to his native waters. This trend continued all afternoon, large bass after large bass. Each played a good game of tug-of-war. However, we only lost one to not setting the hook just right. Outdoor-sporting chatter was enjoyed as we each learned from the others experiences and laughed at our greatest mistakes.
As the forecast proved accurate and the ten inches fell, we watched from within our warm shack and agreed we’d chosen the right piece of water. The joys of spotting flags rise for hours on end is second to none. As always, two days in Filson gear kept me warm enough to take pleasure in the outdoors. A base layer of Filson Mid-weight Long Johns, an Alaskan Guide Shirt, and Whipcord Wool Pants were the perfect choices.