Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Grumpy Old Men

Clay hauls ice tent

Clay hauls ice tent


©Bert Gildart: Tarnations! How can aging male ice fishermen be anything but Grumpy Old Men? Up at the crack of dawn, pulling heavy sleds loaded with all kinds of gear–sinking at times to our ankles in the mush ice that capped Lake Mary Ronan. Little wonder that during down time on this northwest Montana lake we tended to dwell on sciatic nerves, rotator cups, and PSA levels.


Yesterday, there were four of us: John Clay, John Moore, Marc Nichols, and yours truly, and we all had visions of the mighty perch dancing in our heads. In this part of the country perch are no different from perch anywhere else. They have dorsal fins that jut up about one-half inch, and body color that tends to be chartreuse. As well, they have vertical par marks.

Catching perch does not require a great effort other than just enduring temperatures that on a typical day may not rise much above single digit figures.

Set up time may be the most difficult part of an outing. After towing sleds several hundred yards, you’ve got to dig holes in the ice using a gasoline-powered auger. That takes some time as each fisherman requires three holes: one for the Vexilar Fish Finder, and two for the two poles that ice fishermen tend to use to optimize opportunities.

John Clay’s setup took the most time, for he had a tent mounted on a sled that required some unloading before a quick unfolding. The advantage is that he could encase himself in his own little cocoon, which naturally was the subject of derision by those getting cold.

“Five dollars for five minutes if you’re cold and want to get warm,” yelled Clay from inside where temperatures from his heater approached 70. “Hey, don’t be throwing those small ones [perch] over here. I’ve got pride you know.”


After setup things got serious. Short rods were quickly baited with tiny ice jigs. Maggots were then attached to the hooks and then lowered through the holes. Depths depend on location in this several mile long lake nestled between the Salish and Mission mountain, but yesterday was about 20 feet.

Marc greets rising sun

Marc greets rising sun


As the novitiate in the group, I joined John Clay inside his tent and he explained the benefits of the Vexilar Fish Finder that the other two fishermen also had. Clay explained that the Vexilar emits a cone of signals from the transducer that is sensitive enough to follow the descent of our lures to the bottom.


Perch, we could see from blips on the screen of the finder, were thick and we positioned our lures just above the schools. Often we could follow the action of the fish, watching them as they rose to take the bait. Because I was as interested in photography as I was in fishing, I was in and out of Clay’s shelter (”Hey, you’re letting the cold in.”), trying to learn from everyone about this art of ice fishing.

“Fish haven’t got a chance,” laughed John Moore, who quickly began pulling perch from the hole. “When perch bite you can hardly feel it, and sometimes you know it only by the slight wiggle in the tip of the rod.”

“Don’t yank too hard,” admonished Marc Nichols, picking up his skimmer to scoop out slush ice forming in the hole. “Don’t want to tear the lure loose–or throw out your rotator cup.”

John catch of perch

John with perch


Because each female perch produces thousands of eggs and because so many live, there’s no limit on the amount of perch you can keep. Most were small, though several may have approached 10 to 11 inches. We fished for about five hours and our combined catch averaged about 15, meaning that my eight were offset by the 50-plus caught by Moore, Clay and Nichols.


“It’s a slow day,” said Moore, who often returns with 30 to 40 perch following a day’s fishing–as well as a few kokanee salmon and rainbow.

Mess of perch

Mess of perch


Gathering our fish, we tossed them into a bag. But then comes the hard part, for the rule among sportsmen is nothing you catch goes to waste. For me, that meant about an hour of filleting, setting me up as the grumpiest Old Man of the day, for the work is tedious, particularly if you haven’t done it for awhile.

But the rewards that night of fresh perch for dinner removed the grump from the Old Man part of my day’s designation. But I’m not sure about the others, who are probably still talking about rotator cups, sciatic nerves and (the Good Lord only knows) the amount of Omega 3 fatty acid in their daily diets.

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