Don’t Wish These Days Away
By Nick Simonson
“Man, I wish it was summer,” my brother said to me as we tried to trigger a bite from the lethargic mid-winter bluegills lurking beneath our ice holes.
“Nah, you can’t wish these days away,” I responded, “I know it’s tough not to do it with the wind and the cold, but these days serve a purpose too,” I concluded.
It has taken me a long time to adopt that mindset, but the dog days of mid-winter do serve a purpose. And as they trickle on by like the drops of water that slowly slide down an icicle formed from a welcome thaw, if you don’t pause to enjoy them, you’ll regret it. Or if you don’t use them to get ready, you’ll find yourself behind the eight ball when the rush of spring’s outdoor activities set in.
Don’t Miss Out
Whatever your winter passion is, now is a high percentage time to get out there and enjoy it. From snowmobiling and ice fishing, to snowshoeing and predator hunting, the options are almost as numerous as your favorite summer activities. There’s snow on the ground (that wasn’t a given last year – so again, enjoy it), the ice is thick, and there’s a lot you can do.
I’ve rarely looked back on a winter outdoors opportunity and thought, gee, I wish I hadn’t done that. I have gone out and gotten skunked, punched dozens of ice holes for only a handful of fish, and had to work hard for success sometimes. But each time I went out, I learned more, added some notes to my journal, recorded new stories and placed a few more photos in my album. I don’t look back on the tougher days of mid-winter with any regret or disdain – they are what we make of them.
Furthermore, there are those days in mid-winter where the planets align and fishing is as fast and furious as it was at first ice. Especially if you’re familiar with a body of water and the species under it; with a few years of experience, you can find fish in mid-winter and make it work. The point is: you never know until you go, and you’ll never be able to pattern fish in future Februaries of you aren’t out there during this one!
Mid-winter is also a time of preparation. As an avid fly fisherman and lure maker, most of my spring offerings come about at this time of year. The only nights I truly regret in mid-winter are those where I don’t get down to the vise to tie up a couple patterns, or crank out a dozen jigs. But the regret is the worst kind: time-delayed.
I can’t count the days in my younger years where I thought back in spring time about all the flies I should have had with me, or in where I reflected on nights when I passed up tying jigs to watch TV, as I frantically cranked them out a bunch before a big summer fishing trip.
But readying your tacklebox for the season ahead isn’t the only preparatory task you can undertake this winter. Maybe you have a food plot you’re looking to establish, or are planning to plant some trees in the spring. Now is the time for habitat plans, not only short-term ones that focus on improved hunting success, but also long-term ones that support sustainable populations of wildlife on your land. With many agencies and conservation groups accepting orders for tree seedlings and food and cover plot mixes, right now is the time to get your habitat plans in order, for better hunting and stronger wildlife populations in your area.
Whether you’re debating on hitting the ice or itching for some spring activity, there are many ways to spend the days of the shortest month of the year. And if you allocate them wisely, come March, April and May – and those future mid-winter months – you’ll be better prepared to take on new adventures…in our outdoors.