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Ice Fishing With a Fly Rod

by: David Coulson 10/30/2013

Tracks recently responded to a post with, “…As long as there is open water I'll be fishin' the long stick….”  That’s pretty much my attitude these days, too.  Ice fishing is fun, but I’d rather be casting a fly rod than working jigs through a hole in the ice.  In fact, I get a lot of ribbing about the difficulty of making casts to holes in the ice.

Recent teasing and the comment jogged my memory of my first ice fishing trip. Sue and I lived in Denver during the late-seventies.   I’d yet to take up ice fishing. Not sure why, but my father never took us kids ice fishing, living in Nevada at the time was probably why.  After moving to Colorado, there was college, wooing Sue, marriage, and just getting settled into adulthood at the time in South Denver. 

That February some friends from Idaho where visiting us.  John and I were discussing what we were going to do Saturday, while the spouses went shopping.  I was lamenting if things weren’t frozen we could go fishing, to which John suggested we go ice fishing.  I was game, but pointed out that I didn’t have any ice fishing gear.

“Not a problem,” responded John, “You’ve got a couple rods, hooks, sinkers, and bait, right?”  That I did have.  “And we both have winter clothing,” he continued.  “We’ll just take what you have and head to a lake where others are fishing and I’m sure we can talk someone into loaning or renting us their auger.”  John was 6-5 and a built like a football player, so I figured he was right on that account.

Early Saturday morning we headed for the town of Granby.  The plan was to have breakfast, allowing time for others to start fishing.  I figured we’d start at Willow Creek Reservoir, as I’d had good success there last summer.  If there weren’t any anglers we’d move on to Granby, Shadow Mountain, and Grand Lake, I was confident we’d find ice fishers somewhere.

When we arrived at Willow Creek several folks were fishing. The closest group was a large family, encompassing four generations.  We approached them, and explained our situation, and asked if we could “rent” their auger to drill a couple holes.  They refused to take any money and invited us to join them, even drilling a couple holes for us next to them.

As I said, it was a family group, with the youngest angler being about eight or so, and he had his own chair, pole holder, and a short rod that he tended to, sort of.  His attention was short, and Dad was constantly telling him that he had a bite, most of which he missed as he broke from play to reel in his line. 

Dad was fishing a short rod, Granddad a standard length spinning rod, like ours, and then there was Great Grandpa, easily in his seventies or older.  What caught my attention was the fly pole he was using to ice fish.  While most icers were sitting on buckets or stools either holding their rods or using a rod holder, Great was standing there at the end of his rod, which was lying on the ice.  The tip of the rod was centered on the hole.  While he watched his rod, he constantly had a cup of coffee in one hand, and a cigarette hanging from his lip. When he got a nibble, he’d squat down and carefully grip the rod without moving the rod tip.  On the next nibble, he’d set the hook by standing and lifting the rod until it was vertical.  At which point Granddad or Dad would come over, grab the line and pull the fish from the hole. We figured he knocked them out on the underside of the ice with the hook set, as we weren’t fishing water much over ten feet deep.

Since that first ice fishing trip, I’ve seen many ice fishing techniques, but none nearly as much fun to watch as that old man nailing fish through the ice with a fly rod.

Blog content © David Coulson
Member comments
MNBassFisher, CO   10/30/2013 9:21:41 AM
Haha I would agree with your there Dave, I feel like I've seen a lot of different ice techniques as well. Spinning rods, baitcasting rods, laying on the ice looking down the hole, etc. But I have never seen a fly rod on the ice, maybe your Great was on to something! ha
tracks, CO   10/30/2013 10:01:46 AM
Thanks Dave. Funny stuff, I tease my friends who ice fish that I can't fish with them because there's no room to cast a fly rod in the hut!! Definately a "bring what you got" story! Makes me think about how specialized things have become. Seperate baitcasters for swimbaits, buzzbaits, cranks, topwater or plastics. Fly rods aren't much different we've one for the creek and and the pond the GP rod, multiple weights, Spey rods, switch rods, Floating line, sink tip, sfull inking line, how many diferent type of leaders? Great gandpa might have only had the one fly rod, thusly things certainly did not get over complicated. And I'll bet he caugt a lot fish! Bring whatcha got and go fishing!
opencage, CO   10/31/2013 9:39:48 AM
Last year when I went with a buddy, I didn't have an ice fishing rod, so I just put the top off my UL setup and used that. It worked great. Seeing how other people approach or solve problems is always fun and makes me see things differently and hopefully pulls me out of a rut. Good story Dave, thanks for passing it on before it "faded away." :-)
David Coulson
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