By Nick Simonson
By this point in the ice season, what was once a well organized ice house is now a disaster. Okay, well, not a complete disaster, but definitely showing the signs of use to a point where it needs a mid-season clean up. Where at the end of December the well-worn unit was folded nicely, cleaned out and loaded into the bed of my pickup truck, replacing the dog kennel and deer hunting box containing the essentials – paper towels, handwarmers, nonperishable field snacks and the like – now my flipover sled is uncovered and stashed haphazardly, poles all akimbo and smelling slightly of the dehydrated minnow bodies and pieces of frozen herring scattered in the black base. In the cold of evening, or the rush to a new spot, rarely is there time to organize the two-seat thermal unit. It’s a sign of the seasonal progression that, while it may hint at my sometimes-unorganized nature, it also suggests use and therefore enjoyment of the outdoors.
There’s a certain level of clutter, disorganization, and disorder that every season in the field or on the water brings, where I know where everything is, but not exactly where everything is. In those autumns where repeat runs for grouse or pheasants are common, the back seat of the truck begins to not only smell like my oversized lab but look like him as well with the coating of shed summer hair bringing on a slightly blond tint to the floor mats, hi shell casings. The aforementioned kennel is merely there in case our last walk finds a swampy funk, or heaven forbid, a skunk somewhere along the way. I think we used it only on those weekday walks where my boys were in their car seats and things would have been a little cramped adding a 100 pound lab to the seating arrangement. In the mix is a bag full of shells, a field collar, a water bottle and other items. They’re all usually back there somewhere from September to December, at times requiring a little searching.
Like the scattering of jigs, baits and other seasonal items in my ice shack, my fly tying desk is mounting with materials as flash, feathers, fur and tools pile up as pattern after pattern is completed, adjusted, tweaked, then finalized and stashed in a fly box. Even the secondary desk is beginning to pile up with ingredients for recipes as I jump from one to the other, sneaking in some lure work as I join a Zoom conference on my compute. Some areas of the surface space are so cluttered, I can set my scissors or whip finisher down after a fly or jig and then spend three minutes looking for the tool before starting up the next one. By the end of this month, I’ll have piles six inches deep. That is, unless I break down and take an hour to reset and reorganize, which is typically a task best reserved for a rainy day in April.
While squeezing under the tarp of my boat and searching for a tool stored in the side compartment of the craft winterized and covered alongside the garage, I swept over the floor with the flashlight on my phone. Relishing in the cleaning efforts undertaken late last summer, I was slightly amazed at how open and organized everything was. Tools were stashed in the elastic belt along the stern, wrenches, tackleboxes and other essentials were stored securely in their designated spaces on either side of the hull. The cleanliness of the craft had a calming effect, but also produced the desire for spring to hurry up and arrive so I could get back to the business of messing things up.
I knew that while I’d try to keep things clean, the fast-paced action in spring for crappies, walleyes, bass, and pike would quickly make the boat look more lived in as opposed to the wintry state of sterile suspended animation which I found it in as I grabbed the silver ratchet and re-hooked the bungee cord on the tarp and hustled back to the garage. In the meantime, there was work to be done in tightening the bolts on the old sled shack in furtherance of making a mess which served the purpose of proverbially cleaning up on the next ice fishing adventure and continuing the progression…in our outdoors.
Featured Photo: Make a Mess this Season. The back of the author’s pickup is loaded haphazardly with ice fishing gear, evidencing a busy start to the season. Simonson Photo.