There’s a thin, icy glaze on the Ankona’s front casting platform and there’s no way I’m stepping up there, especially after the long skate I took down the boat ramp when we launched the damn thing. Landing on one’s ass at the bottom of a frozen dock is one thing. Landing on one’s ass at the bottom of a sixty-foot deep, forty-degree lake in the dark is quite another. I’m perfectly comfortable casting from here in the pit, thank you very much, although “comfortable” is a relative term considering the fact that I can’t feel my toes.
I switch off the Petzel and slide it down around my neck, over my stocking cap and face-warming buff, and stuff it into the awkward wad of fleece layers and zips that bunch up under my chin. I don’t need the torch now as there’s just enough light leaking over the shoreline behind us to begin to see what we are doing and to get a good first look at the lake that surrounds us. Birds. Where are the birds?
It’s a two-edged sword, the sun. We need the light so that we might find the birds that, in turn, lead us to the bait; bait that, with any luck on this bitter cold morning, might be interlaced with feeding landlocked stripers. And we certainly could use the thin warmth that it brings; de-icing the decks, taking the edge off the chill that has settled into our cores, warming the top thermal towards a more hospitable feeding clime, and defrosting my regrets over not bringing that extra layer of quilted poly.
But for all the good it does, the sun brings its issues. It’s bitter cold, here at daybreak, as there’s not a cloud in the sky to hold in the heat, whatever the source. Our window is small, for, with the arrival of daylight, our star-strewn indigo ceiling will quickly turn bluebird bright and drive the bait deep, out of the reach and the interest of the gulls, changing the game from looking up at the birds to staring down at an eight-inch Lowrance display; searching for dark arcs at thirty feet. Video game fishing.
Do we want the sun, or don’t we? The question is moot as it’s coming regardless; rising out of the trees and illuminating our fluid surroundings, sprinkling diamond-sharp sparks into the skiff’s trailing spray as we skip across the lake, trying our darnedest to keep up with the terns. And besides, with or without the sun's small winter comfort, I won’t feel my toes all day.