In my experience there are two kinds of anglers you encounter out on the water.
There are those who are tight-lipped, seek solitude and avoid human interaction. Then there are those who brighten your day, welcome the conversation and are willing to share just about everything.
Fortunately, I encountered the latter a few weekends ago while exploring Hidden Lakes.
It was a typical windy, cold day, the likes of which we have been having this winter. As I crested the bluff with my eager four-legged companion, I instinctively scanned the lake, focusing on the more productive and popular spots.
Interestingly, the only party out there was tucked into the northwest corner in an area I would normally not consider.
My initial reaction was to chalk this up to a rookie mistake. When you have not ice-fished a lake before, it all looks the same. The only way to find the productive spots is to keep punching holes and dropping lines.
Having watched these two for awhile, though, something about their set-up made me think they knew what they were doing.
From my vantage point, I could see that they were extremely well organized.
They had four holes strategically placed apart. A fire was blazing with neatly stacked wood. Rods were well anchored and rigged with precision.
Why did they choose this spot? I had to take a closer look and dig deeper into this pairing.
I walked down to the lake and gave them a passing wave. They provided an enthusiastic reply, which the journalist in me took as a welcome to drop by.
I introduced my dog and myself and felt immediately at home amongst the fishing fraternity. Conversation flowed and within a few minutes it felt like they were old fishing buddies.
Gary Gudbrunson and Kelly Thompson are not rookies, but veterans of the Hidden Lakes. Their ritual for the past 20 to 30 years has involved fishing together once a weekend. Gary gets up at 5:00 in the morning, grabs two Tim Horton’s coffees, meets Gary at the lake by 7:00 and they are home by noon. Something tells me they do well out here and don’t leave empty-handed.
Gary shows me his three-pound beauty he landed earlier that morning. Aside from the occasional interruption caused by a jingling rod, we talked steadily for close to an hour.
We told stories, spoke about bait, presentations, and why we like fishing this lake. They enjoy the proximity and the hiking in. How the finicky nature of the fish in this lake makes them work at it and keeps them coming back.
They enjoy watching the tourists and families and try to help them out whenever they can.
Gary and Kelly are true Yukon fishing ambassadors. They take pride in keeping active, following the regulations, maintaining a well-organized spot, and sharing their knowledge. They want others to get out and catch fish in these stocked lakes, just as they have been doing for the last few decades.
As I bade farewell to my two new friends, all I could think of is how much I still have to learn and that, when I grow up, I want to be just like them.