julia dimon/for metro toronto
Yukon’s winter wonderland has a lot to offer to the Great-White-North tourist: Dog mushing, ice climbing, ATVing, Northern Lights viewing and, let’s not forget every Canuck’s favourite hobby, ice fishing.
Having never ice fished before, I thought it would be a fun way to spend an afternoon. Spirit High Wilderness Ranch — a tour company just outside of Whitehorse specializing in multi-day dog sledding expeditions — offered to teach me.
Ian, a giant man, a fur-trapper and my guide for the day, hands me a pair of tattered snow-pants. I slip into the borrowed outdoor gear and embrace frumpy warmth. At -20 degrees Celsius (plus a wicked wind chill), Yukon fashion is strictly about function.
Outfitted in big black astronaut boots, a goose down parka and a pair of beaver fur mittens, I feel like a marshmallow puff; a toasty fur ball and walking target for animal rights activists. Awkward and bulky I waddle outside, hoist myself onto the back of Ian’s skidoo and take off towards Fish Lake for a little ice-action.
As we speed along the ice, it makes an ominous sound … not what you want to hear when you’re skidding along a frozen lake. Ian tells me this deep, guttural gulp is caused by air bubbles trapped underneath the icy surface. Whatever the scientific explanation, I don’t like it. I imagine the ice breaking, the skidoo disappearing into the deadly, hypothermic waters. My over-active imagination does tend to flare up at inappropriate times, but trust me — that sound is … unsettling.
Ian finds a suitable fishing spot, hops off the skidoo and preps his supplies. First, he chops at the ice with an axe, then, he drills with an oversized corkscrew. I’m relieved to see the ice is super thick.
Ian takes a strip of raw bacon, wraps it around the lure and drops it in the arctic water. I jiggle my rod and attempt to make my breakfast-like bait look alive. Apparently Lake Trout love bacon, but draw the line at French Toast and home fries.
No nibbles. Not even one bite. Fingers tingling with the onset of frostbite, I stare at the hole intently. I really really want to catch a fish. Be the fish, I tell myself. Be. The. Fish.
Suddenly, the tip of the rod bends. Whammo! I try to reel it in but the rod falls apart in my hands leaving me tangled in shimmering fishing line. I throw down my cumbersome gloves and tow the line with bare hands. Frostbite is worth it. The whopper trout is a beauty.
Turns out ice fishing is fun … as long as you’re well dressed and catch something other than a cold.