Rifle Gap’s Ice Fishing Contest
Forget the DaVinci Code, the most important code to break around here is the fisherman’s code – worth $20,000 if one can abide by its ancient wisdom and learn from the lessons of the wild. Saturday’s 8th annual ice fishing contest at Rifle Gap started at 8 a.m. under grey skies and single digit temperatures. Readers, it was cold, cold, cold. It was that moment, right after I took my first photo of Pat Rowton and Debbie Brooks I realized I was entirely unworthy of the Harley Davidson skullcap I chose to wear. Maybe I’ll send it to Rowton and Brooks, who couldn’t wait to get out on the ice. Those two are tough, tough, tough. I did, however, do what any smart native would do, I waited until conditions improved. And so, it was there, in my car with heat and satellite radio, where I napped until 10:30, at which time the sun slipped through the clouds like a blessing, and I emerged, full of vim and vigor, ready to witness someone catch a $20,000 fish.
Except that no one catches fish. Rule #1: Fish hook you. Other than a cold butt, there’s only one thing anyone earns from sittingfor five hours over an eight-inch hole. Rule #2: Patience, patience, patience. All good fishermen have it and I was sure Paul Plattner had mastered the virtue when it appeared to me that he had caught The Little Mermaid. Rule #3: Exaggerate, exaggerate, exaggerate. But I was wrong. It was his daughter, Teal, a fisherwoman in her own right who used her female prowess to obey the most important rule in fishing. Rule #4: Location, location, location. I saw Plattner eye a lone spot in the middle of the lake and say, “That’s where I need to be.” Rule #5: A good fisherman thinks like a single woman: you have to get the best one before someone else does. And according to Dan Jaber, that involves talent. “There is skill involved,” he said. Like not punching that fancy ice auger down a little too far and hitting oil and gas, which me and my new fishing buddies decided would be bad, bad, bad. Not that we’d tell anyone, fisherman don’t talk much and it’s bad luck to tell secrets. But’s it’s the next rule that will condemn you forever. Rule #6: Never, never, never tease the Our Towns girl. Don’t worry, I used it to my advantage. On a lake with more than 500 people, it separated the locals from the out-of towners who came from Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and all over Colorado. You see, locals don’t tease me, they know better. And I don’t know of any local angler who wants to end up in my “Worst of 2006” column. Locals knew Rule #7 was for their best interest: utilize all your resources. I wasn’t skipping across a 700-acre ice rink for the exhilarating, liberating freedom of being in the middle of a 48-ft. deep lake in the dead of winter. I was bringing secret, classified information to my favorite locals like Randy Winkler who believes in Rule #8: Fishermen need social sonar. Who do you ask when you need to know where the action is? Me, me, me. Because I know about Rule #9: Use gut instinct. I used this when I dressed for the occasion. Despite ridicule and frostbite, my Reeboks helped me dodge 60,000 gaping holes the size of sewer grates. Rule #10: Tell the truth and learn how to add like a real angler. Did I tell you it was -50 below zero? So you must be wondering if all of our favorite fishermen obeyed these rules, one of them took home $20,000, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Rule #11: Fishing is about luck, luck, luck. And one other thing. Ice Fishing is not for the faint of heart. The DaVinci Code might be easier to crack.
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