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Fishing in a Dark Hole


Coulter Bay, Keyhole Reservoir

It was a beautifully warm, sunny day when we ventured out onto the lake for some ice fishing. It had snowed a good 8” or so a few days prior and the temperatures had just climbed out of the single digits, so the ice was a solid foot thick and offered the perfect base for our four-wheeler and gear. We drove onto the frozen water and followed the tracks carved by those who went before us and found that almost everyone in Crook County had the same idea as we drove around bend after bend of rock face walls to find an open spot along the edge to set up our afternoon camp.


I soon realized I had overdressed, but knew I would need the extra layers once the sun dipped below the horizon. It wasn’t the best time of day for catching anything just yet, so we sipped some brandy and spoke of our younger days for about an hour or two, simply content to be where we were. The snow cover drooped over the cliffs like ice cream on a cone. The sky was a brilliant cerulean brushed with wispy, cotton candy clouds, and violet-shadowed sled tracks in the snow formed such intricate designs across the lake as if created with an old Spirograph set. We were literally in the middle of one of God’s paintings.


Soon enough it was time to cut holes in the ice and drop our lines. We were fortunate to have a digital fish finder, but had to share and I was, for the moment, left to navigate my line in the blind. I fed and dropped and fed some more until I believed I had reached the lake bottom, wound it in a turn or two and snapped my reel into place and waited…and waited…and waited some more. My husband finally came back to me with the fish finder and dropped the cone in the hole to take a reading. The bottom was at 35’ and the fish were at 30’. How many feet had I dropped my bait? Five. Definitely different than casting your line over your shoulder with a direct aim in the summer sun, and boy did I need practice.


We didn’t set any records that day, but I celebrated my small catches even though I had to throw them back. It was a time of learning, which I am always grateful for, and I carried three important lessons with me off the ice that day:


One: Pee before you go. (That’s a standing rule before going anywhere in Wyoming anyway, because everything is at least an hour away.)


Two: Take food. And toilet paper. (We passed a girl carrying chips and TP in her arms and I made a mental note that these were both important staples to have on hand.)


Three: After sitting for some time with no bites and no educated idea where my lure was, I realized life is a lot like fishing in a dark hole. I can set goals for myself and think I’m close to my destination, doing everything I believe is right; but without the proper Guidance System, I am found floundering in shallow water. Once I measure the distance traveled and gather instruction for the rest of the journey, I know exactly how and where to set my course, and I thank God for giving me His Manual.

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All artwork and content © 2021 Stephanie Mummert

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