An Incidental Lesson

     This past weekend I got to take a new client out on the ice.  He wasn't new to ice fishing, he just hadn't been out it in the last 20 or so years.  When we were firing emails back and forth about where to go and what to fish for I noticed a theme.  He spent the majority of his time freezing on a bucket in the middle of the lake.  I was sure I could show him a better time than just sitting on a bucket.  Problem was I was getting really nervous about taking this client out fishing.  Why was I nervous?  Well to be honest this particular client has become something of a mentor to me.  He has been really supportive of my business and the idea of guiding from a kayak.  Also this would be the first time I was taking him out to fish and I didn't want him to be miserable.  I was nervous because as most people know I am an experience fisherman.  I don't carry a heater or a shanty.  In fact I don't even use a sled!  I love being outside in the elements.  What in the world was I gonna do?
Frabill Shanty and Heater
     I decided that the only logical thing to do was abandon the way I fish in favor of giving him the normal ice fishing experience.  A few phone calls later and I had commandeered a shanty for the outing.  My buddy JJMuskie was happy to loan me his shanty and portable heater.  Funny thing was he wanted to know why I needed it.  "You don't fish from a shanty" he said, "They slow you down."  He was right, I don't use shanties, they slow people down.  By the time you get done unloading them from your truck, dragging them across the ice, and getting them setup most people are happy to just drill a hole and sit.  Luckily I am not like most people.  I enjoy "Ice Trolling."  Essentially drilling a bunch of holes in a zigzag pattern and hopping from place to place in search of fish.  I stay mobile, warm, and normally spend a good portion of my day unhooking fish.  Not this time though I was gonna drill a hole, flip over a shanty, and turn on a heater.  To be honest I wasn't really that excited about it.  I couldn't wait to get to know my new client/mentor better.  I just wasn't all that fired up to sit and fish, I like to be on the move.
     Soon the morning arrived and it was quickly turning into a typical start for the Shorebound Hero Guide Service.  I woke up a little late and that's when I noticed that all the bait had died in the fridge.  Then I discovered that my boot socks were still in the washing machine.  To add insult to injury it turns out that since I was experimenting with different jigging patterns in the bathtub the day before none of my rods were setup and ready to go.  I was scrambling, but I was determined to be on time and professional.  I doubled up some socks and headed out the door.  I knew that the bait shops on the east side don't open till 7am so I swung by Walmart for some bait before flying across town to the Lake Wingra launch.  I arrived with a few minutes to spare and set about unloading the shanty from the back of my Silverado.  As I manhandled the gear in the parking lot I couldn't get over how heavy all that stuff actually was.  "Why would anybody ever want to go ice fishing," I muttered under my breath.  After a few minutes my client arrived and we headed out onto the frozen lake.
     It didn't take very long pulling that sled before I realized that I was tired and miserable.  I drilled a couple holes and setup the shanty.  It must have been pretty obvious in hindsight that I wasn't used to the shanty because my hole spacing was horrible.  Almost half of the hole I had drilled for myself was actually outside of the shanty.  On top of that I couldn't even work the heater.  It wouldn't start and soon I was getting frustrated.  At this point the only thing I had going for me was that the fish were biting.
     As the time passed the conversation soon turned to my guide service and why I thought expanding into kayak angling was a good business move.  My client is an expert when it comes to the paddle sports industry and he had a lot of insights on how to grow my business.  Then it happened, out of nowhere he asked "So this is how you usually ice fish?"  I came clean and let him know that this isn't how I normally fish at all.  I explained that I don't like being confined to a shanty.  I know sooner got done explaining the benefits of my style of fishing when he mentioned that he's a snowshoeing enthusiast and is getting kind of cold just sitting in the shanty.  He too likes to be on the move and that we should lose the shanty and go catch some fish.
     Instantly I was back on top of my game.  Drilling holes, explaining how I locate fish, and laughing the whole time.  We were telling stories, swapping gear ideas, and enjoying a beautiful Madison sunrise.  The birds were singing and the hot chocolate was flowing.  Best of all the fish were extremely cooperative.

     We were only able to fish for a few hours that morning.  That was all I needed to learn this lesson.  You have to be yourself when out with a client.  I was so worried about showing him a great time that I forgot why he was out there in the first place.  He came out that morning to fish with me.  I am still rather new to guiding and I still sometimes question my tactics.  I worry that people want the regular experience even though I warn them from the beginning that I am not your typical fisherman.  I do the things I do because they work well for me and I am confident that they will work for my clients too.  I went out that morning to teach my client/mentor how to catch fish through the ice.  Turns out that he was the one teaching an incidental lesson.
     Tight Lines.

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