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    Taken For Granted

    Taken For Granted  

    It seemed like an awfully sill question for an educated man to ask. “Will you take me fishing?” asked the voice on the other end of the phone. My good friend Dustin was coming home in a month and wanted me to take him ice fishing. “Hell yes I will take you ice fishing! So what’s the catch”? Dustin hadn’t been home in awhile. He moved to Virginia about three years ago and hadn’t been ice fishing since before he moved. My Facebook posts of a fantastic start to the ice-fishing season had obviously piqued his interest but there seemed to be more to it. “I have this buddy……..”

    When I first met Luke Arnn it was early. It was also snowing. The wind also happened to be blowing and blowing hard. The Weather Channel had dubbed it Winter Storm Gandolf and by all reports it was to be epic. Many fishermen believe, and I happen to agree, that when the weather is at its worst and most uncomfortable, the fishing is generally its best. The barometric pressure was low that morning, and so too was the temperature, and the wind chill. We had called off the excursion three times only to break down and decide we were being hasty. This trip was, after all, for Luke.

    When Dustin called me asking if I would take him and Luke fishing he laid out a scenario I couldn’t help but be intrigued by. Luke grew up in a town in South-Central Virginia near the North Carolina border. By Dustin’s account, Luke was the epitome of the song “I’ve Been Everywhere”. Except for on a frozen lake, that-is. Dustin explained that when he told Luke of his impending trip home to sit with his friend on a block of ice, staring down a hole and hoping a fish would bite that Luke thought it sounded amazing. Western South Dakota was a place he hadn’t been in all his travels and he wanted to check it out.

    So there we were. The Fireman, the Cop, and the Marine all standing in the sideways snow, shaking hands and exchanging greetings. It was 10 degrees with a 15 mph wind yielding a -7 degree wind-chill. We were going come hell or high water (in the form of frozen precipitation, of course) and Gandolf be damned, we were getting Luke on fish. We decided that Custer State Park was our best bet. The lakes were somewhat protected from the wind, the roads were sure to be a little better, and six days earlier Dustin and I caught so many fish we lost count. It was the perfect storm. Kind of like the one we were going fishing in.

    On the way up we chatted and I got to know the guy with the broad smile that was sitting in my back-seat. He and Dustin were enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University together. Luke enrolled at VCU after spending six years in the United States Marines where he did a couple of tours inIraq. Luke explained that he loves to travel and told about the opportunity to climb Volcan Pacaya while doing mission work inGuatemala. The man had stories, but little did I know that at the end of the day the story of a trip to catch fish on a frozen lake inSouth Dakotawould be among his favorite.

    We arrived at CenterLakea little before 10 am. The wind was negligible with picturesque fat snowflakes falling straight down. It was a postcard I had seen a hundred times growing up here. My goal was to get the ice shack up quickly and start punching holes so we could hurry up and catch fish. It was a high-speed, low drag operation. We drug the shack to a spot about 150 yards from to boat ramp toward the dam. Sitting over a hump in about twenty feet of water I drilled the first hole. The Vexilar showed fish suspended about five feet off of the bottom. This would be the spot.

    During the course of the next three hours, Luke got a crash course in drilling holes, reading a Vexilar, and catching trout. The fishing was hot even though the temperature continued to drop. It began to snow so hard that we lost sight of the dam and the shack roof had to be cleaned off about every ten minutes to keep it from sagging. Near the end of the day, Luke got into a good fish. I missed all but the hooting and hollering as I had wandered off a bit in search of a moment. When I came back to the shack to see what the commotion was about, there stood the smiling Virginian with a moment of his own. His moment, confirmed by the tape, was 16” and a perfect way to end the day.

    Oddly enough, dragging the sled out didn’t seem to be as much fun as the drag in seemed to be, nor was the drive home. We took the round-about way home, stopping inHillCityfor a cold-one, sharing thoughts and stories and laughs. It wasn’t until that point that I saw the big picture. “This”, Luke said, “is one of the coolest experiences of my life”. That statement hit me. Coming from a guy who has been to the top of an 8,000 foot volcano and done mission work inGuatemala, served our country inIraq, and traveled from one coast to another, fishing on a little frozen lake during a snowstorm in ourBlack Hillsis among the coolest things he’s ever done? Luke’s comment gave me pause.

    I thought at length about our journey into the snow to catch Rainbow Trout that day. I thought a lot about a lot of journey’s into the Hills to do a lot of things. It was at that moment that I really realized how spoiled and how fortunate I am. Having the opportunity to live and work where I do is a gift and I won’t ever take it for granted again. To be able to throw my gear into my truck, grab some bait, and hit the road only to have a line in the water or be sitting on a point overlooking God’s creation all within 30 minutes is something lots of folks can only dream about. I drive byMt.Rushmoreon average once a month. I dodge deer, take the highway throughCusterState Parkas a shortcut, and catch fish year-round. Those folks call experiences like that vacation. I call it Thursday. I had been taking it all for granted.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Luke, and Dustin, for the trip and the perspective. Each time out after that I made sure to stop along the way and take something different in. Whether it was the scenery itself or a particular moment, I made sure that whatever it was I just took time to take it in. Thanks fellas for helping me realize these Hills aren’t just home. They’re amazing, they’re wonderful, and they’re a gift. Most importantly, they’re right here and I need to slow down more and enjoy them.



     Fishing Report for 5-28-13

    So, perhaps you noticed I haven’t posted for awhile (although I suspect very few people did). It’s because I have been out hitting the water drumming up something worth reporting. Things are finally heating up, and I don’t just mean the thermometer. Angostura has been decent for Smallmouth Bass but slow for Walleye until just recently. We hit the Smallmouth pretty hard not too long ago up in the trees just off of the flats. White was the color. It didn’t seem to matter what it was, as long as it was white and moving the Smallies were on it. One report I saw from just this past weekend said the Walleye are starting to hit Flicker Shad and minnows on bottom bouncers although I haven’t tested it out personally.

    Trout action has picked up in some of the smaller Hills lakes. Center had a good bite, although it seemed to be smaller stocked Rainbow for the most part. My little guy got a couple of very nice, fat Rainbow from Horsetheif last weekend too. Powerbait floating up off the bottom is working good from shore. I have been spending quality time with my float tube. Adams, Parachute Adams, and Blue-Winged Olives did well for me, as did a Crystal Bugger.

    It’s my goal this summer to hit different water each time I fish. This tactic worked well for me during the ice season and got me out and about quite a bit more. If any of you have a good tip, feel free to give a shout. I’m always looking for a new spot, especially ones that get me into good fish. Thanks for reading this long overdue edition of “Black Hills Bites”. I hope you too take the opportunity to slow down, take a look around, and enjoy this amazing place that a few of us get to call home. Fish-on!

    2 Responses

    1. dcalhoun84 Says:

      Amazing! Great read Jim...and Thank You for the time you took to take us out!


    2. dcalhoun84 Says:

      Great read! Thank you again for taking the time to take us out, we really did appreciate it!


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