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Commentary: Making the best of cold, cruddy weather

FORT FRANCES, Ont.—Spend enough time outdoors, and you're going to get bit by bad weather eventually; it's pretty much unavoidable.

Such was the case this past week, when I joined two others on a three-day fishing trip to northwestern Ontario.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give the weather a 3 and only because I'm feeling generous.

The conditions we endured came as no surprise. The weather forecast in the days leading up to our trip called for clouds, wind, rain and perhaps even snow.

The only thing missing was sun.

Weather forecasts aren't always correct, so we held on to the faint hope that conditions wouldn't be that bad. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.

Arriving at the Rusty Myers floatplane base in Fort Frances, Ont., last Sunday morning, Sept. 23, I wasn't sure the plane would even be able to get off the water for the short trip to our destination on Trout Lake. Pounded by a stiff east wind—actually, gale would be more like it—Rainy Lake looked like a herd of angry sheep as big whitecaps buffeted the dock at the flying service. A thick blanket of low-hanging clouds offered little optimism for a break in the weather.

I'd be lying if I said the thought of pulling the plug and heading back across the border to Minnesota didn't cross my mind.

Despite the weather, the pilot deemed the conditions adequate for takeoff, and we boarded the Cessna Caravan pretty much on schedule.

"Hang on," he said, "it's going to be a rough ride."

That it was.

Watching the miles tick off on the GPS as I rode shotgun, I noticed the change in color on the rocky ground below as we approached our destination. The cabin roof was covered in white.

Snow.

In September.

Ugh.

We unloaded the plane and settled into the warm cabin, in no big hurry to hit the water in pursuit of the walleyes and lake trout that had brought us there in the first place.

It might be cold, but at least it was windy, I joked.

Ugh.

It took a couple of hours, but we eventually summoned up the courage to brave the elements and try to catch some walleyes for our evening meal.

Despite brutal conditions, the walleyes cooperated, and the fishing was surprisingly good.

Supper assured, we wasted little time heading back to camp and the comfort of the woodstove.

The snow had melted, but we woke up the next morning to pouring rain and a blob of icky on the radar that lingered throughout the day.

Late in the afternoon, we headed out in the rain to catch our evening meal. The lake trout were tight-lipped, but the walleyes cooperated nicely—at least for my two fishing partners. As for me, I was stuck under the dreaded "Black Cloud," my name for the frustrating phenomenon that occurs when everyone but you is catching fish.

On the upside, the heavy-duty rain gear I packed for the trip kept me dry, which couldn't be said for at least one of my fishing partners.

It was that kind of day.

Clouds dominated the sky on our third and final day, but it wasn't raining, and the Black Cloud that cursed me the previous day mercifully had lifted.

I redeemed myself both on walleyes and—even better—lake trout.

The sun was shining—of course—when the floatplane pulled up to the dock Wednesday morning to take us back to civilization. The wind was brisk and cold, though, and fall definitely was in the air.

The trip back to floatplane base was quick and smooth, and my two fishing partners and I parted company feeling like we'd accomplished something by braving the elements.

That's the way it is for anyone who spends time outdoors, whether it's hunting, fishing, camping or any other outdoor pursuit. Sometimes, you have to play the cards you're dealt and make the best of it.

On that count, we certainly succeeded.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998.  A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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