Notes From the Dockside: The joys of miseryIt was my oldest daughter Lisa who mentioned this one day when someone was talking about taking along a fan to put inside their tent while camping. She wondered why anyone would do that. “Aren’t you supposed to be miserable?” she asked. “Otherwise it wouldn’t be any fun.”
By: By Mike Yurk, Hudson Star-Observer
It was my oldest daughter Lisa who mentioned this one day when someone was talking about taking along a fan to put inside their tent while camping. She wondered why anyone would do that.
“Aren’t you supposed to be miserable?” She asked. “Otherwise it wouldn’t be any fun.”
It does seem that misery and having fun are closely related to the outdoors. Duck hunters, for years, have taken special pleasure in being miserable. When the weather is at its worst and it is most miserable to be sitting in a duck blind, they are having the best duck hunting. So they have the most fun during the worst misery.
This joy of misery can also be associated with early spring and late fall fishing for walleyes and sauger on the Mississippi River. It has always seemed that when the weather is the most miserable we have the best fishing. This is not just an every now and again type of observation. It happens all the time.
My fishing buddy, Paul, has been on so many of these early and late season fishing adventures that he has become resigned to the fact that if we want to catch fish we just have to be miserable. We have survived and caught fish while undergoing wonderfully nice misery.
One early November day I called him to ask if he could go fishing on the Mississippi. I told him something about the weather could be a bit unpleasant. The weather people were predicting snow and ice.
“Oh good,” he said. “We should catch fish then.”
When I picked him up he put his ice fishing clothes in the back of my van. We had just gotten on the river when it started to rain ice. The ice rattled through the bare branches of the trees. It never stopped all day. The green carpet in my boat turned white. There were times that we could not see the other side of the river. The wind howled with a frigid bite to it. We never took our hands out of gloves. What parts of our body that were exposed — like faces — were raw and red.
I have a photo of Paul sitting in the back of the boat. He is huddled in a heavy jacket with his hood up. Ice is piled up on his shoulders. He has one of those what-have-I-gotten-myself-into looks on his face.
But we caught fish all day and a photo I took of him later with him holding a very nice sauger in each hand shows a smile on his face. We caught a bunch of fish that day. It was a day of great misery and great fishing.
Conversely, when the weather is too nice in either the spring or fall, then the catching seems to dramatically drop off. This also has happened enough times that there seems to be a direct cause and effect relationship. Good weather means fewer fish and bad weather means more fish. It is just tough to have a lot of fun unless there is some misery.
On one March day Paul and I were fishing the Mississippi River again. We weren’t even close to April yet and normally this is the time of some very fine misery. Snow, ice, cold temperatures and piercing wintry winds are generally the norm that time of the year.
But this day was an anomaly. It was a bright, sunny, warm spring day. It was a true joy to get out in a boat on a day like that. But Paul and I knew better. There was no misery. It was going to be tough to get fish.
And so it was. We fished hard all day and were lucky to get a couple of fish. Paul had said something about wanting to get a few fish to take home for a fish fry. That didn’t happen. I think that by the time we left he had changed his dinner plan to ordering out pizza.
Now this was a great day to sit in a boat. We were fishing in shirt sleeves instead of a parka which is unheard of this early in the season. Even the breezes were warm. I regretted that I had not brought sunscreen.
The fishermen in the other boats that we either trolled around or drifted around us all said the same thing. They weren’t catching any fish either but then quickly added that it sure was a nice day to be sitting in a boat.
What we really needed to catch fish was some nice snow or ice and cold winds. Now that would have done it. We needed more misery to catch fish.
Duck hunters aren’t the only outdoorsmen that relish misery. We early and late season river fishermen want it as well. If you want to catch fish you got to have misery. How else are you going to have fun. It is the joy of misery.
Editor’s Note: The Notes From The Dockside is an exclusive feature appearing in the Hudson Star-Observer on the first and third issues of each month.