Jerry’s adventures on the Blackfeet’s famed Duck Lake

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Our plans to ice fish Duck Lake last Friday were thwarted when weather forecasters predicted snow and 36-mph winds.

But that hasn’t always been the case.

Forty years ago we’d have just thrown the auger, rods, and hot chocolate into the truck and headed over Marias Pass to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Sometimes, we turned around and headed back home. Sometimes, we continued and had an adventure like the time…

• The wind blew the topper off my Datsun pickup and we watched it roll end-over-end towards Cut Bank. My Brittany Spaniel, Lucy, who had been laying on the folded, plywood ice house, was catapulted into the air like Toto in The Wizard of Oz!

We were able to drag the topper back to the highway and secure it to the truck. But we couldn’t find Lucy and I was terrified of having to tell my wife we’d lost our dog. Eventually, two flapping brown ears came running down the barrow pit and Lucy nearly knocked me over when she jumped into my arms!

• While answering Nature’s call on shore, someone asked, “What’s that blowing down the ice?” Our auger!

• More guys showed up at our meeting place in Columbia Falls than we had seats for, so some guys rode all the way to Duck Lake, in the middle of winter, in the back of an open pickup bed!

• I drilled two holes behind the pickup then, by the time I jumped up and sat on the tailgate, the holes had moved under the truck!

• I was driving, on slick ice, to check how many fish some friends were catching. When I turned the steering wheel, nothing happened! All the way left, then all the way right. Truck stayed straight! Also, no brakes!

• Murffy, our brown Lab, who had a tendency to steal other fishermen’s fish, laid someone’s gourmet deli sandwich at my feet.

• We drove onto the ice before dawn, then heard open-water lapping onto the ice nearby.

• In early spring when we were fly fishing from float-tubes in a narrow band of open water on Duck’s north shore. Most of the lake was still ice-covered. When the wind shifted, a south wind began pushing the ice northward. We kicked like crazy to get out of the way as the strip of open water disappeared. Within minutes, ice reached shore, then was pushed and compacted several feet high in the bushes!

Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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