Finally, a First Frost

Literally, as these words are being pounded out on the keyboard, the first frost of the season is slowly melting off the dead-but-don’t-know-it-yet flowers in the yard. It looks to be a clear, still morning, the normal harbinger of frost in October. Everything within five feet of the ground is coated in a fuzzy white blanket.

The first frost is always bittersweet. Even though it has occurred several weeks later than normal, the event is a reminder that things aren’t going to get much warmer anytime soon and the coldest months of the year are within only a couple of turns of the calendar.

However, before we get too depressed at the prospect of bleak, gray weather, let’s try to enjoy what are usually some of the best outdoor conditions of the year in the Central U.S. Though this entire season has been atypical and the remaining fall might be likewise, the next couple of weeks should be considered prime time for outdoor activity.

The 2017 leaf-watching season has been delayed and thoroughly disappointing. Perhaps this significant annual temperature event might serve to blast the green and yellow leaves into Technicolor glory. Another big benefit of frost is that buzzing and biting insect population will take a serious dive, making the ‘skeeters’ and no-see-ums only an unpleasant memory for the next six months.

One of the biggest outdoor events right now is the annual arrival of the sandhill cranes at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area. We talk about this annual spectacle every year but it does live up to the hype as the huge birds gather in large numbers during their fall migration. The only downside is the long drive from our area and you must be there at either sunrise or sunset to experience the magic but the annual happening is a must-do for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.

Fishing will undoubtedly take a nose dive as the water grows colder yet it is prime time to catch the “big pigs” as they attempt to put on extra poundage for the coming winter. As was pointed out to me years ago, “the fish are always there; it’s the fisherman that don’t show up.” In that vein, we’re looking forward to an upcoming Brookville reservoir trip in mid-November to catch the giant walleye that get hungry when the lake is drawn down for winter and the weather turns nasty.

I’m not looking forward to sitting in a boat, breaking ice off of my rod and trying to restore feeling to insensitive finger tips but the payoff of potentially wall-hanging walleye is too good to pass up.

Fortunately, at the other end of the spectrum just before the arrival of cold and wet weather earlier this week, I actually went fishing at five different locations in a four day period.

The weather was too glorious to ignore; anytime you’re fishing at 7 p.m. in shorts and T-shirt in late October is a good time. Curiously, the two ponds I visited showed signs of “turnover,” a condition where layers of warm and cold water mix into a more uniform condition. This is normally an early fall phenomena that often causes fishing to slump temporarily but this season has been anything but typical.

I also went wading one afternoon and beat the water to a froth with my flyrod trying to subdue the moderately uncooperative bass at my favorite creek.

The highlight of this stretch was a trip to Lake Michigan in my friend Scott’s boat. Fishing the waters around Michigan City, I was thrilled we didn’t capsize in the big waves generated by a southwest wind and especially happy we didn’t start to drift into the shipping lanes when the high-temperature horn on the motor started sounding the alarm.

We caught nothing but in my book, anytime you visit the big lake in a small boat and manage to avoid rescue by the U.S. Coast Guard, it’s a great trip. Fish are merely a bonus to survival, especially with my luck.

Aside from angling, there are still more outdoor things to do in the coming weeks. Hunting is certainly in full gear but that’s another topic unto itself. Hiking and camping are wonderful provided you have the proper gear for the conditions. In fact, if you’ve never awoken in a frosty cold tent after a spending the night in a toasty warm sleeping bag, you’re missing a satisfaction that cannot be described. Yes, I’ll admit the pleasure rudely ends as you step outside but remember it does build character to experience both the Yin and Yang of life.

On the other hand, I have to admit that my personal goal is now to only experience the Yin because I’ve frozen my Yang off too many times to count.

But I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.