Colder Than a Witch’s….

Burgess Meredith Beer4Hello and welcome to the blog today.  Burgess Meredith said it best in the movie “Grumpy Old Men”.  After watching that fishing movie recently, my blood was boiling to take a trip north and shivver in the cold.

It’s Monday evening after spending the last two days in the remote “hill country” of Clayton County – basically the same place as the last outing.  Apparently, the lesson learned on New Year’s Eve went in one ear and got flushed out at the doctor’s office…

A bunch of antibiotics later and it’s back to camping again – probably not a great idea since the doctor said to take it easy after a nasty ear infection.  Ironically, while working on this post, a public service announcement was discussing the dangers of exerting too much and the increased risks of a heart attack during cold weather.  What do they know?  🙂

Prime Rib

It’s served “open faced” but you’re hard pressed to find a piece of bread under the delicious Iowa prime rib beef.

I headed out from home on Sunday and stopped by the favorite haunt in the tiny town of Gunder, population 28, and located in the middle of nowhere.  The Irish Shanty had a splendid open-faced prime rib sandwich – basically a huge slab of prime rib on a piece of Texas toast, served with a horseradish sauce and au jus dipping sauce.  The sandwich was not diet food but I only ate half the portion (and not the fatty part)… and had some four-footed help with the rest!

big spring

The output of the biggest tube. Big Spring is the largest spring in Iowa.

After enjoying the sandwich (and a side salad), I did some fishing in the Turkey River but quickly succumbed to the cold.  The temperature was near zero and the wind was fierce.   Add to that a bunch of ice flowing in the current (catching the line) and fishing wasn’t a whole lot of fun!

I only caught one fish in about 90 minutes…

After freezing the toes and fingers, it was into the office at the hatchery to talk with Gary, the DNR guy, about camping at the hatchery.

Our brown four footed friend Woody was there and the energetic canine was most appreciative of the leftover prime rib and hash browns.  Woody would jump against me with his paws on my chest and give a huge wet slurp on the nose, lips, and face.  He’s learned the command “give me a hug” and will now do that slurpy pounce if you open your arms and encourage him.

Cabelas Goves

Once $44.99, I managed to get these gloves for just $2.49!

Before settling down for the night, I took a side trip to the Cabela’s store in Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin… and cashed in!  I’d planned to just get a couple of jars of trout bait but they offered me a $20 discount if I applied for a Cabella’s credit card.  Why not?

After having frozen the fingers using some cheap gardening gloves, I picked up this pair of Cabela’s insulated gloves for almost a steal.  They had been $44.99 marked down to $22.49.  With the $20 off credit card offer, I got them for just $2.49!  A larger size was chosen to make it easier to get the gloves on and off when angling… and they would soon be tested in combat.

Turkey River Valley

Sunset in the “hill country” of Clayton County, Iowa

On Sunday night I’d intended to set up and camp next to the hatchery.  But this time the DNR offered to let me pull the van into the heated maintenance garage and plug in.  Just outside the shop and around the corner was a heated bathroom.  It was a perfect place to rest!  As a matter of conscience, I made a donation to the hatchery as a “thank you” for their kindness.  Since there was no television signal available, I’d already downloaded “Cannonball Run” and watched the movie and some TV shows on the laptop.

GarageOn Monday morning, I decided to give the new gloves a try and headed back to the stream.  It was still around -15 or so when I started casting.  (the temperature had actually hit -18 in the valley)  The fishing action was slow.

The intrepid Woody visited during the angling.  Several times he did the “slurpy hug” thing.  It was likely a thank you for giving him the leftover prime rib from Sunday… and perhaps a solicitation for more?

Ice continued to flow down the river in large and small chunks.  Frustrated by the lack of action, I tried a different spot.  Voila!  There were plenty of hungry fish biting and then it was a matter of how fast one could bait and cast before the toes get frostbitten.  With the temperature well below zero and the wind picking up, it was becoming very painful.

Bathtub2Once the fishing was over, I was eager to return home.  The stringer of five fish was hung on the bike rack of the van.  The trout were frozen rock solid during the 80+ mile trip home and had to be thawed to clean them.

Just a sidenote… The new cutting board in the picture was made by Dalton, the son of my boss.  The beautiful cutting boards were sold as a shop class / private enterprise activity.  Though I’d planned to save this one for home use, it’s going to be part of the camping experience.

Oops, I digressed… nothing new there!

Jesse and I with bellies full of troutThe fillets of three trout were fried up immediately after cleaning them to keep the texture of the fish firm.  (If held too long, trout can get mushy)  Jesse ate a whole fillet by himself (and I sure enjoyed them, too!) and then we both zonked out in the recliner… Jesse is sure a chip off the old block!  Jennifer?  She didn’t want any trout.  She’s getting fussy.

What a fun time.  Being outside the last two days was  tiring but in a good sort of way.  Iowa has some pretty extreme weather at times.  Embracing and enjoying the seasons helps a person to stay happy most of the time… but I’m not exactly looking forward to repeating today’s fishing any time soon!  Woody seems to be better suited for it!

For now, take care and thanks for visiting!  Happy and safe travels always!

Brad, Jesse James, and Jennifer
Jones County, Iowa

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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

6 Responses to Colder Than a Witch’s….

  1. Danny says:

    Trout fishing in that kind of weather? LOL. Looks like it was worth it, beautiful trout! Super nice of DNR letting you stay inside. Thanks for sharing the adventure.

    Danny in South Jaw Jah (Georgia)

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Danny, thanks for the note! I wish it were possible to be in Georgia right now. The stay inside the DNR building was a huge plus. I was willing to sleep outside with electric heat supplemented by propane… but it sure was nice to be comfortable instead. Sometimes it’s a little crazy to venture out in the nasty weather but you never know when it will turn out to be so much fun. Take care! 🙂

  2. my_vantasy says:

    I just love how it’s January in the Midwest and you’re blogging about…camping! Reading about your adventures makes me smile because the little dog and I are shivering in our sticks-n-bricks, and there you are fishing and camping. More power to ya!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thanks! I understand about the shivering, etc. Jesse and Jennifer are sleeping over the furnace vent on the living room floor. They’re warm and I’m freezing. 🙂

      Winter is still winter and some days it’s not easy… I’ve had a little of the winter blues – the holidays, loss of parents, sickness, etc. But happiness is out there… even if it’s being tackled by a crazy dog, trudging through snow, having wet fingers stick to the outside door handle of a bathroom, etc. It takes a little more work at this time of the year but it’s sure worth it.

      Thanks for the kind words and encouragement. 🙂

  3. Jo says:

    Your a brave Man Brad, It is only in the 40s here at night and I am frozen. I run a little electric heater in the computer room and Fred the heater hog lays right in front of it so I get very little warmth. Oh what we do for our fur kids.

    Your sure caught some pretty Trout

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo and thanks for the note. I was dressed for it… This morning I was freezing at the homebase. Jesse was by my side and we were against each other for the whole night keeping warm. I know what you mean about a heater hog. They do like their warmth (at our expense!)