Handling Cold Weather, Tough Times

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle

The European starlings that haunt my backyard have donned their white-spotted winter jackets, the winter-fun (sic) steelhead are making their way up the Cowlitz and snow is falling at White Pass Ski Resort. Winter is on its way and looks like it’s coming in hard for a landing. I’m just not sure I’m ready for it to get here yet.

I’ve been eyeballing the racks of long underwear at Sunbirds and Cabela’s, hoping to find a pair of reasonably-priced longjohns that will keep me warm while I fish the bank and that won’t break my bank.

Spending $50 for a pair of extreme weather johnnies isn’t a priority just yet, but I do realize that it soon will be — but probably not until after I spend my first morning of freezing my tuchus off while standing in the Cowlitz.Second on my list of winter wear shopping is a good set of waterproof fishing gloves. I’ve seen plenty of them available, all them in size jumbo (man-sized) and too much for my little hands. I may have to resort to using my sewing skills to free up the right thumb (so I can use them with my baitcaster reel) from a pair of kids ski gloves.

I’m a pretty tough old bird, willing to withstand a lot of discomfort and long hours as long as I’m out doing the things that I enjoy most. I’ll hike long distances to secret fishing spots, endure the hot rays of the sun all day and even go without food and water, but the very idea of being cold makes me want to crawl into my bed with a heated rice bag at my feet, pull the covers over my head and not come out until spring.

I love skiing, for example, but it’s the fact that you have to do it in the SNOW that keeps me from hitting the slopes on a regular basis.

I’m pretty excited about my first season of winter-run steelhead fishing, but will I have the stamina to stay out long enough to find one? I’ll be interested to see how I weather my first winter and whether I’ll be able to force myself up from a warm bed and head into the icy waters.

I’m reminded of a story I heard a long time ago (although I don’t know if it’s true) about the men that were running the big machinery they used to put in the Alaskan pipeline.

It was said that the men from the mainland had a hard time staying in the covered and heated (as best as it could be in below freezing temperatures) machinery for an entire 8-hour shift. The mainland men lasted only 4 hours, if that, before they bailed out of the machines.

The company then hired a crew of Inuit workers, native to the area. The local workers made it easily through an 8-hour shift and could even work 12 hours at a time.

Curious as to what the differences were between the local and the mainland men, the company hired scientists to study them. They found no physical differences between them, but determined that the difference was psychological.

The Inuit men knew they were going to be cold and the work would be hard, they just dealt with it.

When times get tough and the going gets rough, I’m often reminded of that story. It always helps to get me in the right mindset and build the stamina I need to outlast the trouble … just like this last week when I had to make a choice between buying a package of 1/0 hooks, a handful of corkies and a dozen swivels and eating $1.09 pot pies for the rest of the week or giving up fishing until my next paycheck arrived.

Those pot pies weren’t half bad, by the way (although I might have been happier if I could have found a hatchery salmon in good enough shape to eat).

Now, let’s gear up and go outside, y’all, it’s going to be a good day!
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Kimberly Mason is a freelance Outdoors writer and enthusiast who lives in Cinebar.  Visit her photography blog, The (Almost) Daily Bird (blogs.chronline.com/dailybird), follow her on Twitter (ChronKim) or find her on facebook (Kimberly Mason — The Chronicle). Contact her via email at kz@tds.net or call 269-5017.

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