Sunday, September 13, 2020

BIKE2FISH Challenge: Finding Solitude and Fitness in a COVID-19 World

           “Gone Fishing.” This year it seems that everyone in the worlds (See my other blog, to understand why “worlds” is plural.) has gone fishing. Recently, a podcast that I listen to regularly, “Casting Across,” did an episode on that very subject. ( In Minnesota alone, where we live, fishing license sales are at all-time record numbers. Accordingly, everywhere you would go fishing, someone else, or someones else are there already. Places that rarely saw pressure were in some cases literally packed.
            Unfortunately, where I live in central Minnesota the only real flowing water is the Rum River, and it is not a trout stream. Smallmouth bass, yes. Northern pike, them too. Our neighboring county, Chisago, does have a couple of streams designated by the DNR as trout streams, but I have yet to locate any in a place with the totally uninspiring name of “County Ditch Number 3.” (Yes, that’s really its name, and it’s really supposed to hold trout.) So, I content myself with catching panfish and itty-bitty bass in the numerous small lakes near our home. Given the chance this season, I have finished trout waters of the North Shore of Minnesota (where I encountered a furry fellow in the spot I wanted to fish), Saint Croix State Park, Chippewa National Forest, Ramsey Creek near Redwood Falls, and of course, my “happy place,” the Chequamegon National Forest.
            Now, to my point, in each of the places I just named there were no other people other than my wife and me. No problem with social distancing, no real need to wear a mask, no large crowds. You can get away from the crowds, wherever they may be, you can be somewhere else. As noted in previous posts, I have a bum left foot and ankle, which is why I use my fat-bike to access the backcountry. However, this is led to another discovery; because of COVID, my age (I turn 66 next week), a fairly sedentary job, and possibly, because my wife is such an excellent cook, I am in crappy shape. I want to fish away from crowds, and I greatly prefer small streams and spring-fed lakes, and I want to be able to reach them without bursting a lung to do so. So, I’ve come up with a plan.
            If you’ve read any of my previous posts this year, you know that the pandemic is also the cause of the delay, and ultimately the cancellation of our first “Bike to Fish” bikefishing workshop. (We’re going to try again next year, hopefully, the second Saturday after the fishing opener.) From that planned workshop as grown an idea that I call the “BIKE2FISH Challenge.” The challenge consists of riding a number of miles to be determined, fishing a number of backcountry streams and/or lakes, in a given amount of time, probably in the neighborhood of six hours. More than likely this will take place in the northern Chequamegon National Forest, although it could also happen in the Superior National Forest outside of the BWCA Wilderness. I will be posting the details as I work them out.
            In order to put something like this together, I have to be able to do it myself; ride the miles, catch the fish, in the time limit. That’s my challenge to me. That’s what I’m going to be working on for the rest of the season, and as soon as it starts next year. I’m not opposed to e-bikes as much as I used to be, but I’m also not ready for one yet. E-bikes would take some of the "challenge" out of the Challenge, so for me, it will be done on the Cogburn.
Next week I will be celebrating my birthday by riding the remaining stretch of the Willard Munger State Trail that I haven’t ridden, 23 miles from Barnum to Carlton on my touring bike; my longest distance bike ride in a number of years. I’ll be spending the week getting ready, and I’ll let you know how it goes.