Answering the question “why haven’t you been ice fishing?” is typically pretty easy. For the inexperienced, it’s a freezing, stagnant affair that requires immense patience and – if you want to play with the big boys – deep pockets.
This Minnesota anger, however, is throwing all that out the window. Armed with a cheap fiberglass rod, a bucket, some sticks, an old tarp, and his bicycle, Andy Cairns is rewriting the book on modern ice fishing – and for the best possible reason.
All it took for Cairns to hit the ice was a tip from his friend, Bruce Lapka, that the fish were biting on Rice Lake, Brainerd. Armed with this knowledge, Cairns set out to try ice fishing for himself – under one condition: he would do so as cheaply as he possibly could.
A self-described “poor painter,” Cairns is a recumbent biker who rides into work at Gary’s Painting every day. But for him, it’s not about being able to afford an electric auger, or marine GPS, or fancy tents – it’s about not wasting money on a hobby he may end up hating.
Indeed, Cairns’ brilliantly frugal approach to ice fishing was born simply from him not wanting to waste money on a new activity he may not like. To that end, the angler set out to give ice fishing a try as cheaply as possible – and he’s accomplishing just that.
Low-Tech Ice Fishing is an Exercise in “Creative Frugality”
Speaking further to his motivation, Andy Cairns tells Minnesota’s Post Bulletin that he admires the folks on the television series “Alone” greatly. With the ‘reality’ show’s creative frugality as inspiration, Cairns set out to see if he could catch fish below the frozen ice with a similar approach.
The best part? All the wheeled-house-wielding, high-tech ice fishers couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Here comes this new chap, who’s no spring chicken, carting his found supplies across yards upon yards of ice… on a bicycle. Not only is riding a bike on ice extremely difficult (taking extreme coordination, balance, and skill), but once Cairns sets up his own ice fishing tent – constructed from literal sticks and an old construction tarp – his unique teepee becomes a focal point of the frozen landscape: An old-school triumph amid a field of high-tech frivolity.
Among Cairns’ fellow anglers, too, was kind soul J.R. Cooper, a local fishing guide who now lives on Rice Lake. Upon seeing Cairns’ setup, Cooper was moved to donate lures and a stove. Why? Because Cooper himself remembers fishing out of a cardboard box on the lake – years before a wheeled-house was any sort of financial possibility.
Cooper soon learned just like the rest of us, however, that Andy Cairns simply wanted to give ice fishing a go as cheaply as possible. Just in case he didn’t like it.
Cairns’ next frugal project? “A wood stove built from an abandoned tank.”
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[H/T Post Bulletin]