The older we get, the harder it is for us to add novelty to our lives. How about this: Picture going on a fishing adventure to Canada, right in the heart of winter, on a frozen lake; with it, a mix of fear and beauty. More than just a trip, this destination sparked deep reflections on who I am and where I come from. Journeys that challenge how we see ourselves are the ones truly worth taking…
Embarking on my first ice-fishing expedition at 52 was a dive into the heart of Canadian winter and traditions. Imagine the thrill, the expectation and, yes, the fear of walking on ice that could break beneath your feet and plunge you into freezing water — cue scenes from horror movies flashing in my mind.
Our journey took our group from Toronto to Beaverton, a charming town on the edges of Lake Simcoe in Ontario, famed for fresh fish like perch and pike. Equipped with warm clothes, wine, and the promise of a unique experience, we set out for the icy expanse.
Upon arrival at the lake, it was covered in snow as far as the eye could see. From the margins of the lake, we spotted our destination as tiny red dots on the distant horizon against a clear blue sky, 7 km into the lake. My mind told me it was far enough to cry for help and not be heard and, even if they did hear, it was too far for help to arrive in time. Before I could delve further into all the different horror scenes I could think of, we were told to hop on a snow coach, a strange vehicle equipped with front skis and rear tracks. It weighed a ton and intensified my fear of crashing through the ice. With each bump, fear started to turn into fun, creating an atmosphere of shared excitement among our group. The adventure had finally begun.
Slowly, the tiny red dots transformed into beautiful, vivid-red wooden cabins scattered across the white snow. They would be our shelter for the next 5 hours, each housing a rectangular hole in the centre revealing the icy depths below. Two benches, a testament to camaraderie, sat opposite each other, inviting us to an intimate encounter with the frozen lake. A heater, a small gas stove, fishing rods, and a bucket of minnow baits were offered.
Initially, the space felt a bit crowded for our group of 6 first-time ice fishers, but it also helped us stay warm and protected. The ice hole was a small window into a vibrant and active underwater world where colorful fish swam by with life despite the cold above. A competition ensued as we prepared our rods, each of us vying to be the first to catch the elusive Yellow Perch. We theorized about different techniques to the amusement of the fish, which would swim straight past. Slowly, one by one, we learned the tricks of the business and caught our fish. Photos, jokes, wine, and a delicious hot soup filled the hours.
Amidst the fishing fervor, I took a break to walk with Stevie, our Canadian Aussie-doodle, across the frozen expanse. The solitude, the silence, and the realization that I was strolling in the middle of a massive lake — far from the safety of solid ground — left an indelible impression. How did the boy born and raised in the Brazilian heat end up in the middle of a frozen lake, as far as one could be from the green forests of my youth? What life choices, both big and small, led me to be standing on a frozen lake so far from the reality I knew?
This experience, a surreal journey beyond my comfort zone, blended fear with curiosity. It showcased not only the harsh beauty of nature but also human ingenuity in adapting to its challenges. At 52, this ice fishing trip is a chapter I’ll forever cherish and wholeheartedly recommend to my fellow 50+ adventurers at www.so50.org who are seeking a unique winter experience.