Fishing lines: Damart Man prepares for an icy ordeal

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The Independent Online
I REALLY should be using all my spare time practising words such as jauhelihapihvi or Hyvaa ruokahalua. Instead, I'm having to spend hours making a 1ft-long fishing rod.

It's not easy, you know. All the stuff about test curves and tip action goes out of the window when you're dealing with something only a little longer than a shoe. But there are still technical considerations. How do I fit the reel on? Bung on a few cork rings, like a normal fishing rod, and there's no rod left. The only advantage is that it won't cost much on rings for the line to go through.

I used to be a pretty good rod-maker. Not up to the standard of Newbury's Edward Barder, who can charge more than pounds 300 for a hand-made split-cane rod, but good enough for a few friends to ask me to provide them with an Elliott Special.

The bit I liked best was putting on those pretty coloured whippings to hold the rod rings. There won't be much of that on my kiddie rod. The prototype has only two rings, and that's probably one too many.

But the design of a 1ft rod may be the least of my problems. A much tougher one is how I'm going to stay alive for 48 hours in sub-zero temperatures.

I don't quite know how I got roped into taking part in next month's Finnish Marathon Ice-fishing Championships at Oulu. Any half-sensible journalist would cover such an event by interviewing competitiors in the bar afterwards. All my foolhardy gesture has done is to reveal just how ill-equipped I am.

It's not just the 1ft rod (a longer one is unmanageable when fishing through ice-holes). How am I going to drill through 18in or more of frozen water in the first place? What bait do I use? Maggots and worms will freeze to death. What am I going to catch, if anything? How do I keep the hole from freezing? More important, how do I keep myself from freezing?

I am told that mobile bars patrol the ice. This may go some way towards overcoming the intense cold. (I'm told the hottest it will get is -5C.) But even with a good few slugs of mesimarja, a liqueur made from the arctic raspberry, inside me, there appears a high chance that I shall merely become a very well-preserved corpse.

Dressed as Damart Man, with snow boots, thermal underwear, two pairs of socks and that silly woollen hat that granny knitted years ago, I could handle five hours.

But two days and nights is a very different matter. I will surely need at least a tent for the bitter nights, and perhaps a couple of gas heaters. (An open fire may not be such a good idea.) Perhaps I need to learn very quickly how to build an igloo.

Concentration will not be easy. Fishing on your own for longer than it takes to get out of the car park at Wembley gives plenty of time to come up with some fresh thoughts on how to revitalise the economy, as well as pondering the meaning of life. (Like, what am I doing sitting on a frozen Finnish lake with only a radio playing the 'Drunken Seal-hunter's Tango' for company?)

And what do you eat while fishing through ice holes? Surely not your catch, otherwise you have nothing to show at the end of a competition. The only commonly available vegetable is the potato. It looks like two days of fry-ups. Poronkaristys, the local equivalent of a Little Chef breakfast, doesn't sound too appetising. It's chopped reindeer meat fried in bacon fat.

There are only a few weeks to go and I'm getting distinctly nervous. Is there anyone out there with experience of spending 48 hours non-stop fishing through holes in the ice? And can anyone tell me how to say Hyvaa ruokahalua?

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