Monthly Archives: November 2010

Wrong Place

I couldn’t sleep last night. The usual things… money, not enough of it; work, or lack of it, goes with the lack of money thing; kids, granted they live with their mother, but I don’t remember raising them to be like that; should have gone hunting, I’m up anyway; pending job interview, there’s that money thing again.

So when the alarm went off at 4:15 AM, there was no need to say anything. “Off to wipe asses,” says enough. She’s a nurses aide.

By 5 AM I’m standing in the driveway sucking down that first cup of coffee and fumbling to light the first cheap cigar of the day. I won’t smoke those things in the house. A few minutes later, in the house for the second cup.

“Do you even taste it when you’re drinking it?”

“Not the first one.”

With the second cup I can settle in and think of something else other than getting caffeine to my brain. The geese are honking on the river down the hill from my house. A small flock at treetop level goes over my house. I can hear the honking and their wings, but I never see them. Then another small group go by, already heading for the nearby fields in the pitch black.

I had been scouting the river all week wondering if I should go to the blind near my house.

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Short drive and a short walk, I’ve been seeing birds. The plan was to get a good nights sleep. That didn’t work. Now I was in the wrong place. More geese went honking down the river.

One more small flock at tree top level over my house. My old single shot was sitting in the closet. I had the right shells. Shooting time was a little off yet, but I could set myself up in my driveway. Comfortable chair to sit in and just wait for another flock to skim the tree above my house.

Probably not a good idea. The city lawyer lives behind me. Next door and across the street are young kids, probably need sleep, or at least their parents do. I imagine my neighbors down the street won’t appreciate steel pellets raining down on their roofs.

Yep, definitely the wrong place. Wish I knew ahead of time I wasn’t going to be getting any sleep anyway.

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I’m blaming the computer.

In an effort to stream line my domain name and a variety of other website issues, I pretty much hosed all the links to the site. I think. So if anyone needs the info cause the link to Waterdog Journal isn’t working anymore, here’s the new one:

http://www.waterdogjournal.com/

On Outdoor Blogger Network, all the links to posts that were in Community News are pretty much dead.

Really, I knew what I was doing. The computer did what ever it felt like and screwed up the whole process. In my mind it was real easy.

End of the Season. Maybe.

The beginning of November, the weather was still unusually balmy. Was out a couple of days earlier and caught a 19 inch smallmouth. I knew there was something from that day that told me what I should go do. So, where did I leave off. Oh yeah.

A few more casts produced a couple more fish, baby brothers of the big one. Then the sun went off the water and the bite died. On the other side of the river were more bluffs sitting drenched by the sun. The slow moving pool in front of them was inviting. Getting across the river was impossible, unless I felt like swimming. I estimated in my head how long it would take to drive and walk to the other side. The sun would be gone by then. Another day perhaps.

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In that two day hiatus, the sun levels changed. A mix of clouds and haze kept the sun from beating down on the bluffs like it was 48 hours earlier, but I was hoping there would be just enough warmth to attract a few fish.

I parked my car a few feet from some railroad tracks. The rest was woods. I like to scan the woods for signs of life. This can sometimes be an indicator of activity in the water. Don’t know how or why, it just works out that way at times. There was a dead raccoon next to the tracks. Another dead one a few feet away. Between the two of them, they never heard the train coming?

It was a good half mile hike to the put in point and the birds and squirrels were everywhere. Down the narrow path to the river I had a coyote cut across the path a few feet ahead of me. This may be a forest preserve, but it’s surrounded by suburbs and their homes. Coyotes howl, I’ve heard them here in the past when the sirens are being tested on a Tuesday. Being surrounded like this makes me feel sorry for the coyote and I hope he lets out the occasional howl on purpose, just to creep people out.

A great horned owl was talking on the other side of the river. A red tailed hawk let out a screech over head. Blue herons were wading the shallow riffles and a few ducks and geese flew by. This all had to be a good sign and I expected excellent fishing. Almost a half mile and one fish later, I felt I that I appropriately debunked that theory.

At the end of the hike there was an angler on the other side of the river. I shouted across asking if he could hear me. A positive answer. He was fishing where I was just a couple of days earlier, but he was fishing the wrong spot. I let him know that and he switched positions.

A minute later I hear . . . are you Ken?

I always hesitate in answering that. People must think I don’t know my own name. But admitting to it in the past has not always resulted in friendly banter.

He introduced himself and I already knew him. So I gave him even more details on how to fish that spot. While I struggled to land 3 or 4 more dinks, I watched him land quite a few more and miss a couple of good fish. “You need to come over here,” he shouted across. Yeah, great, it’s 8 feet deep between us and the ride around to get there would have put me there too late. I settled for dinks while wishing I was on the other side of the river.

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Which brings up a point as to why those fish were there.

Many years ago in the fall I noticed a lot of bluegills mixed in with baifish all around in the river and in the creeks and ditches. A fisheries biologist told me that the gills and baitfish migrate up the river and creeks in the fall.

Many years ago I read a fishing tip from the river god Dan Gapen. In the fall fish the lift before a set of riffles, this is a typical fall holding spot. So, bluegills and minnows outside the mouth of a creek because they are migrating. A lift before riffles in that same spot outside the creek. Game fish stacked up in the area. All makes sense when you get it all figured out. I did, but was on wrong side of the river. Brad now knows and he was in the right spot. Luck of the draw.

On the way home I had to stop at a ditch where I used to seine baitfish in the fall. This was where I started figuring out the fall fish migrations. It wasn’t unusual to come here, dip in the net and have far too much bait for the day.

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The ditch was in excellent shape. Clear, a little bit of fresh water running through, but devoid of life. Not a single fish of any kind was swimming here.

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A couple of days later I thought I would try another one of my spots. The conditions were perfect for the stretch I wanted to fish, only I wasn’t convinced the results were going to be worth the effort. The evening had been getting colder and the water temperatures were dropping.

When I pulled into the parking lot, a father son team were in waders preparing to go out. I asked them which way they were going so I wouldn’t get in their way. They had fished further upstream, but had never fished this stretch. So I gave them the details of the stretch I didn’t plan on fishing. They were very thankful.

A minute later . . . are you Ken?

There was that hesitation again. They waited for an answer. I must look like an idiot when I do that. Winds up, I once fished with the father of the team. Chuck was a member of a fishing club I had spoke to and I had their group out on the river many years ago. We’re both older, grayer, but there’s no forgetting the penchant for a decent cigar while fishing. I gave them more details and watched them head for the river. The kid was smoking a cigar too.

I headed further up stream and hit the stretch with the sun drenched rocks.

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Six missed fish later I was pretty much fed up with the whole outing. Then I landed one. Then I foul hooked a carp so bad that the only way to get the hook out was to hug the thing to my chest to keep it still while I untangled the line and unhooked the lure. The reason carp stay active during the winter when all other fish slow down is because of the thick layer of slime they develop as the water gets colder. Which was now all over me. Since it’s somewhat waterproof, I had to pick up some shoreline sand to help scrub it off my hands and waders.

Note to self, lip carp in winter months.

At some point I was just going for a walk. I watched a decent buck navigate it’s way across a river channel.

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They bed down on the islands during the day where it’s safe.

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At sunset, they head for shore and the nearby woods and farm fields. None of this area can be hunted, as far as I know. But that might just be my assumption.

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Cut across an island and spooked the biggest doe I’ve ever seen when I came close to walking on top of it where it lay bedded. This island is privately owned, but I fish along here so much that I’ve got to know the owner. He has no problem letting me wander around out there. His kids have turned it into a camp with most of the comforts of home.

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Including a sometimes welcome respite for a wandering angler.

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I made it to the duck blind at the end of the island as the sun was starting to set. With it’s due west vantage point, I’ve timed this fishing hike to end here many times, just in time. If I’m early, I stretch out on the bench and struggle not to doze off while waiting for the sunset light show.

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Not that it would matter if I did pass out here for the night. I had everything I needed just down the path.

Heeere Turkey, Turkey, Turkey

Got back mid afternoon Tuesday after scouting spots on the Fox for a potential waterfowl hunting trip. I’ve been living on the same street in Yorkville for 5 years. The two houses we’ve rented are on the edge of a wooded ravine that gets visited by turkey and deer. The house we’re in now is about 100 feet from the ravine, the first one was right on the edge.

We’ve always kept the wildlife well fed. Corn and a variety of seeds kept the turkey and deer coming back on a daily basis when we were in the other house. Since we moved, it’s been a little more difficult to coax the turkey out into the open. The deer we hardly see anymore.

Persistence pays off and the turkey have been venturing out into the neighborhood. Every year they bring their new brood to an area where they know they are safe and well fed, we see them each spring, then they hang around for most of the year. I wish I could have them tagged, would be interesting to know if they are the same ones returning year after year.

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As I pulled into my driveway I had to wait for them to get out of the way.

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There are only 4 this year, in the past we’ve had up to 14. When they see me they don’t seem to be in any hurry to get away. The one big male looks me over, then goes about pecking for food like I’m not there. Makes you wonder if they recognize you. Today they sauntered over to peck the ground beneath the bird feeder just outside my front window. It’s interesting how they’ll peck a few times, then look up, then back to feeding. This time they kept looking in the windows.

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I have a couple of cats that are very interested in these oversized birds and the young one likes to scratch at the window trying to get to them. She’s ignored. The old claw-less one is allowed to go outside. The turkey are so used to him that they ignore him when he starts walking around between them while they’re feeding.

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At night they roost in the trees along the edge of the ravine. At sunset you can see them trying to get as high up into the trees as possible. Not a graceful undertaking and numerous times a branch will snap under their weight and the process starts all over again. Later, when it’s dark, you can see their black silhouettes high up in the trees standing out against the night sky.

No, none of them can be taken for dinner. They’ve become the neighborhood pets and no one is allowed to touch them. Negotiations with respective wives around here have broken down and the wives have won, for now.

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No wonder I don’t go fishing much. Wasted a perfectly good fishing afternoon looking for ducks and geese, then playing with turkey in my front yard. Being unemployed has it’s benefits I guess. I won’t miss being broke, but I’ll sure miss my play time.

Ramble with Gortowski

Just about every week for the past 10 years I have sent fishing reports on the Fox River here in Illinois to Dale Bowman, outdoor writer for the Chicago Sun Times. He puts a one sentence report on the Fox in the paper every Wednesday. My dad gets a kick out of this when his friends call him and tell him “your kids in the paper again.”

I’m his 54 year old kid.

It’s been a couple of years now I think that Dale has had a blog running on the Sun Times website. He gets to put much more info up there than the paper allows. He’s always run my more extended reports on the blog since space wasn’t an issue.

Apparently, as a friend politely put it, my reports tend to be a bit verbose. But Dale runs them anyway. He’s kindly given my longer ones there own spot on his blog that he calls Ramble with Gortowski. I guess I do ramble a bit.

The interesting thing for me is how things change from what Dale puts up, to what I put up on my forum, to what I put up here on my blog. For Dale, it’s all words. By the time it makes it here, there’s some times too many pictures. And if I’m finding the time to do it, what I send Dale gets cut up into multiple posts. That most recent one will wind up as 3 posts, eventually, I hope.

What I find happening is that for Dale, the weekly reports become one long story over time. They keep referencing back to each other. While here, they become pretty much stand alone stories. No real past, nothing suggested for the future.

It gives me headaches keeping it all straight.

I linked to the Ramble to show how I hack those reports out. Those are the types of reports I’ve been leaving on the internet for 14 years (see About Ken G). I guess what I’m questioning is whether I should continue to make a definite distinction between the two or just keep hacking out reports.

I knew starting this blog would give me too much to think about. It interferes with my fishing and hunting thoughts.