Monthly Archives: September 2011

It’s going to be beautiful out this weekend

Time to go for a short drive. Really, Morris isn’t that far away and the ride, if you take some back roads, is well worth it.

The Grundy County Corn Festival

I get email about events from just about all of the conservation groups in the Chicago area. I should be a little more organized about putting info up here on my blog.

Another event worth checking out. If nothing else, all proceeds go to good causes.

Prairie Pickin’ at McDonald Farm

As for me, I’m going fishing somewhere along the Fox River over the weekend.

There’s a surprise, eh?

Maybe a long walk, the colors are starting to look pretty good.

Great Horned Owls have no Sense of Smell

I heard the other day that there are too many skunks in the Chicago area.

In the 6 years I’ve been living along the edge of a wooded ravine, I’ve never seen one. You would think I live in the perfect setting for them; heavy woods, leads down to a ravine which leads down to the Fox River. You would think every now and then I would smell one.

Not a sight or a smell.

What we do have in the neighborhood are great horned owls. I can tell by their hooting that there’s at least 3 different ones. I can do the sound pretty well and now and then I’ll bring one into the trees in front of my house to check me out. Sometimes one or two will hang out in the trees, their eery hoot echoing through the neighborhood.

I’m also always in the woods, hunting or fishing. All up and down the Fox River I’ve never seen a skunk. The same goes for all the other places I’ve gone.

The one common denominator is that I always hear great horned owls every where I go.

What I didn’t know is that these owls like to eat skunks.

It doesn’t bother them to eat skunks because they have no sense of smell.

I didn’t know any of that.

It does explain something that happened a few years ago. My cat was lounging on the patio table in the shade of it’s big umbrella. A great horned owl swooped down to within a foot of the cat, flying between it and the umbrella.

My cat is black.

I always thought it was odd that the owl did that. Now I know why.

Whenever I hear an owl I repeat what I hear. I didn’t know it was a territorial hoot that I was repeating. That would explain why they always come check me out. I’m an intruder.

Years ago I was out on the river at 4 AM to fish during a full moon. On the opposite shore was a great horned owl hooting away, so I started talking to it. I assumed it got bored with me when it didn’t respond for awhile.

Before heading out into the water I had to take care of business on the shore. Waders down around my ankles, squatting, and directly over my head the owl hoots. I jumped straight up, not a good thing to do at that moment. Every hair on my body stood on end, yes, even there. I was covered head to toes in goose bumps.

I have no clue how that thing found me in the dark and perched directly over my head.

You can bet I take care of business now BEFORE talking to the owls.

In order to do this sound I have to go very low down into my throat. Too many times and it really starts to hurt.

I love this sound though and it’s worth the hurt.

The Territorial Hoot of a Great Horned Owl

The other owl I’ve been hearing a lot are the barred owls. I can do this sound too. They seem to keep their distance and never come looking for me. Though I hear them a lot, I don’t recall ever seeing one up close.

Barred Owl Hoots

This does explain why we never see opossums, few rabbits and there are just very few pests around here.

Except for squirrels. We have a lot of squirrels. Supposedly both of these owls will eat squirrels.

I have a feeling the squirrels gang up on them when they try.

The end of summer and the Autumnal Equinox, it’s time to get out.

No, I’m not going to write much about either of those, I think, other than the Autumnal Equinox happened on Friday, September 23rd.

I guess this is more of a fishing report, we’ll see where it goes.

To celebrate the Autumnal Equinox, us pagans celebrate things like this, I went fishing, drank three beers one night instead of two and spent as much time outdoors as possible over the past week.

Which is what I prefer.

On the 23rd itself, I stood in the middle of a set of riffles with arms outstretched. You don’t see it, but the riffles always create a bit of a mist. In that mist are scores of negative ions and I wanted to absorb as many of them as possible.

I laughed, I waved my arms to catch more of them, did a little dance and plunged my hands into the swift water and let them soak. I could see people slowing down on the bike path to watch me. I waved, I laughed, I waved them over to join me.

That didn’t work.
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My two week hiatus from work is over, the economic damage has been done and it will take a good month to recover, but I couldn’t have asked for a better time to have the time to be out on the Fox River.

The smallmouth bass bite has been the best I’ve seen since the flood of August, 2008.

This past week I was only able to get out a couple of times, but I guess 5 hours each time makes up for the lack of days on the water.

The past weekend was spent manning the booth for Heartland Outdoors Magazine at the Northern Illinois Hunting and Fishing Days. Two days of hanging around outside and enjoying the company of other avid anglers and hunters.

The trip home was a sure sign of the Autumnal Equinox. Crisp, rain threatening skies and the endless fields of soybeans slowly drying.

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Started out last Wednesday fishing the south shore of one stretch of the Fox for over a half mile. This was a smart move.

Wound up catching 44 fish and missing another 46. One of the 44 caught was still another white bass.

Over the years I’ve been able to determine what kind of fish I’m tying into by the type of bite I’m experiencing. At one point I knew I was into a school of white bass. That’s where the one came from.

Odd part is that in the 12 years of fishing this 7.5 mile stretch of river, I don’t recall ever catching a white bass. In the past month I’ve caught one almost every outing. I’ve caught white bass in the stretches between all of the other dams, but never between Montgomery and Yorkville.

But then, now they have a way up here. The kayak chute in Yorkville. No more dam to prevent fish from migrating up stream. They still have to put up with the crap water in the pool above the dam for a good mile and a half, but it doesn’t seem to stop them from going further up.

Another bonus is a couple of other species. While fishing the same stretch the day before I had a clean bite off. That means fish with teeth. One of the land owners I talk to on a regular basis told me recently that he has been catching more pike and walleye than ever before. In this stretch, I’ve never caught either.

This could be good for the future.

I’m not picky about fish size and the fish caught this day ranged from a hungry four incher to one that probably topped out a bit over 18 inches.

And everything in between.

I used to measure and document every fish I caught years ago, but I gathered all the data I need and now I just catch fish.

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Friday I made a huge mistake. I decided to go fish a more urban stretch of the river. Within 20 minutes the noise of Route 25 along the river was driving me nuts, but I kept fishing.

A couple of hours later, my neck hurt, my shoulders were tight and my ears wouldn’t stop ringing. I caught 16 smallies and missed another 14, but it wasn’t worth it. Ended the trip with an hour of daylight left. I never do that. Far too much noise. I’m spoiled by the quiet I’ve surrounded myself with. There’s a good chance I won’t be going back to that stretch any time soon in spite of the fish.

I still find what I think are interesting things to photograph even if my surroundings annoy me. I focus on the beautiful, hopefully. The small stretches where, with a little stretch of the imagination and the right camera angle, man doesn’t tread. Some times that works.

I wandered onto an island before leaving. I’ve been recording the remnants of an old house and a car that I first came across almost 10 years ago. Every year they get a little more run down. I’ve heard numerous stories over the years of people that once lived on many of the islands down this way. Would be a treat for me.

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All up and down the river things are starting to change quickly.

Every day more colors show up on the different maples. The reds of the sugar and norways, the golds of the silvers.

One of the most beautiful and one of the first to turn bright red is the Virginia Creeper, a vine of all things.

The next two weeks things will be changing quickly. You have to get out, go for a stroll. Everyone thinks you have to travel to do that. There’s a good chance there are long stretches of woods along rivers right near where you live. You just have to go look.

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As I write this Monday night, we’ve had nothing but rain for the past 18 hours. The river went from flowing at 400 cfs, which is low, to 1940 cfs, which is that borderline point. I can’t tell anglers to go out wading now. The experienced could, but not so much the others. I go out in water at this level all the time and don’t think twice about it, but I’m not all that terribly bright when it comes to that and you shouldn’t do what I do.

Problem is, they’re calling for a couple more days of rain.

With the amount of fish I’ve been catching you would think at high water they would all be pushed along the shore. This could be a good thing. You may not have to get your feet wet. Walk the shore and fish tight to it and they just might be there.

The coming week is going to be a crap shoot and you really won’t know what to do till the rain stops. The river could drop fast or just sit there. Hopefully I’ll get the time to find out for myself where all the fish go.

All depends on whether or not they make me work the weekend.

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I’m finishing this write up Tuesday night.

During the day Tuesday the rain had already become erratic at best. First thing this morning the Fox gauge in Montgomery read just shy of 2200 cfs. 8 PM and it’s already dropped to 1880 cfs. The hit on the river level was no big deal and even though we may get spits of rain the next couple of days, I don’t think it’s going to amount to much.

Down Yorkville way the clarity didn’t look all that bad.

Looks like I’ll be lucky to get out over the weekend. I’m sure I’ll be able to free up a couple of hours, I better.

This could be good and there’s only one way to find out.

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A Project: In Vermont, After Irene

Last week I put up a post called Aftermath of “That Bitch Irene”

It’s a link to the blog The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond by Ken Hall, aka Quill Gordon. Ken and his photographer friend Victor Salvo have been documenting the after effects of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene long after the initial interest by the news cycle had ended and they all went home.

I traded a few email with Ken last week and he mentioned he was going to try to dedicate a page on his blog to their efforts. I thought he would get around to it in a week or so, but within 24 hours I had a link to his new page. That’s dedication to a cause.

He also claims to have never done anything like this before. You would never know it. There’s a professionalism in the words and pictures that goes far beyond anything you would expect from someone who claims to be an amateur.

But enough wasting words here. You need to go read this and peruse the pictures. For me it redefines the impact a mere blog can have on an event that has changed so many lives.

A Project: In Vermont, After Irene

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Northern Illinois Hunting and Fishing Days, Day One

My voice is shot, my legs are killing me from standing all day and I’m having a great time manning the booth for Heartland Outdoors Magazine at the Northern Illinois Hunting and Fishing Days. If you read this in time tonight, have been sitting on the fence on whether to go, just do it. It’s well worth it.

I’ve always enjoyed this event, gives me time to touch base with people I don’t see very often any more.

Plus the opportunity to meet all new people.

Got an invite to go try out a sportsmans club and they joked that maybe I could write about it. I told them, you know I don’t lie, you still willing to do it, for better or worse?

I might be heading out there soon. They didn’t balk.

The crowds seemed a little lighter than usual, but then they were calling for rain all afternoon. I’m sure that kept some from venturing out. There was always a steady stream of people, but never a big crush. At these shows, people like to talk and there was plenty of time and opportunity for that.

Instead of an afternoon of rain, we got partly sunny skies.

Tomorrow’s forecast is the same it was supposed to be today. Let’s hope they continue to be wrong.

A few pictures from today: