Monthly Archives: April 2012

What? That’s just a Fishing Report!

Well, not this time.

On a good day while out fishing, words will sometimes wander around my brain that I can eventually put together into a semi-interesting blog post.

Other times, the best I can come up with is “nice fish” and a bad picture.

I should record things while I’m out wandering. Amazing how thoughts are so fleeting and try as you might, never quite the same when you sit down to recall them later.

I’ve avoided putting up blog posts that read too much like a fishing report. No number counts, or few. No endless gear reviews of what I happened to be using that day. Generally, I throw what I think fish will eat. Preferably, while it’s attached to a hook of some kind. That’s about as technical as I like to get.

I see no reason to put up posts with more technical details than that. I would bore myself to death.

But I do get out fishing at times where some might find a fishing report helpful. Especially if you live within 50 miles of the Fox River. I still doubt if I’ll dwell much on the technicalities. No matter how you phrase it, it’s dull.

I’ve been involved with local fishing forums since 1997 or so. I think I’ve been on all of the ones in the Chicago area at one time or another. In 2001, I had my own. Didn’t last long. Like all fishing forums it degenerated into stupidity triggered by those that like to hide behind aliases and anonymity.

In January of 2008, I started another one. This one started out semi-private, strictly word of mouth. The stipulation this time was that if I didn’t have you on speed dial in my phone, you had to sign on using your real name.

Amazing how few are willing to do that.

What I did find out over this past winter while manning a booth at a few fishing shows, was that there are others out there that are annoyed with many of the local forums. For the same reasons as me.

I recently decided to make my forum public, but the stipulation on using your real name still stands. Real names make people accountable for what they say and, I hate referencing people by nickname when addressing them. I’m 56, that crap ended with grade school.

So, there’s a chance there will be a slight drop off in the number of posts put up on my blog. There’s a good chance that there will be fishing reports of some kind on the forum instead. Not every outing is all that interesting and warrants a “good post” designation.

If you care to see those fishing reports or to even leave your own, go to the following link and follow along with what it says.

Waterdog Journal Forum

But remember, unless you have a name like Quill Gordon, Owl Jones, Roderick Hawg-Brown or something else I would readily recognize, you have to use your real name.

Otherwise, don’t bother.

Fun with Wildlife

Wednesday turned out to be a stunningly beautiful day and I wound up getting an angler out on a guided trip to fish the Fox. He’s an experienced angler, but new to rivers, wading and river fishing.

While giving a quick demonstration on how to swim a lure along a current seam, a smallie cooperated by hitting and getting landed. I guess it made it look like I knew what I was doing. I thought for sure that meant we were in for a good day of fishing. Turned out to be the only fish.

There’s nothing worse for a fishing guide than to have a client do everything right and not have a single fish cooperate. About 2/3 of the way through the trip, he made a cast toward shore and didn’t see a root jump up and grab his lure. As he walked over to get his lure, he didn’t see the rock jump in front of him to trip him. He landed pretty much face first in about a foot of water.

After checking him out to make sure an emergency room visit wasn’t required, he started going through his now waterlogged waders, emptying out pools of water. In one pool of water was his cell phone, now dead. We decided to call it a day and hiked back to the car. Waders off, on one side he was soaked down to his toes.

It was too early in the day to call it quits for me. With the river still a little high, I decided to go try my luck on the creek where on my last visit, I was attacked by a goose. I had been coming across a few empty goose nests on shorelines up and down the river and I hope these creek geese would be gone.

I knew the point along the shore where the nest was and I’m sure the male goose would be in the water as an early warning system. If I saw them first, I would simply turn around and leave.

My goose friends from the first time we met. At eye level they're much more impressive.

I knew when I got there nothing was going to happen, there would be no fish worth fishing for. Whenever the wind died down, I could smell that sweet musty smell of spawning suckers and carp. That’s never a good sign. I wish I could bottle that smell. I have a feeling many don’t know what I’m talking about. Besides, I like it.

The creek fishing was as good as the river fishing, nonexistent. I stayed in the water along the shore. There is about two feet of creek bed you can walk on in knee deep water before the bottom makes a relatively quick slide to a depth of about five feet.

There was no goose cruising the creek as a guard, this was a good sign. I got to the point where the goose nest was, nothing there either. Perfect, even if the fishing still sucked. As I walked and cast I suddenly heard a hissing noise to my left. Shit, it was the nesting goose. I was at the wrong point. The bank here is high and I was at about eye level with it. Since the other goose wasn’t around, I thought I would just walk past the goose. No big deal.

It kept hissing at me. I started shushing it like a parent shushes a fussing child. That wasn’t going very well. She suddenly stood up and let out a honk. Almost immediately, off to my right and coming from across the creek, even louder honks.

Through the trees came the other goose and landed in the creek about 10 feet in front of me. It was honking insanely and hissing between the honks. I could hear the other goose honking and hissing a few feet from my left ear, but I was reluctant to turn and look and take my eye off the crazy one in the water.

Last time here, the mom goose never left the nest. She stayed right with it. I called her honking and hissing bluff and I ignored anything that was going on to my left. The one on my right was getting more intense.

The dad goose suddenly lifted out of the water, wings spread and honking and hissing and came at me feet first. I barely had time to react. When it was about three feet away, I lifted my rod and smashed the goose across the chest. This drove him backwards and he fell back on the water. The goose on my left was going nuts, but I still wouldn’t turn my head. I was hoping I was right in calling her bluff and her not leaving the nest.

Now I was trying to move as quickly as possible in knee deep water on a two foot wide stretch of slippery creek rock. It wasn’t going well. The goose in the creek jumped out of the water again. I got my rod around faster this time and poked him in the middle of his chest as hard as I could, knocking him back into the water again.

By now I could tell I was right about the mom goose not leaving the nest and I could concentrate on getting the hell out of there. The dad goose appeared to have learned a bit of a lesson. Every time he tried to get close, I pointed my rod tip right in his face and he would back off a bit.

I kept trying to make it down the shore as quickly as possible, but the rocks were pretty slippery. I kept an eye on the goose, my rod tip in it’s face and I would grab onto the shore grass to keep from sliding into the deeper water as I moved along. Only the shore grass was also filled with stinging nettles. I couldn’t watch the goose and where I was putting my hand, so I just put up with grasping onto handfuls of stinging nettles.

The goose was wearing down, but kept biting the tip of my rod. As I got further away, his interest in me started to wane. He would turn and head back, turn back toward me, then back again, eventually convinced that I was leaving.

At this point the shore wasn’t as high. I had to get the hell out of the water. I put my hand on shore to hoist myself up when a huge fucking turkey blew up out of the tall grass not four feet from my face. This sent me backwards almost on my ass and also got the attention of the goose, which turned and started heading back my way.

I distinctly recall what I said out loud at this point…awwwsonovafuckingbitch.

The turkey took off across the creek and disappeared over the far end of a near pond. The goose gave up and headed back up stream. My left hand was throbbing from all the nettles that were now stuck in it and I was done. If there were any fish in this creek, they were definitely gone now.

I crossed the creek, sat down on a stump over looking the pond and started sucking the nettles out of my hand. I looked over the pond while I did this. It was was unusually free of weeds. The recent heavy rains must have washed them away. I could salvage this pathetic day of river and creek fishing with a few pond fish.

Half way down the length of the pond, 100 casts or so and not a single hit. Usually by then I have a handful of big mouth bass, a few crappie, a bunch of bluegills, nothing. I called it quits. The adrenalin from my goose encounter was also starting to wear off. I noticed I had a sharp pain between my shoulder blades. I knew if I didn’t get home and get some Ibuprofen in me, that pain would migrate up the back of my neck and give me a massive headache.

While wandering through the woods to get to the road, I kept an eye out for any other animal that may have it in for me this day. It’s happened before. Coons, possum and even a flock of red wing black birds that attacked my head when I walked under the tree where they were nesting.

It was daylight, he had his spot, he wasn't going to get out of the way for me. So much for being nocturnal animals.

I came through the woods unscathed.

Back on the road, I headed for my car. Few other cars drive through here. A couple of hundred feet in front of me, a couple of deer come out of the woods, see me and stop in the middle of the road. They’re staring at me. They’re deer, they’re skittish, I keep walking, they’ll leave. Suddenly, the theme to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly starts playing in my head.

The deer aren’t moving. I start thinking of all those Crazed Deer Attacks Man videos I’ve seen. I don’t think my fishing rod stands a chance against them. I stop in the middle of the road and stare back at them, chewing on the end of my cigar. It’s a standoff, one of us has to blink sooner or later.

They blink, turn and lift their tales as they bound off into the woods again, flashing their big white asses in my face as a goodbye.

Good riddance, I say.

What? What’d I do Wrong?

A few times a week I take a walk. I live a little over a half mile from the Yorkville dam and it’s a nice hike there and back. Actually have a decent steep hill to walk up and down to test and stretch my joints and muscles.

Whenever there are fishermen hanging out fishing around the dam, you can bet at some point one of them will be fishing in the, well, that’s the problem.

Is it a bypass channel?

Maybe a kayak chute?

Or is it the Marge Cline Whitewater Course?

The average fisherman is a pretty simple human being and when it comes to fishing, you can’t tell them where they can or cannot fish. Especially if you’re not making it painfully clear to them.

Once you start having a conversation with them, trying to explain to them that they can’t fish in a certain area, the conversation gets turned around. It gets twisted in a way so that the fisherman at least thinks he’s winning the argument. He’s going to fish there. He’s going say whatever he has to say to make that happen.

By the time you are done, you’ll be doubting your sanity and wondering if there isn’t a camera crew from TruTV hiding off behind a bush somewhere filming the whole thing.

There are signs on either end of the kayak chute saying No Fishing in the Bypass Channel. I knew when I saw the sign that it was a waste of time. The type is too small.

Look at the bottom of the photo. There’s a guy standing behind the sign fishing. When I told him he couldn’t fish there, I got “I didn’t see anything on any sign.” When he didn’t argue with me and packed up and left, I knew he was lying.

That’s what fishermen do.

Take a look at the last line of small black type. No Fishing in the Bypass Channel. In order to be an effective no fishing sign you have to have one this big with nothing else on it but the no fishing warning. The no fishing warning has to fill the whole sign and, even then, you’ll find fishermen standing right next to it fishing and when you say something you’ll get the exact same response I did.

Part of the problem is, what the hell is a bypass channel? You can bet that’s running around the in the fisherman’s head.

I wandered all over the park. I know this is called the Marge Cline Whitewater Course, but I couldn’t find a sign anywhere stating that. The name should be on the sign to make it clearer to the fishermen. They have no clue what a bypass channel is, but they do understand putting titles on important things.

Not that they care.

To simplify it even more, since there are usually kayaks playing around in the whitewater course, even fishermen know what a kayak is.

Call it a kayak chute, put that on the signs and be done with it.

No Fishing in the Kayak Chute.

In the long run it still won’t matter. It didn’t matter the other day when I was wandering around along the kayak chute. There were two people fishing the fast water of the chute. While a guy in a kayak was telling one they couldn’t fish there, I thought I would take pictures of the other.

He saw the other fisherman getting shagged off, so he hurried things up a bit and fired off a few casts all the way across the chute.

As the guy in the kayak floated toward him, the fisherman turned his back on him, walked further up the shore and started fishing up there.

I already know if you were to confront this guy he would first deny seeing the sign, which would be a lie. Then he’d say he didn’t know, which would be another lie. Then he’d say he wasn’t fishing around the kayaks, which is irrelevant.

You can see how this would continue. He’d always have something to say in his defense, even if his defense is pointless.

That’s what the average fisherman does.

The guy in the kayak saw me taking pictures and wandered over to where I was standing. We talked awhile about the ignorance of fishermen. The other thing that came up was the hazards of hooks getting lost in the chute. Inside those little kayaks, all they have on their feet are neoprene socks, no shoes or boots. The other day while wandering around the kayak chute, I found these lying around.

These hooks are relatively small, but to a kayaker that flips over and has to put his feet down, getting one of these in your foot is going to suck. Even worse, I found one of these on the bottom of the river the other day.

That can cause some pretty major problems.

The kayaker and I talked about signage, it’s size, what it should say and where it should be put. That night, I put a comment on the City of Yorkville Facebook Page saying that they need to do something about this. They need to put up more and bigger signs.

Today when I wandered down to the river, someone had put up a new sign.

That’s not going to work. The type is even smaller than what is on the big yellow sign that the fishermen say they never saw.

Plus they call it a Whitewater Park. Now you’ve got the fishermen even more confused. Still another term. I already know a fisherman is going to tell you he wasn’t fishing in the park.

So, here are my suggestions. Call it a kayak chute. Simple and to the point. No Fishing in the Kayak Chute. Six words I know is a lot, but I can’t figure out which one to get rid of to make it even shorter for the fishermen to understand.

Make the signs big, huge, bright yellow with gigantic black type that fills the sign from top-to-bottom and side-to-side.

One has to go on the south side of the river near the footbridge. If necessary, get two of them, that way they can be seen from a variety of directions.

Another one needs to go on the bridge. As you walk to the end of the bridge, the whole field of view should be filled with the sign. This photo will give you an idea of what I’m talking about. As you walk, all you should see at the end is nothing but sign.

The other option is to have a bunch of 3 foot by 4 foot signs made up, again, filled with No Fishing in the Kayak Chute. All along the kayak chute, on both sides, one of these signs should be placed every 50 feet. From the beginning to the end of the kayak chute.

I have a feeling that won’t be all that visually appealing.

Even then I already know that idea is doomed to fail.

One day you’ll go down to the kayak chute and there will be a fisherman.

He’ll be standing smack dab in the middle between a couple of the signs, fishing the kayak chute.

He’ll be so centered between those signs that if you got out a tape measure and measured, you’d find that he missed dead center by less than an inch.

If you go up to him and tell him he can’t fish in the kayak chute, his eyebrows would go up, his eyes would widen, his head would slowly turn both up and down stream.

Then he’d look you dead in eyes and without batting an eye he’d say…

“I didn’t see no signs.”

Bad Week, Good Week

It’s been one of those weeks that started out having me question why I bother with the local fishing forums. With their use of aliases, they’ve always seemed to be a breeding ground for anglers to hide behind those aliases and act like assholes. I’m sure they think they’re being cute and the other assholes on the site roll right along with them, but I’ve met far too many others that won’t participate on forums because of the assholes. Those tend to be the anglers worth meeting and starting conversations with.

I had to deal with the egomaniacal stalker that has been around for years. Every year or so he has to crawl out from under his rock. He made the mistake of doing that at an isolated spot on the river a few years ago. He was warned on how doing that again would be hazardous to his health. Now he just shows up where ever I am on line to show others how much better of an angler he is than me.

Problem is, I don’t care. It’s just fishing.

It wears me out to have to deal with bullshit like this.

It took all week to get the bullshit out of my head, to quit questioning why I’m bothering being on the forums. I keep thinking that somehow it’s important to be there because of the writing and guiding I do. I think that sense of their importance has disappeared.

With that bullshit in the background, I still managed to salvage the week. The highlight was my first guide trip of the year with Jon Coe. In his mid 40’s, he only started fishing in the last couple of years. New to fishing, new to fishing rivers, he just wants to learn.

I like getting out guys like this. No preconceived notions about fishing, they’re perfectly happy catching anything that hits and size doesn’t matter. It’s like fishing with kids, every fish is a big fish and it was so cool.

With bright blue skies and the water temps dropping 10 degrees now that the air temps have gone back to normal, I knew the fishing was going to be less than stellar. I hope I didn’t overwhelm him with all that I showed him. He was able to get a couple of hits and at the very end we were joking about the last fish at the last spot before we got on shore.

Sure enough, a fish cooperated.

The timing of that fish was impeccable.

Those who hire others to provide a service like to rate and review how we do. What they don’t realize is that those of us that provide a service like to rate and review our clients. I put Jon in my top 5 guided trips. Had a wonderful time.

Also got out to a creek a couple of times. Expected nothing and got nothing, the creek was too low and clear. I spent most of the time wandering around watching the suckers and quillbacks migrating up and down stream. My nose was telling me that the spawn wasn’t over yet, that sweet musty smell still hangs like a mist above the water. When really bored, I just wandered around taking pictures.

On Saturday, the clouds rolled in and the threat of rain was in the air. I picked a stretch of the Fox River that I thought for sure was going have a few others out fishing, but there was nobody around. The most easily accessible stretch on the river and nobody is ever here. I don’t get that.

Came across a hanging nest. From what I looked up, probably made by an oriole. Blurry totally out of focus photo of it doesn’t help, but I still find them fascinating.

Went 12/13 on the catch/self release ratio. The pattern of the day was that there was no pattern. The fish were pretty much in every type of water. All you had to do was cast and let something swim around out there till it got hit. In the spots I thought I would do well, they were devoid of fish. In the spots I thought would suck, that’s where the fish were.

Biggest fish of the day caught me day dreaming. I looked just in time to see a big bulge come up and inhale the jig/twister. Almost ripped the rod out of my hand. Didn’t land that one or another one that went for a heavy powerful run, but did land this one.

Must have been bigger than I thought. Took a couple of quick shots and couldn’t get the whole thing in the frame, which is odd. I didn’t really look it over much and I don’t care about size, so who knows. When I lifted it out of the water, the jig fell out of it’s mouth. It wasn’t even hooked.

With it being goose nesting season, the geese every where you go are on high alert. I’ve been coming across geese on nests all over the river and it’s creeks.

As soon as they see you they start honking and they don’t let up till you are out of sight again. As I wandered down stream, the sound of the geese changed. Coming up stream was what looked like a juvenile bald eagle. As it got in front of me something seemed different about it’s coloration. Over the winter a golden eagle had been spotted in the area, I wondered if that was what this was. The geese were going out of their minds and were growling at the eagles presence. I never heard geese growl before.

To make matters worse for the geese, no sooner had the eagle disappeared when three hawks drifted over the river. Based on silhouette ID’s I looked up later, they were either coopers or sharp shinned hawks. The sounds coming from the geese at this point were deafening.

Once they all settled down, I went back to fishing. I was perfectly content catching anything that hit. The dinks are a good sign, they disappeared for a couple of years after a pretty big flood. This bodes well for the future as long as the river behaves.

I’ve been fishing this stretch of the river for a dozen years. Because of that and my ill fated attempt to run a canoe shop with canoe trips through here, I’ve got to know many of the land owners along the shores. One land owner was lucky enough to purchase an island years ago, one of the few privately owned islands that I know of. When ever I see him out, I stop to chat. I’ve always had permission to wander his island to take a break from fishing. I keep an eye on things and let him know if I ever see anything suspicious out there.

He also has the only private duck blind I know of on the river. Today he offered to let me use it whenever I wanted. I probably could have asked permission to use it over the years, but never did. The offer is greatly appreciated. The blind is easy to wade to and not owning a boat, will finally give me a better chance of getting out for some waterfowl hunting.

In my collection of photos are a number of shots taken from inside the blind looking out one of the three shooting windows. I have photos from a couple of different seasons. My favorite is one I put together as a panorama. In my head I call it In Anticipation of Duck Season, it was shot one early summer.

The original image is 66 inches wide. If I can scratch up the money, I’ll have to see if he wants a print of it. I’ll have to ask first, not everyone has 66 inches of wall to hang something. I think half size would still look pretty good.

Felt a Little Naked out There

It’s rare that I walk out of my house without my camera in my pocket. Rarer still is walking down a river without my camera hanging around my neck and tucked down into my waders. You just never know what you might come across that is picture worthy.

A half mile down the road on my way to a put in spot on the river, I realized my camera wasn’t around my neck or tucked into my waders. A half mile hike back to the car to find that my camera wasn’t there either. I realized it was sitting on my kitchen table back at home. I seriously considered making the 20 minute round trip drive to fetch the camera. That was 20 fewer minutes of fishing, at least. Unacceptable today.

I realized while I was out fishing how reliant I was on that camera. I became very aware of how I have words rattling around in my head while fishing and I take pictures as a way of remembering the words, at least some of them. Even if I never used the pictures, it was a way of burning the moment and the words into my memory. Without it, I felt like I would remember nothing. Or not be able to put things into words.

Years ago as a struggling artist, a painter mostly, I painted big. Six foot by eight foot was a size I was pretty comfortable with. That was also the size limit that would fit in my studio. I would paint images and things and then I would paint the title over the images and things. On a number of paintings I painted a paragraph or two over the images and things. Never for a moment did I consider that writing, it was words that described an image and also, the other way around.

After I abruptly stopped painting, except for taking pictures for myself, I didn’t do much of anything for almost 10 years. Then around 1998, I started writing down my experiences while out fishing rivers, a new adventure for me at that time. The pictures I took found their way into the fishing stories immediately. I’ve been doing things that way ever since.

So now, I’m at a loss. I could conjure up images in my head, that’s easy, and write words around them. But it’s not quite the same. I need that back and forth combination of words in my head and images coming in through my eyes. They play off each other even if they don’t reference each other.

So what you get instead is that I caught 5 smallies and had 8 more self release. I could go on about the stunning light, the big fish missed (two of them), a description of how the big fish get the best spots and that’s where they were, see, right here in this picture…

So I dug out a couple of photos from exactly one year earlier, April 8, 2011. I have to have a picture in here.

So, exactly one year ago…

…there wasn’t anything green, much unlike this year…

…and I caught a little fish.

It must have been cold out based on the gloves I was wearing.

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Much better, I feel much better now.

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