Doomed to Fail from the Start

I knew when I walked out the door in the middle of the day that the creeks I wanted to fish were running low and crystal clear. One of the benefits of living on the edge of what I guess is a semi-rural area is that you can drive over a creek on a narrow two lane bridge, pull over and get out of your car.

I did just that 24 hours earlier.

The quiet road doesn’t get much traffic and no one thinks it’s odd that you’re sitting on the edge of the bridge peering down into water. More than likely someone will pull over and ask if you’re seeing any fish. Maybe exchange a spot or two where fish have been seen, then wish you luck as they drive off.

Try that on a bridge in and around Chicago and see what kind of reaction you get.

Below the bridge was a relatively deep pool for a creek. At low creek levels it’s about five feet deep. It may as well have been five inches deep. Every little rock sitting on the bottom was easily seen and there were no signs of life stirring throughout the pool.

To see creeks looking like this in the spring is unheard of. Winter melt off and early spring rains keep the creeks a little high and stained, perfect for the fish and for those that want to try to catch them. These waters were more reminiscent of bitter cold January days.

I also knew when I walked out the door in the middle of the day that the bright sun and sky blue sky was a definite disadvantage. But I had the afternoon with nothing better to do, so I went.

The forest floor is lit with color on days like this. With the thin canopy, the flowers come alive. Virginia blue bells were everywhere.

There is another spot on another creek where the flood plain is measured in double digit acres. Virginia bluebells for as far as you could see. On the right bright day, the flowers look like a low lying slight purple haze hovering off the ground.

Even more flowers are tucked in below the bluebells.

I knew when I reached the water nothing was going to happen. There wasn’t anything moving in the clear water.

This quickly became a stroll down the creek. One spot has an unusual rock formation. I always assumed they were placed here, I’ve never found a similar pile of rocks on any of the other local creeks. I assumed they had been here for quite some time.

Over the winter someone had come through and moved the boulders. You can see them on the west shore of the creek. Large ruts from something heavy lead to the creek.

I can’t imagine what difference it makes at this point.

The stroll down the creek was nice, but it would have been nicer to catch something other than a couple of creek chubs. I high tailed it through the woods and stopped to check on an ever expanding fungus.

At the next big pool I fruitlessly threw lures in the water expecting nothing and getting what I expected. I headed off for the next creek.

More of the same, low and crystal clear. At least here there were fish. Hundreds of suckers could be seen slowly heading up stream on their spawning run. Smallies could be seen swimming along with them, but nothing could be coerced into hitting anything. I wandered down the shore as far as the goose nest I came across the other day and almost stepped on it. I wanted to see if a pissed off goose trumps hungry predators, apparently so. Mom goose is still hunkered down, waiting.

With nothing being interested in what I was throwing in the water, I headed out. Since I had to drive past the mouth of the creek in order to get home, I decided that if there were no cars in the parking lot I would stop. I was in luck, I had the whole place to myself.

With bait fish in the shallows I threw things that looked like bait fish in the water. No takers. As I walked to the next spot, I almost stepped on a couple of crayfish, match the hatch.

I really didn’t have my hopes up for this lure choice. The water was too clear and I wasn’t seeing any fish other than bait fish moving around. The deeper channel of the creek, deep being barely four feet deep, ran along the west shore and sat in the shade of big old trees. I tossed the lure on the opposite shore and stitched it back into the water. Within a few seconds, first fish on.

The clear water of the creek and the bright sun had the bars smallies are known for standing out prominently. All the way to the tops of their heads.

Over the next half hour I barely moved 20 feet down stream. I wound up catching 8 smallies and having another 5 self release. Four of them were about 18 inches and all of them had their distinct bars standing out starkly.

And that’s when other anglers started showing up. A couple of kids went out to the point to set up sticks for catfishing. A guy my age shows up in a boat, an outboard on the back and a trolling motor on the front. I’m standing next to him at this point talking up a bit of fishing. I’m standing in knee deep water.

I showed him what I was using, he started rummaging through his collection of junk and pulled out some tubes. There was an awkward silence, I know he wanted me to offer up what I was using. I didn’t feel like it.

I headed back up stream. One of the catfish kids runs along the shore to the head of the pool where I started and he starts casting. I let him know he’s wasting his time, I tagged all the fish. He keeps casting, I headed out.

Back at the pool under the bridge I start tossing lures into the riffles that feed the pool. More fish had moved in. A couple of kids show up and see me reeling in a smallie. They go a little down stream and before they can get their first cast in the water, I’m reeling in another one. They start casting up stream, just shy of casting over my line.

I miss one and reel in another one. I’m up to 11 caught and 6 self released for the day at this point and then the bite dies. I could sense it. I kept tossing lures in the water for awhile knowing nothing was going to happen. The kids were biting at the bit to get my spot, but I refused to budge. It was a stunningly beautiful day, the sun was streaming through the trees and lighting up the surface of the water. I was in no hurry to go anywhere.

Eventually they got tired of waiting me out. You can’t wait out an old guy. We can sit for hours when we set our minds to it. I sat on the edge of the creek listlessly tossing the lure in the water.

When I started out my day, I thought for sure it was doomed to failure.

Now it was there turn to see what that felt like.

7 thoughts on “Doomed to Fail from the Start

    1. Ken G Post author

      That was pure luck. A week earlier they were everywhere but there. Have figured out that they are moving a lot.

      1. The Four Season Angler

        Not luck, pattern. Low clear warm creeks never hold the masses. The river is waking up bigtime and that’s where the food is. Wonder when those lil rascals will start to spawn… probably disappear for a week and then you’ll catch the snot out of them. Skinny bellies and hit with reckless abandon.

        1. Ken G Post author

          Problem is, the creeks are still really cold. I was surprised, kind of. They are spring fed.

          Was out yesterday and saw some kind of fry in the shallows on the Fox. They were moving too fast to get a good look. Something has spawned and are done already.

          1. The Four Season Angler

            Probably something from the minnow family. Couldn’t be pike… or could it?

            I’m sure the creeks are cold up and through, but near the mouth probably around the same as the river by now. Near it enough at least to not make much of a difference. If we get a good gully washer I bet those mouth fish mover up the creek right behind the bait.

            Wednesday- We fishing or wrapping in my garage? I just finished a nice little 6’6″ spinning rod that I’d like to test. If we aren’t fishing Wednesday I will fish Tuesday.

            1. Ken G Post author

              As long as you’re in the crystal clear water, which it was all the way out, it’s cold. River had no effect till you stepped over the mud line.

              Pike is debatable, but you never know. I’m guessing minnows. Can’t be smallies, but with the March we had, who knows.

              I’ll call you about Wednesday. Might have a guiding job. I’ll know later.

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