IMG_1278

A Walk in the River

A walk in the river is all I expected. After a few weeks of casting practice in sterile creeks I gave up and hit the Fox River. Levels were abnormally low for spring, perfect wading conditions instead of nearing flood stage.

As I stepped into the river I parted a massive school of bait fish. This told me where to cast when I got around to it. On the opposite side of the river the gravel bars on the upstream side of the islands glowed white. Can’t recall ever seeing that before.

With the winter we had I hear a massive amount of salt was dumped on roads. Along the river it eventually has to wind up in the river. Up close, it sure looked like salt crust. And yes, the next two shots are in color.

I’m used to seeing water lines on rocks with the rock beneath the line a lighter color from being washed by the river. But I’ve never seen this.

If it is salt deposits, I wonder if it will have any affect on the fish. Two fish caught and three fish missed later, I would have to say no so far. They were all hanging around the rocks along with a bunch of jumping carp. Where there’s carp there’s smallies. Maybe they like salt.

Paired up geese were everywhere. The smart ones were already nesting on the islands. Smart move. Fewer ground dwelling predators.

The ones nesting on shore are already regretting that decision.

A mini waterfall was explored. No matter how dry it gets, this always has flowing water. I’ve known of it for 15 years now. I have never looked for it’s source.

The walk was made that much more brutal by the constant rush of wind. I heard later it was over 20 mph with gusts up to 40.

But it’s not so bad inside a duck blind, blocking the wind and a long bench to stretch a back on.

IMG_1267

Both Fascinating and Frustrating

The reluctance of the fish to head up the creeks has been both fascinating and frustrating. Not just smallmouth bass, but any kind of fish.

I really shouldn’t be all that surprised considering the winter we had.

I forget what these flowers are, names of things don’t really mean much to me anyway, but I finally came across a small batch of them, very small. Like, this was it.

IMG_1258

Usually by now they’re everywhere and have been for a few weeks. Like the fish, they’re taking their sweet time showing up.

For the past few weeks I’ve been hitting five different creeks, from nine miles inland to the mouths. Except for slightly increasing bug hatches, they’ve been completely devoid of life.

Today I combed a half mile of a creek. A half mile inland to the mouth. Starting from the inland side, the first few hundred yards were again completely devoid of life, except for the bugs.

A couple of hundred yards from the mouth I finally spotted two huge schools of minnows, bait fish if you will. One was hugging tight to the bottom of a shallow sandy area and the other was one big undulating ball of bait in a hole over five feet deep. I took this as a good sign for the two hundred yard walk down to the mouth.

I took it wrong.

Not another living thing seen.

Well, almost.

At the mouth a couple of quillbacks decided to play porpoise. There’s no mistaking their back when they briefly come up out of the water.

I stood in one spot that lets me cover a lot of water with virtually no movement on my part. Not a thing hit and that really came as no surprise.

But I kept casting and casting and casting far beyond the limit I set for myself when the fish aren’t biting.

It was too nice out.

We haven’t had nice in a long time.

It was a nice sunset.

I haven’t stood in the water and watched a nice sunset in a long time.

Friday I’m going to repeat this.

By then the water will be a bit warmer.

More bait fish will probably have moved up and I’m sure the bug hatch will be bigger.

And maybe the bite will finally turn on.

We haven’t had a turned on bite in a long time.

IMG_4627

Illinois Catchable Trout Program

Three years ago I put up a post that does a decent job of treating the Illinois Catchable Trout Program like the joke that I think it is. I actually wrote it 15 years ago but never bothered doing anything with it till then.

Illinois Catchable Trout Program or Fishing in Hell

Since Illinois has no native inland trout, I can’t find anything that says it ever did, trout native to California are imported here and then placed in rivers, lakes and ponds that get too warm to support them and they eventually die.

That’s why the stocking for this program occurs in early spring and fall. Maybe the water will stay cool enough for them to survive a little while.

In the mean time, fishermen are charged a fee for the privilege of going out and catching these trout and you can keep and kill five of them I believe on a daily basis.

I think money better spent would be on trout from a half way decent fish market, at least then you stand a better chance of getting fish meat that doesn’t look kind of gray and doesn’t smell and taste a bit like cat food.

Spring and fall are when some native Illinois fish are aggressively active, like crappie and bluegill, so why not catch them. Plus, they taste much better then trout.

But I hear there’s a lot of nostalgia surrounding this program and I found out at many a dam removal meeting that nostalgia always wins over logic and reason.

So the chances of making this program go away is probably nil.

Though I don’t do it much, I do know how to fish lakes and ponds. A couple of decades ago, when I was in a rod and gun club in Virginia and had access to three private lakes, I read about and fished lakes a lot, at least out there.

One of the books I have is about catching big bass. It’s packed in a box somewhere and I don’t remember the exact name or author. You’ll have to figure out how to search on this sparse info.

The guy that wrote it lives out in California.

The reason bass get so big in the lakes in California is because one of their favorite meals is rainbow trout. High fat content and all.

The reason this guy catches so many big bass, among other reasons, is because he uses things that look and act like rainbow trout.

I tried these techniques on the one spring fed lake in Virginia where we threw in handfuls of rainbow trout every now and then.

Worked like a charm.

I can understand the pleasure of fishing for these trout here in Illinois. On a good day they fight a little better then a wet sock.

But this is a bass state after all, small and large mouth.

So, while fishing for rainbow trout, I think fishermen should reconsider taking these bland tasting things home for dinner.

I think they should gently and quickly release these trout back in the water from where they came.

Chances are the waters where these trout are being caught are already full of small and large mouth bass.

Chances are the fishermen will be back later in the year to fish for those bass.

Why not release all those trout year after year and let the bass eat them, year after year.

Imagine the size of the bass we’ll be catching in a few years.

So, here’s the new name for this changed program:

Illinois Catch and Release Trout Program.

Only this one will have a slogan:

Feed the Bass.

IMG_1238

One More Week

One more week and we’re golden.

By 3PM Saturday the sun was out, things were warming up a bit and there was no point hanging around the house.

I seem to say that a lot. No point hanging around the house.

This time of year I avoid the Fox River. It will be high, muddy, for the most part unwade-able and I got bored of dabbling the edges at high water many years ago.

The creeks on the other hand are in perfect shape at the moment.

Except for being completely devoid of life.

Except for a few bugs coming off the sun drenched sections.

One more week and that will completely change. All the signs are there and for the next two or three months you’ll be hard pressed to find me anywhere but on one of the 5-7 creeks I plan on hitting.

So there was no bite, just a nice day for a stroll on a couple of creeks and what follows is what you get when there are no fish to be had.

The snow was only gone for a few days and already some green things.

I think it looks better in green, and full of fish.

Playing a game of hide and seek with the critters. Was nice to see a critter.

Scraping away last years leaf clutter to see what was going on underneath.

Another week and it will all be poking up out of the leaf clutter.

Coyote shit.

Deer shit.

A lone oak tree on a hill top against a bright blue sky.

Wudever…

I may have done something right for once. Unless it was brutally cold out, Tiki the Bitch Queen insisted on going on her nightly stroll. Since October I’ve probably been strolling about a mile every night.

Saturday’s hike through the woods, in the creeks, along the creeks was well over a mile. Plus weighted down in waders, heavy boots, heavy coat and a fishing vest. Past years on first ventures out this would result in sore leg muscles and tight muscles in my back. Tight between the shoulders to the point of taking the wind out of me.

This year, nothing. No worse for wear and tear.

Now all I need is to work those arm muscles with endless aggressive hits and runs from smallmouth bass in desperate need of food and sex.

One more week.

DSC01148

And just Like that, it was Gone

On my usual evening stroll with Tiki the Bitch Queen I think we both noticed, it was gone.

Just like that. No more snow to be found anywhere.

We strolled around the neighborhood, past the parking lots that less then three weeks ago still had piles of snow upwards of eight feet tall sitting on the edges where they had been pushed all winter.

Nothing, not a thing.

I still fail to get my hopes up that this is it. This is it for the year.

After all, the photo that leads this post was taken on April 6th 2009.

If all we get is an interlude, I’ll take the interlude. Even if it snows now it won’t last more then a day or two. The sun is too high, it warms things better. Melts things faster.

Now I wait, for the water to warm. This isn’t trout country. Fishing can be done, but it’s more a form of exercise. Exercising both the arm and one’s patience. And that I’ve been doing.

Working out the kinks in my cast. Getting used to the feel of a now four inch shorter rod. Learning again how to flick my wrist for a 50 foot cast and hit a spot the size of a bucket.

I think it took three tries and I got it all perfected again.

Now I wait, for the telltale tap of a smallie impatient as I am. It want’s to eat and even a three inch piece of pearl plastic looks like a meal.

A couple of weeks ago I was out and caught a three foot muskie. I know I’m supposed to be excited about such things, it’s a muskie, a fishing man’s fish.

But it was a bit of a let down. Tugging and running, I guess it was interesting, but I once watched a smallie in an aquarium intimidate a muskie into a corner.

That’s my kind of fish.

Soon, I’m predicting within a week…

IMG_7012

And I won’t have to dig into my archives for a picture.