Category Archives: Fox River

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A Much Needed Walk in the Woods

Took a much needed walk in the woods today. Since I quit fishing I don’t get out for long walks through woods and down creeks. I’m woefully out of shape.

During the winter and early spring I don’t think twice about blundering through the woods that you see at the top. A few feet in reminded me of the stinging nettles that are mixed in with the ever thickening undergrowth. From the knees down my legs quickly felt like they were on fire.

I stuck with the paths this time, for the most part.

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The sun cooperated a bit and the new growth this time of year has an intensity that quickly wanes come June.

A feast for the eyes.

If you like lots of green.

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At Least I got a Fishing License

At least I got a fishing license, even though the rod hasn’t been put back in the car. Had to take it out a couple of weeks ago and it never made it’s way back. At least the trunk is still loaded with everything needed. Now to put it to use, maybe.

The Fox River is doing it’s usual spring high, fast and muddy thing. Catching smallmouth bass out of the river under these conditions is easy. Fish close to shore, fish close to obstructions. It’s called dabbling and after many years of doing that every spring, it’s got old.

Decided today to just go for a walk in the woods, but I also figured I may as well go check out four nearby creeks while wandering the woods. Unlike the river, they were all crystal clear and in perfect shape. Still went with the walk instead of fishing.

The main reason to head out to the woods was to see how the undergrowth was coming along. No leaves on the trees, plenty of light getting down to the forest floor, makes things sprout. Today is the last of the colder days. From here on out, supposedly, it’s all uphill temperature wise. Or so they say.

For now, things are trying to grow. The next couple of weeks should see a dramatic improvement.

The woods I walked today run along two of my favorite creeks, so I was killing two birds with one stone. I got to enjoy both.

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What was once an easy stroll down the creek has changed over the winter. It’s now an obstacle course. Will be interesting to navigate this when I get to it.

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I’ve seen this creek clear like this many times and it’s nice to go to spots where smallies get caught. From a different vantage point, it’s easy to see why.

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Birds, waterfowl and tree dwellers were everywhere. I was grateful when these two chose to ignore me. Faithful readers of this blog will recall my run ins with nesting geese on creeks.

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Many Aprils over the years have been spent fishing this creek with this one pool consistently producing every time. I wondered if I’d come back again this month to find out if it’s still consistent.

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Wandering along the creek I came across a found object, if you want to call it that. I tend to call them Shit I Trip Over. Considering where I am, it makes you wonder how many decades it’s just been sitting here all by itself.

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The signs of beavers on these creeks are everywhere, though the beavers themselves are seldom seen. Finally figured out that with the bigger trees, they just use them for sharpening their teeth.

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I found this interesting at the time, not sure why.

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Headed off to another creek with the intention of wandering the woods along it’s banks, but I was met with more of the same under growth waiting for more warmth. While walking over the little bridge over the creek I noticed that the suckers were making their migration upstream. That I didn’t expect. I assumed like the plants, they would be delayed by a couple of weeks too.

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Mixed in with the hundreds of suckers were hundreds of shad.

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This next one may be difficult to see. I almost didn’t see it, but my shadow spooked it and it moved. I could see the distinctive bars of a northern hog sucker. Pretty good size on it too and it looked to be a good 16 inches. I’ve been told it’s rare to come across them, but coming across them is a good thing. I’ve been seeing them in these creeks on and off for years and apparently they are a sign of high quality water.

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I’m sure this week I’ll put the rod in the car and next weekend I’ll be met with a conundrum.

Do I wander around taking pictures and fishing or just wander around like I did today.

It is kind of nice not hauling around all that fishing shit.

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Fishing and Fossil Hunting

The intent wasn’t to go fishing and fossil hunting, just fishing, but the opportunity to fish and fossil hunt arose, so who was I to say no.

When an 8 foot tall dam that has been in place for nearly 200 years is removed, things change. All the work put into trying to make the creek behave like a natural creek is nice, but the creek tends to take on a mind of it’s own.

In this case, the creek likes to move things around.

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This is the second time in the three years since the dam was removed that this gravel bar has appeared. The first time was soon after the dam was removed. It was three times bigger than what you see above.

Humans being what they are couldn’t live with that and by the end of the year the big gravel bar was scraped and moved and everything was just the way the humans wanted it again.

Then it rained, water came up and moved things around and put the gravel bar back where the creek wanted it. The big rains haven’t even started yet this year so I imagine this gravel bar will continue to grow over the next couple of months.

That’s the thing about controlling water, you can’t. Water will do whatever it wants and move things however it wants. Water has all the time in the world. All it has to do is wait and move things and over time it wins.

Water always wins.

I started out scouring the gravel bar to see if any human type remains were washed down. Not bones, but objects left behind. Objects that might have got tossed into the creek over 200 years ago and now have someplace else to go.

That’s when I stumbled upon the first fossil.

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Now I was intrigued. I knew there would be fossils around, why wouldn’t there be, but that was an easy find and now I wanted to actually look. It didn’t take long to gather up what I thought were the best of what was lying around.

I have no clue if these are just a few hundred years old, or 10 thousand years old, or millions of years old. My interest ends with finding them. Identifying them by type and age add nothing to the find.

I also fished the creek, my second time out this year. The creek was completely devoid of life. Not a minnow, carp, sucker or anything else with fins. It’s early and the water is still cold, but one fish right at the mouth cooperated and I mechanically reeled in a cold water sluggish smallie.

I immediately noticed that the fishing ennui that had settled in last year was still there. Nice fish, that was fun, who am I kidding.

This year marks my 20th year of fishing rivers and creeks for smallmouth bass. Virtually all of that in northern Illinois. In that time I’ve estimated that I’ve caught around 10,000 smallmouth, give or take a few, with 90 percent of those caught in the Fox Valley.

I can continue to kid myself that somehow it’s still exciting, but I’m at the point where it’s barely even interesting.

I’d rather go fossil hunting, wandering around with my camera, even go wading around the river with my camera, but without the nuisance of carrying around all that extra fishing baggage.

I don’t see any of that as a bad thing, just a change.

Change is good, or as B.B. King would say…

The thrill is gone baby…

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Another no Name Ditch

It’s just another no name ditch that feeds into the Fox River.

Not far from my house and I walk over if fairly often.

I’ve stopped in the past to take shots of reflections, but it’s not an easy ditch to explore.

A bike path, a relatively busy 2 lane road and an old railroad bridge all cross the ditch at the same point. The ditch is forced to flow under the road through a concrete pipe.

From here to the river is private property and based on the growth along and over the ditch, walking it would be a challenge.

Something I had never done was see what the ditch looked like as it came from the east.

So, over a guard rail, across the road and over another guard rail.

East was almost as intimidating as west. I settled for a couple of shots of reflections off water. The darkness of the ditch made one come out a bit blurry, but reflections are a bit blurry to begin with.

With a lull in the traffic just behind me, I could hear the tinkling of water over rock.

I hunched down and moved some brush. The sun was setting, the brush along the sides and arching over the steep little canyon walls made the ditch dark. About 50 feet away and through all the foliage I could barely make out a limestone wall about 5 feet tall and what little light was reaching it was reflecting off the water trickling down.

It was a little waterfall.

I sized up the ditch about eight feet below me. I sized up how to get down to it.

There’s a twisted ankle, there’s a slide down into the ditch.

My back wasn’t up for the small adventure today. Practically crawling up another no name ditch probably would not have gone well.

Next week perhaps. Weather’s not supposed to be too bad. Calling for sunny.

Do some stretches, limber up a bit and hope I don’t break an ankle when I hit the bottom.

Sounds like a plan.