Category Archives: Fox River

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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

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Rolling Carp

After a brutally cold winter with a near record accumulation of snow, I had to get out even if the end result would be just rolling carp.

Scouting already told me that the creeks were out of the question, frozen over except for the shallowest sections flowing over rock.

Sunday was predicted to be mostly sunny and 40 degrees, a virtual warm spell very late in the making. That never happened. Clouds appeared out of nowhere and kept the sun from warming things up. I waited till 1 PM when the thermometer finally said 32 degrees. 32 is the limit on the low side for when I’ll go out fishing. Fishing in air temps lower than that is simply barbaric.

Even then I hemmed and hawed about going. The wife said… you’ve been such an asshole lately, just go even for the walk.

A correct assumption on her part. It’s not SAD or any of those other winter time blues like affectations. I simply need to be outside, to sit, to go for walks or I start climbing the walls. I’m slightly claustrophobic and in the winter, it shows, bad.

The start of the walk down to the river had me first sliding down a hill on snow, then mud, then a long walk through soft, heavy, foot deep snow. I kept telling myself, this is fun. And in a way, it was. I was at least warm. Burning off calories at a high rate will do that to you.

It looked interesting at the time.

In January I put up a post about how this will be the year that I make an effort to run into no one on the river. To not tell anyone where I’m fishing so no one shows up in any of those spots.

I jinxed myself.

Before I had even tied on a lure, before I had even stepped in the water, before I had even wet a line, I ran into three other fishermen. Luckily, fishermen being the creatures of habit that they are, they were all fishing the same spot. I’m sure that’s where someone told them to go and heaven forbid they stray from that by even one foot.

So I headed downstream.

A new catfish attractant I’m developing.

Half the river was still frozen over while the other half had sheets of ice the size of cars floating down river. I had no hopes of catching anything, so the familiar tap of a smallmouth bass went unnoticed till too late. I could only feel lure against water when I lamely made an attempt at a hookset.

Still further downstream the carp rolling began. I figured I may as well have some fun with it and see how far my line would travel sideways while on the back of some carp. The bonus would be one of the walleye that also happen to hang out in this area, so you just never know.

There are halves of clam shells all over the river, which I’ve been told can be 100 years old. It’s rare I find a live one.

On one cast my line was getting pulled, unusual for a rolled carp, so I pulled back. It pulled back and we had a little tug of war going. Definitely not a carp and it was behaving like a bigger walleye. After letting it run around on the bottom of the river for a bit, I raised my rod tip to bring the fish to the surface so I could at least see what I might be up against.

Well, sonovabitch. A muskie about three feet long.

That’s not unusual for this area along with the bigger walleye and the occasional northern pike, it’s just unusual for me to hook one considering the size of the lures I use. I do hook toothy critters frequently enough, I just don’t land them much. Generally, they cut the line long before I get them up next to me.

This one I had hooked in the corner of the mouth. If I kept my rod tip up and turned it right, I could keep it from cutting the line. I’ve done this numerous times and numerous times it poses the same dilemma.

I’m wading, I’m usually standing in crotch deep water and now I have this obviously pissed off thrashing fish with big teeth less than five feet from my crotch.

You tell me how you’re going to land this thing.

I backed off and dragged it towards shore. It didn’t like that much and the thrashing was pretty strong. I finally got it to within a foot of shore and was starting to bend over to figure out how to lift it when it had enough. A twist, a roll, a thrash and the little jig popped out of the corner of its mouth. I reached down to grab its tail, but it was done with this game and took off for deeper water.

Ingrate, not even a picture for all that trouble.

I went back to rolling carp and thought I felt the hard thump of a smallie. A minute later I landed a quillback carpsucker. I actually don’t mind hooking these, they put up one hell of a fight and they’re nowhere near as slimy as their carp cousins. Handling them is no big deal.

Like carp, a face only a mother can love.

At that point, I was done. The river did what I wanted and let me become a somnambulistic casting machine for a couple of hours. No real thoughts, no real concerns, I can’t recall thinking about anything other than cast there, then there, then there.

I have no doubt that even in what appears to be random casting, there are billions of brain cells making decisions as to why I should cast there.

But I couldn’t find any other brain cells that gave a damn.